Men’s grooming and the gender gap: who’s paying the ‘make-up tax’ now?

Men’s grooming and the gender gap: who’s paying the ‘make-up tax’ now?

Picture the scene, it’s a typical morning in our household. The pre-schooler is causing havoc while the hairdryer whirrs in the pre-work / pre-school rush. But it’s not me wielding the heated hair appliance. My husband spends considerably more time on his appearance every morning than I do. While my routine is a 10-minute combo of shower, deodorant, mum-bun, moisturizer, blush and a slick of mascara, his takes upwards of 35 minutes. And I’m not alone. It looks like men are increasingly hogging bathrooms worldwide with ever more complex grooming regimes and the beauty industry, for one, is loving it.  

Author Zadie Smith recently hit the headlines for revealing that she has limited her seven-year-old daughter to just 15 minutes in front of the mirror each day. “I explained it to her in these terms: you are wasting time, your brother is not going to waste any time doing this. Every day of his life he will put a shirt on, he’s out the door and he doesn’t give a s**t if you waste an hour and a half doing your make-up,” Smith is reported to have said at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Smith’s comments spawned a slew of articles on the so-called ‘make-up tax’ – i.e. the amount of time women spend on their daily beauty routine (and some on why a seven-year-old is applying make-up in the first place but that’s a story for another day). It’s not the first time this issue has come to the fore – Hilary Clinton was questioned on it during a Facebook Q&A session back in 2015. And, according to a 2016 survey conducted by, the average British woman spends 38 minutes per day applying make-up, which equates to nine full days every year.

But whatever your opinion on that – be it time well spent or time wasted as Smith asserts, the author was certainly wrong on one point: ‘Your brother is not going to waste any time doing this’. Because, while I can’t speak specifically for Smith’s offspring, the general trend points to the fact that men, my hubby dearest included, are already spending more and more time on their appearance, and their routines are set to get more and more complex from here on in.

Indeed, a study conducted by Grooming Lounge suggests that American men already spend more time primping and preening than women. Some 41 percent of the guys surveyed admitted to spending 31 to 45 minutes getting ready each day, while only 30 percent of 750 women questioned ticked the box on that time frame. Meanwhile, 71 percent of the blokes asked about their personal care routine said they spent longer than 30 minutes in the bathroom, versus 63 percent of women.

When Clinton was questioned, it’s a pity no one saw fit to point out that Trump’s bouffant ‘do’ and burnished face have surely gotta take some maintenance. Meanwhile, the French President, Emmanuel Macron has spent close to €30,000 on make-up in the first three-months of his term in office. Wowsers.   

Over in China, we recently reported that male spend on beauty products is now the main driver for growth for the cosmetics market and in Korea, LG Household & Health Care has launched a beauty subscription service for men. Meanwhile, L’Oréal UK Managing Director Vismay Sharma is predicting that male make-up counters will hit department stores within five to seven years.

“Today you have a very small proportion of men who want to use make-up products but that proportion is growing and it will continue to grow. I think it’s just awareness – two things are happening, men know they can use make-up, and they know what it does when you use it,” Sharma told The Telegraph.

“The second thing is that the taboos are going, so between my generation and my son’s generation the taboos are very different.”

With MMUK launching its men’s make-up range on ASOS and sales of Tom Ford’s Brow Gelcomb reportedly sky-rocketing, and the recent launch of a dedicated boys lipstick range, not to mention Charlotte Tilbury releasing a video tutorial aimed at men on her website – it looks Smith’s son is more likely than not to be experimenting with cosmetics than not.

I just hope my husband doesn’t take any longer to get ready in the morning.