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Japanese businessmen brighten makeup industry amid pandemic


TOKYO — The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many businesses in Japan to the edge of financial ruin, but Takumi Tezuka, who owns a makeup and hair salon for men in Tokyo, has seen his customer base expand.

Japanese businessmen in their 40s, 50s and 60s who had little interest in cosmetics before the pandemic are increasingly visiting Tezuka’s salon, Ikemen-Works, hoping for a better look in online meetings.

A large personal care company, Shiseido, says one of its male makeup lines has seen double-digit growth during the pandemic. Company officials give a similar reason: Men, confronted with the sight of their faces repeatedly during online meetings, want to improve what they see.

“Before, most of our customers were males in their teens and 20s, but thanks to remote work we now have more businessmen,” said Tezuka. Unlike many younger men, who want a drastic makeover, older businessmen want to show a slightly better version of themselves by using makeup, he said.

“Men in their 40s, 50s, and 60s come to our salon because they feel they must wear makeup,” he said. Tezuka said that's because businessmen who work from home have more opportunities to see their faces during online meetings and have thus started to care more about their looks.

The men’s beauty industry has been expanding in Japan. According to research company Fuji Keizai Group, the men’s cosmetic market grew from about 600 billion yen ($5.5 billion) to an estimated 623 billion yen ($5.7 billion) from 2018 to 2019.

Tezuka said older businessmen tend to spend more money and visit more regularly than those in their 20s and 30s.

One customer, Yoshihiro Kamichi, 44, recently came to Tezuka’s salon to buy makeup for the first time.

Kamichi chose makeup for his eyelids and had foundation applied to his face. A makeup artist carefully trimmed his eyebrows and contoured his nose and face with brown shadow power.

“Who is this person? I was surprised at how different I look,” Kamichi said while looking at himself in the mirror.

Shiseido, one of the world's oldest cosmetics companies, released free online makeup filters last month that let male users look like they are wearing men’s beauty products such as blemish balms and foundation.

After Shiseido released makeup filters for women for online meetings like Zoom last year, comments from businessmen flooded in to its social media accounts requesting filters for men.

Uno, Shiseido’s men’s care brand, is now expanding its target age for cosmetics from men in their early 20s to men in their 40s.

“I think the coronavirus has created a certain condition that urges businessmen to be more aware of their skin condition,” said Uno's assistant branding manager, Yoshiyuki Matsuo. “We have seen double-digit growth even amid the pandemic.”

Matsuo wouldn't provide more details about Uno's growth.

To make cosmetics accessible to men, Japanese cosmetics store @Cosme Tokyo created an entire section dedicated to male and unisex makeup items last year at their newly opened shop in front of Harajuku Station, a trendy Tokyo area.

One recent customer, Kenta Yamashita, 24, a hairdresser, has been using cosmetics daily.

“There are men who cannot buy cosmetic products because it’s hard for them to casually drop in. I think it’s nice we now have this section,” Yamashita said. “But I wish they would make the section bigger so that men can more casually drop in.”

Chisato Tanaka, The Associated Press

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