Skin Deep: His Eye Makeup Is Way Better Than Yours

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Skin Deep: His Eye Makeup Is Way Better Than Yours

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Would you be inclined to buy makeup because a 10-year-old boy is showing you how to create a look on Instagram? If we’re talking about Jack Bennett of @makeuupbyjack, then the answer could well be a resounding yes.

Since convincing his mother to start his account in May, young Mr. Bennett, who lives in Berkshire, England, has amassed 331,000 followers and attracted the attention of brands like MAC and NYX, which have offered products to create looks. Refinery29 has celebrated him as the next big thing in makeup.

He is the latest evidence of a seismic power shift in the beauty industry, which has thrust social media influencers to the top of the pecking order. Refreshingly, they come in all shapes, sizes, ages and, more recently, genders. Hailed by Marie Claire as the “beauty boys of Instagram,” the early male pioneers, like Patrick Simondac (@PatrickStarrr), Jeffree Star (@jeffreestar) and Manny Gutierrez, (@MannyMua733), have transcended niche to become juggernauts with millions of followers. And their aesthetic is decidedly new: neither old-school-rocker makeup nor drag queen.

Young Mr. Bennett, who lives in England, started his Instagram account in May.CreditLauren Fleishman for The New York Times

“When I first started on Instagram six years ago, the only stuff that existed was guy-liner,” Mr. Starrr said. “It was Fall Out Boy, and it was not glamorous. There wasn’t anything close to applying false lashes. I wanted to feel pretty and beautiful without being a drag queen.”

Not that it was easy. Mr. Starrr, now 27, lived in Orlando, Fla., at the time and worked at a MAC store in his local mall. He recalled getting stares from families at the food court. “I was wearing a scarf on my head and wearing makeup,” he said. “I’m a Filipino plus-size brown man. I felt like a clown. But I was comfortable at my work. That was a very, very safe place for me.”

So was the social media world, where he connected with other young men who loved makeup. As his profile and career grew (he has 3.6 million followers), Mr. Starrr also realized the power he had to influence a larger movement.

He sees his account as a way to “enjoy the artistic side of makeup.”CreditLauren Fleishman for The New York Times

“When you post an Instagram or YouTube video, it’s similar to ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race,’ where you can see the humanity of the contestants and see their struggles,” he said. “It helps show viewers that we’re just people.” He paused and giggled: “And it’s beauty, it’s just fun. Patrick is a walking rainbow.”

Men like Mr. Starrr have since influenced a new generation of young men who are wearing makeup and posting about it. According to the Instagram data team, there has been a 20 percent increase since the start of the year in mentions of “makeup” by male accounts on the platform.

In only a couple of years, these young men have gained sway in the industry. Cosmetics brands like Milk Makeup have built their offerings on genderless beauty; the skin-care company Glow Recipe hosts sold-out boy beauty mask classes; and in the fragrance aisle, unisex scent houses continue to grow.

Jake Warden, 15, at home in Longmont, Colo. CreditNick Cote for The New York Times

In Mr. Starrr’s case, the employee is now the collaborator: In December he is releasing a special collection of products with MAC, which will kick off a yearlong commitment for five collections. The collaboration is second in size only to Rihanna’s collections for the company.

And the men who are paying attention appear to be getting younger and younger. Jack Bennett is one of the youngest and sees his account as a way to “enjoy the artistic side of makeup.” Jake Warden, from Longmont, Colo., is 15 and has 2.1 million Instagram followers. MAC Cosmetics has paid him to feature its Studio Fix foundation. Alan Macias (473,000 followers) is 19. His favorite look is what he calls “boy glam, which is a boy, but a pretty boy.”

“That’s foundation, concealer, mascara, gloss and done,” he said.

And it’s likely they would all like to achieve the success of James Charles, now 18 with 2.5 million Instagram followers, who landed a CoverGirl contract as its first male ambassador.

Mr. Warden records a makeup session for his Instagram account (@jakewarden).CreditNick Cote for The New York Times

Certainly their ages have raised eyebrows and drawn eyeballs. Some have mainstream celebrity followers, like Shay Mitchell, Ansel Elgort and Meghan Trainor. But Carly Cardellino, beauty director of Cosmopolitan.com, argues that their skill is the draw.

“If you’re amazing at applying makeup, it doesn’t matter how old you are or what gender you identify with,” she said. “If you’re young, already embracing who you are and are insanely talented, those factors will make you stand out even more.”

Though the younger generation of influencers are of diverse molds, they are similar in that they take men wearing makeup as a given. “I didn’t think about gender identity, what you do with your life, things you associate yourself with,” Mr. Warden said, referring to the time he started his Instagram posts. “I think no matter what gender, you are free to do what you want.”

“The earlier guys on social media, they took some of the hate and negativity for us,” he said.CreditNick Cote for The New York Times

While men wearing makeup in Mr. Warden’s community was not the norm, he was far from ostracized. His family and friends largely supported him. “The earlier guys on social media, they took some of the hate and negativity for us,” he said.

And the way men are dispensing with male beauty stereotypes is trickling down. Cozy Friedman, a founder of the Cozy’s Cuts for Kids hair salon in Manhattan, has seen a shift in attitudes.

“What you have now are millennial moms who have grown up in an era where gender is more fluid,” Ms. Friedman said. “Millennials are very in tune with empowering their children.” For example, she sees a wide range of hair lengths on boys. “It’s not unusual for boys to sit in the chair, take out an iPhone and show a picture of what they want their hair to look like,” she said, adding that they start around age 6. “There are many role models for them to look to now.”

Matthew Taylor, 16, with 180,000 Instagram followers, is optimistic that male beauty norms will continue to loosen, regardless of sexual orientation. “I do think that one day boys will be able to do whatever they want and not be judged,” he said.

Yet for a male influencer like Kevin Ninh, 21, known as Flawless Kevin on Instagram and YouTube, simply putting on makeup and taking photos should be only part of the message. Mr. Ninh is now at the University of Washington Bothell, where he is double-majoring in media communications and gender, women and sexuality studies. Though he started wearing makeup as a teenager and posting about it on YouTube five years ago, he has learned, he said, how portrayals in media can affect perception of gender and identity.

“Yes, it’s important to entertain,” he said. “But while you’re doing it, why not teach them something at the same time.”

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