Japanese businessmen brighten make-up industry amid pandemic

TOKYO (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many businesses in Japan to the edge of financial ruin, but Takumi Tezuka, who owns a make-up 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, said one of its male make-up 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 make-up, he said.

“Men in their 40s, 50s, and 60s come to our salon because they feel they must wear make-up,” 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 JPY600 billion (USD5.5 billion) to an estimated JPY623 billion (USD5.7 billion) from 2018 to 2019.

Yoshihiro Kamichi receives make up and gets his hair done by a makeup artist at Ikemen-Works, a make-up salon for men. PHOTO: AP

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 make-up for the first time. Kamichi chose make-up for his eyelids and had foundation applied to his face. A make-up 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 make-up filters last month that let male users look like they are wearing men’s beauty products such as blemish balms and foundation.