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Men’s makeup is going mainstream in America.

CVS, the country’s largest drugstore chain, is adding a cosmetics line from Stryx. It will be in 2,000 of the chain’s stores, about a quarter of the total.

The retailer is giving more legitimacy to a small but growing group of products that had mainly been sold through high-end stores. With the move, it likely has potential customers such as Max Belovol in mind. The 23-year-old grew up wearing dazzling eye shadows and foundation for figure-skating competitions, but he didn’t become truly comfortable with wearing makeup during work until the coronavirus lockdown.

“It’s a Zoom effect,” said Belovol, of Atlanta, who prefers concealer and its subtle look. Being able to interact with people remotely freed him from worry about what other people might think.

Belovol is part of a growing trend. About one-third of U.S. men under 45 said they would consider trying makeup, according to a survey taken by Morning Consult last September (meaning, before quarantine boldness was a factor). At that time, researchers pointed to the continued evolution of traditional masculinity that has created a $9.3 billion U.S. men’s grooming and skin care market.

“Men are a growth industry,” said Ben Parr, co-founder of marketing firm Octane AI, who pointed to the millennial generation’s embrace of men wearing makeup as a major catalyst.

Getting into a nationwide chain marks a quick ascent for Stryx. Just three years ago, 25-year-old Devir Kahan woke up on his wedding day with a pimple and couldn’t find a quick fix. The episode convinced him that he’d discovered an underserved market: guys looking for a product to make their skin look better, especially during a breakout.

Having his products in CVS locations is the “ultimate validation,” said Kahan, and will help normalize a stigmatized practice that’s flown under the radar for years.

“It’s not about a full face of makeup or color,” Kahan said. “We’re talking about improving blemishes, fixing up under-eye bags, these sorts of things.”

Beyond shaving

For decades, men’s grooming in the United States revolved around just two products: shaving cream and after-shave. That “Mad Men”-era mentality began fading 20 years ago when more men embraced fashion and skin care. The term “metrosexual” went mainstream.

In response, brands introduced a broader array of products, spanning wrinkle creams, moisturizers and hair serum. The market has grown about 13% over the past five years.

In the United States, where male ruggedness is part of the country’s DNA, online search data shows a surging interest around men’s cosmetics. Online queries for “male makeup looks” jumped almost 80% in April compared with a year ago, according to data from market analytics firm Moz. Other top requests include “covering redness,” “hiding acne” and “hiding bags under eyes.”

Makeup is a “natural extension” of men enhancing their beauty regimens over the past two decades, according to Parr. It’s also bound to gain popularity, as society continues moving away from gender norms, he said.

Manly sales pitch

Even though Stryx is pitching a product traditionally made for women, its presentation is stereotypical male. The packaging is black, gray and dark blue. The concealer tool is pitched as sleek and discreet and could be mistaken for a black pen, clip included.

Formen, a men’s cosmetics company founded in 2010, uses an antlered deer head — like you’d find stuffed on a wall — as its logo. A fluid foundation comes in a black vial shaped like a skull. The brand, found mostly in Canada, also promises discreetness and touts the sturdiness of its concealer’s heavyweight aluminum container.

Axel Getz, a 24-year-old environmental consultant, became a makeup convert last year after a beauty-store clerk persuaded him to try a tinted moisturizer from a women’s line. His skin turned “angelic,” the New York resident said, and a day later friends complimented his appearance without a single mention of the makeup.

“A lot of guys just never give themselves the chance, and that goes for men of all sexualities,” said Getz, who had that same hesitancy until he tried that tinted moisturizer.

“From that point on, I was like: ‘I’m sold on this.’ ”