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Is It Taboo For Asian Men To Wear Makeup? History Says No

Is It Taboo For Asian Men To Wear Makeup? History Says No

Men wearing makeup represents tradition, modernity, and self-expression for Asians.

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In recent years, the sight of men wearing makeup has become increasingly common, but this inclusivity seems largely reserved for the Western world. Makeup gurus like Manny MUA and James Charles have amassed millions of followers, showing the world that makeup is not bound by gender. 

Yet, in many Asian cultures, the idea of men wearing makeup is still considered taboo. Many people still view makeup as a strictly feminine activity. 

But is this perspective truly reflective of our cultural heritage? Let’s dive into the vibrant history and modern influences that reveal a different story.

Malaysia’s Mak Yong

(Credit: Bernama)

In Malaysia, the traditional dance-drama known as Mak Yong has been a cornerstone of cultural expression since the 17th century. This ancient art form combines acting, vocal music, instrumental music, and elaborate costumes. 

Male performers in Mak Yong use makeup to enhance their features and convey the characters they portray, emphasising that makeup has long been integral to Malaysian cultural practices.

Thailand’s Khon

(Credit: jcomp via freepik)

Travelling to Thailand, we find the traditional Khon performance. This dance drama, depicting scenes from the Ramakien (the Thai version of the Ramayana), involves male and female performers wearing intricate makeup. 

The makeup transforms the actors into mythical beings, bridging the gap between the human and divine, and highlighting the artistry and cultural significance of makeup in Thai tradition.

Indonesia’s Wayang Wong


In Indonesia, the Wayang Wong is a traditional Javanese dance-drama that brings epic stories like the Ramayana and Mahabharata to life. Male actors don heavy makeup and elaborate costumes to portray gods, demons, and heroes. 

This practice underscores the role of makeup in enhancing the visual and dramatic impact of the performance, showcasing its deep-rooted presence in Indonesian culture.

Myanmar’s Nat Worship

(Credit: Chiara Luxardo via

In Myanmar, nat worship involves the veneration of spirits known as nats. Male mediums, or nat kadaws, wear makeup and elaborate costumes during ceremonies to embody the spirits they invoke.

This transformation is believed to help channel the nats and perform rituals, reflecting the spiritual significance of makeup in Myanmar’s cultural and religious practices.

The K-Pop Influence

Fast forward to today, and the influence of K-pop has significantly reshaped beauty standards in Asia and beyond. K-pop idols like BTS, EXO, and GOT7 regularly sport makeup, from subtle foundation to bold eyeliner, breaking down stereotypes and redefining masculinity. 

These idols have become role models, showing Asian men today that makeup can be a form of self-expression and artistry, rather than something that undermines one’s masculinity.

The K-pop industry’s acceptance and promotion of makeup for men have played a pivotal role in normalising its use.

Fans emulate their favourite idols, creating a ripple effect that challenges traditional gender norms and encourages a more inclusive approach to beauty.

Recognising the growing demand, more and more makeup brands are catering to male grooming.

Even luxury brands like Chanel have launched their own range of men’s makeup, Boy de Chanel. Their philosophy is simple and empowering: “Men should be free to use make-up products to correct their appearance, without calling into question their masculinity.” 

Okay, slay.

So, is it okay for Asian men to wear makeup?


From historical traditions like Mak Yong and Wayang Wong to the modern influence of K-pop, it’s clear that makeup has long been a part of our cultural fabric. Today, as more brands and public figures challenge gender norms, the path is paved for greater acceptance.

So, to all the men out there, go ahead and experiment with confidence! Whether it’s to cover up pesky pimples, brighten up those heavy dark circles from being out too late last night, or simply add a pop of colour, we’re here for it. 😉

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