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Michael Beccalli: Redefining Beauty beyond Gender Norms

Born in 1997, Michael Beccalli is a fashion designer with a degree from the Polytechnic University of Milan. Besides his passion for fashion, he adores makeup and everything related to it. For the past few months, he has been creating content on various social media platforms, discussing sustainability and inclusivity in every sector, from fashion to beauty, skincare, and makeup. His goal is to build a community on social networks where everyone can identify themselves and engage in conversations on diverse topics, from cosmetic products to more psychological aspects.

Our Content Creator and Influencer Michael Beccalli, or just Mike, mirroring himself with an elegant hand mirror, and a stunning makeup.

What is your skincare and makeup routine?

The keywords in my skincare and makeup routine are: Rapidité (“Speed”), Facilité (“Ease”) and Beyoncé! (Editor's note) First and foremost, I must have a routine that is easy to remember and execute. Then, I want to do only those things on my skin that I consider "exorcising," meaning things that make me feel good. I strongly believe that a good makeup always requires a good skincare foundation: the products you use must be carefully selected, ensuring they are suitable for your skin, either from the same brand or, at the very least, have the same ingredients.

For example, since I have dry skin, I tend to avoid foundation and prefer BB creams, tinted moisturizers, and CC creams because they help hydrate my skin's texture and don't create that annoying, heavy layer on my face. My goal is to make anyone I meet on the street say, "You look beautiful!" and not "You're wearing makeup really well!" Therefore, my preferred makeup includes: BB cream, eyebrows, contouring, highlighter, and lip balm.

Which brands do you prefer and use?

Having dry skin, I use products that allow me to hydrate my skin. Currently, I have a skincare routine that works very well for me, based on the brand Superb. cosmetics and more. The unique thing about it is that the products are numbered, so I already know the order of the various steps. It's a brand that has carefully studied how the various ingredients mix with each other, and everything is designed with an overall vision in mind.

For me, the ideal products must be soothing, moisturizing, and have the claim for sensitive skin: this Superb line is gluten-free, nickel-free, paraben-free, and allergen-free. It's also super environmentally friendly because all the products are completely organic and ecological, especially in terms of packaging. And, not least, it's very inclusive! The ingredients I usually look for are: vitamin E and B, rosewater, spirulina algae, chamomile extract, almond oil, coconut oil, argan oil, jojoba oil, calendula, avocado, retinol, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, glycolic and lactic acid.

Another brand I've always used and have had a good experience with is Astra Skin.

To remove makeup, in my opinion, there's nothing better than Clinique "Take the Day Off".

Can we say that skincare and makeup are not linked to gender but to art and self-expression?

Certainly, absolutely!

So why do you think they are still considered taboo when practiced by men?

I believe this taboo is a kind of social legacy: taking care of one's skin and wearing makeup has been associated with women, probably because most brands were formulated for that claim. The problem, however, is that the artistic aspect is not recognized: makeup, skincare, and facial expression are forms of art. In the past, there was no distinction between whether a man or a woman picked up a brush and created their own painting because it didn't matter; a person painted, used a canvas, a wall, or any medium to express their art, and only the artwork was evaluated. Makeup is the same: I take an eyeshadow, a pigment, and instead of putting it on canvas, I put it on my face.

Makeup has been associated with women because it was simply thought that women had more time to dedicate to it: men were the ones who had to work and bring home the bread, while women, staying at home to take care of the children, could carve out moments for their aesthetics. A colossal mistake! Figures like Chanel started talking about women's rights, and over the years, some men also wondered, "Why not us?" It's still a taboo, in my opinion, for those people who have a rather backward view of what is the duty of a man and what belongs to a woman. In truth, the ancient Egyptians always wore makeup regardless of gender; the same was true for the Romans and Shakespearean theater actors, who often played female roles. Makeup is inherently part of human nature and nothing else.

I dare say that the distinction between men and women is also due to ignorance, a lack of knowledge: taking care of oneself is neither masculine nor feminine but a personal matter.

Michael Beccalli, brand ambassador di Lebubè, con un makeup colorato, rappresentando inclusivi e abbattimento di stereotipi di genere

We've said that skincare and makeup are not gender-dependent. Yet, there's still this notion that a made-up woman is beautiful while a made-up man... It's scandalous. What are your thoughts on this?

We're still there. This is a cultural legacy where we've always seen women wearing makeup. A man wearing makeup is scandalous once again due to ignorance, the idea that makeup is something feminine. We remember models from the 2000s wearing makeup but forget that the pharaoh was the first to use what we now call eyeliner. In society, a woman with makeup is considered beautiful because it's the most normal thing since makeup is seen as feminine, and it inevitably enhances beauty. A made-up man, on the other hand, must belong to the LGBTQ+ community and have a certain profession, like an actor or a drag queen. It's strange: a man who perhaps leaves the house with black eyeliner is seen as scandalous. Johnny Depp has always done it, and no one has ever said anything to him; so I don't see why an ordinary person would be pointed at as a "freak show" when, in reality, they've simply decided to express themselves.

Do you think it's also linked to some form of toxic masculinity?

Absolutely! Toxic masculinity hides behind certain types of phrases and behaviors: considering a guy who wears makeup less of a man is a very stupid belief. Masculinity is not determined by makeup but by one's words and actions.

We're applying something to our faces that allows us to express ourselves, to correct ourselves, to feel good about ourselves, and to enhance ourselves.

Unfortunately, we live with toxic masculinity, and makeup becomes another tool that allows certain, rather backward people to have the power to judge. Paradoxically, the same "alpha males" are the first to unconsciously use cosmetic products: shaving foam and aftershave are cosmetic products! Yet, these are fine, but foundation is not. And this happens because men feel justified in using products that are marketed as "for men," without realizing that, at the core, the ingredients and purposes are the same. Makeup is universal!

According to a 2019 study in the United States, about 1 in 3 men under the age of 45 reported considering the idea of wearing makeup at least once in their lives. How do you perceive this data? How do you think this data has evolved over the course of four years?

The year, 2019, does give me pause because it's relatively recent, and the data makes me think there might be a mental block, especially considering how much makeup brands have evolved since 2016. At the same time, I believe progress is being made because fortunately, there are young male personalities who are breaking barriers, especially in the media. They are trying to convey the message that taking care of oneself and using makeup as a form of expression is not wrong. Think of figures like Achille Lauro, Rosa Chemical, Fedez, and others who, albeit with varying methods, are leveraging the ignorance of certain people to bring them into a world they've always avoided. I am convinced, however, that from 2019 to 2023, the data has improved because various brands have started using a more universal language and are focusing on communication that includes the "man in makeup." Great examples in Italy are Mulac Cosmetics and NABLA Cosmetics

Do you think that the age limit of 45 in the American study highlights a generational gap, with many more young people than informed and interested adults in this matter?

I would say yes. The younger generations are growing up completely bombarded by social media, where the beauty world is thriving. Inevitably, today's youth are much more informed and understand that there is nothing wrong with taking care of themselves. Often, the ignorance of older people is not a lack of knowledge but more of a reluctance to know; it's almost a comfort zone. They were never used to skincare and makeup in their daily routine, and now there is a mental barrier toward this reality. In my opinion, the younger you are, the more adaptable and open you are to external influences.

In 2020, during the lockdown, searches on the Internet for "male makeup look" increased by 80% (Premium Beauty News, 2021). Do you think this was due to an attempt at change and improvement, curiosity about something previously unknown to many, or simply because people didn't know what else to do?

We would certainly need to delve deeper into the research to understand if this data pertains to men, women, men who spent the lockdown alone or with a woman, because external stimuli may have influenced them in this direction. There weren't many alternatives at home during the lockdown: either you cooked until you ran out of flour supplies, or you took care of yourself. Additionally, spending a lot of time on social media, where beauty is prevalent, led people to engage with skincare and makeup, realizing that it was right to take care of themselves. In a public health emergency like the one we experienced, the only voice to listen to was your own, and many taboos were eliminated when we became aware that many things made us feel good.

Michael Beccalli, a makeup artist and brand ambassador for Lebubè, showcases a Halloween makeup celebrating inclusivity and moving away from toxic masculinity.

In 2021, the first men's makeup store was opened in London. This could be seen as a step forward. However, don't you think it would be more progressive to simply have makeup stores regardless of gender, where men and women can browse, try, and buy without any distinction?

First of all, I find it very classist to create stores specifically for men's makeup. If I were a woman, I wouldn't enter such a store. Secondly, I believe that labeling a store as "masculine" for makeup is purely a marketing strategy to increase sales. Because, in the end, there is no distinction between cosmetics for men and women. It probably targets those people who ignorantly feel justified and legitimized to enter only a men's store.

It would be better to create a store that, in terms of communication, makes me understand that it welcomes anyone, such as regardless of gender or orientation. Images of men in makeup, women in makeup, videos of men doing makeup, videos of women doing makeup, men and women doing makeup together would help. We all watch TV without distinction, we all read books without distinction, and we can and should all use skincare and makeup without distinction. Personally, I see the opening of a men's makeup store as a step backward. The store should not be made specifically for me as a man. The makeup store should be for everyone in general.

What trends do you see for 2024?

Clean beauty, meaning imperceptible, invisible, super lightweight makeup. I believe the "lifted look" effect, achieved through precise concealer placement, will also be significant because there is this aesthetic of having under-eye bags smoothed out as if after filler injections. In my opinion, trends that will never go out of style are lip volumizers and blush, as they provide a much more lived-in look, in the literal sense of the term: they give you that color that makes you actually look alive!

Who are the influencers you follow the most on this topic, and why?

My absolute favorite influencers are two Italians: Loretta Grace and Luca Esposito. As for international influencers, I follow Nikkie de Jager-Drossaers a lot.

The latter belongs to the LGBTQ+ community as a transgender woman and has always tried to make makeup a universal tool, a form of art that I relate to. Moreover, she owns a makeup brand (Nymia) that is inclusive in both communication and the ingredients used in the products. She focuses a lot on how anyone should feel when doing makeup: makeup should become the means through which we can and should feel good about ourselves and others; it should give us the opportunity to convey who we are or who we want to be.

Loretta Grace represents a dual minority, as an Afro-Italian woman, both of which face daily discrimination. I relate to her for this reason as well. I myself am part of the LGBTQ+ community and deal with various forms of hate and discrimination every day. I also appreciate her for her beauty perspective and her efforts to destigmatize various topics, such as eating disorders.

I found the same concept of makeup as "therapy" in Luca Esposito, who has contributed to an increase in the male quota in various brands. He has an extremely technical approach when evaluating products, from performance to ingredients. He doesn't hesitate to tell the truth: if a product works for him, great; if it doesn't, as Ariana Grande says, "thank you, next!"

Another influencer I love is Ale Hilton, also a transgender woman who found herself through makeup. Then, in my opinion, Oscar Simonetta has a makeup concept that is more accessible to the male audience, due to his rather masculine facial features. I usually follow influencers who convey something to me as individuals and make me feel understood on a personal level.

It must be said that on social media, it's quite complicated to find a heterosexual man who does makeup tutorials. One person who is breaking barriers is Damiano David of Måneskin, who is known for a strong gender-fluid aesthetic, even though he identifies as a heterosexual cisgender man. He enjoys expressing himself through makeup and fashion.

Have you ever been criticized for what you do?

Absolutely, and I'll tell you something: as much as the LGBTQ+ community promotes inclusivity and acceptance, it is one of the most discriminatory realities that can exist on the face of the Earth. A gay guy, belonging to the LGBTQ+ community, who identifies as a man and wears makeup, is discriminated against. I've heard many times, "If I had to be with a man who wears makeup, then I might as well be with a woman."

Paradoxically, I've received more criticism from the LGBTQ+ community than from heterosexual people. Guys and girls feel authorized to criticize you because they belong to your own community. Many times I've been told, "You wear makeup, so you're a woman or want to be a woman." These dynamics happen within the community, even though it's always easier to remember the derogatory term uttered by any heterosexual individual. I prefer not to be labeled, mocked, or criticized by another member of the community to which I have chosen to belong. The big problem is that nowadays there is a need to define and therefore label everything: regardless of being gay, pansexual, bisexual, I am Michael, and I am a person! How I identify myself is something I should know, and no one should inquire about it! We need to stop asking questions when they are unnecessary and start asking them when it's appropriate.

What would you say to other men who want to take care of their skin and wear makeup but don't do it because of the prejudice that skincare and makeup are only for women?

First of all, I would say that it is right to take care of yourself, and whatever you decide to do is only for yourself as an individual. The fact that skincare and makeup are mainly practiced by women, even on social media, should not stop you. Don't pay too much attention to comments and criticism. What you are doing is for your own well-being as a person first and foremost. You are a blank canvas on which you can do anything!

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