In case you’ve missed the office memo, it’s no longer acceptable to log into an online meeting looking tired and disheveled.

In pre-pandemic days, many workers arguably had a legitimate reason to show up at work looking a little worse for wear. If the morning commute wasn’t horrific enough, a number of people were either still fighting off the lethargy that accompanies a late night working overtime or the aftereffects of a hangover that is the result of after-work drinks that stretched long into the evening.

These days, however, such convenient excuses have all but disappeared. Many workers are now spending an unprecedented amount of time in front of their computer cameras speaking to online audiences, and the pressure is on employees to be bright-eyed and spruced up for the occasion. Older men for whom personal grooming has never been a priority are facing increasing pressure to look professional in online meetings.

News website Nikkei.com recommends that men spend a little time investing in their appearance, especially their skin and hair, as a disheveled look can be damaging to their professional image.

Social media is now full of men — most of them in their 20s and early 30s — posting shots of their favorite grooming products.

There’s certainly no shortage of websites and blogs that offer advice on online etiquette. Leapahedge.com advises men to don a shirt with a collar and women to wear a blouse, recommending outfits that don’t need ironing. Kigyolog.com says readers should check the position of the camera in order to look their best, fix stray hair ends, straighten backs and keep facial expressions positive at all times.

A straight back is one thing, but many men are arguably more interested in looking attractive, energetic and 10 years younger than their real age. Last year, the men’s cosmetics market hit close to ¥120 billion in sales revenue. This year, the figure is expected to be even higher.

More men have been staying home since the state of emergency was declared earlier this year, which means less money is being spent on traditional male hobbies such as attending sports games. As a result, men have been able to spend more time and money on personal care. Indeed, more men are looking to optimize the remote work experience with glowing skin, clear eyes and glossy lips.

“Men need skin care products just as much as women in order to look clean, smart and presentable during online meetings,” one Twitter user notes and, honestly speaking, who could really disagree with that?

Meanwhile, Twitter user @choco says men should look at the products on display in the conventional women’s aisles.

“Don’t be put off by the labels, buy women’s cosmetics — they work much better than male only stuff,” @choco writes. “And, while we’re at it, why not open up the market and make cosmetic products available to whoever wants them?”

Thirty-eight-year old Kota Mitsuhashi is an example of a man who has discovered the joys of grooming during the stay-home period. Initially, cosmetics were probably the farthest thing from his mind. During the state of emergency, Mitsuhashi bought a high-end swivel chair for his back.

“I work in the aerospace industry and spend most of my waking hours hunched in front of a computer,” Mitsuhashi tells The Japan Times. “I needed to make myself comfortable or I would never get through the workload.”

He later bought a small desk and a partition that separated his workspace from the family living room, and proceeded to meet his deadlines. This worked well for a period of time until he caught sight of himself in a mirror one day and saw an old, tired man with bad posture staring back at him.

“It was a revelation,” he recalls. “I had neglected my personal appearance for far too long, and I was paying the price.”

On the advice of his wife, Mitsuhashi bought a bottle of men’s skin lotion, wrinkle cream and a concealer to apply to the dark circles under his eyes.

“Concealers are wonderful,” he says. “I can now hold my head up high during online meetings and speak to my colleagues with confidence.”

It wasn’t all good news, however, and Mitsuhashi suddenly began to realize how expensive cosmetics products are.

“I never knew how much time and effort my wife was putting in to look good,” Mitsuhashi says, echoing similar statements on social media. “I’m taking care not to overdo it because I really can’t afford it.”

That bottle of skin lotion Mitsuhashi purchased, by the way, was ¥3,800, and the 38-year-old was last seen debating whether or not to switch to a cheaper brand.

He’s certainly not alone in wanting cheaper cosmetics products.

“If more men bought cosmetics, it would make the companies more competitive and we would have access to cheaper products,” wrote one person on Twitter recently. “I wish that day would come soon.”

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