December 15, 1986 12:00 PM

They all laughed at Boy George in his mascara and rouge, but look who’s lining up at the cosmetics counter now. From Saks Fifth Avenue to the local pharmacy, displays of expensive skin-care brands beckon to a new consumer: the all-American male. Most men still draw the line at eye shadow. But thousands of businessmen with beard burn, cops with overly ruddy noses and just about every other type of male (including John Travolta, Robin Williams, Walter Mondale and golfer Fuzzy Zoeller) now put time and money into making their faces baby soft. Says Daniel Eastman, author of the book Face Fitness: “These days it’s macho to moisturize.”

Though they don’t come close to matching the $2.76 billion that women spent last year on skin care, men’s products now make big bucks: More than a dozen national cosmetics companies and local beauty parlors are massaging the egos under men’s supposedly thick skins. At Georgette Klinger’s Manhattan salon, about 200 men per week pay $55 for an hour-long facial. Some of the fashionable new remedies are of doubtful usefulness, and less expensive women’s products, or even some pantry items, work just as well. Nonetheless, stock analyst Diana Temple estimates total male cosmetics sales in 1986 at $45 million, a $10 million jump from 1985, and experts predict that the market will grow by 20 to 30 percent a year for the near future. The receipts at one Marshall Field’s store in Chicago total up to $35,000 per month, and some male customers drop $400 a visit. “It’s like a new toy for them,” says Field’s saleswoman Margie Herman.

It takes some courage to turn the vanity tables, but here are tips for rednecks, hard-noses and other male beginners:

•Night creams put on before bedtime may reduce shaving nicks and scrapes in the morning.

•As familiar as it sounds, products that screen out the sun’s ultraviolet rays offer the best protection against future wrinkles.

•Under-eye creams camouflage dryness but many general purpose creams will moisturize just as well.

•Though fancy cleansers make your kisser feel swell, they may not clean it any better than a good soap.

•Night creams mess up the pillowcase if you don’t let them dry for a few minutes before retiring. Remember that, unless you’re ready to do the laundry as part of your new role.

•Many new creams tout medicinal ingredients found in human cells, notably RNA, collagen and elastin. But Dr. William P. Jordan Jr., professor at the Medical College of Virginia, says there are no data to prove that this stuff knocks off wrinkles. He adds that skin varies more by individual than by sex. So women’s products may be suitable for men—and less embarrassing to buy. Clinique changed only the packaging, not the contents or generally the price, to sell its women’s line to men.

•Do-it-yourself still works. Daniel Eastman recommends sesame oil as a moisturizer, oatmeal—but no brown sugar—as a skin mask and a homemade mix of myrrh (a natural antiseptic sold at health food stores), bottled water and lemon juice as an after-shave. In fact, Mae West gave it to her male friends, and if that savvy lady didn’t know, who did?

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