On the 8th September 2019 an episode of Dragons Den aired on BBC Two which showed an entrepreneur offered bids from all five of the Dragons. His product? Warpaint – makeup for men. Before appearing on the show, and securing £70,000 investment, the founder Daniel Grey explained the success that his male only makeup line had already enjoyed and all the signs point to the idea that male makeup is only going to get bigger and better…

For many years, donned only by the flamboyant and the famous, male makeup was kept at arms length by big brand providers and male consumers. However, gradual changes in attitudes and acceptance has meant that male makeup has slowly been working its way into the mainstream. Male makeup is now being used for the everyday; helping to cover blemishes, acne, or tiredness under the eyes. In this so-called ‘Selfie Generation’ it is no surprise that men are feeling similar pressures as their female counterparts to look a certain way. Using make up to achieve this is encouraging open conversations about masculinity, male beauty standards, and male self expression.

Big brands are helping to pave a path for the normalisation of male makeup. In 2016 the magazine CoverGirl featured its first ever male on the cover of the magazine; 17-year old James Charles, a beauty blogger and makeup enthusiast. Alongside this, brands like Charlotte Tilbury, Chanel, and Tom Ford have all launched products specifically for men. MMUK founded in 2012 is an entire makeup company aimed exclusively at men. They have remained relatively niche until recently, when the online retail giant ASOS confirmed they are now selling the brand. Whilst male cosmetics still only account for 1% of the $465bn global beauty market it is clear that this is changing.

male makeup

DJ Griffin is a male make up artist working in Belfast. We asked him about his passion for makeup, where it began, and how it feels to work in such a female dominated industry.

What age were you when you considered this career?

I first started wearing makeup at the age of 15, it was always just a hobby of mine. I never considered it could be a career until I had finished school. I had just completed my A levels, was set up to go to university at the age of 18 but last minute I backed out as I was unsure of my course. From then I took a year out and began working on a makeup counter straight away and I’ve been following the makeup path ever since.

Who or what influenced this career choice?

As a teenager I was hugely influenced by alternative music and fashion. I was very into heavy metal (I still am to this day!) and a lot of the male vocalists wore heavy and dark makeup as part of their look. Long before the days of Facebook and Instagram we had MySpace, which was a great place for meeting like minded people with similar interests, and there were a lot of alternative men in makeup on there. Men wearing makeup wasn’t very common or mainstream at the time, but to us it was normal.

What did your parents think about you becoming a make up artist? 

Initially they didn’t understand it, and when job opportunities arose after leaving school they tried to steer me towards the non-makeup positions. It wasn’t a very common job for men at the time (this was back in 2009), and the industry wasn’t as big. At the time there were only two other male makeup artists that I knew of in Northern Ireland. After seeing my success over the years and my passion and love for my job they have fully accepted it and encourage me and probably wouldn’t imagine me doing anything else.

How long have you been doing this job and at any stage have you considered a career change? If so why?

I have been doing makeup professionally for 9 years. Last year I had a few moments when I considered a complete career change and going back to further education. I had recently just gone full time freelance, where I had previously always had a job with a cosmetic company as well as freelancing. I found the transition stressful to begin with and contemplated if it really was for me. The industry has changed so much since I started and I’ve watched many trends come and go. The makeup industry here in Northern Ireland has become so saturated in the past 4 years. I also really had the urge to go travelling and considered living abroad for a year. Spending 4 weeks in Thailand made me feel refreshed and energized when I came back. You never know what the future holds, but right now I’m happy!

Do women find it odd having their make up applied by a male?

In the beginning, I think some women perhaps of an older generation or from a more remote location may have found it odd. When I first started taking bookings via phone when working on a makeup counter, some clients would specifically request that their makeup is NOT applied by a man. I tried not to get offended by this, as at the end of the day, it’s entirely their choice. Nowadays though, it’s completely different. There has been a huge number of male makeup artists enter the industry in the past few years so it’s becoming a lot more normalized – which is great to see! There are many other things to consider with this issue though, some women for religious reasons cannot have a man touch their face, and we have to respect that and be professional.

Do you wear make up? 

Daily a wear a little bit of makeup, just to even my skin tone and make myself look more awake! Almost nobody can ever tell that I’m wearing any. Now and again I’ll try creative looks on myself to practice techniques or experiment with products and post pictures on Instagram, but would very rarely wear full makeup outside. Flash back to my teenage years though it was a different story, the more dramatic, the better!

Do you think males are not encouraged enough to join this profession?

I think through social media, the idea of men in makeup and working in makeup has become a lot more recognized, it’s such a wonderful thing to see. Of course not everyone is going to be open minded about it, but times are changing and the world is heading in the right direction.

Do employers treat male make up artists differently?

I’ve been lucky and never experienced any discrimination for being a male in this industry. All clients that have booked me for work have treated me as they would anyone else. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, as I’ve heard instances otherwise from other male makeup artists. I have never let my gender make me feel any different from anyone else working in this industry and I think having that confidence means people will treat you as a professional.

Have you seen a rise in men wearing make up, if so is it just concealer or are they going for a full make up?

There is definitely a rise in men wearing makeup. From what I see it’s full glam makeup. Instagram is filled with images of men wearing bold and dramatic looks, it’s great, I wish I had a platform like this that was so open minded when I was a teenager! As for the minimal makeup on men, I don’t see it as much, it definitely seems to be all or nothing (or maybe they’re doing the ‘no makeup’ look really well!).

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