Here come the boys |

6 mins

Here come the boys

Lollie Hancock meets three men breaking gender stereotypes by making a name for themselves in the beauty industry

A huge part of what makes the beauty space so special is how it champions women in the industry and prides itself on its strong female leaders.

However, while male beauty professionals are certainly in the minority, the beauty industry is first and foremost an inclusive space, with some men paving the way for others to follow in their footsteps and break into the industry.

Meet three men flying the flag for male beauty professionals, as they share their stories about how they entered the industry, the highs and lows of life as a man in beauty, and their hopes for the future.

Buster Knight, make-up artist

Make-up artist Buster Knight’s client roster includes actors Millie Bobby Brown and Priyanka Chopra Jonas, chef Gordon Ramsay, and singer Leigh-Ann Pinnock.

“I love when people feel good about themselves and make-up is transformative in more ways than just outward appearance,” he says.

“When I began my career in the make-up industry, I worked in retail and was the only man on my team – Iloved it and was made to feel special.

“I love celebrating women, making them feel beautiful and enhancing their features.

“Initially I found hesitation from some clients but over time that has worn away. I think people expect me to be flamboyant or a caricature of what they think a make-up artist should act like, but time has definitely helped deflate this stigma.

“I’m always conscious of being a white man, and how much easier things can come to a white man, and I’m always conscious not to overshadow women in a predominantly female career path. It’s super important to let everyone have a fair crack of the whip.

“Men have always been a huge part of the industry. Marilyn Monroe’s make-up artist was a man. Most of the people I idolise in the industry, such as Kevyn Aucoin and Billy B, have been male make-up artists.

“I think it’s important to see us as artists, no matter our gender, sexuality, skin colour or where we come from. We are artists who have a common goal of making the world a more beautiful place.”

Alex Philamond, manicurist

Alex Philamond began training as a 30th birthday present to himself and, within two years, has cemented himself as a go-to tech for beauty industry leaders and is working with some of his favourite brands.

“I’ve had a love for beauty since day dot, honestly, but it makes me quite sad now how long I waited to be able to love it openly and honestly,” he shares.

“I’ve always been captivated by femininity and beauty rituals, but it’s only in the last five years or so, since moving abroad to New Zealand, where literally nobody knew me, that I shed that insecurity and allowed myself to ask the questions about beauty I always wanted to know.

“Truly, it’s been liberating. I feel like, at 31, I’m finally enjoying the things I was always fascinated by but never allowed myself to indulge in.

“When first considering a career in beauty, I did have some concerns about entering the industry as a man. I’m quite an anxious person, but my entire motive for training to become a manicurist was because I felt like there was a gap in the market around where I live for a manicure service that provided gender-inclusive nail treatments to men, women and anybody identifying in-between.

"I knew that if I was LOOKING FOR A SERVICE like this, OTHER MEN WOULD BE TOO. I felt confident that I could PROVIDE THAT SERVICE"

“I knew that if I was looking for a service like this, other men would be too. I felt confident that I could provide that service and my self-confidence had grown so much in owning my love for beauty that I knew I couldn’t let my nerves obstruct something that I was so certain could be really special.”

“I can only speak for myself but, honestly, I’ve never known such an embracing, accommodating and warm community as the nail industry.

“It isn’t a hardship, but sometimes it is a bit of a sting when brands send out emails beginning with ‘Hey ladies’ or ‘Hi girls’, but I’m very understanding that it’s been a female-dominated industry for so long that some might assume it’s only women working within it. I’d like to see this change fully to become more inclusive, but it’s definitely well on its way.

“I wasted so many years of my life not doing things I wanted to or not learning about the things I was curious about because I was scared about people saying, ‘well, that’s not what boys do’ – and I’d love to help destigmatise this for other men wanting to get into beauty. I’m a firm believer that you can’t be what you can’t see.”

William Foley, aesthetic therapist

Leading UK aesthetic therapist William Foley, based in Alderley Edge, has a huge celebrity client base, including actors Sue Cleaver, Catherine Tyldesley and Samia Longchambon.

“My mum has always had great skin and really looked after her skin, so I was always intrigued by her routine and would sometimes be told off for stealing her expensive products,” he recalls.

“As I got older, I developed severe acne on my face and neck, which made me really self-conscious. My own skin troubles led me to want to know more about how skin works, and how to improve skin issues.

"I’ve seen a rise in THE NUMBER OF MEN who come in for treatments, which is GREAT TO SEE – and why shouldn’t they? We all want to FEEL GOOD ABOUT OURSELVES"

“I attended beauty college in 2010, completing a three-year course, and was told I was the first male to take part in the course. At the time it was really daunting – Ifelt pressure to show off what I can do and be successful because I had something to prove.

“When I applied for beauty college, there was a real stigma around it as it was a female-dominated course, so I was in two minds about whether it was the right choice. I questioned if I would even get accepted, let alone whether I would have clients at the end of it, because I’m a man.

“I had a vision for myself and where I wanted to end up in the industry, so with that in mind I knew I had to take the steps to achieve my goals. I think being an openly gay man has also positively impacted this, as I am able to be my true self, which gives me confidence and strength to ignore the stigma that comes with being a man in the industry.

“I’ve seen a lot of growth in the beauty industry when it comes to male beauty professionals, not just in skincare but also within make-up and nails. We have so many male influencers promoting beauty and skincare now, and there’s been huge growth in the male grooming sector as men are embracing self-care and the beauty world – it’s such an exciting time to be a man in the industry.

“It’s not just men choosing a career in beauty – I’ve seen a rise in the number of men who come in for treatments, which is great to see – and why shouldn’t they? We all want to feel good about ourselves.

“For any men thinking of starting a career in beauty, there’s so many routes you can go down. Just throw yourself in!”

This article appears in August 2023

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This article appears in...
August 2023
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