Beauty brands are (Finally) turning to male influencers

March 6, 2023
Laura Leiva
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What do these names have in common?

PatrickStarr.

Jeffree Star.

Bretman Rock.

Manny Mua.

They’re some of the most-followed male beauty creators on YouTube.

With millions of dedicated followers who religiously watch their favorite content creator as soon as a new video drops (or heavily engaged in whatever drama the creator is embroiled in at any given time), it makes sense that the beauty industry as a whole is finally catching on to the idea that viewers love watching creators, regardless of gender, showcase personality and creativity in an entertaining format.

Add in TikTok or Instagram, and male beauty creators worldwide are growing audiences and partnering with emerging and legacy cosmetics brands for product launches or partnerships, too.

As more brands aim to gain attention from Gen Z consumers, cosmetic brands are branching out and finally tapping into the appeal and audience of male beauty creators.

Let’s be clear, though: creative expression and artistry from men (as the subject) in the beauty space aren’t new, and it’s also taken many years of challenging gender norms to get to this point of mainstream acceptance. But there’s still a lot of work to do in the space, especially regarding offering more opportunities to men of color.  

Aside from the sheer talent of many of these names, the fearless attitude and creative freedom highlighted by male creators in the beauty space resonates and appeals to the Gen Z shopper, in particular.

As a result, legacy brands like YSL Beauty and highly-popular labels like Glossier and Morphe are paying attention and signing creators on to campaigns. But it wasn’t always like this.

Let’s look at a couple of the early male creators in the beauty space breaking down barriers in makeup (and inducing envy in a makeup-challenged individual like myself, dear reader).

The OGs, and a new wave of male beauty creators

Jeffree Star

The name alone can bring up many feelings, depending on who you ask. Star, who has opted to live a quieter life in Wyoming and away from Los Angeles, is not without his fair share of controversy. But his rise on social media and artistic talent has been a long time in the making.

The fact is, Star has been creating content and building an audience since the MySpace days, where he used social media to market his growing fashion and music career to become one of the most popular independent artists using the platform.

Star’s ecommerce brand, Jeffree Star Cosmetics, launched in 2014, and his presence on YouTube doing beauty tutorials and related content has amassed over 17 million subscribers and nearly 2.5 billion views. Morphe Cosmetics was one of the first retailers to carry the makeup line, and both went on to collaborate with a now-defunct brush collection.

PatrickStarr

Someone who’s used social media to challenge thoughts around men and makeup? PatrickStarr.

In an article with CNN, PatrickStarr wrote:

“It's become, in the US at least, a little more normal for men to wear makeup.

You can look at the phenomenon of RuPaul's Drag Race as an example. The cast members slipping between genders has opened people's eyes to how makeup has no gender and shouldn't have one.

Makeup, I believe, is truly "one size fits all" -- it's a saying that has become my mantra. I grew up in the era where Christy Turlington, Christie Brinkley, Tyra Banks and Adriana Lima were plastered all over cosmetic ads...the beauty industry hasn't always been inclusive. People of different complexions and sizes were missing in casting and campaigns. But with the power of social media, that's changed.”

Instagram and TikTok are now full of talented male beauty creators worldwide. Here’s just a small sampling of creators making waves in the space:

Ankush Bahuguna (@wingitwithankush) on Instagram is an Indian content creator and makeup artist with over 1.2 million collective followers on both his professional account and his personal one.

Through content uploaded through YouTube and Instagram, Bahuguna features short videos highlighting minimalist makeup tips and tutorials for both men and women, earning him at least over a hundred thousand views per video.  

Wayne Goss (@gossmakeupartist) is a London-based makeup artist and YouTube content creator. An authority in the space, Goss’s content and experience appeal to followers through professional tips, recommendations, and product launches.

Theo Turner (@theeislandboi) is a content creator, celebrity makeup artist, and skinfluencer sharing reviews, routines, and tutorials on his Instagram page, with nearly 100k followers.

The future of beauty

Over the past five years, the number of male beauty creators gaining traction and building audiences has dramatically increased.

In what started as a very female-focused space with early creators such as Michelle Phan, male creators are quickly breaking barriers in views and engagement numbers and becoming top performers on social media platforms.

Aside from building a brand online, creators like Manny Mua, PatrickStarr, and Jeffree Star have created not only their cosmetic lines, they’ve worked with some of the giants in the industry and been ambassadors for brands like MAC and Maybelline.

Now, legacy brands want to take a piece of the pie.

In the summer of 2022, it was announced that creator and singer Troye Sivan was joining YSL Beauty as an ambassador.

With numerous male celebrities all launching skincare brands -- Harry Styles and Jared Leto to Brad Pitt and Lil Yachty – just as an example, YSL Beauty is leading the way by signing on more male creators to serve as ambassadors for makeup.

Celebrity ambassadors for brands are nothing new. But it’s Sivan’s audience that YSL Beauty wants to tap into and more beauty brands doing the same aren’t far behind.

Laetitia Raoust, United States general manager for YSL Beauty, explains:

“Our ambassadors foster connection and are able to inspire on a deeper, more personal level. Whether through music or acting (or even his TikTok videos), Troye does just this, aligning to the brand’s core value of creative freedom and expression.”

Brands wanting to grow and continue reaching new audiences are looking to embrace the values and interests of Gen Z. In addition to Sivan, YSL Beauty is also bringing on Indya Moore and Barbie Ferrier as ambassadors.

“Their unapologetic attitudes strengthen the brand’s forward-looking vision to redefine conventional beauty standards and the new American edge. These icons are beloved by Gen Z and beyond – not just because of their celebrity, but because of what they stand for and their contagious freedom in expressing their values,” Raoust says of the three new ambassadors.

The move to include more male beauty creators in campaigns and product launches also highlights the push toward more gender inclusivity and making products that work for everybody.

Sivan is proud to be next in line as the face of a beauty collection. Makeup, as he explains, was a tool he used to express himself as a kid, and learned what he knew by (just like the rest of us) watching YouTube tutorials.

For Sivan and countless others, makeup isn’t about covering up anything but accentuating natural beauty and boosting confidence. Check out the #MakeupIsGenderless hashtag on Instagram, and you’ll see many individuals using makeup as a creative outlet (and looking damn good doing it).

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