The Men Behind Beauty Brands Are (Finally) Starting to Look a Little Different

It's a tale as old as time in the beauty industry: when you peel back the curtain behind the world's largest and most influential makeup, skin, and hair brands, the majority of the time you'll find traditional businessmen — likely middle-age, even more likely white — sitting in the c-suite. In an industry that has, for years, been almost entirely marketed to women, it's hard not to see the irony. But over time, those roles have been challenged in more ways than one. Finally the beauty industry is evolving to more accurately — and more inclusively — represent its customers on all fronts.

In November 2016, James Charles became CoverGirl's first male spokesperson; in 2017 Zach Dishinger founded Formula Z Cosmetics as a high school student, where he currently holds the title of CEO. Over the years, YouTube beauty vloggers like PatrickStarr, Bretman Rock, and Manny MUA have launched collections with the likes of MAC and Morphe, many with their own lines now available or in the works. It goes without saying that their marketing reflects an industry they want to see, where men are in makeup and enjoying the beauty products they promote, fearlessly and unapologetically.

But the changes aren't limited to wearing makeup, or even in the makeup category alone. The men behind today's beauty brands are fans first. This is true for Mark Veeder, who founded Farmacy Beauty from a passion for plant science, and Alex Kummerrow who cofounded Herbivore Botanicals after buying his wife a soap kit. A trio of celebrity hairstylists created R+Co in 2014.

These shifts are overdue and necessary. Not only are they tools for championing self-expression within the queer community — they're also ways to normalize men's roles in the industry beyond a limited grooming category and executive titles and as diverse consumers, too. Matthew Malin and Andrew Goetz, founders and real-life partners behind Malin + Goetz, identified that early when they launched their genderless apothecary brand in 2004.

"Men have a lot of spending power and are educated and concerned about their appearance," Malin told POPSUGAR. "As a man, I want to be spoken to seriously about my skin. I suffer from rosacea, eczema, and seborrhea and look for effective and gentle solutions." This, combined with a long career in beauty where he says products were often "the domain of women," inspired him cocreate a line that spoke to all genders equally.

Over a decade later, where male beauty enthusiasts began dominating social media and the idea of men in makeup was no longer reserved for drag culture and movie sets, Formula Z's Dishinger saw an opportunity to keep the momentum going. "I was a sophomore in high school when I launched Formula Z three years ago, and at that time, there were few beauty boys or men in brand marketing campaigns," he said. "As a makeup artist and consumer, I was disenchanted with the beauty industry, so I decided to create a beauty line because traditional beauty brands weren't speaking my language, giving back to causes I care about, or evolving to meet my own makeup needs and social beliefs."

In 2020, Dishinger is thrilled to see brands like Chanel getting on board with male-focused makeup lines and inclusive campaigns, but there's still work to do. He knows his fellow Gen-Zers are up for the task. "I believe that my generation is challenging traditional notions of race and gender, very sensitive to inclusivity, and redefining the beauty industry in our likeness."

I believe that my generation is challenging traditional notions of race and gender, very sensitive to inclusivity, and redefining the beauty industry in our likeness.

But as Gen Z continues to influence the beauty landscape, every detail matters. According to Malin, marketing is one key to making the industry feel like an inclusive space. "Today, guys have a place at the table and often see marketing directed to them as educated consumers" — the way products are often marketed to women, especially in the luxury space. Passion and intention matter, too. "Any great brand should give people permission to be themselves," Dishinger said. "Formula Z Cosmetics is rooted in giving back. I want to help others like me, particularly the youth of the LGBTQ community."

Both founders are hopeful that the industry will keep evolving and enforcing these ideas. "Our industry continues to happily move toward inclusion. I don't see this as changing," Malin said. "While every person's skin is different from the next, our needs are the same." Dishinger thinks we're on the cusp of something big: "When I was a kid, cosmetic displays and magazine ads didn't feature people who look like me. My hope is that brands will understand, respect, and embrace individuality, and diversity in race, gender, and culture will be represented in their leadership, workforce, products, and marketing. This is not a trend. This is the future."