The Atlantic Dispatch catches up with Danny Gray, founder of the UK’s leading men’s make-up brand War Paint For Men, to discuss what it’s like to be smashing stigmas and tearing down taboos.
For Danny Gray, War Paint represents far more than a brand. It is a community that he has created which has been a lifeline for himself and thousands of others during some dark times.
Danny endured years of emotional and physical torment as a teenager and, at the age of 14, was diagnosed with BDD (Body Dysmorphic Disorder). It was at this time that he discovered applying makeup gave him a much-needed confidence boost.
“When I began to develop body dysmorphia, I started using products in my sister’s makeup bag to help make me feel better. Once I started shopping for my own products, I realised that there were no brands that I could relate to as a man. The experience was alienating. I wanted to give men more choice in this area, so took matters into my own hands.”
His own experience, coupled with an entrepreneurial drive, led to the creation of War Paint.
Changing Perceptions and Breaking Taboos
“It’s really important to break these taboos society has placed on us.”
Make no mistake about it, War Paint is pioneering change in the men’s makeup industry. Their open and honest approach to men wearing makeup is refreshing, and their innovate approach to male cosmetics is changing negative stereotypes and prejudices that may exist around the idea of men using beauty products. It’s not only about showing men, but men from all walks of life.
“If wearing tinted moisturiser, as an example, is something that helps you to feel good, there’s no real reason to hide away from it. We’re being open about what we are doing: showing men of all backgrounds using products and how it makes them feel.”
The male grooming business is growing exponentially; however, Danny feels the confidence still isn’t there for men to simply walk into a store and purchase makeup.
“At War Paint are making it clear that there is no shame – it’s simply about giving men a choice to wear makeup and providing them with some extra tools to use in their personal care, if they want them. I’m proud to say we’ve made huge strides in the last few years in normalising the options for men to wear makeup.”
The World’s-First Men’s Makeup Store
Providing a safe space for men to experiment with makeup and find a look that suits them was the driving force for Danny in creating the world’s first male-oriented makeup store. Launched in July 2021, it’s an environment where men can shop in comfort and confidence.
Situated on Carnaby Street, the store provides more than just makeup for men. The aim is for each trip to feel like an experience, with an in-store barber, interactive digital Q&A with Danny and a unique bespoke makeup service for men new to the world of cosmetics.
‘Designed by Me’ features cutting edge beauty technology that allows the user access to a fully customised service that will create a bespoke foundation or tinted moisturiser made precisely for their skin tone. Similar technologies have taken off in the female-dominated world of cosmetics, but this is the first designed to enhance male makeup regimes. It’s also a method for Danny and the team to promote inclusivity, allowing men of any skin tone and shade to find a look that’s perfect for them.
“When I opened the store on Carnaby Street, a priority was to ensure that it felt like a safe space to explore and ask questions, whether it’s regarding mental health or makeup. We’re fortunate to have a team who are ready to answer any questions, and for those who don’t feel quite ready to ask one of the members in the store, we have an interactive ‘Ask Danny’ screen which has pre-recorded responses that answer the questions you may have.”
The subject of mental health is one that is especially close to Danny’s heart. Much of the ethos and heart of the brand is built around the desire to promote awareness of issues surrounding mental health and provide an environment that allows men to feel they can be open and honest about their wellbeing.
“Seeing how the brand has helped others has been so inspiring. War Paint is so closely linked to my body dysmorphia story which I speak openly about, and I’ve wanted to ensure that mental health is a running conversation throughout the business journey, and that it’s approached with care.”
Just Ask A Question
This has led to Danny creating the free to use online platform, JAAQ. Standing for Just Ask A Question, the site is designed to allow anyone to ask leading mental health professionals questions and receive immediate responses, all for free.
Danny launched the initiative to try and help people with mental health problems from reaching a ‘crisis stage’. The platform has partners that include a range of mental health experts and has gained notable support from actor David Harewood, who has fought his own battles with psychosis, as well as Alistair Campbell who has spoken openly about how his own battles with depression.
“The response to JAAQ has been incredible,” Danny tells us. “It is something we’ve had in the works for a while, and I’m so glad people are making the most of our platform.”
“We’ve been able to work with some incredible, reputable people, allowing us to help change the world of mental health, one question at a time.”
Through initiatives such as JAAQ and War Paint, Danny is proving himself to be a pioneer in providing men with options for exploring themselves and their mental state. As he prepares to write the next chapter in his story in 2022, he leaves us with his hopes for the year ahead.
“I think in 2022 everyone should be allowed to express themselves and everyone should be able to feel good about themselves however they want to do so.”
War Paint is available for purchase online, or in-person in the Carnaby Street store in London. JAAQ is freely available online and encouraged for men who might have some questions about their mental health and are seeking some guidance.