Body dysmorphia sufferer on why he launched male makeup company War Paint and how it can help men’s mental health

A man suffering from body dysmorphia has told of how being bullied as a teenager inspired him to launch a makeup brand for men, which aims to start conversations around physical appearance and men’s mental health

Body dysmorphic disorder - also known as body dysmorphia or BDD - is a mental health condition where a person spends a lot of time worrying about flaws in their appearance, even though these flaws are often unnoticeable to others.

Danny Gray, 35, from Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, developed BDD at the age of 14 after being bullied about his ears when he was at school, which then moved onto different aspects of his appearance over time.

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Danny said: “The bullying only lasted for a few days but the things I got told changed my life forever.

After recognising the need for a makeup brand that was tailored to men, Danny developed his own company, War Paint, which launched in 2018 (Graphic: Kim Mogg)

“I started obsessing and feeling anxious about the way I looked, so much that sometimes I didn’t even want to leave my house or see people. The obsession kept growing until I developed a form of body dysmorphia which I still suffer now.”

Danny was diagnosed with BDD around the age of 25, after he visited a psychiatrist.

The NHS website says that having the condition “does not mean you are vain or self-obsessed. It can be very upsetting and have a big impact on your life.”

Danny said: “When you suffer from BDD you obsess about the way you look, picking on small details about your appearance that are unnoticeable to others but still can affect you massively.”

However, after Danny turned to makeup as a way to help him feel confident, he learnt how empowering it can be and has now created a business to help other men struggling with their mental health and appearance.

‘Makeup has massive potential to help with self-confidence’

Danny found from a young age that applying subtle makeup - borrowed from his sister - helped his confidence.

He said that at the age of 15 he started getting spots on his face, which “caused me a lot of mental turmoil triggering my already existing BDD.”

Danny reached out to his sister asking for help, who “handed me her concealer and showed me how to use it to cover the spots on my face, that moment changed everything.”

Although he “couldn’t believe how much it helped with my confidence,” over the following years he found his experiences at beauty counters alienating.

“When I started to buy my own makeup, I found that the shopping experience is very tailored towards women and that it can be alienating for many men,” Danny said.

“Makeup has massive potential to help with self-confidence and I wanted to make that opportunity accessible to men who may be struggling with their appearance or self-esteem.”

‘Lots of guys have days where they don’t feel great about themselves’

After recognising the need for a makeup brand that was tailored to men, Danny developed his own company, War Paint For Men, which launched in 2018.

“Like all human beings, lots of guys have days where they don’t feel great about themselves, but they feel constricted by the societal stigma around makeup, so they don’t even consider it as an option,” said Danny.

He added: “With War Paint, we are giving men a choice but we’ve also made huge strides in the last few years to be better at opening up, and discussing our mental health, I see normalising the option for men to wear makeup as a continuation of that progress.

“We should be able to feel good about ourselves and not be ashamed of it.”

The brand - which has now secured partnerships with Norwich City and Wigan Warriors Rugby League team - continues to do important work regarding men's mental health, both on and off the field.

Danny said that War Paint has enabled other men to open up about their mental health, as the brand receives messages “from other men who have been battling with some sort of mental health issue and they feel comfort in knowing they are not alone, definitely opening up is the way forward.”

“With War Paint we don’t want to just focus on selling makeup, we want to raise awareness about mental health and break stereotypes,” Danny added.

Offering his own advice for what others struggling with their own mental health can do, Danny says “my first advice is to open up, which I know that as a man it’s not that easy.”

He said: “During many years society established that men had to be tough and conversations about mental struggles have been seen as a weakness for so long.

“We feel and suffer regardless of our gender and everyone should feel safe and supported when dealing with mental health issues. Reach out, call a mate, a family member, your partner.”

Danny added: “It won’t make the problem disappear but it will certainly make you feel less isolated and more loved.”