BEAUTY therapy is known to be one of the most rewarding industries in many countries.
Its many facets include facials, waxing, manicure, pedicure, anti-cellulite treatment amongst others, which have been regarded as professional tasks by many people especially women.
However, the once exclusive preserve for women, beauty parlours, nail salons and cosmetics retailers nationwide are seeing an uptake in the number of male staff.
Male beauty therapists, especially nail technicians, were once scarce in Zimbabwean salons due to the reluctance of women to let themselves be treated by men.
Tinashe Masango (28) has been working as a nail technician for many years.
His calm mannerisms and soft touch when doing customers’ nails may be even gentler than that of his female counterparts.
“People think it is a women’s thing, but that perception was as a result of cultural beliefs and maybe because it is women who started this. I do not look at it that way,” he said. It is talent that is burning inside me, so now I let it out instead of being ashamed.”
Masango has been in the “women’s” business for many years, starting as an assistant in a cosmetic shop that sells synthetic and human hair among other things.
“I began as a shop assistant in a hair and cosmetic shop and that is where I gained interest in what the beauty industry in Zimbabwe holds,” he said. “Interestingly, it was another female nail technician, who empowered me, mentoring me and giving me the platform to be able to do the stunning work I do today. When I finished my nail training, I went to work with Florence who was also big by then. She taught me all what I know and I got to learn more about women and their cosmetic needs.”
Masango has always had a passion for beauty and he decided to follow his dream.
“I was looking for a job that can make people happy. I am happy that I now have some regular customers, although they are not so many.
“I ventured into the business of nails because I was jobless and saw an opportunity in beauty.”
He added: “If you have noticed before, whenever everything is failing, including all the industries, women always strive to look good despite the prevailing circumstances and since I was also into modelling and fashion designing, I said to myself, why not give it a try?” he explained.
He said female customers are always satisfied with his work.
“Female customers seem very pleased with male beauty consultants because they can feel like they are princesses when they get their makeup done by men,” Masango said.
In light of the rise in the number of male beauty therapists, Masango said he also gets help from one of his friends.
In the field of aesthetic treatments, some men are even opening their own salons. Masango dreams of opening his own salon one day which will be male-dominated.
“At the moment I am renting and my wish is to open my own salon one day and I would definitely employ my male counterparts,” he said.
Masango’s beauty therapy parlour has earned plaudits, but mainly because of his thick, manly hands.
He said he can do hairstyling as well but was not majoring in that at the moment.
“In the field of hairstyling, younger people usually have an advantage because beauticians are always required to keep up with the latest fashions,” Masango said. “But massage and nail technicians can continue to work regardless of their age if their skills remain satisfactory.”
An increasing number of men have also taken an interest in working as nail artists.
“My nail art features ‘coolness’ and that’s my strength and I believe it is a big difference from the designs done by female nail artists,” he added. “Men used to be uncomfortable about being nail artists but fewer feel that way today. Many pay more attention to their physical appearance, with nail polishing and maintaining cuticles becoming part of their habits.”
But these men seem to be encountering peculiar difficulties not shared by their female counterparts.
Masango believes men previously avoided choosing beauty-related occupations because they tend to pay less than jobs that men are traditionally used to taking, such as those in manufacturing.
He added that, as the nation’s economic challenges continue, men will be increasingly looking at occupations once considered for women only.
Masango usually surfs through the internet to find out what is trending in the world of beauty.
“I’m always on Google whenever I am free just to check what is happening in other countries,” he said.
Despite enjoying his work, Masango said there was a lot of stereotyping attached to his job because it is a female-dominated industry.
“The stereotype is always there because I am doing a job that is considered to be a domain for women,” he said. “While the response from the women on whom I do manicure and pedicures has been astonishing, since they love it, other people have greeted it with a homophobic feelings. But this does not deter me because people can say what they want, their negative comments and sentiments do not bring bread on to my table.”
He said his family was supportive of his work.
“My family and friends are very supportive and they are my biggest cheerleaders. They are happy with everything and the fact that I am doing something for myself and making money out of it,” Masango said.