UNOIT is bringing gender-neutral services to salons

Salon owner, Jessica Ross isn’t afraid to push the envelope. At the heart of her business is an eagerness to engage a male clientele. Since opening Sydney-based grooming and beauty salon hybrid, UNOIT, Jessica has held what Hannah Gay learns is a ticket to success.

Stepping into UNOIT for the first time caught me by surprise. I was warmly welcomed by a gentleman clutching a pair of clippers, who made his way through the location’s unexpectedly open reception area. A glance to my right and I soon found my bearings, where a quiet nook reserved for beauty clients awaited. Cheekily pronounced YOU-KNOW-IT, the premium spot tucked away on Darlinghurst’s bustling Crown Street certainly stands out. It’s one of a few (if only one) of its kind – a unique pairing of men’s grooming, and men’s and women’s aesthetic services by Jessica Ross.

For Jessica, a passion for servicing men’s skin arose during her ten-year tenure with Clear Skincare Clinics, where Jessica’s role as Managing Partner had her oversee the growth of the business from eight to 52 clinics before its acquisition by a pharmaceutical company. Despite the business’s successes, Jessica noticed a disparity in male versus female client numbers. “I could look back on my career and count on my two hands the amount of men I had seen for skin,” she admits. This clear industry gap prompted Jessica’s focus toward building a business designed to meet the needs of both genders in a comfortable and accessible environment. Since opening the doors to UNOIT’s solo space in November 2020, Jessica compares the pace at which she’s seen success in comparison to her former female-centric locations. “Looking back on businesses with which I’ve worked, [success] has been a slow burn, where this has not been slow,” despite opening smack bang in the middle of two years worth of Sydney-held lockdowns. “I knew if I was going to pull this off, it was going to do really well.”

Come October the following year, and the team had become accustomed to the ebb and flow of the COVID-conscious industry. Celebration around UNOIT’s first birthday started and ended with a quick dinner and a glass of champagne before the team simply had to “keep going”. “We were too busy to organise anything!” Jessica admits. “I had a look through my summary for the year and we probably opened our business at one of the hardest times in history. It’s pretty exciting to see that even though we’ve weathered the storm in regards to COVID, shutdowns and delays, we’ve had an incredible first year. I said to my business partner and salon manager, Costa Zacharia, that we should be very proud of ourselves because we’re fully booked, we have a really even split of men and women… we’re looking to expand, bringing on two new girls in January.”

UNIOT founder Jessica Rose in salon
Salon owner, Jessica Ross

Executing a vision for UNOIT’s interiors that was universally appealing to both male and female clients was paramount to Jessica. She worked with the team at award-winning Melbourne interior design studio, BlackMilk, as well as with her partner who crafted salon decals, digital elements and a website for the brand. The idea was to reinvent the term ‘barber’ and bring it up-to-speed with the modern world, steering away from the old-fashioned, red-spinning-poll-out-the-front stereotype.

“My biggest fear was [developing] such a new concept in combining the word ‘barber’ with the word ‘beauty’; that was a real gamble for us.” In Jessica’s words, the space had to be “chic, timeless, and to be really welcoming for men without being off-putting for females also walking through the door.” Today, a fresh white backdrop sets the relaxed tone of the space, stylishly accompanied by exposed brick walls, dim lighting and modern fixtures. Dried florals hang overheard quaint treatment suites. To counteract any hesitation from incoming female clients, Jessica honed in every one of the space’s sensory touchpoints, including a relevant music playlist and the use of a gender-neutral fragrance throughout. Speakers are strategically placed so as to reduce noise penetrating the walls of the barber through to beauty. Every detail down to the team’s reception of clients: “we talked about being softly spoken, warm and welcoming,” Jessica adds. “It still feels feminine enough.”

Hiring both genders has also been a strategic move, where UNOIT now boasts a collective staff of both females and males. “Having a spread across both sides helps to portray the concept. I have a female barber, and my advanced cosmetics injector is a male.” Conducting treatments on both genders also requires varied training. “We cleanse a female’s skin differently to the way we cleanse a man. It comes down to the little things; from the way we use a fibrella wipe to take the cleanser off, to understanding pressure points and the way to wipe down against the hair grain so it’s not pulling up against their beard.” A welcome massage, for example is different for men, where staff use “pressure points along the jawbone with a firmer touch,” while females generally prefer “a more fluid and effleurage feeling.” Jessica believes the distinction largely rests in the way the face is mapped per client. “Not all men want to come in with a freshly clean-shaven face, so we adapt by delivering a three-quarter face treatment and finishing with the neck instead of the jaw.”

Gender-neutral beauty barber space at UNIOT
UNIOT’s barber services.

Another factor in relationship-building between staff and clients comes down to communication style. “The way you recommend and educate is quite different from a male to a female. Women are generally more accepting of a beauty ritual – they’re happy to layer, to use a hydrating hyaluronic acid serum, to be recommended an eye cream… and while some men are like that as well, they generally prefer less waffling!” When it comes to the guys, Jessica cuts straight to the point. During the consultation process, this involves finding out just how quick and easy they want their at-home routine to be, adapting staff language as a result. “You have to really get in there with the multi-use serums that allow them to go home and see a result. Once a male trusts you, I find they’re happy to come back and do whatever you say… keeping it really simple, offering samples… usually we’re seeing men who haven’t had a lot done before so to overwhelm them with 12 fortnightly treatments, I don’t feel that’s the way men receive the information well.”

Jessica partners with Aspect skincare for several reasons, but most notably for its gender-neutral packaging. “I like having the opportunity to put a client on quite a simple and affordable range, and still get great results,” she admits. “They don’t have to commit to buying seven products to see improvements in their skin.” Jessica is competent Aspect can meet the diverse needs of her clients, where for example “if I’ve got someone who I know I’ll only be able to get on one or two products, I can them on those products because they’re multi-use, the client will see results, and they’re quite affordable for a cosmeceutical line.”

By the same token however, Jessica says the brand adheres to the needs of those with more of a ritual care routine where serums are designed to be layered. In 2022, UNOIT is set to collaborate more extensively with Aspect via the installation of animated projections on the location’s internal and external walls. Reflecting on UNOIT’s traffic numbers and strong bottom line, Jessica credits the ease with which her clients can recommend the business, particularly to their partners and through cross-gender promotion. “People are quite intrigued and want to be involved,” she says. “Where a male client will book in for a grooming session, his wife may coordinate this with her own skin treatment.” The team have also successfully hosted events whereby entry is granted to those who bring a guest of the opposite sex. “People are excited that it’s a new concept; people chatter about it. They want to get involved; it’s a talking point because it’s different.”

This article appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of Professional Beauty.

Read the current issue of our digital magazine here:

Have an idea for a story or want to see a topic covered on our site and in our pages? Get in touch at

Back to top