Why Vocabulary is Important & the Rise of Gender-Neutral Skincare
What’s up guys, gals, and non-binary pals?
Gender neutrality is becoming a recognized and important term as industries and society as a whole begin to understand the diversity of their consumers. So what does this mean for gender neutral skincare and the beauty industry in general?
Understanding the vocabulary
Gender-neutral is a vague term, and that is purposeful. A person’s gender identity is separate from their gender expression which is separate from biological sex which is separate from their sexual identity which is separate from their sexual preference.
Gender, like sexuality, is widely understood to be a spectrum as opposed to one of two options. People typically understand their identity in terms of masculinity and femininity, but these are simply social traits that help people define or understand their individual preferences. You can identify as cisgender (male or female), non-binary, transgender, gender fluid, genderqueer, and a host of other labeled and unlabelled identities(1).
Gender identity is also different from gender expression. The way people choose to dress and act can be an expression of their gender. Makeup has long been a creative and beautiful way for people to express themselves, and the makeup and skincare industries have started to grow into these wider ranges of expression.
De-gendering the beauty industry
The process of creating gender neutral interactions is becoming common across all industries. Language processing applications like Google Translate often impart gender stereotypes onto otherwise genderless languages and sentences (3). This is a reflection of social constructs in a realm that should be free of gender influences (2).
In the beauty industry especially, products are often demarcated and advertised to those who identify as either male or female. There is no in-between. But why?
What’s been the standard answer for decades is that biological differences necessitate specific formulas for men and women. Except, these aren’t the only two categories of people who search for skincare. In fact, these aren’t even good categories.
The beauty industry is known for being very heavy-handed with their marketing – it’s the name of the game. Having a strong point of view with your marketing helps the consumers understand the products in terms of why it will work for them specifically and encourage them to make a purchase.
But everyone has a range of skin moods, regardless of their biological sex or gender identity. Anyone can experience chronic acne. Dry skin has no gender. As people become more educated on humanistic truths versus societal ideas, the gendering of skincare starts to seem more and more ridiculous.
What’s more, the gendered marketing tactics tend to be based on artificial impressions and outdated stereotypes. Skincare “for women” is floral scented, colorful, and widespread to cater to any and every skin condition. Skincare “for men”, on the other hand, often comes in woodsier scents, with straightforward names, and a lot more 2-in-1 options for a far smaller range of issues.
A study on product pricing done in 2015 found that personal care products - such as skincare - marketed toward women had a price increase of up to 13% from the male-centered counterparts. 42% of the time, women pay more for their products in any industry (4), but the skincare and beauty industries rake in an enormous profit from their products marketed toward women because society has spent decades telling women they need to “improve” or “prevent” anything and everything about their appearance.
The psychological effects of such targeted, gendered marketing can be hugely detrimental regardless of your gender identity. People tend to identify attractive traits as meaningful which leads down a rabbit hole of body dysmorphia (5). The variety of skincare products marketed toward people who identify as female reveals a society that insists women have multiple shelves worth of appearance “problems” that a small fortune in skincare can “fix”.
Not anymore. The skincare and beauty industry, traditionally restricted to and for women, has grown out of such strict ideas. Internet beauty stars of all genders are gaining traction online and off as skincare ambassadors and makeup line entrepreneurs.
In the past years, both Covergirl and Maybelline partnered with their first-ever line ambassadors who identify as male (6). But there’s more to diversity than a role reversal.
What is Gender Neutral Skincare?
Gender neutral skincare removes the arbitrary marketing divides and focuses on actual skin health. While I love seeing a cis guy or trans woman rock eyeliner on the cover of Vogue, skincare and beauty products don’t need gender-specific names to sell or be effective. Let’s open the doors of gender neutral skincare not just by redefining what it means to be “masculine” or “feminine”, but by throwing that idea out altogether. Let’s focus on the skin.
There are two trends happening now. One, consumers are more educated and can now discern the difference between gendered and gender neutral skincare. In other words, they can tell if a skincare formula is the same or not.
Two, people are more in tune with their needs and wants and therefore less susceptible to the solutions promised by gendered skincare. They want what works for their skin, not just what fits into a pink or blue category.
Which is why brands are transitioning into completely gender neutral skincare products and marketing tactics. Grammy Award-winning artist Pharell Williams recently broke into the world of skincare with his all-gender, 100% eco-friendly skincare line Humanerace.
Finding the right products
1. Know your skin
Understand your skin’s needs and tendencies. While your skincare shouldn’t be decided by your gender, hormones and DNA play a role in your skin condition.
2. Seasons of skincare
Stevie Nicks might wonder if she can handle the seasons of her life, but with a solid knowledge of how the weather affects her skin she can certainly handle the changing seasons of her skincare. Adjust your skincare routine with the seasons, focusing on moisturizing products in the winter and things with SPF for the sunny months.
3. Break the rules
Your skincare doesn’t have to be genderless in order for you to ignore gender. Look at the ingredients and purposes of products in any aisle to find what might work for you. If you’re allergic to the scents in certain shaving creams or what’s in your lotion, glance a few shelves down to see if you can uncover a comparable formula.
Most of all, find what’s right for your skin, not your gender.
Written by Christiana Sinacola