Beauty trends are ever evolving and brands are quick to adapt to keep up with the latest. However, as some come and go whilst others prove they are here to stay and will set the pace for the next generation of beauty.
Brands now embracing inclusivity and taking a gender-neutral stance are dominating the beauty scene. The days of gender specific products and marketing strategies seem to be behind us in favour of a more neutral approach. This is a huge step for the beauty industry and many have embraced it with open arms.
Opening up an industry to those who once felt excluded or embarrassed to shop for certain products can not only feel confident shopping for such products, but can also see themselves represented by the brand through marketing and campaigns.
So are gender-neutral brands just another beauty bandwagon to jump on, or are they truly here to stay?
Although we may associate our first memories of a beauty routine with a female image, the idea of tailoring beauty products to a specific gender is a relatively new concept. It actually wasn’t until the 19th century when gender specific marketing came into play. Dating as far back as the Ancient Egyptian times where men were accustomed to wearing eyeliner, rouge and nail polish. This trend continued elsewhere and became far more common during Elizabethan times when both men and women regularly wore makeup.
For years, the concept of gender specific beauty brands was widely accepted. With soft, pastel coloured packaging and ethereal campaigns geared towards women and the complete opposite geared towards men often depicting images of power and strength. This approach to marketing has determined how we shop for years and has often put consumers off of shopping for a particular product should it take them into the opposing section of the store.
However, as millennials adopt a more forward-thinking approach and have pushed the narrative that gender does not define a person, beauty brands have taken note.
According to the Mintel beauty retailing report; “Consumers are moving away from traditional gender stereotypes, in part driven by the increased visibility of gender diversity. As such, the traditional gender boundaries associated with fashion and beauty trends are becoming progressively blurred.”
As mentioned, gender neutral beauty is not a new concept but for years has not always been so widely accepted. Once limited to niche brands, makeup and beauty for men was much harder to find and to shop in the ‘women’s’ section of the store often came with judgement and embarrassment.
Male bloggers and influencers have helped to bring ‘boy beauty’ into the mainstream and have played a huge role in pushing the industry to become more inclusive. Male makeup artists such as Patrick Star and Manny Gutierrez have built a loyal following of millions on their social media channels and as a result have become muses for big brands such as Maybelline and CoverGirl making these previously feminine associated brands now open to all.
Another key driver has been the focus on ingredients over fancy packaging and many brands’ minimalistic approach to marketing. A somewhat unintentional push towards genderless beauty, but simplistic, stripped-back and ingredient focused brands such as The Ordinary and Typology have become synonymous with unisex beauty and their goal to make it accessible to all. “New genderless strategies on skincare are built on the premise that men and women have chemically identical skin, so products should be formulated for end results rather than targeted at any specific gender,” says Jessica Smith, Foresight Editor at the Future Laboratory.
Millennials’ focus on self-expression over labels has led to a huge cultural shift that has been mirrored by the beauty industry and although trends come and go, the gender fluid trend looks set to make a permanent mark on the industry.
Despite the recent shift in makeup and skincare, many niche fragrance brands such as Margiela and Commes des Garcons have adopted a unisex approach from the very beginning. In fact, within cosmetics, fragrances are perhaps the most developed category. According to Mintel, the share of global fragrance launches taken by unisex products grew from 9.5-11.9% between 2015-16 as brands responded to the new consumer demands and continue to grow every year.
Similarly cosmetics brands such as MAC have also taken a neutral stance, with both male and female brand ambassadors, influencers and androgynous models. Despite this approach, these brands have never been specifically labelled as a genderless brand. There are now a number of newer brands on the market that are labelled as non-binary such as Jecca Makeup.
“For a long time, gender fluid beauty has been underrepresented by mainstream companies, however, outdated perceptions of beauty are finally shifting,” says Jessica Blackler, founder of Jecca Makeup.“Consumers are becoming more open minded and socially conscious which in turn means that brands are looking at this consumer demand and expanding into a whole new and untapped market. I began working with the LGBTcommunity a couple of years ago, way before the whole gender boom and there was practically nothing that catered for them – they were totally overlooked which is why I created my own brand, so it’s really interesting and refreshing to see how this is now becoming more mainstream.”
Is it really enough for a brand to remain neutral or should there be more brands that are explicitly non-binary?
Some would argue that labelling a brand as non-binary returns to the outdated notion of labelling even if it is unisex. It is hard to say whether some of the industry giants will follow the lead of smaller brands, one thing that is clear is that brands are best advised to consider this crucial factor when marketing as it could offer the opportunity to tap into a whole new market.
As a whole host of new genderless brands crop up on the beauty scene, here is a rundown of some of our favourite genderless beauty brands to check out now.
Fluide is a mission-driven beauty brand that creates vegan, cruelty-free and paraben-free cosmetics designed for all skin shades and gender expressions. With the mantra that makeup should be joyful and fun as well as powerful and transformative, Fluide have created an inclusive brand that is as exciting as it is progressive.
Providing a platform and amplifying the voices of queer and gender expansive identities and through showcasing queer beauty, their goal is to inspire others to create their identities on their own terms, opening up possibilities for everyone’s self-expression.
Try their Universal Gloss, in five lustrous shades this multi-functional, buildable gloss adds a dew touch to lips, lids and cheekbones.
Known for their luxurious fragrances, in 2020 Byredo expanded to offer beauty products. Founder Ben Gorham said; “When I launched Byredo, it didn’t make sense in my mind to have separate fragrances for men and women, which was the industry norm back then — I think with color and makeup, this also applies.”
Their product range has continued to grow over the past year and now offers a wide selection of products in a range of shades, with something to suit everyone. Try the Colour Stick, A multi-use stick to be used all over the face offering buildable coverage that is easy to apply. The Colour Stick comes in finishes aligned to corresponding shades, encompassing lightweight dewy, matte and creamy textures suitable for cheeks, eyes and lips.
The previously mentioned Jecca Blac is a brand that represents all beauty lovers: all expressions, genders, sexualities, abilities, pronouns, shapes and sizes. As well as providing cruelty free makeup products they aim to bring together communities.
Whilst working as a makeup artist, founder Jessica was able to witness the shortcomings of the beauty industry by not considering the needs of trans women, Jessica was inspired by her clients to create a cruelty free brand which celebrates all makeup wearers.
The award-winning Correct & Conceal Palette includes a ‘Colour Corrector’ and ‘Concealer’ that creates a medium coverage for all over base, under eye darkness, acne, scarring and beard shadow. Their best selling product, gives a medium coverage with a creamy formula, providing a blendable, skin-like finish.
From facial cleansers and hair products, to bar soaps and deodorants, (MALIN+GOETZ) is arguably one of the best-known genderless brands on the beauty market. Made for all skin types, each collection comes perfectly presented in minimalist packaging with the label’s signature text branding. On top of being gender-inclusive, (MALIN+GOETZ) is cruelty-free and is on its way to becoming fully sustainable.
The Sage Styling Cream is the perfect addition to any beauty cabinet. A flexible hold styling cream that adds shine, definition and bounce while taming unruly hair. Suitable for all hair types, this weightless conditioning cream comes perfectly packaged in a 100% recyclable aluminum tube.