In the 1930s, when Procter & Gamble sponsored the inaugural TV ‘Soap Opera’ to promote a fragranced soap bar to housewives, gendered skincare and beauty products first entered the home. They would remain there, undisturbed, for almost a century
Now, as a curious and increasingly gender-fluid generation of buyers enter the market, this long-held industry truth is being challenged. While men’s skin is thicker than women’s (it contains more collagen and elastin) and tends to produce more oil, the American Academy of Dermatology states that the skincare regime basics remain the same for both genders. What’s more important, they say, is an individual’s skin type and areas of concern – think anti-ageing, blemishes, and dark spots. Another line of Gen Z questioning surrounds makeup. This younger crowd not only reject the notion that beauty is a female-only pursuit but fight for cosmetics to be viewed as a universal form of self-care and expression.
The status quo is changing and brands both big and small are taking note. From trailblazing indie brands to global companies, there is a move in the non-binary direction that places inclusivity at the forefront of product development and marketing. We take a deeper look into this revolution and consider its impact on the future of the industry.
At the tail end of 2021, Harry Styles – a singer at the vanguard of the gender-fluidity movement –revealed a new venture: Pleasing. Marketed as a “life brand”, the company sells a range of unisex skincare and nail products and, upon launch, triggered a phenomenal 393% increase in searches for ‘men’s make-up’. A sizeable response, but not an unexpected one. Interest in men’s grooming and make-up had been quietly rising for some time.
According to consumer insights firm GWI, which canvassed seven core markets (France, Germany, Italy, UK and US), the number of men interested in beauty products rose 3% between 2018 and Q2 2021 versus a 5% decline in interest amongst female consumers. Over on social media, the #mensskincare hashtag has 330,000 posts (as of September 2022) and recent research from the World Advertising Research Centre (WARC) finds that more than 56% of men now have a skincare regime.
Evidence of this shift can be seen in the beauty aisle, too. Brands are increasingly adopting an open, gender-neutral approach to their marketing and packaging to appeal to a widening range of buyers.
In November, Quintis, launched indie skincare brand About Time We Met with an inaugural line of nine inclusive products taking a holistic approach to beauty. Australian heavyweight Aesop, has built a global empire with their ubiquitous and unisex approach to fragrance and skin, while 2020 saw rappers A$AP Rocky and Lil Nas X front a campaign for Fenty Skin, aptly titled The New Culture of Skincare. Brad Pitt is the latest celebrity to claim a stake in the genderless skincare market with the launch of Le Domaine in September 2022.
As we welcome a new era of skincare and beauty designed to serve a wide gender spectrum, one ingredient is poised to thrive. Indian sandalwood, offering an aroma that is warm and creamy –reminiscent of wood, amber, and leather – has long been considered a desirable fragrance for both men and women. Its attraction is only exacerbated when considering another concurrent trend in the industry: a preference towards natural ingredients.
The results of a recent study into consumer behaviour in the cosmetics market revealed that 70% of participants wish to buy natural cosmetics, while the global natural skin care market, valued at USD 6.7 billion in 2021, is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 6.6% from 2022 to 2030.
An all-natural and multi-functional ingredient, Indian sandalwood has been linked to beauty and skincare for centuries. Modern-day science has proven its ability to deliver younger-looking skin through its ability to repair damage caused by UV and blue light, plus its antioxidant properties that protect against blue light and pollution. Other sought-after benefits include brightening and soothing skin, reducing the signs of ageing and minimising the appearance of acne.
As we wait for the full extent of Indian sandalwood’s usage to be revealed within this new genderless, naturals-focused beauty and skincare market, it can be comfortably said a role will exist.
Hannah Abbasi, “Beauty brands are dismantling gender norms – time for retailers to follow suit”, World Advertising Research Centre (WARC), 2022. https://www.warc.com/newsandopinion/opinion/beauty-brands-are-dismantling-gender-norms--time-for-retailers-to-follow-suit/en-gb/5614
Kacey Culliney, “Groom boom: beauty and cosmetics ‘fastest growing interest’ amongst male consumers globally – GWI”, CosmeticsDesign, 2021. https://www.cosmeticsdesign-europe.com/Article/2021/12/02/Men-s-grooming-booms-and-inclusive-beauty-needs-soar-says-GWI
Jessica Matlin, “The Next Wave of Genderless Beauty Brands Are Here”, Harper’s Bazaar, 2020. https://www.harpersbazaar.com/beauty/makeup/a34050232/gender-neutral-beauty-brands/
Amberg, Nora, and Csaba Fogarassy. 2019. "Green Consumer Behavior in the Cosmetics Market" Resources 8, no. 3: 137. https://doi.org/10.3390/resources8030137
GVR, “Natural Skin Care Products Market Size, Share & Trends Analysis Report By Type (Mass, Premium), By Product (Facial Care, Body Care), By End-use (Men, Women), By Distribution Channel, By Region, And Segment Forecasts, 2022 – 2030”, Accessed 24 September 2022: https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/natural-skin-care-products-market