This is a translation of my German blogpost Hinter den Beauty-Kulissen… ProTec Ingredia GmbH Proudly Presents: Wirkstoffe für genderneutrale Kosmetik. Enjoy!
In cooperation with ProTec Ingredia // Beauty is often seen as a very feminine industry. Men are only assigned certain niche categories, like shaving products. And frequently those male cosmetics are packaged in black or metallic colours. I must admit that I find these stereotypes extremely boring.
Luckily things are beginning to change in our society and the traditional binary structure of “male” and “female” is increasingly dissolving. In 2018, Germany started to legally recognise a third gender – “diverse” – so intersexual or non-binary persons can select this option. And in the beauty industry, a similar development is taking place with gender-neutral beauty playing a key role. Read on!
Breaking traditional beauty norms
A look into other cultures or even our history shows that gender-specific allocations of objects, products or colours are frequently just social constructs. Pink, for example, wasn’t always considered to be a girly colour – in early 20th-century Europe, this shade was reserved for boys.
The development of our own sexual identity is not just shaped by biological differences. Society-defined gender roles and education also play a very important role. This is reflected in traditional beauty norms which often distinguish quite strictly between cosmetics for women and cosmetics for men. In German drugstores, men’s beauty is usually presented in a separate shelf section which can be recognised by its darker, more “masculine” colours.
However, these traditional norms are now slowly being deconstructed. When the new concept “unisex” appeared in the 1990s, fragrances like Calvin Klein’s CK One were marketed towards men and women at the same time. Now unisex is undergoing yet another development: Gender-neutral beauty products are catering for consumers of any gender, including non-binary or intersexual persons. GenZ consumers (who account for a pretty significant slice of cosmetics consumption) tend to be especially fluid in terms of gender identification these days.
Gender neutrality isn’t just a European or US thing either. In Korea, young men have been using BB creams to even out their skin tone for many years, and in China, male influencers like Li Jiaqui are incredibly successful wearing and selling lipsticks. And the world of niche fragrances – which is always a few steps ahead of the mainstream perfume industry – hasn’t made any real distinction between “male” and “female” fragrances for a while.
Gender-neutral beauty isn’t concerned with gender roles. Instead, these brands are focused on the individual requirements of skin or hair. And while there are, of course, some differences between male and female skin and hair – male skin is usually around 25% thicker than female skin, and tends to be more oily – these distinctions aren’t as crucial as you might think.
Beauty brands offering gender-neutral cosmetics tend to focus on product efficacy claims rather than marketing to a particular gender: Offering face care for dry skin types, for example, or combination and oily/impure skin. The effect of the product on the skin is what counts, not whether it is marketed towards “male” or “female” skin.
Looking at the beauty marketing sector there are many topics that appeal to consumers across the gender spectrum: Minimalism, for example, or sustainability. Gender-neutral marketing often focuses on the active ingredients, similar to what functional beauty brands do (which tend to be highly popular with skinfluencers).
Nature experiences, like a walk in the forest or a day at the beach, can also be a good fit when you’re marketing gender-neutral beauty. Simple packaging and neutral product scents will help to further bolster a more gender-free brand strategy. And as an added bonus, gender-neutral beauty products can easily be shared in the bathroom. Practical and sustainable!
Active ingredients for gender-neutral cosmetics
I asked the team of ProTec Ingredia which active ingredients would be especially suitable for a gender-neutral cosmetics line. These are their four ingredient recommendations:
More energy: Signs of tiredness like dark circles, puffiness, wrinkles or tired facial features – sometimes we all wish we had more energy in our skin cells, regardless of what gender we identify with. The active ingredient Early Boost from Codif contains plant-based taurine which is manufactured from the calcified algae Jania rubens. This ingredient stimulates skin cells and boosts the development of the energy molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate). This molecule helps the fibroblasts in the skin’s tissue to develop collagen and elastin which redensify and tighten the skin. Early Boost also contains marine carrageenan which offers another immediate benefit: A super thin protective film keeps moisture inside the skin and guards it against negative environmental effects.
Soothing Stone Pine wood: The Swiss Stone Pine feels most comfortable growing in Alpine regions at heights of 1,500 to 2,500 metres above sea level. Mibelle Biochemistry’s active ingredient Pinolumin™ is manufactured from Swiss Stone Pine wood chips that are left over from a sawmill. This concentrated extract contains anti-inflammatory Pinosylvin, making Pinolumin™ especially suitable for sensitive skin. The active ingredient helps to reduce redness and skin irritation – which is something that anyone, no matter what gender, can suffer from.
Less grey in the hair: Grey hair is not an exclusively feminine topic either. The test panel for Mibelle Biochemistry’s active ingredient MelanoGray™ actually included more men than women. There are many reasons why hair turns grey, like genetic influences and the normal ageing process but also lifestyle habits. Emotional stress causes the body to release the hormone noradrenaline which turns hair grey more quickly. MelanoGray™ reduces the negative effects of stress and boosts melanin production which in turn improves the ratio of non-grey to grey hair by 21.6%. The active ingredient is manufactured from a local mandarine that grows on the Greek island of Chios. MelanoGray™ can be used in scalp lotions and treatments to prevent grey hair, but also in other hair care products.
A resilient skin barrier: All genders know what stressed skin looks and feels like. Whether it is caused by the dry air emitted by central heating or icy cold temperatures, or through shaving the skin – the stress exerted by these external influences damages the cells’ proteins. The microalga Emiliania huxleyi from Brittany knows how to defend itself against negative environmental influences. These algae form the base of Codif’s active ingredient Idaskin which helps the skin barrier regenerate itself more quickly after external stressors like UV radiation. Idaskin was also tested on men, by the way.
Ideas for a gender-neutral face care range
Whilst researching and writing this article I got so interested that I really wanted to create a complete gender-neutral skin care line 🙂 :
- For the face, I’d love a cleansing powder product which quickly foams up in wet hands and can also be used for shaving.
- A soothing facial toner with ingredients that minimise redness and irritation provides hydration for any skin type and could also be used as an after-shave product.
- Also suitable for anyone: A purifying face serum that has an anti-inflammatory effect without drying out the skin.
- A Korean-inspired Eye Cream for Face offers the intensive effects of an eye cream but for the whole face – an all-in-one product with power ingredients for healthy-looking skin.
- The final product in my gender-neutral face care range would be a balm for dry skin which can be used to protect skin from the cold in winter or as a Cold Cream when going skiing.
© Photo 2: The photos for the collage were supplied by Mibelle Biochemistry and Codif for this blog post.
Trade customers can order the ingredients of Mibelle Biochemistry and Codif from the companies‘ German distributor ProTec Ingredia.
The next installment of our Beauty Soap will be all about hair. Stay tuned!