A walk down your local beauty aisle will reveal that beauty products are changing. As the conversation surrounding gender and expression evolves and becomes more inclusive, beauty brands are quickly following suit and offering products that defy traditional gender categorization.
Gender fluidity refers to a flexibility in terms of the sex someone identifies with. This isn’t a new concept. What is new is the idea that beauty is strictly gendered: throughout history, men and women used the same beauty products. It wasn’t until marketers determined that beauty products should be directly targeted to women that the gendered beauty space was conceived. In a sense, the shift towards gender fluid beauty products is a return to a pre-marketing existence.
The shift is driven largely by younger generations who are increasingly holding brands accountable for their limited offerings, and are quick to drop brands if their products don’t reflect consumer diversity. Younger generations represent a growing share of the beauty market, and they are more likely to identify as LGBTQ than older generations. According to a recent GLAAD study, over 20% of millennials consider themselves part of the LGBTQ community, compared to just 7% of the Boomer generation. And 12% of millennials identify as transgender or gender non-conforming, twice the rate reported from their older peers.
Beauty experts and consumers agree: brands should reflect the diversity of their users. Read on for insights from top beauty brands on why more brands should adopt gender fluid products.
Skin is Skin
“No matter your gender expression, you will benefit from quality skincare. It’s very limiting to think that you can only shop from a small selection of products that are geared towards your gender. Skin is skin – whether male or female, you should be choosing quality products that work for your skin type. More brands are coming around to this idea, and the realization that they’re limiting their audience by adopting gendered marketing practices. Everyone wants to have healthy skin, regardless of their gender expression.” – Lauren Kleinman, Co-Founder of The Quality Edit
Reject Gendered Messaging
“For a long time, we’ve received the message that beauty and skin health is a feminine concept. That’s simply not true. Throughout history and across cultures, men and women alike have utilized products and tools that have typically been marketed solely to women. Men like to look good too, and they like to experiment with their style. With more people realizing that gender fluidity is real and is here to stay, beauty products should continue to adopt more inclusive products and marketing practices.” – Ann McFerran, CEO of Glamnetic
Read the Room
“Brands that are still abiding by antiquated gender norms are really not reading the room very well. There has been a shift in recent years towards more gender-neutral and gender-fluid practices in both product design and marketing, and it’s important that brands understand that. People aren’t looking for beauty products according to their gender, they’re looking for effective products that will solve the concerns they have about their appearance. Brands should focus on creating products that are high quality and appeal to a wide range of consumers.” – Miles Beckett, CEO and Co-Founder of Flossy
Focus on Addressing Skin Concerns
“Skin is not specific to someone’s gender. There are different skin types like oily, dry, sensitive, or combination that anyone may have regardless of their gender. Anyone can have skin concerns like aging, large pores, wrinkles, acne, and so on. Skincare and beauty products that are gender fluid and focus on skin concerns rather than a specific gender is a win-win for both the company and the customer. Focus on helping to address the issue and keep your packaging and marketing gender-neutral to broaden the appeal of your product to a wide range of people.” – Rachel Roff, Founder and CEO of Urban Skin Rx
“For many men and non-binary folks, seeing themselves represented in the beauty space is so important. Beauty routines are a great way to boost your self esteem and enhance your natural assets, but when the people who represent the brand don’t look anything like you, that can be very discouraging. A lot of people are uncomfortable using products that come in gendered packaging. The onus is on the brands to embrace inclusivity and create products that can be used by anyone. Everyone deserves to feel beautiful and represented.” – Sheila Chaiban, CEO of One Ocean Beauty
Young People are Leading the Way
“This is one area where younger people are really leading the way, and I strongly commend them for it. They have made it clear that they want products that appeal to a broader spectrum of people than we’ve seen in the past, and beauty companies should take note. Millennials and Gen Z have redefined a lot of the out-of-date beauty norms, and are demanding more from their products. It’s a mistake to ignore that.” – Lindsay McCormick, Founder and CEO of Bite
Promote Cultural Diversity
“Inclusive beauty products take a nod from cultures around the world, where they’ve long recognized the importance of gender fluidity. In many cultures, it’s completely acceptable for men to have a multi-step skincare routine, or to wear makeup. They embrace androgyny and all different forms of gender expression. Adopting gender fluid products acknowledges that this is a reality for many people, and it brings these cultural norms to light.” – David A. DiLorenzo, President of Valentino Beauty Pure
Expand Into an Untapped Market
“For a long time, gender fluid beauty has been underrepresented by mainstream companies. However, outdated perceptions of beauty are finally shifting. 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 LGBTIQA+ community a few years ago, way before the whole gender boom and there was practically nothing that catered for the community – 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.” – Jessica Blackler, Founder of Jecca Makeup
Nobody Should Be Left Out
“Our goal is really to evolve the mainstream conception of beauty while creating a space for people to express themselves authentically. Our packaging and product development has tried to not be extremely masculine or feminine, and we discard those notions generally because our whole belief is that gender is more of a constellation than an extreme of one or the other. If makeup is joyful and transformative and fun, nobody should be left out.” – Laura Kraber, Co-Founder and Chief Executive of We Are Fluide
As the public appetite for gender fluid products grows, brands should take note and rise to the challenge. It’s critical that brands work to understand their users, and the types of products they’re looking for. As more gender fluid beauty products hit the shelves, brands who refuse to adapt may quickly find themselves cornered out of the market.