Charting the Expansion of Gender-Neutral Personal Care Products
Defining gender-neutral products
For many years, personal care products have been formulated, packaged, and sold to either male or female consumers. But, with widespread changes in attitudes about gender and identity, this strict product dichotomy within the personal care world is slowly expanding to include more and more gender-neutral personal care products, brands, and lines.
So, what exactly are gender-neutral, gender-fluid, or androgynous personal care products?
Gender-free personal care, skincare, and cosmetic products are simply products designed to appeal to either gender. Rather than formulation differences, the most notable differentiating (or non-differentiating?) component of gender-free personal care products is their product design and marketing.
Eschewing the typical “feminine” packaging of florals, pinks, and purples and the typical “masculine” packaging tropes of darker colors and hard elements like steel or rocks, gender-free product packaging can appeal to any consumer.
As The Independent explains:
“While there is nothing wrong with women liking their cosmetics in shades of pink, and men liking their products in somber blues, and vice versa, the lack of neutral options and restrictive binary categorization is a problem…as gender diversity becomes increasingly visible, and traditional stereotypes begin to dissolve, this kind of gendered marketing begins to look out-dated and out of touch.”
Consumer attitude shifts
The rise behind purchasing gender neutral personal care products is driven largely by consumer interest in these innovative, modern products. Increasingly, consumers do not want to be defined by age, body appearance, sex or gender, according to a recent report by Mintel:
“Perceptions of beauty based on age, gender, skin, hair, and body type are changing as today’s consumers take control of how beauty is defined. The ever-evolving perception of beauty will see the removal of labels that are based on simple characteristics…beauty consumers will demand that their individual needs are answered with options or customisable beauty. Brands will embrace inclusivity and address individual beauty concerns which will result in more customization and personalization of products.”
Industry experts also agree there’s a shift in attitudes about gender and identity.
“Consumers increasingly view gender as fluid and the beauty industry is reflecting this shift in mindset with products that present a neutral aesthetic,” said Jessica Smith, Foresight Editor at the Future Laboratory in an interview with Glamour UK.
This shift in attitudes about gender and identity is, naturally, being extended to consumer appetites for gender-neutral personal care, skin care, and hair care products.
A larger focus on efficacy
Additionally, the heightened interest in gender-free personal care products can also be linked to a bigger consumer focus on a product’s efficacy or claims, rather than the packaging or buying according to gender-based preferences.
Today’s consumer is most concerned with product claims, whether that be natural, green, sensitive skin, well-aging, or detoxing – not the product’s packaging or even use of scents and color ingredients to give it “feminine” or “masculine” character. This heightened claims focus is due to the ever-prevalent desire for personalized, customized personal care routines that deliver results fast.
“Today, men and women are not looking for skincare for their gender but simply efficient, greener, cleaner formulas based on effectiveness and safety with no difference in scent, packaging or name and this is simply because efficacy has no gender,” said Sue Y Nabi, the founder of Orvedal, in a recent interview on gender-free personal care products.
Additionally, this efficacy focus can be linked to a heightened consumer awareness about the efficacy of various products, thanks to virality of social media, online reviews, and the recent expanded coverage of gender-free skincare and beauty in the media.
As more and more consumers choose to focus on the efficiency, efficacy, and claims of a product, the appeal of gender-neutral products across skin care, hair care, and other personal care segments will keep growing, too.