Brands aim to be more gender inclusive

Today, many brands are acknowledging a need for gender fluidity in cosmetics (not to mention the fact that it means cosmetics brands can market to an entirely new demographic, resulting in an increase in sales). Historically, makeup was never something associated with gender in the first place. In Ancient Egypt, for example, the use of eyeliner and other cosmetics was a sign of wealth—usually one that men donned to signal their status to passerby’s and strangers. In more recent history, people in the LGBTQ+ community have always used makeup as a way to connect with femininity and identity in a way they could not without it.

Today, makeup is returning to its previously gender-fluid state in a different way, and current makeup trends are largely inspired by the ways in which the LGBTQ+ community used the products decades ago. While more men are purchasing makeup and beauty products, it often signals a need to use makeup and cosmetics as a form of identity and creative expression. Many famous beauty bloggers and influencers, for example, use makeup as a way to express themselves creatively rather than associate with femininity. One study, published in 2017, reveals gender to be a type of performance taken on by a person in how they express their identity. When makeup and cosmetics are brought into the conversation of that performance, the stereotype or ideation that cosmetics are feminine are transgressed as a means of expressing the personalization of one's gender identity. 

Cosmetics and personal care companies today are wise to market to age groups, rather than a specified gender, because it invites consumers to participate in the brand that identify with its marketing. In most cases, a consumer is likely to purchase a product and interact with its brand if they can see themselves in it. Companies such as CoverGirl, which hired James Charles, its first male-identifying model in the brand’s history, saw an increase in sales among millennial and generation z consumers after its first campaign with the influencer. 

Because millennial and generation z consumers are purchasing skin care and cosmetics more than any of their older counterparts, and are more likely to experiment with new and different brands and products, marketing campaigns that aim to be gender-inclusive tend to do better and find greater success because they’re generally viewed as more friendly and forward thinking. Gender, just like skin color, is something that the cosmetics industry only recently started diversifying on a regular basis.

Gender Fluid Consumers Are Cosmetics Consumers

Another study revealed that 52% of women and 44% of men consider gender to be fluid, and that expressions of gender range depending on the individual and how they want to portray their own identity to the world. While those numbers may seem lower than expected, consider how many of those consumers are more likely to purchase cosmetic and personal care products.

With thousands of Youtube videos and Instagram pages to sift through that talk about makeup, show how to apply makeup, and highlight different individualized makeup styles, millennial and generation z consumers are among the largest and most diverse cosmetics consumer markets there is today. Where brands like Laura Mercier and Estee Lauder aim to draw in an older demographic that focuses on enhancing natural beauty, cosmetics moguls like Jeffree Star and Norvina Claudia hone in on a younger market. Specifically, a market that values diversity, vibrant color schemes, and exotic makeup looks that transgress heteronormative gender identities. 

Even brands that have traditionally marketed toward a masculine audience are finding themselves migrating into a more gender-fluid branding. Gillette, a shaving product company that has always marketed its products as being strictly masculine or feminine, aired an ad campaign in 2018 that highlighted the toxic nuances associated with masculinity from a young age.

The ad, which used the tagline that it wanted to help men be “the best they can be,” portrayed a montage of scenes in which boys and men encourage one another to break down masculinity to promote a more inclusive future. The ad received a lot of backlash, particularly among men’s rights activists, but was met with overall appreciation from consumers that would have otherwise not purchased Gillette because of its branding as either hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine. While the company may have lost some customers, it likely gained more from those that appreciated the effort of the ad and obvious rebranding.

Traditionally masculine as a brand

All of that is not to say that men that identify as traditionally masculine are not likely to buy beauty products at all. There is an increasing amount of cosmetics brands that aim to attract traditional ideas of masculinity in the same way that there is an increasing amount of brands that aim to attract gender fluidity. Companies such as Dude Products, the makers of a topical wipe called Dude Wipes, hone in on masculinity to attract a market that would never purchase the pastel-colored packaging associated with most makeup wipes, but could benefit from their ability to cleanse the skin. 

Other brands aim to attract a consumer that would otherwise never consider wearing makeup as a possibility by creating lines of products with masculine packaging. In skin care, this is a massive trend. Products like serums, concealers, sunscreens, and cleansers that are traditionally put in packaging with warm hues of pink and tropical blues, are instead put in bottles that feature tones of black, navy blue, and grey with wording that speaks to the male ego and makes the idea of skin care and cosmetics comfortable and familiar, rather than a direct threat to the very nature of masculinity.

Around the world

While many of the aforementioned notions speak to concepts of gender that apply to the western world, the same ideas don’t necessarily apply to the far-east. In countries like Korea and Japan, men have been–and continue–using skin care and makeup products on a regular basis for different reasons. Things like face masks and eyeliner are common products among all men and women, regardless of how the product is packaged or marketed. 

Many men in Japan turn toward makeup products to help achieve a more masculine look, according to what defines the word “masculine” in Japanese culture. The use of makeup is also generally regarded as a nod to being clean and keeping up with good grooming techniques, so the use of makeup and beauty products are considered less feminine than they are in the western world. 

In South America, different beauty trends have taken off among masculine consumers in different ways, and for different reasons. In Colombia, it isn’t uncommon for men to indulge in things like manicures, nail polish, and other beauty products. In Brazil, however, the normalization of cosmetic surgery has created a surge in the cosmetic surgery market among male consumers.

Conclusion

Experimenting with what gender means in terms of makeup and cosmetics is almost as important as creating a good product. Marketing defines who the product is for and how the product will be consumed, so being mindful of any marketing element—from packaging to social media campaigns—can determine the success of your brand in your desired market. 

Popular culture and entertainment continues to push the boundaries of what it means to experiment with makeup as an expression of gender identity. Influencers and beauty moguls define current trends, and today those trends are pushing the boundaries of gender in ways we have never seen before.

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