Unisex to gender-neutral: There’s a ‘new standard’ in skin care and makeup, says GlobalData

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Gender-neutral products and branding will take over from 'unisex' offerings, targeting specific skin and lifestyle needs that hold wider appeal [Getty Images]
Gender-neutral products and branding will take over from 'unisex' offerings, targeting specific skin and lifestyle needs that hold wider appeal [Getty Images]

Related tags GlobalData Gender gender-neutral Skin care Makeup inclusive beauty Marketing retail

Beauty and personal care products that are inclusive with neutral messaging will firmly take centre stage as the new standard in skin care and makeup, likely prompting a retail re-think in coming months, according to GlobalData.

Whilst ‘unisex’ beauty offerings, particularly fragrances, had long been seen on shelf – preceding the gender-neutral concept – GlobalData said rising expectations amongst consumers for highly customised product offerings based on specific skin concerns or lifestyle-related issues was now driving an important transition towards gender-neutral in the beauty space. Brands were being prompted to “rethink their positioning” ​and “align their offerings with more inclusive or neutral messaging”,​ the data specialist said.

‘Changing social norms’ and ‘importance of inclusivity’

Nina Nowak, senior researcher at GlobalData, said interest in gender-neutral beauty and personal care products was being fuelled by “changing social norms and a growing awareness of the importance of inclusivity” ​amongst consumers.

According to GlobalData, 42% of global shoppers said that how ethical, environmentally friendly or socially responsible a product or service was either always or often influenced their product choice.

“As gender-neutral products are often marketed with inclusivity in mind, they may be perceived as a progressive choice that benefits those ideas,”​ Nowak told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.

Gender-neutral products also answered specific consumer concerns around skin or lifestyle-related issues – experienced by both genders, she said.

However, the marketing of modern gender-neutral brands required a “modern brand motto”,​ she said. And this could be achieved in a bold and flamboyant way, like seen with beauty brand One/Size created by YouTuber Patrick Starr, or more subtly as with Rihanna’s Fenty Skin range that used gender-neutral self-care messaging.

“Marketing strategies in beauty and grooming categories have drawn on gender images for decades. Still, as the conventional ideas of male and female roles in society evolve, so does their portrayal in consumer products. Gender-neutral skin care and makeup display those changes. The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach might soon replace the female and male-targeted positioning, for a truly inclusive and modern beauty product concept,”​ Nowak said.

And these products would carry strong social messages regarding inclusivity, equality, the importance of mental health, and self-care, she said.

Rising beauty ‘curiosity’ and ‘experimentation’ to continue

But was this a movement set to stick? Well, Novak said given experimentation in beauty was at an all-time high, interest in gender-neutral products would likely continue.

“Consumers increasingly display an experimental attitude towards beauty and are willing to try products that may have been traditionally seen as suitable for the opposite gender. Modern shoppers are keen to incorporate new products in their routines. As 29% of males and 42% of females globally expressed: they are willing to increase the number of products they use in their beauty/grooming regimen to improve their appearance,”​ she said.

“The curiosity and willingness to incorporate ‘unconventional’ products in beauty and grooming routines enables gender-neutral brands to reach new consumer groups.”

And Nowak said that as this “new wave”​ of gender-neutral products continued to arrive, retailers may also be motivated to respond, re-designing store layouts to shift away from traditional ‘male’ and ‘female’ sections. Though this, she said, wouldn’t be without challenges.

“As much as this can be easy to implement in online retail, brick and mortar retail may face a challenge as often male and female products are physically separated with no clear ‘mutual’ space. Helping male consumers to explore traditionally ‘female’ categories may be especially difficult and retailers should be careful about how they signify gender neutrality to attract male consumers. In this case, clearly signalling of gender-neutral claims could encourage shoppers to browse and purchase,”​ she said.

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