Gender neutral beauty: everything you need to know

From skincare to fragrance – meet the unisex beauty buys trending now

At a time when gender equality is a hot topic, the beauty world seems well on its way to achieving it. Long gone are the days when it was ‘unmanly’ for a guy to moisturise. Even the concept of the ‘metrosexual’ – a bloke who cleanses and exfoliates – feels massively outdated. Nowadays, a guy’s bathroom cabinet can be just as overcrowded as that of a beauty-loving woman.

However, something interesting is afoot in the way fellas are shopping. Recent figures predicted a £5 million drop in male-specific skincare – from £97 million in 2017 to £92 million last year. Yet the overall value of the UK skincare market was still set to rise by 3%, to £1.18 billion. It seems that more of us – men and women – are shopping from the same pool of products. There’s also an increase in men embracing make-up, with stats showing 15% of UK males under 45 now hit the cosmetic counters.

"It seems that more of us – men and women – are shopping from the same pool of products"

But surely variations in our skin mean we need specific products? ‘With increased levels of testosterone, men’s skin tends to be oilier and thicker, and shaving can lead to increased sensitivity, as well as ingrown hairs and rashes,’ agrees Anja Skytte Mosbaek, training manager at Elizabeth Arden. ‘Women have thinner skin, which means that, as they age, collagen levels decrease faster and wrinkles set in earlier.’

Despite these nuances, however, our basic skincare needs are actually pretty similar. ‘The structure of men’s and women’s skin is identical,’ Anja insists. ‘When it comes to a regime of cleansing, hydrating and protecting, they both need the same thing, as skin behaves in the same way.’

So if you want to embrace the gender neutral trend, or invest in skincare you can share with the guy in your life, here’s what to add to your shopping basket.

Suits-all skincare

These are the cream of the crop without a gender-associated label in sight Clever cleanser. Pollution, oily skin or make-up removal – whatever the concern, a deep-cleaning yet hydrating cleanser is required by all. Balms are a great option for both oily and dry complexions, easy to massage around facial hair, and perfect for removing make-up – even stubborn waterproof mascara. We love: Pixi Double Cleanse (100ml).

Multi-tasking moisturiser
Looking to moisturise with something that sinks in quickly, doesn’t feel sticky and contains active ingredients to firm? Or to rehydrate skin post-shave? A gel-based cream ticks all these boxes, and is the ideal consistency for nearly everyone. We love: Clarins Hydra-Essentiel Cooling Cream Gel* (50ml).

Skin-saving serum
Enlarged pores and dullness due to pollution are non-gendered concerns. What’s more, pigmentation in guys (often due to swerving SPF), or lack of skin firmness in women (because of lower collagen density), are also problems that can be addressed with a does-it-all serum. Pick up something that contains these key ingredients: hyaluronic acid for hydration, retinol to target pigmentation and wrinkles, and peptides for firmness. We love: No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Serum (30ml) EXCLUSIVE.

Eye-opening cream
Male or female, the skin around the eyes is much thinner than elsewhere on the body, so the need for a good eye cream is universal. Ingredients to look for include fine line-reducing niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3; and retinol (aka vitamin A), which helps reduce dark circles. A lightweight gel formulation is great to help beat puffiness. We love: Olay Eyes Pro-Retinol Eye Treatment (15ml).

Brilliant base
There are more than 75,000 Instagram posts with the tag #malemakeup. And we’re not just talking drag-style looks. Like women, men now want in on the power of a great base. Step forward CC, or colour-correcting, creams. They’re as fluid as a moisturiser – handy for blending into facial hair – but offer the colour of a foundation. They also contain clever pigments to even out skin tone without giving heavy-looking coverage. Many offer good SPF protection, too – so great for everyone. We love: IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Illumination Cream SPF50+* (32ml).

Scents for two

In the 90s, a simple bottle bearing the words ‘CK One’ hit the shelves. ‘It was a clean, inconspicuous unisex scent, but it was also a slight rebellion against the conventions of having fragrances for him and her,’ says Georgina White, perfume trainer and co-host of YouTube’s The Perfume Pros.

Groundbreaking as it was, however, historically, it wasn’t news. ‘Centuries ago, people wore scent without “pour femme” and “pour homme” labels,’ explains Georgina. ‘It was only in the 19th and 20th centuries that western fashion houses decided to dictate who should wear what.’ And with this came gender-associated ingredients. ‘Florals have stereotypically become feminine scents, whereas woody and more hardy notes have become male.’

Yet if you look to the Middle East, where there’s a rich perfume culture, men are very comfortable wearing rose and jasmine. Georgina thinks the rise of Arab-inspired ‘oud’ perfumes has influenced our sensorial buying habits here, with more fragrances using ‘feminine’ notes in masculine scents, and vice versa. Plus, of course, society is evolving. ‘Gender in the world of scent will become irrelevant, because men and women are looking for individuality and freedom of expression,’ adds Georgina. Want to get in on the action? Try these, whoever you are… Givenchy L’Interdit (50ml, edp). This clever perfume infuses white notes of jasmine and tuberose with black notes of vetiver and patchouli, creating moments of femininity followed immediately by the masculine. Liz Earle Botanical Essence No.15* (50ml, edp). A rather unassuming bottle conceals a surprising yet gorgeous juxtaposition of Indian sandalwood and damask rose.

Calvin Klein CK One Platinum Edition (100ml, edt). The original unisex scent has had a limited-edition, grown-up makeover. In a mirrored bottle, it now contains notes of aldehyde for extra freshness, and amber for more warmth.

Britney Spears Prerogative (50ml, edp). Britney knows her audience is a mix of guys and girls, all of whom want to smell like her. Her latest fragrance mixes strong coffee notes with delicate lily, making it appealing to everyone.

Perfect-to-pinch products

Staying at his? These are the goodies to ‘borrow’

1. Prime with his shaving balm

The daily shave requires a soothing, mattifying product to prevent oil glands going into production overdrive. On you, it works as a primer, creating a smooth surface for make-up to stick to.

2. Mask with his moisturiser

Moisturisers targeted at men tend to be unscented, as fragrance can sometimes aggravate freshly shaved skin. Slather on a thick layer of his cream before bed to work as a hydrating and calming overnight treatment.

3. Glow with his fake tan

Male tanning products can contain more hydrating ingredients (to counterbalance the rougher skin around stubble), so use his to create a subtle yet hydrated glow.

4. Multi-task with his beard oil

If your fella has facial fuzz, chances are he has beard oil. Use it as a cuticle oil, or on dry areas such as shins, elbows and weather-ravaged hands.

*Available in selected stores only.