Unisex Skin Care Is Here to Give You Skin as Nice as Hers

The days of stealing your girlfriend’s, roommate’s or roommate’s girlfriend’s fancy skincare products are coming to a glorious end.

We’ve arrived at the bountiful, stressless era of unisex skincare.

Mass-market skincare products have largely remained stubborn in their gendered ways. That market is still dominated by female consumers, but as men make their presence (and vanity) increasingly apparent—spending $47.2 billion on grooming globally in 2015, expected to rise to $60.7 billion in 2020—a new wave of unisex products that don’t care what gender your skin belongs to is moisturizing the skincare market from all sides. Context, Deciem, Meant, and ASARAI just a few of the millennial-targeted brands to hit the skincare scene in the last couple of years. Each one promises 'grammable luxury, ingredient transparency and gender neutrality. 

Meant / Courtesy

For Meant, the problem was as much about a needless gender divide as a needless dearth of products. Founder and CEO Lindsay Knaak-Stuart recalls, “My husband had a shaving cream and I had a shaving cream. He had a body wash and I had a body wash. In all aspects of my life I was a minimalist, but in my shower I was not.” Taking her newfound bottle reduction obsession to its logical conclusion, she found, like a more refined Dr. Bronners, that using nourishing, organic ingredients in her products allowed them to do double duty without sacrificing results: A gentle shampoo that cleanses the face and body just as well. A daily conditioner that moonlights as a shaving cream. While her customers are still “about 95% women,” bridging the narrow gaps between high-end grooming products made any self-imposed gender divide in their packaging and marketing seem even more absurd. “Meant is all about less is more,” Knaak-Stuart says. “I’ve never really understood the gender divide in men’s and women’s personal care products... I think it’s mostly just talking down to men. By not going millennial pink I’m more likely to pique the interest of a co-habitating guy.” 

In Australia, skincare upstart ASARAI didn’t take quite the same minimalist approach with their set of “uber natural” facial care products that include a luxurious red clay mask, vitamin superfood face oil and (I can attest) delightful “gel to milk” morning cleanser. But their unisex approach to the brand came just as instinctively. “A trademark of our millennial generation is breaking the rules and redefining what we believe in, so creating a skincare brand with gender fluidity came very naturally to us,” says Jay Rynenberg, co-founder of ASARAI with his wife Patrice. Invested in improving gender diversity in the beauty industry—much like their renowned Australian unisex forbearers, Aesop—ASARAI’s hazard yellow packaging serves as a welcome reminder that inclusivity needn’t look bland either. It can look like it should be behind emergency glass that you feel like breaking every time you shower. 

Courtesy / Courtesy

While the skincare industry has undoubtedly plumped up the differences between men and women’s skin, there are some distinctions. As Dr. Jeremy Brauer, NYU Clinical Assistant Professor of Dermatology explains, “There are a number of ways that men’s skin is different than women’s. Not only is men’s skin thicker, it tends to be oilier.” Women’s collagen levels also deplete a bit more rapidly causing slightly more visible aging, especially after menopause. And the pH of men’s sweat is 0.05 lower than women

But—and this is the crucial point—these differences have almost no bearing on what ends up being good for your skin. As Brauer puts it, “When it comes to skincare ingredients, the patient’s gender isn’t really a factor.” All skin likes to be clean, soft, and dewy. And those statistical gender differences are far from absolute. Some women have oilier skin. Some men have drier skin. Many men definitely have thinner skin (wink, wink). We’re all just individuals who like nice things. “I always customize my skincare advice to the individual patient, regardless of gender,” Brauer says. So just because men’s skin tends to be oilier on average doesn’t mean it demands an industrial-grade solvent blended with discarded peppermint candy canes to get fresh after a workout (looking at you, Irish Spring).

The bigger challenge, as it so often is, is getting men to admit they have a problem. Dr. Brauer explains, “While men are much more advanced at and interested in grooming than ever before, there are many that still need to work on the basics...The basic trifecta is to cleanse, protect with a broad spectrum sunscreen, and moisturize. Also, it can’t be said enough, but drinking water.”

So stop stealing a spot of cleanser here, dribble of lotion there from the ladies in your life from the shadows. Steal them proudly. Or better yet, pick up a bottle or two of your own. There are plenty of wonderful unisex brands to try if hers is still too pink for you.

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