Beauty Has No Gender

Genderless beauty products are on the rise. More than just a passing fad, here’s how your store can be inclusive to all.

We’re living in an age where makeup mavens like James Charles, Manny MUA and Patrick Starrr reign supreme on Instagram and inundate our feeds in full-face glam. Though men donning makeup is nothing new, top beauty brands have finally taken notice by marketing products to everyone. From CoverGirl and Maybelline to Milk Makeup and Morphe, they have all featured men wearing makeup in their ad campaigns. And though there are the “manscaras” and “guyliners” of the world targeted specifically towards men, times are changing—and with them, so are gender norms.

With the male grooming category expected to reach $60.7 billion by 2020, according to Euromonitor, more men than ever before are seeking products like tinted moisturizers and concealers to add to their beauty regimens. And gone are the days when guys were chastised for caring too much about their appearance (after all, the term “metrosexual” is so 1990s). With everyone spending more time and money to look selfie-sufficient, combined with consumers' growing desire for inclusivity, unisex beauty is going mainstream. Beauty Store Business talked with three brands leading the charge about the importance of making products for everyone, the growing gender-fluid category and their predictions for the future.

MAKEUP FOR THE MASSES
In 2016, Laura Kraber and Isabella Giancarlo met through a creative agency and one year later cofounded Fluide, a cruelty-free color cosmetics line for all genders. “With neither of us coming from the beauty space, we were able to approach Fluide with an open mind, thus leaving us open to create the beauty space we wanted to see–as opposed to being limited by what has been done before,” Giancarlo says.

In fact, it was the desire for a civil, creative work environment that inspired the pair to start their own company in the first place. “At various points in our careers, we had both struggled with the typical sexism, harassment and undervaluation that most working women encounter,” Kraber says. “By the time we met, we had each reached our breaking point and felt inspired to create something for ourselves. It was a huge leap to leave the safety and comfort of a job to become entrepreneurs, but we were motivated by the desire to build a company that always puts humans first; that offers a safe, respectful and kind workplace; that offers acceptance and community to our customers.”

“[Gender-fluid beauty] opens up the potential for makeup to be empowering for all people rather than a representation of all the ways you don’t measure up.”

–Isabella Giancarlo, cofounder, Fluide

Kraber and Giancarlo’s vision for Fluide was to be inclusive and to represent those who are vastly under- represented in the industry. “From a personal place, I wanted to ensure that queer folk like me were both in front and behind the camera as much as possible,” Giancarlo explains. “I knew that a younger me was dying to see queer beauty represented by queer people, and I know the process of coming into my queer identity would have been a lot easier had I had more gender-expansive role models.”

When it came to developing the line’s ultra-bold, empowering colors, Kraber and Giancarlo drew inspiration from those who genuinely have fun wearing makeup–like internet personality Jason Greene, more commonly known as Freckle, who collaborated with Fluide on a series of makeup tutorials. The line is also for those who are typically afraid of daring, experimental, funky shades. “Liquid lipstick, polish and glitter are incredibly approachable to people who are new to makeup. They don’t need a complex set of directions and have a big impact,” Kraber notes.

All of Fluide’s shades are named after notable queer places, such as Riis Beach and Cherry Grove, as “an homage to some of the spaces that many of us consider second homes and environments, where we can express ourselves boldly, shamelessly, authentically,” Giancarlo says. Furthermore, Fluide also donates five percent of its profits to organizations that protect the health and legal rights of the LGBTQ community.

“Fluide originated from a place of love–for our LGBTQ community, for the inspiring work and activism of trans and gender-nonconforming individuals, for the parents and other allies supporting kids and teens facing discrimination and bullying for their gender presentation–and from the beginning, we knew we wanted giving to be central to the company,” Kraber says.

Fluide’s products are available on their website, fluide.us, as well as in The Phluid Project store in New York City. Kraber and Giancarlo are eager to expand their distribution and welcome inquiries from interested retail partners. “For so long, makeup has been perceived as an instrument of an outdated and patriarchal beauty ideal–women wore makeup to improve themselves, to make themselves acceptable to a standard of [often white, cisgender (when someone identifies with their assigned gender at birth)] female beauty, which few could achieve,” Giancarlo says. “To locate makeup outside of this paradigm of cis-female beauty is incredibly liberating, and it opens up the potential for makeup to be empowering for all people rather than a representation of all the ways you don’t measure up.”

ALL-INCLUSIVE SKIN CARE
When it comes to skin care, consumers all have the same end goal: hydrated, youthful-looking skin. That’s why it’s no surprise that skincare brands catering to all skin types are cropping up in droves. One such family-owned brand, Asarai, is a holistic line based in Australia. Cofounder Jay Rynenberg says that he and his wife, Patrice, are “very passionate about creating a natural, millennial skincare line that pushes the boundary of traditional apothecary and a modern-white aesthetic.”

“Women don’t always need to be defined by florals and pastels, and men don’t always like navy and steel materials.”

–Jay Rynenberg, cofounder, Asari

Founded in 2016 by Rynenberg and his mother, Trish, who was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in 2002 and was in search of natural skin care, the Rynenberg family tested out numerous nontoxic ingredients on themselves. “My wife and I were essentially testers for years, and decided we were crazy to keep these formulations to ourselves,” he says. “With our creative backgrounds and my mother’s naturopathic knowledge, we created Asarai and kept the brand gender-neutral just like it started. Men are becoming increasingly more interested in self-care and grooming, so we wanted to provide products for all.”

The line uses several Australian botanicals known for their ability to thrive in extreme temperatures, and therefore have powerful defense systems. Such ingredients include kakadu plum, which has the highest plant-based form of vitamin C; as well as moringa oil, Chondrus crispus and linden flower. The line’s best-selling Earth Tones mask uses Australian Red Clay to detoxify the skin without drying it. With an eco-conscious mission, Asarai also aims to do no harm to the environment, which is why a portion of all proceeds is donated to the nonprofit 1% for the Planet.

Another gender-neutral skincare brand aiming to make a difference in the world is Noto Botanics, founded by Gloria Noto. Noto was working in a thrift store when she came across legendary makeup artist Kevyn Aucoin’s famous books, which inspired her to become a makeup artist herself. When Noto switched to a clean lifestyle a decade later, she couldn’t find a natural skin care line that could clear up her skin breakouts. “I didn’t feel that all the demographics of those individuals that care about their well-being or the environment were being represented by brands,” Noto says.

She founded Noto Botanics almost three years ago, after going on a personal exploration to find clean, natural ingredients for herself and her clients. “It’s a brand that really can work with almost every skin type and every skin identity, and is something that comes from a place of true heart ... I have friends of all different genders and identities, and the needs are the same in a lot of ways. I wanted to create something that didn’t feel targeted to one type of identity,” she says. “When products are targeted toward one type of gender or culture, I think you’re being ‘had’ or ‘sold.’ It’s like finding a weakness. Take antiaging for example, which targets older women and perpetuates this insecurity. I didn’t fit into that idea.”

Environmentally and socially conscious, Noto sources her packaging and ingredients as ethically as possible. She also created a product called Agender Oil, which is a hair and body oil made from organic hemp oil, vetiver and lavender–with 100 percent of the profits donated towards rotating charities like Planned Parenthood, LGBT Youth Center, Downtown Women’s Center in Los Angeles and more. So far, sales from the oil have generated over $15,000 for charity. “Even just the product alone has a bit of a political stance in itself. It’s an anywhere body and hair oil. If you choose to grow your armpit or pubic or head hair out, or you just want to put it all over your body, it’s a minimal but rich and luxurious oil that you can use in these parts,” she says.

“As far as gender fluidity, I think we’re just touching on it now and it’s going to grow massively.”

–Gloria Noto, founder, Noto Botanics

Many of the brand’s items have a smoky, earthy, shamanistic scent that men and women can enjoy, such as the Rooted Oil, made with Palo Santo, frankincense, vetiver and Madagascar black pepper. Like most of the products, it’s multiuse for the hair and body. In the near future, Noto will also release a hyaluronic acid cream, moisturizer and a natural sunscreen. When she first started Noto Botanics, she was making orders in her kitchen; now, just a few years later, her products have been featured in the subscription box FabFitFun and she’s gearing up to open her first brick-and-mortar store.

ABOVE AND BEYOND BEAUTY
The future looks brighter than ever for these emerging unisex brands, but how do these entrepreneurs feel about the growing genderless beauty category? Noto remains cautiously optimistic. “When something becomes a trend, everyone wants to ride that wave. In one way that’s good, because it’s great to be able to celebrate these things; in another way, it’s a little scary because [consumers] are being sold that [idea]. As far as gender fluidity, I think we’re just touching on it now and it’s going to grow massively,” she says.

As society becomes more accepting of the LGBTQ community, brands across all categories will follow suit. “I just hope these [unisex] brands are coming from a real, true, authentic, personal, experiential place. I really hope that brands continue to have a unique voice and aim at more than just the exterior of things.” Since starting her company, Noto says she’s already observed more brands adopting a gender-fluid, minimalistic aesthetic to appeal to everyone.

“It’s inspiring (and about time) to see people of all gender expressions and identities in fashion and beauty campaigns, and we would love to see the conversation move towards questioning the gender binary, in general,” Giancarlo says.

Rynenberg adds, “As millennials ourselves, we have countless conversations with friends and family who are increasingly more interested in gender-neutral products. Women don’t always need to be defined by florals and pastels, and men don’t always like navy and steel materials. We’re really proud that we can offer natural skincare solutions for anyone who is looking for them.”

The beauty of the beauty industry is that it’s so influential to society as a whole. As beauty marketing becomes less aimed at capitalizing on the insecurities of cis-females and more directed at representing people from all walks of life, there’s no telling the positive implications that will have on the world at large.

[Photo by Lee O'Connor for Fluide]