All make-up is gender neutral, it’s time we saw it that way
The world of beauty is becoming a lot more genderfluid. Louis Vitton recently unveiled its first unisex fragrance, while Troye Sivan’s partnership with Glossier and Luka Sabbat’s campaign for Milk showed the possibilities of male representation in beauty advertising. Brands such as Chanel and Tom Ford have both released cosmetics collections catering to men and earlier this year a survey found that one in twenty British men now wear make-up in some capacity, while a male grooming boom in South Korea has seen men spend more on beauty products than ever before.
While mainstream brands are beginning to wake up to the fact that their audience could be more than just cis women, a new wave of young, indie brands are moving into the market with products that are gender-neutral and philosophies that are inclusive of everyone.
Technically, all make-up is gender neutral. Dylan Griffiths, Medical Manager at dermatologist-recommended skincare brand Eucerin, says that while “male skin is, on average, approximately 20% thicker than female skin” due to testosterone and women will usually have a lower and more acidic pH value, this doesn’t mean that make-up products are inaccessible to anyone. In fact, it’s all purely down to the marketing that tries to define who each product is designed for.
One of the leading gender neutral brands tackling a refreshed marketing strategy is the US-based We Are Fluide. Founded in Brooklyn in 2018 by Laura Kraber and Isabella Giancarlo, who met when Laura was working as the Chief Strategy Officer for a health and wellness company, and Isabella was working as a strategist at a creative agency, Fluide’s ethos is one of inclusivity and diversity. “Fluide’s goal is to evolve the mainstream conception of “beauty” and celebrate underrepresented faces and voices,” says Giancarlo. “When starting Fluide, I knew that a younger me was dying to see queer beauty represented by queer people. The process of coming into my identity would have been a lot easier if I had had more gender-expansive role models. So it feels important to bring that to the beauty world.”
So far, We Are Fluide’s campaigns have featured the likes of gender non-conforming writer Jacob Tobia, activist Sebastian Rosemarie, and drag kid Desmond Is Amazing - a variety of people in a variety of make-up styles. Some with beards and subtle glossed lips, others with piercings and extravagant face paint. Meanwhile, the brand’s products pay homage to queer history, with lipsticks and nail shades named after LGBTQ+ spaces around the globe (such as Delaware's Poodle Beach and Oregon's Scandals bar). The brand also makes sure to actively support and give back to its community, regularly donating products to various events and fundraisers supporting LGBTQ+ organisations such as Callen-Lorde and the True Colors Fund.
“Many of us within the queer community have a complicated history with make-up,” says Giancarlo. “Perhaps we felt obligated to wear it or didn’t have the permission to wear it or maybe couldn’t wear it in a way that felt authentic to us. Fluide says, ‘Fuck that.’ For so long, make-up has been perceived as an instrument of an outdated and patriarchal beauty ideal. To liberate make-up from these standards of beauty creates a space for it to be an empowering means of self-expression for all.”
When asked about the future, Giancarlo is optimistic, not only for her brand which is fast expanding and will soon be available worldwide but about where the beauty industry is heading. “I think beauty will continue to be less prescriptive and more individualistic, less constrictive and more enjoyable, less obligatory and more playful.”
And, that’s something that trend forecasters can agree on too. For Jason Kress, men’s and youth editor at FashionSnoops, the emergence of gender-neutral beauty products over the past few years “is a testament to how society as a whole is moving away from preconceived gender expectations of how to look and act.”
Giancarlo stresses, however, that authentic queer representation in the beauty world still has a long way to go. “The real goal is to move beyond the rigid categorizations in general. To truly move the fashion and beauty spaces forward, it’s essential to bring underrepresented people to the table—as managers, art directors, photographers, consultants, stylists, models. Ensure that for every underrepresented person in front of the camera, you have three times as many behind the scenes.”
As for what We Are Fluide’s future entails, Giancarlo is keeping tight-lipped but when asked about upcoming products.“It’s all in the eyes,” she teases.
For anyone who is unsure of how to express themselves through make-up, Giancarlo has one thing left to say. “Throw all your preconceived notions of what make-up is supposed to look like out the window and let make-up be one tool in tapping into a self that feels right to you. Our motto is: Make Up the Rules.”