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Are gender-neutral products the future of beauty?

Focusing on what your skin needs rather than stereotypical keywords on the packaging, gender-neutral beauty products are taking the skincare world by storm.

As a biomedical scientist, physician and one of the most reputable experts in the field of stem-cell biology and regenerative medicine, establishing a skincare brand wasn’t at the top of Augustinus Bader’s priorities. But his business partner, Charles Rosier, thought otherwise.

“He had the vision to apply the technology to skincare consumer products to fund my research,” says Bader. “He thought if the technology could turn burned skin into perfect skin, then the know-how could be used to develop innovative skincare to help with wrinkles.”

It took some convincing, but when Bader noticed his patients coming back for more of the creams he was making for them, he changed his mind and has since applied his intrinsic knowledge of stem-cell research into skincare products.

“Our skincare technology moves in the field of epigenetics,” says Bader. “In other words, it works with the skin’s own intrinsic repair needs by delivering various active ingredients that control and influence the skin cells in a targeted manner.”

Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream and The Cream

Shop Augustinus Bader here.

Augustinus Bader’s proprietary Trigger- Factor Complex 8 contains building blocks of amino acids, vitamins and synthesised molecules in the same concentration and combination as found naturally in healthy young skin. “TFC8 functions like GPS, utilising a novel transporting mechanism made up of ceramide structures to deliver these nutrient compounds to the right location within the skin-cell microenvironment,” says Bader. It encourages the skin to undergo a physiological process of remodelling, enabling your own body to fix your skin problems all on its own.

Perhaps because of this vastly science- driven technology, the Augustinus Bader brand has rapidly found favour with the beauty community, and especially among men, who are increasingly getting into the habit of taking better care of their skin, and want no-fuss but science-proven products. Bader calls his products genuinely unisex. “They work independently from gender differences but adjust to individual skin needs. We call this next-generation intelligent skincare,” he says. And while men might prefer The Cream for its neutral texture, the technology in all the products is the same.

“It’s not a question of which cream will be more efficient than the other. The texture is more for personal preferences and possibly climate,” he says. Science tells us men’s skin is generally thicker than women’s, and tends to produce more oil. But skin types themselves are not gendered, ranging from dry to oily to sensitive through to combination.

Omorovicza Midnight Renewal

Shop Omorovicza here.

Hungarian thermal-water beauty brand Omorovicza’s co-founder Stephen de Heinrich de Omorovicza concurs. “Typically,” he says, “we men have slightly thicker skin, but then you still need to cleanse, you need to exfoliate and you still need to moisturise, and there’s absolutely no reason on earth that you can’t use the exact same products.”

It’s no secret that the grooming industry is growing, and has recently been fuelled by the pandemic, as people pay increasing attention to self-care and general wellbeing. At luxury e-commerce platform Mr Porter, grooming has become one of its top 10 product categories in the Asia-Pacific region in 2020.

“Men are spending more money on their skin and hair than ever before,” observes Ashley Clarke, deputy editor at Mr Porter. “As more men are embracing self-care, caring for their skin is becoming increasingly important.”

While the beauty industry has been traditionally female-centric, shifting preferences have recently seen a proliferation of products that combat individual skincare needs regardless of gender, often touted as effective, no-nonsense products that are suitable for everyone. “In other words,” says Clarke, everyone’s skin is different, so drawing gendered lines isn’t always helpful when we’re looking for something that’s going to work for us specifically. The simple rule of thumb is to know your skin type and match the right daily products to your regime.”

Everyone’s skin is different, so drawing gendered lines isn’t always helpful… the simple rule of thumb is to know your skin type and match the right daily products to your regime

Ashley Clarke

Of course, we can’t discount products that target typically male concerns such as shaving rash or especially oily skin, but Clarke believes there’s “still room for men’s skincare products to expand to cater for more skin types and concerns, and that’s where genderless skincare products can fill the gap.”

Newby Hands, Net-a-Porter’s global beauty director, believes there’s still some merit to gendered beauty products. “Although some concerns are universal, such as providing hydration and skin protection, some are more gender specific,” she says. “Men are known to have a higher density of collagen creating a thicker skin barrier.” Another obvious point of difference is that men also need to manage facial hair, which can often cause ingrown hairs and bumps and sensitivity around the area.

Dr. Barbara Sturm Calming Serum

Shop Dr Barbara Sturm here.

Hands suggests brands such as 111Skin, Augustinus Bader, Dr Sebagh, Dr Barbara Sturm, Dr Dennis Gross, which all offer products that target skincare concerns that trouble everyone.

For oily skin, Clarke suggests the Matte Balancing Moisturiser by Grown Alchemist, while for sensitive skin, the Calming Serum from Dr. Barbara Sturm works wonders. And for daily wear, something with SPF is always recommended, such as the SPF30 Face Moisturiser from Malin+Goetz.

Aesop, the forerunners for genderless beauty products

Shop Aesop here.

You could argue that the forerunners for genderless beauty is the Australian plant- based skincare company Aesop. Packaged in signature amber glass vials and labelled simply, its products even come with a botanical scent that’s pleasing to everyone. More recent is Fenty Skin, founded by singer Rihanna, who’s a prominent supporter of inclusivity, and whose products, which include a cleanser, toner, serum and moisturiser, come in minimal packaging and are meant for everyone. Meanwhile, Drunk Elephant, which was founded by Tiffany Masterson in 2012, goes so far as to do away with “skin types” completely. In spite of the rainbow-coloured and fun packaging, its science is serious, with formulations that focus on balancing the skin’s pH levels, using ingredients based on biocompatibility rather than looking at any specific skin types or genders.

Fenty Skin starter kit

Shop Fenty Skin here.

Ultimately, says Clarke, skincare is important for everyone. “UV rays, harsh weather conditions, pollution and ageing are all factors that affect every person in the world, regardless of gender. Fortunately, the skincare now available has never been better at addressing all of these things.”

“Beautiful skin is a reflection of health, regardless of gender differences,” says Bader. “Your skin is a reflection of yourself and that’s what people see first.”

That’s probably the biggest take away. Skincare is personal, it’s individualistic, and it’s really just about taking care of yourself. “Keeping your skin healthy will give you an abundance of protection for the rest of your life,” says Bader. “I think about it as a part of being healthy as a human being.”

Skincare is personal, it’s individualistic, and it’s really just about taking care of yourself

Augustinus Bader

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