As perceptions of gender evolve, gender-inclusive beauty might finally be here to stay.
By Madison Patterson.
From Chanel Beauty casting its first transgender model to the release of LGBTQIA+ icon Patrick Starrr’s exuberant beauty brand ONE/SIZE, the gender-inclusive beauty iceberg may be out to sink binary makeup as we know it.
The movement has yielded a surge of creativity and innovation from those who used to be excluded altogether from the beauty dialogue. Some like Ryan Burke, who is featured in Mission’s LGBTQIA+ issue, take makeup to supernatural extremes, combining sci-fi fantasy makeup with club kid pigmentation and special effect-level precision. Others, like @isshehungry, are in constant states of intricate self-creation and re-creation, using makeup as a tool to challenge what humans could, and should, look like.
Image and video-heavy social platforms like Instagram, YouTube (and yes, even TikTok), are the perfect breeding ground for the innovators of the gender-inclusive beauty boom. Tags like #Mensmakeup, #LGBTMakeup, and #Malemakeup yield hundreds of thousands of results on Instagram, while the YouTube makeup gurus have turned short tutorials into multi-million dollar businesses and droves of loyal followers.
Legacy makeup and skincare brands are hopping on this trend quickly, as they aim more and more marketing towards LGBTQIA+ customers, as well as straight, cisgender men. Labels like Gucci, YSL, and Valentino have all released or announced the upcoming release of unisex/genderless fragrances over the past couple of years, while Chanel unveiled its men’s beauty line, Boy De Chanel, in early 2019, debuting products that lend themselves to a natural look, like eyebrow pencils ($40) and foundation ($65).
And while established brands seek to redirect their image toward gender-inclusivity, new brands are cropping up that cater specifically to the beauty needs of trans, non-binary, and queer consumers. Brands like Jecca Blac, Fluide, and Fenty Beauty were created with representation and inclusivity as cornerstones, from genderless branding to more thoughtful and diverse shade ranges. These perspectives are evident in their products, like this foundation that is explicitly intended to feminize the face, and Fenty’s recent genderless skincare line.
With gender-inclusive beauty booming, it begs the question: why was makeup reserved exclusively for women in the first place?
The idea of female-only makeup was born about 100 years ago when early advertisers thought it was the most lucrative marketing strategy, explains Hillary Belzer, curator of The Makeup Museum and expert on the sociopolitical meanings behind our maquillage. Belzer sees similar monetary motivations emerging in today’s corporate movement toward genderless beauty: “I think companies are realizing there’s more money to be made if they’re inclusive.” Gen-Z’s perceptions of gender are more fluid than previous generations, and as they start engaging in the economy and workforce, more and more brands are likely to go down the gender-neutral route.
And it’s true; genderless and male-centric beauty are a massive source of under-tapped profit.
As reported by CNBC’s Nia Warfield, the men’s personal grooming industry is expected to be worth a whopping $166 billion by 2022. Similarly, Forbes’ Kitty Knowles reported that the buying power of the LGBTQIA+ community in the U.S. is in the trillions. For an industry with a history of exclusivity, racism, and stereotyping, beauty inclusivity is a possible area for growth, both financially and ethically.
However, questions regarding whether or not makeup can ever be fairly and truly genderless still abound. Women often face pressure to wear makeup every day, and in many industries can be discredited for wearing either too much or too little makeup. Celebrity news and paparazzi sites are just one upholder of these unfair standards, with thousands of search results for “without makeup,” labeling the female celebrities who go makeup-free anything from “unrecognizable” to “brave.”
Regardless, the momentum of the male-specific and LGBTQIA+ beauty industry blitz seems to be unstoppable. Perhaps we are rounding the corner to a place where, as male beauty star Lewys Ball put it, “anybody can wear makeup, no matter who you are.”
Photo credit: Ryan Burke