Why didn't gender-free beauty catch on sooner? Pharrell Williams is clearly on to something
Pharrell Williams, the uber-cool producer responsible for Happy, believes his genderless skincare brand Humanrace is more than just face cream. “It’s a movement. It’s not about vanity, it’s about wellbeing. There’s a lot of unrest in the world right now and it’s more important than ever to take care of ourselves.”
Arguably another skincare line isn’t necessarily the answer to all the planet’s woes, but Pharrell, whose range goes on sale in the UK for the first time this week, is clearly on to something.
The past six months have seen gender-free skincare lines from Hollywood actors Brad Pitt, Jared Leto and from Soho House, while established brands such as The Ordinary, Non Gender Specific, Allies of Skin, First Aid Beauty and Naturium continue to be loved by men and women alike. As Millie Kendall, CEO of the British Beauty Council, sums it up: “It’s like that moment in fashion when David Beckham first wore the sarong. Beauty brands are thinking differently.”
“Skin is skin and there is no reason why the same products can’t treat both genders,” says dermatologist Dr Ophelia Veraitch. “There are, of course, nuances in men and women’s skin – generally speaking men have a thicker stratum corneum [the outermost layer of the epidermis] and male skin can be more oily, but there is no reason why the same products can’t be used by men and women. If you have acne, for example, it’s treated exactly the same way whether you’re male or female.”
Working with New York dermatologist Dr Elena Jones, Pharrell has created a simple, three-step skincare product line – the “Three Minute Facial” – which includes two exfoliators and one moisturiser. The exfoliators come in the form of a daily Rice Powder Cleanser, £33, and a weekly brightening mask with glycolic acid, the Lotus Enzyme Exfoliator, £42. The textures are light, absorb well into the skin and are all fragrance-free. Most importantly, of course, they work just as well on both sexes.
Plastic surgeon Dr Yannis Alexandrides, the founder of 111Skin, has created sheet masks – face masks made of thin cloth soaked in serum (beloved by fashion designer Victoria Beckham and actress Jennifer Aniston), which are also popular with men and women. That said, certain products are better suited to men, who may suffer greater skin damage due to regular shaving. The 111Skin Y Theorem Bio Cellulose Facial Mask helps reduce irritation and calm inflamed skin, and is a best-seller.
Andrew Goetz, founder of gender-neutral skincare trail-blazers Malin and Goetz, explains how things have changed. “When we were first stocked in Barneys [New York] in the early 2000s they asked us, ‘do you want to be in the men’s or women’s section?’. It took a lot of persuading back then to be in both.”
It couldn’t be a more different story today. Gen Z beauty brand 31st State was originally aimed at teenage boys, but its brightening Overnight Clearing Pads (with lactic acid) were so popular with the boys’ sisters that it launched a whole range of gender-neutral skincare aimed at this age group. “They were the boyfriend jeans of the range,” says founder Stephanie Capuano.
Which makes you wonder why gender-free beauty didn’t catch on sooner? Maybe we’ll all be borrowing from the boys’ beauty cabinets from now on, as well as stealing their jeans and jumpers.
From the top: Ozone Protection SPF 30 set, £85, Human Race at Selfridges; Lotus Enzyme exfoliator, £42 and Humidifying face cream, £47, Human Race at Selfridges