Japan's Younger Generation Is Choosing Gender-Neutral Cosmetics

The younger generation is less influenced by gender stereotypes about makeup and skin care and is increasingly embracing cosmetics marketed to all genders.

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The emergence of 'genderless cosmetics' in Japan reflects a rising trend to stop pigeonholing people based on socially constructed differences between the sexes. Perhaps it is also time to stop categorizing behaviors as those of men or women.  

Against the backdrop of an increasing awareness amongst men on beauty and skincare, brand after brand have been promoting gender-neutral makeup. Even the idea that men and women have different skin types, as it turns out, is based on preconceptions of differences between sexes. 

Skin type is not determined by sex, rather external factors play a major role. The idea that men have tougher skin just because they are men no longer holds up. 

The use of skincare products as well as eyebrow and face makeup by men is becoming more widespread, and lip products and mascaras are also gaining traction. The closing of the gender gap is starting from the face.

New Products Mean New Customers

Red lips contrasted with pale skin leave a lasting impression. Looking at displays for the new 'perse' line of makeup products produced by The Yoshimichi Siblings, a celebrity sister-brother duo, one might feel as if they have come upon the beginning of a new era.

Earlier this year, a Cosmetics Festival held at all 146 Loft stores nationwide was for the first time aimed at both women and men. In the past simultaneous events marketed men's cosmetics, but this year it was integrated, and accordingly attracted more customers.

Total sales of cosmetics across all Loft stores from the 1st to the 9th of May was 1.7 times more than sales from the same period last year. Sales of makeup products aimed at men, in particular, doubled. 

Yui Takahashi, a spokesperson for Loft said, "People don’t want to be stuck in the perceived confines of their sex. I’d like customers to have the freedom to pick cosmetic products based on their personal concerns and needs. It looks like consumers are ahead of the game here. Some female customers love using products aimed at men, and we have male customers who decide on what products to buy based on reviews written by women."

Androgynous Korean Look is Trendy

Out of the 88 brands that participated in the festival, 29 were selling genderless products.

Two of the most popular products are a concealer for acne scars and an eyebrow product launched in October 2021 from Suorum. Masato Tomita, CEO of iHack, Inc., the company producing the Suorum line, is a 25-year-old member of Gen Z.

Suorum brand unisex concealer at Loft’s Cosmetics Festival, Shibuya Ward, Tokyo (Photo by Akiko Shigematsu).

"Young people these days enjoy looking androgynous. Our products are also popular among women who want a natural look from their makeup. Some people use shading to make puffy bags under their eyes, then add a finishing color to enhance, giving them a trendy Korean look. We'd like to make more makeup products that couples can share and enjoy using together."

The mascara male member of staff at the booth caught my eye. It turned out to be SHEER’S, a product made by the long-established Isehan Cosmetics. "We have subdued colors, perfect for people of all sexes who want something relaxed and more casual than black."

Even Euglena Co., Ltd., famous for its algae-based health foods, released its Lavita line of genderless cosmetic items.

Genderless products have double the target market compared to products designed for either men or women. No wonder the industry has great expectations for them.

Skin Care for All Sexes

Wondering if it is really okay for men and women to use the same cosmetics, I talked to a dermatologist.

"The skin is an organ that connects the human body with the outside world. External factors are a bigger factor in skin type, and men and women are not born with different skin types. Previously, men were more likely to expose their skin to the sun without sunscreen, or to have dry skin because they weren’t in the habit of moisturizing. But lately, it’s harder to spot differences in men and women because they both have skincare routines," explained Dr Tadashi Shimokata, director of Shibuya Scramble Dermatology Clinic (Shibuya Ward, Tokyo).

Gender bias is generally interpreted as a disadvantage for women, but when it comes to beauty, skincare for men has not been taken seriously.

The clinic sees an equal number of men and women for its top four patient concerns. These are acne (1st place), acne scars (2nd), large pores (3rd), and oily skin (4th). The fifth most common concern, thick facial hair, only affects men. 

An increasing number of men are seeking treatment for skin blemishes and poor complexion. According to Dr Shimokata, "men and women are both looking to have clearer and brighter skin."

"Taking care of skin after shaving is the basis of nice skin for men, and it is essential to choose mild products," he adds.

Traditionally, skincare products marketed at men have included lotions that have high menthol and alcohol content to give a refreshing feeling after use. However, these can irritate the skin. Dr. Shimokata recommends products that are marketed for all sexes.

As the world agonizes over Putin's War, we grow tired of overt displays of masculinity and outdated ideas about what is 'macho'. The preference for genderless products is likely to keep growing going forward.

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