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Gender Inclusive Makeup and the Redefinition of the Beauty Industry

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. Andrews chapter.

We have all walked into the hygiene section of a major supermarket only to find monolithic signs that separate the women and men’s sections, physically, and symbolically. Whenever I buy a deodorant, I always laugh at the stark contrast between those intended for women, often pink and using flowery language such as “gentle rose” (how a rose can be gentle is another question entirely), and men’s deodorants, which are often stubbornly devoid of any colour (with the exception of black and grey) shouting titles like “RUGGED SURVIVAL” from across the aisle. While we like to find humour in it, when we consider it from a different perspective, gender division is so deeply ingrained in our society that we hardly ever question why men would never buy from the ‘pink’, female section of the store, even if the products are essentially the same as those “for” men.

For years, the beauty industry has catered to gender binaries in its marketing strategy, further reinforcing the larger narrative that gender is always clearly defined and should, in fact, separate society, especially when it comes to cosmetics. However, this has not always been the case historically, and it seems that in recent years we are returning to earlier forms of more gender inclusive makeup and beauty. Brands are pushing for more gender inclusive beauty practices, often eschewing the pink vs. grey divide in marketing, and celebrities are challenging gender binaries in an increasingly public way. Harry Styles is the obvious example as he often blurs the divide between traditionally male and female fashions, such as on the cover of the December 2020 issue of Vogue where he rocked a custom-made blue Gucci dress and jacket, replete with lace and all the frills you could want. Most of Harry’s on-stage outfits merge male fashion with typically feminine silhouettes, allowing him to express himself unconstrained by gendered stereotypes.

We have grown up with fashion and makeup being a feminine industry which is why it is so refreshing when stars, such as Harry Styles, break traditional gender norms. However, it was not until the 19th century and the restrictive religious values of the Victorian era that this taboo first developed. For centuries, from history as far back as Ancient Egypt, makeup was not reserved for a specific gender. In 4000 BCE, men wore black pigment around their eyes in dramatic shapes – an early form of eyeliner which served as a symbol of status within their society. In Ancient Rome, men would also apply early forms of cosmetics such as blush and skin powder. Of course we cannot leave out the court of Louis XIV in 18th century France, where every new outfit was more extravagant than the last. The King was known for his bold makeup looks, his high heels, and his even higher wigs, which his court then emulated (I just know they had a fashion show strut down the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles).

In recent years, as gender fluidity has become more and more accepted and as brands cater to a new audience that seeks more gender-inclusive products, the beauty industry is slowly being reclaimed as a gender neutral endeavour. I believe makeup and fashion should represent fun experimentation as well as symbols of self-expression. This is why I think it is so important for the industry to continue promoting beauty as a performance for oneself rather than a performance for others – as L’Oréal exemplifies in its slogan “Because I’m Worth It.” Gender inclusivity is redefining the beauty industry, and as consumers we should continue challenging brands to break from traditional gender stereotypes and instead promote an inclusive, fun environment of self-expression.

Dakota Bennett

St. Andrews '24

Dakota Bennett is a third-year at the University of St Andrews, studying International Relations and Social Anthropology. As an Australian that grew up in Paris, Dakota loves to debate different perspectives and is excited to discuss everything from the latest world news to the history of fashion trends. In her free time (see also: procrastination), Dakota is most likely baking cupcakes, facetiming her dogs, or dancing around her room to Hozier.