Before I worked at Refinery29 I was a sales associate at Equinox where we sold Kiehl's. One day, a male gym member came in asking for "men's skin-care products." I responded, "We don’t carry the Kiehl's mens line here, but everything you can buy works for any gender." Apparently he didn’t believe me, because he left the shop empty handed and disappointed. That, my friends, is the downfall of gender marketing.
Brands have been gendering beauty products for as long as we can remember. A body wash meant for women, for example, will be bright and colorful or covered with flowers. But for a man? The bottle is most likely black, navy, or grey, with a hypermasculine scent of sweat and kettlebells. We live in a gender biased world, and that is just the truth.
The difference is so ingrained in our brains, in fact, that even I nearly dismissed a product by solely on its packaging. It came from Bath & Body Works, known for its massive collection of aromatherapy lotions, washes, and fragrance mists formulated with essential oils to ease stress or a lack of energy. And it’s all amazing. (I swear by the stress relief spray from the existing line to wind me down no matter what kind of day I had.)
But, when I saw that the collection was expanding to include what appeared to be male-targeted products, I ignored it. Why? Because the bottles were black, the formula was a grey color, and the letters were blue. Yeah, that’s all. We've been trained to think this is what categorizes a product as "male" — so I tossed it to the side.
Then after further inspection, I realized it wasn’t — it was just another product in the aromatherapy range that just so happened to feature chamomile and charcoal extract (hence the black packaging). There was nothing gendered about it. My inherent bias labeled the new collection before I could even read what the product was. Even though the other aromatherapy collections look different, does it really matter? After all, I'm well aware that most of the time, the off-the-record difference between men and women beauty products is simply the bottle.
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