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Gender-blurring beauty: How brands can tap into niche categories

Chloe Burney
15 January 2024

When examining the beauty industry, particularly in the UK, it is clear that the industry is reconsidering gendering products. Thanks to cultural influences reinvigorating the category, unisex products are becoming something of the past, superseded by niche categories such as boundary-blurry cosmetics and male-specific products promoting self-expression.

TheIndustry.beauty's latest report, produced in partnership with BigCommerce, outlines the key trends for brands and retailers to adopt and adapt to future-proof their business for 2024 and beyond. The report asks businesses to rethink categorising products and tapping into new niches to open new revenue streams.

For example, men’s cosmetic brands are moving into high growth mode thanks to trends from Asian markets like Korea and influential celebrities such as Harry Styles.

Following suit, mainstream cosmetics brands - including the likes of Revolution Beauty, Benny Hancock for men and Charlotte Tilbury - have expanded their ranges to offer gender-defying cosmetics.

Most businesses in this category focus on targeted products like BB creams and male-focused foundations are adding to a man’s beauty vocabulary and tapping into the desire to enhance and hide without the connotations of gender and caring about what others think.

Shakeup shakes up the men’s cosmetics category

One emerging disruptor brand is Bath-based Shakeup. The company was founded in 2020 by twin brothers Jake Xu and Shane Carnell-Xu. The Chinese British pair were inspired by the massive rise in men’s beauty in Asia and the K-pop market.

After realising the gap in the market, they founded Shakeup to provide affordable, innovative, and solution-driven, skincare and cosmetic products for men.

Shakeup’s flagship men’s product was its BB cream, which is number one on the Chinese mega online shop TMall, beating Lab Series, Kiehl’s, L’Oréal Men Expert and Boy de Chanel. It currently sells one BB cream every eight minutes in the Chinese market.

War Paint infiltrates the market

Another example of entering the overlooked men’s cosmetics category is War Paint. Men’s make-up brand War Paint has been a trailblazer in the space and in 2020 was backed by leading retail investor True to enable its expansion.

Founded by Danny Gray in 2018 and born out of his own experience of wearing his sister’s make-up after being bullied for his acne as a teenager, the brand is now sold via its own channels and in branches of John Lewis across the UK, proving that this market is not just an edgy niche but can go truly mainstream.

Harry Styles’ Pleasing blurs boundaries

Pop megastar Harry Styles is one of a multitude of celebrities to venture into beauty. However, he may be one of the few that focuses on blurring boundaries. Pleasing began in 2021 with a range of nail polish for men and women and those who identify as neither.

Last year, Pleasing opened a month-long pop-up in London to mark its first anniversary and festive season. The pop-up offered a variety of in-store exclusives, as well as the opportunity to customise nail polish sets and rediscover pieces from past collections.

To gain more insights into the tech and trends every ecommerce professional should know for 2024 in beauty, download TheIndustry.beauty's latest report here.


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