Self-care Should Be Seen as Gender Neutral, And Here’s Why.

According to Allied Market Research, the Men’s skincare market has one of the highest potentials for growth within the beauty industry. By 2022, the men’s personal skincare market is expected to garner $166 Billion.  A 2019 Statista report also states that skincare had the highest revenue in the men’s personal care market with deodorant coming in a close second.


To get a sense of men’s overall relationship with self-care, Dove did a poll on men. And as it turns out, 7 out of the 10 men questioned said that skin care is only important because it helps them look good and succeed professionally as well as personally. However, self-care was not something mentioned. The men also admitted within this poll to putting more effort into their appearance for an interview versus a date.


Moreover, only about 37% of men use skincare daily, and only 32% use skincare on a daily basis (Statista, 2017; Huffington post, 2017). Well, if men find skincare important because of the advantage it affords, why don’t many of them use it very often? Given the concerns of men from the Dove poll, it seems that many men are only seeing skincare as a means to an end, not a source of relaxation, self-gratification, or self-care. For many men, skincare is perceived as a necessity that should be used every once and awhile, not an everyday delight. In general, the fact that men see skincare as a necessity is good for sales, but what does their rejection of it as self-care say about society and masculinity?


Does Western society project self-care as something that opposes masculinity? Well, when it comes to marketing, we mostly see skincare being marketed as self-care to women, and that is very telling. Cultural gender norms are not only reflected by products and their marketing, but they are also formed by them (McIntyre, 2019). Consumer goods are not only the result of cultural beliefs about gender; they also create notions of what is masculine, feminine, and even gender-neutral (McIntyre, 2019). Therefore, skincare, campaigns, and cosmetic packaging does major work in reinforcing the gender binary (McIntyre, 2019). While the idea of skincare being self-care should be gender neutral, it is not.


When it comes to self-care for men, options like the gym, taking time to be alone, hiking, or leisurely activities that allow him to distract and repress his emotions are offered (Men’s Health, 2018). And when it comes to the option of meditation, men are still not encouraged to address feelings (Men’s Health, 2018). Due to this, Healthline also describes normalizing self-care for men as crucial in a 2020 article (Doty, 2020). Men are taught to isolate their emotions, channel their feelings into something physical, or to just not think about it. Men are not conditioned to connect with themselves. And while doing skincare doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re connected with yourself, skincare is often marketed this way. Whether or not skincare is actually meditative is subjective, but the point is this: men are often excluded from social messaging around connecting with oneself when it comes to the beauty industry.


The picture shows a self-care manual for men. The book is blue and gold, and it says self-care for men: "how to look good and feel great."


However, in truth, there is nothing anti-masculine about connecting with your emotions or taking the time to improve your self-worth apart from the accomplishments you’ve made. When you learn to look after your skin, you also learn to prioritize yourself and your well-being. In a world where productivity is king, too often, “we neglect the importance of doing small things to make ourselves feel happy. Skin care is an easy and everyday step onto the pathway of practicing much more significant acts of self-care (Dermatology Medical Group, Inc.)”


Whereas toxic masculinity is rooted in a dynamic of inadequacy, superiority, and deservingness, self-care is rooted in intrinsic value independent of one’s accomplishments or ability to compete. We have to change our ideas and begin to project self-care as gender neutral. Because knowing your worth and connecting with yourself is not a part of the gender binary.