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How it works:

  • Share your skin goals and snap selfies

  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

Why you should take a gender-neutral approach to skincare

When it comes to treating acne, it’s about more than male versus female.

Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar

Stephanie Papanikolas
Oct 25, 2019 · 6 min read

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We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.
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Despite what gender-based marketing might make you think, the medical differences between the skin of someone born male or female are just one factor that contributes to the overall picture of our individual skin health. Skincare issues for any person regardless of their sex assigned at birth can be perplexing, especially where acne is concerned. The truth is, a gender-neutral skincare routine can be a great way to maintain the health of your skin. 

What is gender-neutral skincare?

“Gender neutrality” means being inclusive of everyone, no matter their gender identity or expression. To be gender-neutral means to avoid traditional markers that might signal to be more masculine or feminine. For example, parents who want a gender-neutral baby shower might avoid exclusively pink or blue decorations and use yellow instead.

When it comes to skincare, marketing, packaging, and fragrances can gender products toward men or women. Ironically, though, there’s typically no medical reason that a product marketed toward—or even formulated for—men can’t be used by women and vice versa. A product marketed toward women with oily skin can also work for men with oily skin.

While we’re on the topic of medical science, there are some broad general differences between cisgender men’s and women’s skin when it comes to the practice of dermatology:

  • Some studies found that cisgender men’s skin is generally thicker than women’s.¹

  • Cisgender men also tend to be oilier, producing more sebum

  • More cisgender women are afflicted with acne compared to men²—the exact reason is unknown, but it probably has to do with a variety of factors including hormones, cosmetic use, and diet.

That said, most skincare products can be genderless and unisex—just put it in neutral packaging, and voilà. What matters is identifying what your unique skin needs to be happy, and that is gender-blind.

Hormonal acne causes

Hormonal acne can result when androgen hormones (such as testosterone) tell the sebaceous glands to ramp up oil production. These hormones are present naturally in everyone, regardless of sex assigned at birth. In fact, hormonal acne is often linked with the menstrual cycle due to the hormonal fluctuations that occur.³

Trans men undergoing hormone replacement therapy may experience an increase in acne breakouts, despite a decrease in menstruation.⁴ This is just one example of the complex role our gender identities and presentations can play in our skin’s health.

Hormones can play a big part in our breakouts, but so can other factors like bacteria, genetics, and diet. That means treatments that don't specially target hormones are often still a necessary part of treating hormonal acne. That said, some birth control pills and an anti-androgen pill called spironolactone can help with the hormonal aspect of acne. You can talk to your medical provider if you’re interested in learning more about whether this is right for you. 

The pink tax in skincare

The pink tax describes an economic phenomenon where gendered products tend to be more expensive when they’re marketed toward women. It’s called the pink tax because the item’s color—or even the packaging’s color—is often the only true difference between a “men’s” and “women’s” product. 

Concept for pink tax showing pink and black razor aimed at specific genders with different price tags

When it comes to skincare, how you express your gender may play a role in your skin concerns. For example, if you love full-coverage makeup, thoroughly removing products that contain pore-clogging ingredients (or, even better, avoiding these ingredients entirely) can influence the condition of your skin. 

Curology and the trans community

Curology is proudly trans-inclusive—our licensed dermatology providers are experienced in caring for transgender people, including those undergoing hormone therapy. If you’re currently transitioning or considering transitioning, Curology’s providers can help your skin with the power of telemedicine. And—good news!—acne in trans patients often responds to similar treatments as acne in cisgender patients,⁵ which means that prescription acne treatments like Curology can help!

It is worth noting, however, that everyone’s skin is unique, and acne in trans men undergoing testosterone therapy (T therapy) can be treatment-resistant, meaning you might need more than topical treatment to help fight your breakouts. If that sounds familiar, you’re welcome to try Curology, but our providers may recommend finding an in-person dermatology provider for a more intensive approach. Isotretinoin (formerly known by the brand name Accutane) can clear severe and treatment-resistant acne when other treatments fail, but it cannot currently be prescribed via telemedicine. 

Four gender-neutral brands we love

Here’s a list of truly genderless skincare brands we feel good about recommending. (Spoiler alert: We’re one of them!) 

  • Asarai: Naturopath-developed skincare packaged in gender-neutral bright yellow, this brand uses Australian botanicals like Kakadu plum, red and white clays, and rainforest lime fruit extract.

  • Aesop: Another Australian beauty brand, Aesop is all about fine-tuning skincare products using plant-based and laboratory-made ingredients with efficacy and safety. Aesop began in 1987 and maintains a strong and loyal following built on trust and product authenticity.

  • Panacea: A minimalist’s utopia, Panacea’s three-bottle skincare line cleanses, replenishes, and protects. Panacea uses key ingredients to create lightweight formulas for all skin types, including sensitive and acne-prone skin. 

  • Curology: We’re a subscription skincare company founded by dermatologists. Our licensed dermatology providers create customized skincare formulas for your unique skin type—regardless of gender. We use cruelty-free, vegan ingredients with proven acne-fighting and anti-aging benefits to treat, heal, and protect your skin. 

Four reasons to use gender-neutral products

Your personal care products should be designed to work with your skin type, not your gender. Gender-neutral skincare products shift the focus from what gender you identify as or sex organs you were born with to your skin type, skincare goals, and daily routine. Using genderless products also: 

  • Allows you to focus on the specifics of your skin. 

  • Allows you to choose the best products for you, including cleansers, moisturizers, and corrective formulas.

  • Allows you to get care for your skin without worrying about marketing strategies that separate products by gender—and, bonus, no pink tax!

  • Allows you to optimize your skincare routine as your skin changes throughout your lifetime.

Inclusive and accessible skincare

Acne doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all solution, but a skincare product line that can grow and change as you do can help. Curology is proud to be changing the face of self-care with our custom approach to treatment. Get access to prescription skincare with a customized cream formulated with active ingredients meant to target concerns like acne, dark spots, and rosacea. Because taking care of your skin should be part of your overall wellness plan.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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At this time, Curology products are only available through a Curology subscription. So, if you’re acne-prone, sign up for Curology for a complete non-comedogenic skin routine. Sign up for a free trial and pay just $4.95 (plus tax) to cover the cost of shipping and handling on your first shipment today.

FAQs

What is gender-neutral skincare?

“Gender neutrality” means being inclusive of everyone, no matter their gender identity or expression. To be gender-neutral means to avoid traditional markers that might signal to be more masculine or feminine. For example, parents who want a gender-neutral baby shower might avoid exclusively pink or blue decorations and use yellow instead.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Rahrovan, S., et al. Male versus female skin: What dermatologists and cosmeticians should know. International journal of women's dermatology. (2018). 

  2. Skroza, N., et al. Adult Acne Versus Adolescent Acne: A Retrospective Study of 1,167 Patients. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. (2018). 

  3. Elsaie, M.L. Hormonal Treatment of Acne Vulgaris: An Update. Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology. (September 2016).

  4. Yeung H., et al. Dermatologic Care for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Persons. Part II. Epidemiology, Screening, and Disease Pr

  5. evention. Journal of American Dermatology. (March 2019). 

  6. Yeung, H., et al. Dermatologic care for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons: Epidemiology, screening, and disease prevention. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2019).

This article was originally published on October 25, 2019, and updated on July 20, 2022.

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary. 

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar

Stephanie Papanikolas

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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