I switched to women’s toiletries for a week and realised it’s all a big con
Lady deodorant was an absolute revelation
Men are from Mars, women are from Venus – at least, that’s what the adverts tell us. From the moment we have our very first bath, we’re bombarded by a commercial culture which tells us to stay in our own lane when it comes to grooming.
I’ll admit, I’m one of the most easily duped. If GQ tells me to buy Molton Brown, I’ll buy it – and if a moisturiser doesn’t specifically say it’s for men, there’s a good chance I’m not going anywhere near it.
But what if we’ve all been lied to? What if, apart from the words on the label, there’s as much difference between men’s and women’s soaps and shampoos as there is between pens for boys and pens for girls? To test this theory I decided to go ahead with my weekly routine as normal, but with one simple difference: I’d swap the somewhat manly products I normally use for products, well, For Her.
My first stop was Boots, the UK’s premier pharmacist and stocker of all things pink and lovely smelling. Upon this rock I’d build my heavily perfumed church, so I headed to the toiletries section to arm myself with everything I’d need.
It’s important to note, you don’t get a lot of stuff marketed “for women” – it’s a lot easier to pick out the stuff geared at men, mainly because it will be called something suitably blokey like “BULLDOG” or “AXE” and come packaged in a steely grey container bursting with furious masculinity.
Women’s products, on the other hand, tend to come in two varieties – white milky neutral, and sickeningly vibrant pink. Obviously I went for the latter. I was taken aback by the price of things, a symptom of the so-called Pink Tax – the concept that women are consistently charged more than men for everyday products.
I was also baffled by the amount of products I’d never even heard of, yet alone used. Do you know what micellar cleansing water is? Are you familiar with argan oil? There’s even pink hand sanitiser for women, replete with natural grapefruit extract. I added a bottle to my basket.
With a week’s worth of sundries picked and paid for, I set out to test whether a man can shop like a woman and still somehow, you know, function in exactly the same way.
I started properly the next morning, lathering my hair in “shine seal” radiant conditioner and styling my hair with my Lee Stafford “Messed Up Putty for a Choppy Number,” which felt like a step away from the vague nondescript “putty” I’d usually use from VO5 or the like.
And yet, I was happy with the results. It didn’t look dry, it had the promised amount of “instant, shimmering shine” and “weightless, fluid touch,” and I could actually run my fingers through it without it feeling like a tangled bale of hay (as it normally does).
At work, a male colleague actually took the time to say “your hair looks good today.” No-one ever says my hair looks good. Had Lee Stafford actually changed me for the better?
Energised in my quest and beginning to question whether I’d been blinkered in my only-buys-products-which-say-the-word-man-in-title past, I decided to tackle another genderless routine with some heavily gendered products: it was time to shave.
Usually I use an electric shaver, but this time I went for a Simply Venus manual razor. Full disclosure: it wasn’t a good idea, although that’s probably best blamed on the fact I tried to do it with nothing more than a thin layer of shower gel. In future, I’ll probably stick to shaving foam and save the Venus for if I ever decide to become an Olympic swimmer.
Now, besides aftershave balms and the occasional meeting of flannel and face, skincare isn’t really a big thing for most guys. My use of moisturiser is generally limited to some hastily applied Kiehl’s post-shave to avoid my neck looking like mincemeat come morning.
Thus, in the interest of not straying too far from my normal routine, I merely switched out my usual moisturiser for a generous helping of Soap & Glory Body Butter. It was their “Diamond Edition,” so I expected impressive things.
Except, of course, that “Diamond Edition” merely meant it had glitter in it. I spent the next few hours hiding my sparkling skin from the sunlight like a shit Edward Cullen but hey, at least my face felt soft.
In fact, I felt better than normal in a lot of ways. I was surprised by how much I was beginning to like some of the stuff I was using – I’m convinced women’s deodorant is categorically more effective than its male counterpart, and switching from my safe old blue or green Natural Source shower gel to something a little on the pinker side has been a revelation.
Yep, it’s out with the weird minty stuff that makes your balls uncomfortably tingle, and in with the Sweet Apple and Vanilla Milk. Seriously, it makes you smell like an old-fashioned candy shop in a rustic French village. If I could marry a scent, it would be this.
By the end of the week, I’d fully embraced my new way of life. Why would I want to go back to Lynx Craggy Rock Face™ when I could walk around smelling like fields of strawberries and powdered pearls?
Sure, the heady odour of my women’s hand sanitiser might draw some unimpressed looks in the office, but I was on a roll and I wasn’t going to let my small-minded colleagues kill my buzz.
The thing is, the only reason men want to smell like black pepper and women like blueberries is because that’s just the way things are, because some bloke in a lab 100 years ago probably sat there and said “yep, dudes would benefit from an odour less like fruit and flowers and more like chocolate and gravel.”
Well, no more I say. No more will I let my genitals decide the soap I use, or my chromosomes inform my choice of cologne. It’s a brave new world, and I’m going to enter it smelling like sweet apple and vanilla milk.
If that makes you think I’m less of a man, so be it – you’re the one whose mum still buys you multipacks of Lynx Africa.