Skin is skin. It functions the same way regardless of your gender. Yes, of course there is body hair, especially beards, which influence the way we like to look after our skin. But skin still functions in the same way.
So what is the difference between a product for men and one for women?
Products are largely created for a specific gender because we like to feel we are buying something made specifically for us. Well, let me break it to you… you can buy any skincare product on the market, your skin will not know the gender written on the label.
But what about scent?
Our scent preferences are very subjective – what one person finds beautifully floral another person finds sickly sweet.
How does this all work?
The biological aspect
It is now thought that humans can distinguish over a trillion different smells. This is down to the specialised neurons which are found in our nasal passage. What we can smell is determined by our DNA and there are slight variations in this DNA from person to person - for example, some people may not be able to smell camphor (the distinctive smell of tiger balm) and others become perfumers because of their fine sense of smell.
So how we smell things does vary from person to person. Next time you disagree with someone if something smells nice – perhaps you just smell it differently.
The experience aspect
The neural receptors in our nasal passage send the smell information directly to our brain where it is processed in many different places. For example, it is combined with the information provided from our taste buds and our sight when we eat, to give a complete experience. If we have a bad experience with a certain type of food, that smell will be strongly associated with something negative.
Or we are all familiar with how smell can trigger memories – this is when it is combined with other circumstantial information stored in our brain. For example, you smell a perfume and it reminds you of playing in your granny’s house as a child.
The experience aspect also applies to gender - perhaps your whole life your dad wore musty perfume and your mum wore floral perfume – you have this gender association firmly rooted in your brain. This will influence how you smell things because of the strong memory association.
Our scent preferences are therefore built up of a complex web of memories and associations, as well as our specific smell receptors. All these things are biologically gender neutral, but circumstantially may be biased.
Next time you choose a skincare product, try not to look at the name/gender/description before you smell it or try it. You may be surprised that you like something you would normally never have even considered.