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Gilbert House Haig Road Knutsford Cheshire WA16 8DX UK


The rise of gender-neutral fragrance ingredients

by Admin

One emerging trend from 2017 that seems likely to shape the fragrance ingredients market throughout 2018 is the move towards more gender-neutral or unisex fragrances.

With a slew of unisex fragrances hitting the market over the past 12 months, we are increasingly seeing perfumes that are not ‘pour homme’ or ‘pour femme’, but ‘pour l’humain’.

But what are the aroma ingredients at the core of these gender-neutral fragrances, and which will set the standard for unisex aromas in the years to come?

CK One

First, a brief look back to 1994 and the launch of Calvin Klein’s first unisex perfume, CK One, a milestone in the move away from gender-specific aromas that is finally coming to maturity.

The original CK One is a light scent combining citrus fruits and herbs, with notes of orange and lemon, bergamot and papaya – fresh fragrances with no strong historical connections to either gender.

For summer 2017 there was an update, and CK One Summer blended lime and cucumber with distinct peppery notes, an indication of the increased boldness in unisex perfumes over the past 24 years.


Sarah Jessica Parker’s Stash was a decade in the making and draws from Parker’s own lifelong love of men’s fragrances, with base notes of olibanum, massoia wood, vetiver and musk.

At its heart are more iconic aroma ingredients, including patchouli, cedarwood atlas, ginger lily and pistachio, while the blend is topped off with notes of sage, black pepper and grapefruit zest.

The finish again is peppery and citrusy – two of the gender-neutral aromas that come up time and time again – with perennial favourite scents like patchouli, cedarwood and musk underneath.


The gender boundaries are not only blurring in terms of aroma ingredients, of course – the gender divide itself is narrowing in many ways in everyday life.

In 2017, US deodorant brand AXE, the equivalent to the UK’s Lynx, launched its ‘Is it OK for guys…’ campaign, based on real online searches conducted by men worried about everything from wearing pink, to having long hair, to whether they can be the ‘little spoon’ when cuddling.

The campaign coincided with the launch of AXE You, developed by Ann Gottlieb, which layers traditional male woody scents, herbs and spices with coriander and black basil – not a completely gender-neutral fragrance overall, but one that moves a strongly masculine brand much closer to the middle ground.

Picking Up Pace

Finally, the trend towards unisex or ‘shared fragrances’ is not just a flash in the pan, and scents like CK One are no longer a niche category.

In 2016, according to industry monitor Fragrances of the World, there were 923 shared fragrance product launches, compared with 836 women’s perfumes – the first time unisex perfumes have outnumbered female-targeted products.

There are, of course, many more perfumes for women already in existence, but the statistics are an indication partly of where the growth lies in the market right now, but also a possible signpost to a future where gender-neutral fragrances are the norm.

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