The Justice Ministry is to allow male prisoners to have face lotion and hair conditioner, which women inmates may already use, in light of changing gender norms, an official said Wednesday.

Under previous rules, the in-prison purchase and gift acceptance of the toiletry items were allowed only for female inmates, based on the notion that those items tend to be used by women.

But the ministry notified prisons nationwide this month that men will be able to obtain those products too under revised rules, a Justice Ministry official said.

"It is our view that steps are increasingly being taken in Japanese society towards eliminating unreasonable gender gaps," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We felt it is necessary to treat prison inmates in a way that would better reflect the changing landscapes of outside society," the official added.

The new rules will take effect beginning next month, he said.

Still, some items will remain off-limits to men, including hair bands and women's sanitary products, the ministry said, adding shampoo and handkerchiefs have long been accessible regardless of gender.