Cracking the pink tax

The real costs of skincare for men vs. women

Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar

Stephanie Papanikolas
Aug 26, 2019 · 4 min read

Dollar bill taped to a pink surface
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.

Hey, you, with the gender identity — did you know that purchases you make are influenced by how you identify, and a lack of gender equality in the personal care industry could be costing you thousands of dollars per year?

Pink tax quick facts

The pink tax gets its name from the fact that many products with gender-biased pricing happen to be pink, but there’s a lot of evidence that gender inequality costs the average woman hundreds of thousands of dollars throughout her lifetime.

In 2015, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs published a case study on the pink tax, finding that, on average, “women’s products cost 7 percent more than similar products for men.” The most egregious industry? Personal care — women pay 13 percent more for personal care products like razors and deodorant than do men.

Want to know how you’ve been impacted? Calculate how much you’ve paid in pink taxes with #AxthePinkTax.

Is there a blue tax?

While women are disproportionately impacted, the pink tax costs both men and women. The NYC Department of Consumer Affairs found “women’s products cost more 42% of the time while men’s products cost more 18% of the time.” Additionally, “In all but five of the 35 product categories analyzed, products for female consumers were priced higher than those for male consumers.”

But the pink tax is about more than just paying more for your pink shaving cream. For example, statistics show that women are paid less than men. This gender wage gap allows the average American man to earn half a million dollars more than a woman throughout her lifetime. Because of the cumulative cost of existing while female, women over 65 are potentially the most vulnerable to being pink taxed.

Making gender discrimination illegal

The Pink Tax Repeal Act would ban the practice of charging higher prices based on gender for products and services. The challenge with trying to regulate a pink or blue tax is that it relies on gender stereotyping to identify a product as “male” and “female.” Because gender is only loosely legally defined as “that which designates the sexes,” this would potentially lead to a lot of legal battles. Opponents to the Pink Tax Repeal Act criticize the bill as “frivolous.” But if you want to do something about the pink tax, you don’t have to wait.

Take your buying power back

Women make 85% of all consumer purchases, according to 2014 trend insights by FONA International. That means that women have the bulk of the buying power and have a big impact on the economy. Because the biggest examples of the pink tax are in personal care products, how we shop for these items can make a huge difference.

If you want to avoid paying extra for products, the EWC recommends double-checking your products with the men’s equivalent. Deodorants and razors are often marked up 50% when marketed towards women — sharing deodorant with your husband can (literally) pay off.

Pink tax infographic "Check before checkout"

Infographic via #AxthePinkTax

You can also choose not to support personal care brands that practice pink taxing thanks to online innovators like Boxed and Billie.

The pink tax in anti-aging skincare

Because personal care products that target women tend to be priced higher, and women over 65 are disproportionately impacted by the pink tax, how does the pink tax influence the cost of anti-aging skincare products? To find out, I compared a few different skincare products using the EWC’s starter, as well as the website SkinCarisma.

I compared glycolic cleansers by 4 different high-end brands: Kate Somerville, Jack Black, Peter Thomas Roth, and Murad. With SkinCarisma, I was able to compare the similarities of the products’ ingredients and benefits. Jack Black, the only skincare brand specifically marketed for men, had the most value. Kate Somerville, the most female-targeted brand, was the most expensive — costing $9.50 per ounce, or an average of 52% more than the alternatives.

I also selected two controls — Murad and Peter Thomas Roth — as potentially gender-defying options, since the packaging of either brand is a little less aggressively male or female. Even though the two products are extremely similar, the pinkish bottle costs $1.34 more per ounce than its orange counterpart.

While it’s impossible to say for certain how much gender influences skincare marketing until more research is done, I know I’ll be thinking twice before making my next pink purchase.

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What gender-neutral skincare looks like

Any product can be “unisex” with the right packaging, but what matters is if it meets your (sk)individual needs. If you want age-defying skin, Curology’s dermatology providers will prescribe you a customized cream for your skin concerns. Sign up for a free trial and choose between the 3-step set or just the custom cream for just $4.95 to cover the cost of shipping and handling.

Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar

Stephanie Papanikolas

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