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Gender Pricing

The cosmetics controversy

Should women pay more than men for cosmetics?

Well, they already do. It might seem obvious that women pay more for cosmetics; after all, women tend to use more cosmetics than men and find more uses for them. But no, the fact is that females pay more for comparable cosmetics than those that are marketed to men—31 percent more on average, a study by the Fawcett Society found.

That means razors, moisturizers, and other products that keep you clean and fresh, cost more for women. Same size, same quality, same ingredients, just a higher price…and possibly pink.

The pink tax

This phenomenon is known as gender pricing (or the pink tax). All over the world women are charged a higher price for everyday items, including cosmetics. In 1994, the state of California estimated that women paid an annual gender tax of $1,351 because of gender-based pricing.

Equality campaigner Stevie Wise was outraged when she realized women were paying through the nose for things men weren’t. So, she fought to get a major pharmacy and cosmetics chain to level its prices on comparable cosmetic products—and with some success. But Stevie doesn’t think this goes far enough.

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Greg using Don’t Look At Me Face Mask

“Ultimately, it has to be about retailers being far more honest with their customers. Products in supermarkets in particular are often separated according to gender, making it really difficult to make price comparisons.”

“The marketing on the products is misleading in making it seem as though the products are completely different, when they are not. This has to change. It's insulting to customers and people are really starting to challenge it—retailers need to catch up.”

As Stevie suggests, people are getting wiser to this kind of pricing disparity, and calling for more unisex products, where the ingredients, purpose and quality of the product are the same for both men and women.

And this is especially important for transgender and non-binary folks. Many rely on cosmetics to help them be who they are—and when the price is high, this can mean spending loads of money to try out different products, while transphobia often keeps people from choosing the proper products for their skin. Unisex products and pricing would allow everyone to choose based on function alone.

She says, “It's clear that many products are gendered purely because it makes the manufacturers and retailers more money. Ultimately, people should be able to make choices about what they buy and, at the moment, those choices are taken away from us.”

And it’s only right. Prices should be based on the products, ingredients and services that we receive. When it comes to deodorants, the products we use tend to do the same thing. The only thing that’s different is the scent.

We all sweat

Cosmetic scientist and Lush co-founder Helen Ambrosen explains, “Gender isn’t something we consider when we create deodorants, it’s functionality. Everyone can use the powders and then spray perfume on their body depending on how they want to smell.”

After all, we all sweat, and the way we keep it under control is largely the same. “Fundamentally, we all sweat,” Helen says. “If anyone doesn’t bathe they begin to smell. A lot of it is to do with culture, climate, activity level and all those types of things. We’re not that different really.”

And when it comes to pricing, Helen explains it’s all about the products and the ingredients inside them. “First of all, does the product work and will the customer be pleased with it? Then we look at what we put in it. It’s all based on the ingredients and the product. When you’re putting essential oils like rosewood and sandalwood in a product you have to work around that and find the best price.”