The cost of beauty ain't fair: Everything from deodorant to razors may be more expensive for women. Before you check out, read these money-saving tips
Gender inequalities are widespread and well-reported: From wage gaps and discrimination in sports to your gym bag. That's right, your gym bag.
Head to the drugstore with your guy to restock toiletry essentials (couples that shop together, stay together, right?), and you might notice you outspend him—even if you buy the same stuff. In fact, women all over the globe feel your pain—and have been feeling it for years. A 1995 study conducted in California revealed that women pay approximately $1,351 more per year than men for products (think: toiletries or clothing) that are specifically marketed to ladies. That adds up to almost $100,000 in an average woman's lifetime.
Not fair, right? Well, this gendered-based discrimination in pricing is so widespread it even has a name: the "pink tax" or "women's tax." In some cases, female products are identical or very similar to products made and marketed to men, but still cost more. Here's the kicker: A 2010 Consumer Reports study discovered that shaving cream, antiperspirant, razors, and body wash directed at women—through packaging, description, or name—cost up to 50 percent more than similar products for men!
The worst part is that 20 years later, not much has changed. After this Consumer Reports study came out five years ago, manufacturers responded by saying that women's products cost more to make, use different active ingredients or formulas, or the prices are raised by retailers in exchange for an eye-level spot on the shelf. California was the first and only state to ban gender-based pricing discrimination back in 1996. And despite attempts to expose this issue in the media through YouTube videos, news articles, and Tumblr pages, only New York City and Florida's Miami-Dade County have also prohibited the practice.
So what gives? Traditionally, women take better care of themselves in terms of grooming, but women will also spend more on products because we have been conditioned to do so, explains Emily Spensieri, President of Female Engineered Marketing, an agency that specializes in effectively marketing to women. "It is considered the price of society's pressure to look beautiful," she says. "Marketers have capitalized on the societal pressure and conditioning. Brands charge more for certain products because they can. It is a simple and unpleasant truth." Why can they? Because consumers continue to pay a premium price for these products.
The good news: While gendered-based discrimination in pricing does happen, especially with some grooming products, there are options. Back in the drugstore aisles, follow these three rules before checking out.
1. Be vigilant when you shop. Read labels and pay attention to active ingredients. "Compare women's products to men's products before you make the purchase and buy the men's product if it meets your needs and price point," suggests Spensieri. Some key items to consider: Schick Hydro 5 Razor ($13; drugstore.com) is nearly one dollar cheaper than the women's version Degree Men Antiperspirant and Deodorant ($4, drugstore.com) comes in a slightly larger size and is about 50 cents cheaper than similar women's versions. Plus, it features a clean scent that won't smell too musky. Gillette Series Shave Foam Sensitive Skin ($3, drugstore.com) is 2 ounces larger, but listed as the same price as the women's version for sensitive skin.
2. Challenge manufacturers to explain themselves. In addition to some products, services such as dry cleaning are infamous for costing women more. Don't be afraid to confront the business for answers. Ask for an explanation and change! "Social media is an exceptional platform because one person's voice becomes the voice of many, which marketers must listen to if they hope to keep customers happy," says Spensieri. "That sort of exposure picks up steam and creates noise to which marketers must respond."
How powerful can social media be? Spensieri points out that Target recently changed its store signage to be gender neutral because of a Twitter campaign that was launched by a mom who was frustrated by the fact that toys were labeled girls and boys, when they should simply be labeled "toys." She was tired of the stereotypes being forced upon her daughter.
3. Opt for unisex products or buy in bulk. Unisex products will work for both you and your man, and buying in bulk at places like Costco or Sam's Club can help reduce cost. So stock up on your favorites to help shave dollars off of the total cost or check out some of these unisex products we love: