On top of the persisting gender gap, women also have to deal with being overcharged, even for the most basic drugstore items. Female consumers have long been subjected to gender-based pricing, adorably referred to as the “pink tax” or “woman tax.” There is still no federal law expressly outlawing the practice. It has been banned in some states and cities, but that doesn’t mean the law is commonly enforced. Most shoppers have seen countless cases in which a women’s version of a product has a higher price tag, seemingly just for its pink label.
California, the first state to ban gendered pricing in 1996, reported in 2012 that on average women spend an extra $1,351 per year in extra costs and fees. When applied to all the women in America, that comes to about $151 billion per year in markups. And while the Affordable Care Act finally made gender rating in health insurance illegal, women still face higher health care costs overall. Female consumers also continue to be charged more for haircuts, dry cleaning, cars, car repairs, and mortgages. With researchers now predicting women won’t see equal pay until 2058, there’s no telling how long it will take for gendered pricing to go by the wayside.
The good news is women are getting pissed about it, and not just in America. A group of French activists started a blog on Tumblr solely dedicated to reporting on the woman tax, and writers in the U.K. have expressed similar frustration. So with apparently global outrage on this issue, why has this pricing discrepancy endured for so many years? To put it simply, women buy into it.
After all, female shoppers must be pretty gullible if someone actually thought the “Bic for Her” pen was a smart idea. Women have the power to stop gendered pricing with their own shopping behavior. The problem is, many women still just automatically reach for the version marketed toward women, without examining it for quality, size, and price.
A 2015 New York Times article highlighted how women are starting to catch on and buy men’s products to avoid being overcharged. One skin care brand, Anthony Logistics for Men, even shortened its name in 2014 to reflect its growing popularity with women. Anthony then adopted a new slogan: “Developed for men. Borrowed by women.”
Men’s products can sometimes boast better quality and longevity, on top of being cheaper, so it’s time for ladies to jump on the bandwagon and start buying them. Here are seven drugstore products that have inexplicably higher prices for women.
1. Shaving supplies
According to a 2010 study by Consumer Reports, Barbasol Original or Soothing Aloe for men was priced at 15 cents per ounce, while Barbasol’s Pure Silk for women was 26 cents per ounce. The company’s product manager explained that it actually costs more to manufacturer the women’s shaving cream in this case. “Because 80 percent of women shave in the shower, we wanted to make a can with an aluminum bottom that wouldn’t rust like the Barbasol container,” she said.
However, a BuzzFeed list published in 2014 reported a markup of 9% on Gillette shaving cream just for a fruity scent and shiny pink can. Disposable razors saw a 5% price increase for women. A 2015 KOMU news story found that women pay 54% more for shaving cream with purple packaging, 14% more for Gillette five-blade razors, and 11% more for refill blades.
What many shoppers may not realize is the markup often happens at the store itself. In the Consumer Reports study, a spokesperson for Schick remarked that the company’s blades for men and women are virtually identical and should be priced similarly, yet CVS priced the women’s four-pack of blades at $0.50 more than those for men.
Degree’s antiperspirant deodorant for women has the same percentage of the same active ingredient as the men’s version, according to Consumer Reports. However, a PR spokesperson for Degree claimed, “they are completely different formulations.” While the antiperspirant sticks were the same price at $3.59, the men’s version was 2.7 ounces, while women only got 2.6 ounces. BuzzFeed’s recent report revealed a much larger discrepancy. At a Duane Reade store, a stick of Degree deodorant for women was 4% smaller but cost 55% more than the men’s version. Shoppers at this store had to fork over $6.79 for the women’s product, but only $4.39 for the men’s.
3. Body wash and soap
Nivea body wash for women sells for $2 more at Walgreens than Nivea’s body wash for men, according to Consumer Reports. A marketing manager representing Nivea chalked this up to costly “skin-sensation technology” required to please female customers. BuzzFeed saw a similar 18% difference between Nivea body wash for men and the women’s version, called “Touch of Serenity.” There was also a 14% price increase for simple bars of soap in a pink box, and KOMU found an even bigger 34% price markup on women’s body wash made by the same manufacturer.
4. Shampoos and lotions
Drugstore shampoo, such as Aussie, has a 5% higher price for the women’s bottle, despite having very similar ingredients, BuzzFeed reported. Professional-level quality shampoos like those made by Redken can see a whopping 42% markup. At CVS.com, Gold Bond Ultimate lotion for men is 10% cheaper than the least expensive non-men’s equivalent. In this case, it can be seen as a discount for men, as the non-men’s option doesn’t market to either gender. Neutrogena’s face lotion for women costs $3.88 per ounce, and the men’s equivalent is priced at $3.46 per ounce, a difference of 12%.
Female consumers can pay up to 77% more when shopping in the ladies sections for a simple white T-shirt, according to KOMU’s story. BuzzFeed reported a Hane’s plain white T-shirt for a woman has a 20% higher price. The women’s shirt in question is cut in the same relaxed fit and is significantly smaller in size, requiring less fabric, yet the women’s shirt is $10 and the men’s is $8. Perhaps more women would opt to wear certain apparel designed for men if the sizes weren’t too large for petite women to wear. Retailers like Old Navy have been criticized for charging more for women’s plus-size clothing, but men’s clothing items remain much cheaper across the board, and women’s clothes, while frequently smaller in size, cost much more to dry clean, prompting some ladies to give up on dry cleaning all together.