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Is the 'Pink Tax' Still a Problem?

Women's personal care products still cost 13% more on average than those marketed to men. But some retailers are stepping up with more equal pricing.
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If you've noticed that products marketed toward women tend to have higher prices than gender-neutral items, you aren't imagining things. This is the so-called "pink tax," or the difference in pricing between goods and services that are marketed to men and women.

In recent years, brands like Boxed and Billie have made a big deal about helping you avoid the pink tax. But have these retailers made a difference in gender-based pricing — and can they help you save?

We look at current prices on a handful of personal care products from major retailers and popular shave clubs, to see what today's shoppers can expect.

What We Know About the Pink Tax

A 2015 study by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs reviewed nearly 800 products that were marketed to women and men. And, while some price discrepancies can be written off as a difference in the products themselves, DCA specifically compared prices of items with similar materials and construction.

The data is clear: Women's products cost an average of 7% more than similar men's items, and in some product categories the price difference is even greater. The most egregious price differences are in personal care products, which cost an average of 13% more for women. Of personal care products, hair care had the biggest price discrepancy. In this category, DCA found that women's products cost an average of 48% more than men's products.

Women's hair care products cost an average of 48% more than men's products.

These price differences go beyond the pink razors you'll find on the shelves of your local grocery store. From childhood to old age, women are paying more. Toys and accessories for girls — which are typically pink — cost an average of 7% more than their non-pink variants for boys. Senior and home health care products cost an average of 8% more for women than for men. In total, women are estimated to spend thousands of dollars more during their lifetimes because of the pink tax.

What Does the Pink Tax Cost You?

We compared six different personal care products — two razors and four body washes — at seven different retailers, plus three shave clubs for additional razors. While it's a much smaller look at products than the New York City study, what's clear is that pricing isn't as simple as men's products costing less than women's products.

SEE ALSO: Your Shopping Apps Should Match Your Lifestyle

As any smart shopper might expect, prices vary from retailer to retailer, and specifics like product size and scent could make a significant difference — sometimes a much bigger difference than whether the products were marketed toward men or women.


Pink Razor

Razors Cost 8% More for Women

Shave clubs use their own house-brand razors — typically five-blade razors — that ship with a package of four blade cartridges. To make an even comparison with store brands, we looked at two five-blade Gillette razors: the Venus Embrace for women and the Fusion5 ProGlide for men. We checked prices for 4-packs of razor cartridges when available, though some bulk retailers only sold them in larger packages (which brought the per-unit price down).

Here's what each razor cartridge cost:

  • Walmart: $4.49 for women, $4.27 for men
  • Target: $4.50 for women, $4.50 for men
  • Walgreens: $4.50 for women, $5 for men
  • CVS: $5.75 for women, $5.62 for men
  • Amazon: $4.49 for women, $4.27 for men
  • Costco: $3 for women, $2.50 for men
  • Billie Subscription: $2.25 for women
  • Dollar Shave Club Subscription: $2.25 for men
  • Harry's Subscription: $2.25 for men

The gender-based price difference for razors was small overall, with only a few retailers charging prices for men and women that differed by more than 25 cents. And while women looking to save can always buy men's razors, picking the right place to shop will actually save you more.

While women looking to save can always buy men's razors, picking the right place to shop will actually save you more.

Walmart, Target, CVS, and Amazon all offered equal (or almost-equal) pricing. At Walgreens, women's razors actually cost less. This is despite the fact that none of those retailers take any particular stand on the pink tax issue. And Billie, which advertises itself as an alternative to paying the pink tax, simply sells economical razors — with a few women-friendly features — for the same price as the subscription club competition.


beauty items

Watch Out for Gender-Targeted Body Wash

While it's fairly easy to compare razors based on blade count, other personal care products have a lengthy ingredient list that makes them tough to compare in an apples-to-apples manner. We compared four popular body washes, two with more feminine marketing and two with more masculine marketing. On the women's side, we looked at Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash and Olay Ultra Moisture Shea Butter Body Wash. On the men's side, we looked at Dove Men+Care Clean Comfort Body and Face Wash and Old Spice Pure Sport Body Wash.

The Dove Men+Care brand was more expensive than any other body wash we looked at.

We expected the pricing on the two Dove products to be fairly similar, despite the fact that the Deep Moisture Body Wash is in a curved white-and-blue bottle and the Men+Care body wash is in an angular black bottle. However, the Dove Men+Care brand was more expensive than any other body wash we looked at, a trend that held no matter the scent or style.

While the Men+Care Clean Comfort style was the cheapest at most retailers, it still averaged 44% pricier than the rest of our list. Men+Care advertises itself as a face and body wash, but with an ingredient list that's relatively similar to other body washes we considered, it's up to you whether that's worth a 44% price jump.

Here's what each body wash cost:

  • Walmart: $0.27/oz. (Dove), $0.23/oz. (Olay), $0.33/oz. (Men+Care), $0.21/oz. (Old Spice)
  • Target: $0.27/oz. (Dove), $0.23/oz. (Olay), $0.33/oz. (Men+Care), $0.23/oz. (Old Spice)
  • Walgreens: $0.42/oz. (Dove), $0.30/oz. (Olay), $0.47/oz. (Men+Care), $0.28/oz. (Old Spice)
  • CVS: $0.39/oz. (Dove), $0.41/oz. (Olay), $0.48/oz. (Men+Care), $0.29/oz. (Old Spice)
  • Amazon: $0.25/oz. (Dove), $0.23/oz. (Olay), $0.33/oz. (Men+Care), $0.22/oz. (Old Spice)
  • Costco: $0.13/oz. (Olay)
  • Boxed: $0.24/oz. (Dove), $0.21/oz. (Olay)

In this data, we see most body washes running around the same price — except for the one with "men" in its name. Even though Old Spice's marketing is extremely masculine, its price is in line with similar women's body washes. This suggests that the explicit gender branding of a product — either for men or for women — could be a warning that you're paying too much.

SEE ALSO: You're Getting Less Than You Think With These 6 Things

As with razors, the cost difference between retailers is significant. Doing a price comparison on your favorite product is more likely to get you a good deal than simply grabbing a gender-branded item.

Is Charging Women Different Prices Legal?

For the most part, this is completely legal. Several states have laws prohibiting gender-based pricing on services, such as dry cleaning or haircuts. However, you just have to read over the state of Vermont's suggestions to businesses about gender-based pricing to see how helpful these laws are.

Instead of saying that services for men and women should cost the same, the document recommends using gender-neutral factors to set prices. So instead of offering differently priced women's haircuts and men's haircuts, a salon might base pricing on time, stylist experience, or another factor.

Laws against gender-based pricing don't necessarily mean women are paying less, only that products or services with "men" or "women" in the name must be priced the same.

That means being a smart shopper is your best defense against the pink tax. Take a look at the prices on comparable products marketed toward different genders, and check a few retailers to see who's offering the best deal. And if you find a store charging substantially higher prices for women (or men) — just don't shop there.

Readers, what do you think about the pink tax? Have you found higher prices for gender-specific products when you've gone shopping? Let us know in the comments below!


Contributing Writer

Originally working in IT, Elizabeth now writes on tech, gaming, and general consumer issues. Her articles have appeared in USA Today, Time, AOL, PriceGrabber, and more. She has been one of DealNews' most regular contributors since 2013, researching everything from vacuums to renters insurance to help consumers.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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12 comments
Allyson
Don't read & answer if you think DealNews is doing this article for political motivation!

My two cents: Yes, which is why advertisers have developed a whiskey for women as well as Doritos. 😒

Thanks to Jane Walker, ladies can finally drink scotch
ps://www.washingtonpost.com/...rm=.5434c3fc6d0e[/u


Doritos is developing lady-friendly chips because you should never hear a woman crunch
ps://www.washingtonpost.com/...rm=.70dfd6a049bbrl]
jillrules
are you JILLING me !!!
jillrules
oh my gawd. thank you for opening my EYES.
FlyingNinjaPandas
Short definition of Political- of or relating to government. There are also at least two definitions of "pink-tax."

We have an article here that presents sourced information, at the very least our contributions should reflect that.

Study size too small? The NYC Dept. of Consumer Affairs compared 800 products to find that 42 percent of those geared to women are more expensive. This is explicitly stated in the article! This doesn't mean 42 percent of all products on earth. This doesn't mean that products geared towards men can't be more expensive. This doesn't mean that all the products were identical. Least of all, this is not meant to be viewed in a vacuum.

There are more variables at play than what we were taught in Econ 101. If anyone cared to read the study, over 50% of the products [studied] were priced unequally. It aims to bring awareness to the prices we ALL pay, manufacturing choices, marketing, and gender discrimination. It's almost like some people hate saving money.
michael bonebright (DealNews)
To clear up any confusion:

There's no political motivation here; as always, we want to arm our readers with concrete data and practical buying advice, so they can make sound purchasing decisions. If you're buying razors or body wash or anything else, we want to make sure you know which stores are more likely to charge you a higher price on those items.

Thanks for reading!
jb_mn
I could pick and choose products like you did and find just the opposite so stop with the political whining and get back to shopping deals like mentioned below!
Must be a slow blog week?
Ace Sophia
Thank you for this article, which clearly is NOT political garbage, as one troll ridiculously indicated. People should be more aware of the "Pink Tax," which also includes higher import taxes and tariffs on women's compared to men's shoes and other goods.
yoyo___
Thank you for these articles, it's important to recognize one can shop "outside the box" that corporate marketers make for us. Men's vs. Women's products are often a false distinction.
juneternal
Stop posting these kinds of political garbage on shopping site.
WiiMaster
Does anyone else find it funny that an article about the "pink tax" found the biggest discrepancy in products checked to be against men? Is that a "blue tax"?

That aside, the so-called "tax" where it can be found is easily explained by different buying habits of men and women. Most women will pay more for a specific scent, color, or suggested feature, for example, than most men. That's why stores like Bath and Body Works cater almost exclusively to women.
JoeSchmoeIsAlive
Oh, the poor women. There should be a law!
Pink tax? This is a case of supply and demand. Women buy more such items and but more importantly are less price sensitive than men. And retailers charge what the market will bear.