The Gender (Spending) Gap

The Gender (Spending) Gap

A recent study published in the January issue of Consumer Reports found that drugstore products marketed at women can cost up to 50% more than their male counterparts. This is true across the board, from deodorant to body wash to shampoo. For example, in the realm of shaving cream, Consumer Reports found that Barbasol Original for men cost 15 cents per ounce, whereas Barbasol’s Pure Silk for women cost nearly double, at 26 cents per ounce.

Is this pure discrimination? In the case of Barbasol, the culprit was manufacturing costs—since the majority of women shave in the shower, the can of women's shaving cream needed to have a rustproof bottom. Many other companies justify the higher prices for women by pointing to a perceived added value in the products targeted at females. In the case of Nivea body wash, the “skin-sensation technology” of the women's body wash supposedly accounted for the $2 steeper price tag than the men’s version.

Some tips to close the spending gap:

Ignore Gender Labeling

Compare the active ingredients in each version of the product, and if they are the same, just buy the cheaper one. Women's products are often very similar to the men's versions, with the addition of sleek packaging and more fragrance. If you can look past the perceived added value, you’ll save yourself some cash.

Buy Brands That Don’t Practice Price Discrimination

On a recent trip to CVS, we found several his-and-hers products with equal price tags:

  • Body Wash: Suave Men for Men Refreshing Body Wash vs. Suave Naturals Sweet Pea & Violet Indulgent Body Wash, both $2.99 for 12 oz.
  • Shampoo: L’Oreal Vive Pro for Men vs. L’Oreal Vive Pro Nutri Gloss (in pink bottle), both $5.29 for 13 oz.
  • Antiperspirant: Mitchum Smart Solid in Greenwood vs. Mitchum for Women Smart Solid in Rosepetal, both $5.29 for 2.5 oz.

Let Your Money Do the Talking

Sure, you could start a letter-writing campaign to the heads of Neutrogena, Unilever, and others, but your greatest weapon is the power of your dollar. By basing your buying decisions on price and product rather than on packaging, you’re sending a message through your spending.


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