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Shaving Cream and Sexism: What is the Pink Tax and Why Does It Exist?

Like many college students, I am a little hard for money. My part-time minimum wage job provides me just enough to buy the basic cosmetic necessities and snacks I need to get through each two-week pay period. So naturally when I ran out of shaving cream, I looked for the cheapest option, no name brand required. The cheapest I found was the classic Barbasol, under $2 in local stores. I didn’t think too much about it being “made for men.” After all, I had read in a Cosmopolitan article that  supposedly men’s shaving cream and razors are better to prevent razor bumps, so I saved the dollar and a half.

I choose to shave fairly regularly and despite the awkward, rough shave I manage in the dorm shower stalls, I have noticed a significant difference. I haven’t encountered one razor bump, ingrown hair, or cut since. So it is true, I had a little epiphany one day in the shower, men’s shaving products seem to work better (or at least  it is exactly the same). So why are hygiene products clearly directed at men significantly cheaper than those marketed to attract women?

It is common knowledge that women are charged a “pink tax”, meaning that products aimed at female consumers cost more, so much so that women are charged an extra $1,351 every year. I found that the pink tax on shaving products is rather alarming. For example, I looked at Gillette products at www.walmart.com.


Ingredients: Water/Eau, Palmitic Acid, Triethanolamine, Isopentane, Glyceryl Oleate, Stearic Acid, Glycerin, Fragrance/Parfum, Isobutane, Sorbitol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Peg-90M, Menthol, BHT, Peg-23M, Propylene Glycol, Glyceryl Acrylate/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, PVM/MA Copolymer, Green 3, Blue 1.

The Gillette Fusion ProGlide Sensitive 2 shave gel cost approximately $0.83 per oz.

Ingredients: Water/Eau, Glycerin, Palmitic Acid, Triethanolamine, Isopentane, Glyceryl Oleate, Stearic Acid, Fragrance/Parfum, Isobutane, Sorbitol, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Panthenol, PEG-90M, PEG-23M, BHT, Tocopheryl Acetate, Glyceryl Acrylate/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter Extract, PVM/MA Copolymer.


Now, look at the “women’s” equivalent, Gillette Venus with a Touch of Olay shave gel. Notice I underlined all the ingredients it shares with the “mens” one. They are virtually the same product minus the scent and coloring (hence the term pink tax), however the Gillette Venus cost about $1.28 per oz. That’s over 1.5 times more per oz. Half a dollar more might not seem like such an over charge off hand, but since this product comes in a 6 oz canister, a woman is paying almost three dollars more for the exact same product.


Razors yielded the same results:


Without the sale price these razors would be $1.78 per unit…


…while the pink version costs $2.33 per unit.

The pink tax is fairly obvious and clearly ridiculous, so why does it still exist? In most states, it’s nothing criminal in charging a woman more for the same service or product as a man. The laws that do exist to avoid the pink tax are on state and local levels, and only passed  recently. According to CNN Money, “In 1995, California became the first state to ban gender-based price differences for services like hair salons and dry cleaners. New York City brought in a similar law in 1998, banning gender-based pricing and requiring business owners to explain any differences in prices that appear to be based on gender. Fines start at $250 for a first offense. The city issued 129 violations to businesses in 2015.”

Handfuls of people do speak out about unfair pricing of gendered products, however companies do not feel any economic pressure to change. Products are made with the idea that if women will pay more for something to be pink and vanilla scented then they can be charged more. Yes, that is how it works in a free market but Michael Cone brilliantly puts it: “A perfect market would theoretically achieve that result, but in the real world free markets are imperfect.  Free markets can also be distorted through advertising campaigns which, instead of conveying important information about the product, prey on consumers’ emotions and insecurities (“If you want to be a pretty princess, buy this pink dress!”)”.       

So what can you do? Simply not shaving or using men’s products is one solution, but that ignores the pink tax rather than dissolving it. You also can boycott companies that charge women more for identical products and pressure your city or state to step up and ban gender-based price differences.

For more information about the movement against the pink tax or how the pink tax may be affecting you or your friends check out: http://www.pink.tax/

Lila Holland

Agnes Scott '22

Lila Holland was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina. Passions and hobbies include fashion, speech and debate, mock trial, crafting, creative writing, advocating for eating disorder and anxiety awareness and treatment, and her bearded dragon Mushu and pit mix Rocky. After graduating the International Baccalaureate program at Irmo High School in 2018 she left to Attend Agnes Scott College. She is currently a Junior Majoring in Political Science, minoring in philosophy. She hopes to bring a serious, relevant, and informative aspect to Her Campus.
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