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Gender Pricing: The cosmetics controversy

Deo think women should pay more than men for cosmetics? They already do. 

Women pay more for cosmetics than men. You may think that’s obvious, after all women tend to use more cosmetics than men, and find more uses for them. But no, the fact is that females pay more for comparable cosmetics than males do - a staggering 31% more on average, a study by the Fawcett Society found. 

That means own-brand shavers, moisturisers, and all manner of bits and pieces that keep you clean and fresh, cost more for women - simply because they are marketed to girls, ladies, lasses. Same size, same quality, same ingredients, just a higher price, and possibly pink...

This phenomenon is known as gender pricing, or sometimes the Pink Tax. All over the world women are charged a higher price for everyday items, including, but not reserved to, cosmetics. In 1994 the State of California estimated that women effectively paid an annual gender tax of $1,351USD (£1091.19) through the practice of the gender based pricing of services.  

Back in the UK, a study by The Times found that women pay 37 per cent more for identical products, ranging from jeans to children’s toys. And, considering that women get paid on average 9 per cent less than men, that is a staggering figure.

Equality campaigner Stevie Wise was outraged when she realised women were paying through the nose for things men weren’t. So she fought to get a major pharmacy and cosmetics chain to level its prices on comparable cosmetic products - and with some success. But Stevie doesn’t think this goes far enough.

“Ultimately it has to be about the retailers being far more honest with their customers. Products in supermarkets in particular are often separated according to gender, making it really difficult to make price comparisons.

“The marketing on the products is misleading in making it seem as though the products are completely different, when they are not. This has to change - it's insulting to customers and people are really starting to challenge it - retailers need to catch up.”

As Stevie suggests, people are getting wiser to this kind of pricing disparity, and calling for more unisex products, where the ingredients, purpose and quality of the product is the same for both men and women.

She says “It's really clear that many products are gendered purely because it makes the manufacturers and retailers more money. Ultimately, people should be able to make choices about what they buy and, at the moment, those choices are taken away from us”

And it’s only right. Prices should be based on the products, ingredients and services that we receive. When it comes to deodorants, the products we use tend to do the same thing. Namely stopping us smell.

Cosmetic scientist and Lush co-founder Helen Ambrosen explains: “Gender isn’t something we consider when we create deodorants, it is functionality. Everyone can use the powders and then spray perfume on their body depending on how they want to smell.”

After all, we all sweat, and the way we keep it under control is largely the same.

Helen says: “Fundamentally, we all sweat. If anyone doesn’t bathe they begin to smell. A lot of it is to do with culture, climate, activity level, and all those types of things. We’re not that different really.”

And when it comes to pricing, Helen explains it’s all about the products and the ingredients inside them.

“First of all: does the product work and will the customer be pleased with it? Then we look at what we put in it. It is all based on the ingredients and the product. When you are putting essential oils like rosewood and sandalwood in a product you have to work around that and find the best price.”

So, whether it’s deodorant, shavers, body sprays or shampoo, using unisex products makes sense for your body and your pocket.

"Gender isn’t something we consider when we create deodorants, it is functionality." Helen Ambrosen, Co Founder and Cosmetic Scientist

Comment (1)
1 Comment


about 3 years ago

I'm glad lush doesnt do gender pricing. its my biggest bug bear in life.
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