Ladies: If Your Moisturizers Seem Overpriced, It’s Because They Probably Are, Science Finds

Woman holding a bottles of skin care products

In a world full of Photoshop and photo filters it can feel hard to keep up appearances, making the cosmetics industry a booming one. There are day creams, night creams, eye creams, serums, scrubs, face masks and more all marketed toward women, and most come with a hefty price tag. But are the ingredients and packaging really that expensive?

A team of Mass General researchers recently published a study in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology that compared the prices of facial moisturizers marketed to men and women. They found that women, on average, pay about three dollars more per ounce of comparable product.

Moisturizers are one of the most widely-used and commonly recommended skin care products for both men and women. “If skin is dehydrated, it can lead to serious problems like eczema and rosacea,” says the study’s lead author Maryanne Senna, MD, from the Department of Dermatology.

So what is the difference between a moisturizer “for men” and one “for women?”

The research team evaluated the packaging, pricing and ingredients of 110 facial moisturizers sold at Amazon, Walmart and Target. Moisturizers were categorized as being marketed to male, female or gender-neutral audiences based on the product’s language, container color/graphics and container curvature/shape.

Of the 54 moisturizers marketed to men, 87% included the word “men” in the marketing language, while only 5.4% of the 56 moisturizers marketed to women were explicitly labeled “for women.”

Researchers did not find any significant difference in the number of products listed as fragrance-free, anti-aging or for sensitive skin.

So is there any difference? According to the team’s research findings, not really. After comparing the packaging, messaging and ingredients, they calculated that women are paying an average of $3.09 more than men per ounce of comparable moisturizer.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon of women paying more than men is not new and is often referred to as the “Pink Tax” because many products for women are pink. There have been several government efforts to combat this discrepancy, but gender-based pricing continues to persist and researchers recommend further studying the prices of over-the-counter skin products.

“Despite some recent government-led efforts to restrict gender-based pricing differences in the retail market, our study shows that discriminatory pricing persists and remains a real issue when it comes to dermatologic products.”

Maryanne Senna, MD

While it may not be possible to beat the pink tax entirely (especially if you don’t want your moisturizer to smell like Old Spice) there are ways you can limit its impact.

Here’s an article with some tips for getting a fairer deal on cosmetics, personal care products, clothing and more:

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