'Pink Tax' Pushes Prices Up Nearly 13%, Study Shows

Woman buying shampoo at supermarket
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Personal care products targeted at women, like shampoo, razors, body wash, and lotion, cost nearly 13% more than those products targeted at men, according to a new study from The Balance. Razor cartridges and deodorant marketed toward women had the largest markups compared to those products for men, the data showed. The Balance examined the costs of 128 substantially similar products from four major retailers around the U.S. for the analysis. 

Key Takeaways

  • Personal care products targeted at women cost an average of 12.7% more than those similar products targeted at men, a new study from The Balance found.
  • Razor cartridges marketed toward women cost nearly 25% more than those for men.
  • Lotion was the most equally priced product in the analysis.

The "pink tax" is not actually a tax, but is instead a form of gender-based pricing discrimination where some products that are marketed toward women are more expensive than those that are marketed toward men—despite the products being the same, or substantially similar. Legislators have responded to this phenomenon and have introduced the "Pink Tax Repeal Act" which prohibits companies "from selling substantially similar products at different prices based on the gender of the intended purchaser."

Breaking Down the Price Differences

Razor cartridges marketed toward women were the most expensive product analyzed, costing almost 25% more than those marketed toward men. Deodorant was the second most expensive item analyzed in the study, with a price difference of 12.6%.

Razors targeted at female consumers were 9% more expensive, while shaving cream was almost 10% more expensive. Hair care products like shampoo and conditioner were roughly 5% more expensive when marketed toward women instead of men. Lotion was the product with the most gender parity, with a price difference of about 1%.

The pink tax is especially painful for women's wallets as inflation continues to be red hot, hitting fresh 40-year highs in February. The gender pay gap is still an issue, with women only making 82 cents for every dollar a man earns. And because of this pink tax, they may find themselves using a larger portion of their paychecks for personal care products.

Methodology

This analysis drew inspiration from the 2015 report “From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer,” published by the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (now NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection). The Balance analysis looked at the average per-unit price difference between 128 total personal care products which were evenly split between those marketed toward women and men. The Balance analyzed the prices of seven common personal care products: Body wash, deodorant, hair care (shampoo and conditioner), lotion, razors, razor cartridges, and shaving cream. All product prices were analyzed March 9-10, 2022, via the online shopping platforms of pharmacy retailers Walgreens, CVS, Walmart, and Rite Aid. Prices were verified to ensure they reflected the national online market and were not influenced by the site visitor's location. Regional in-store prices for products may vary. Product comparisons were based on the similarity of two products’ active ingredients and their either explicit (gender classification by online retailer) or implicit (product color, shape, language, etc.) gendered marketing.

This article has been updated to include information on the Pink Tax Repeal Act and to clarify that the study focused solely on personal care products. The article was originally published on March 14, 2022.

Research and analysis by
Adrian Nesta
Adrian Nesta, Research Analyst on the Data Journalism team at Dotdash
Full Bio
Adrian Nesta is a research analyst on the Data Journalism team at Dotdash, the digital publisher that owns and operates The Balance. His work includes data collection, cleaning, analysis, and visualization for stories in the data journalism portfolio across every vertical at Dotdash.
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Article Sources

  1. Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress. “The Pink Tax: How Gender-Based Pricing Hurts Women’s Buying Power.”

  2. Congress.gov. "H.R.2048: Pink Tax Repeal Act."

  3. U.S. Census Bureau. “Gender Gap Widens as Women Age.”