We knew it was hard being a woman, but we didn't always know it was actually systematically costing us more.
Unbeknownst to most women, the fairer sex has been paying a so-called "pink tax": Every razor, every bottle of shampoo and every can of shaving cream aimed at women tends to cost more than similar products marketed to men. The pink tax's existence has been known to women for years, but it was most recently validated by a study from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, which found that products marketed to women and girls are 7% more than similar products for dudes. The biggest difference, as the Washington Post reported, was with haircare: Women paid a fabulous 48% more.
So, as a woman, is it possible to just buy bro? Is there some downside we're missing? To test this theory, I bought and lived for a week on men's beauty products. The strategy: Acclimate myself by adding one product to my routine each day, then analyzing cost and what I got for my money.
It wasn't always pretty, but I embarked on the mission for the betterment of womankind. Here is how my wallet — and hair, skin and body odor — were affected:
Day 1: I embrace 2-in-1 conditioner, though I'm concerned about my hair.
For the first day of my transition into smelling like a stereotypical dude, I decide to start at the very top: my head. I usually buy Garnier Fructis Brazilian Smooth shampoo and conditioner because I would love to be both Brazilian and incredibly smooth (and I'm not).
But men need not concern themselves with smoothness, nor even with two separate bottles. As one toiletries industry expert told the Royal Society of Chemistry, "Historically, men have been willing to live with this for the convenience of using one product for both conditioning and cleaning, and, in many cases, the psychological benefit of telling themselves they are not using a 'sissy conditioner.'" Remarkable how fragile masculinity is, isn't it?
So I grab an Axe bottle containing both shampoo and conditioner in one fun package, choosing the most macho, Phoenix, because, like a phoenix, I must rise out of fiery ashes every morning.
Price: My typical shampoo and conditioner each cost $4.99 for a $9.98 total, with each holding 13 fluid ounces of fruity, smoothing goodness. But the Axe 2-in-1 bottle is just $6.79 for 12 ounces, and it should theoretically last me about as long as $9.98 worth of the Garnier Fructis. If so, men are winning here.
Results: The Axe doesn't completely ruin my hair after one wash, although the sparkly blue tint reminds me a bit of toothpaste. It also saves so much damn time. What can I possibly do with this extra 10 minutes in my life now that I don't have to condition my hair separately? How many more episodes of the Great British Baking Show could I fit in now? What more can I accomplish? Is this how Beyoncé does it?
Day 2: Yes, I am cheap enough to rub my body in "bearglove" scent.
It's only day two and I'm already mad. I usually wash my body with something that smells undeniably girly and fresh, like grapefruit or Dove's interpretation of pomegranate. Now, I gotta smell like "bearglove," a bizarre new scent cooked up by Old Spice. What in the ever-loving shit does "bearglove" smell like? Who invented the names for these scents, where do they live and what is wrong with them? I have many questions.
Price: This undeniably luxurious Dove body wash is $9.49 for a 22-ounce bottle. It is so impossibly large that I usually drop it in the shower. This bearglove monstrosity that I have to rub all over my body is priced at a very reasonable $5.49 for a 16-ounce bottle. Math-speaking, the women's product cost $0.43 per ounce while the men's went for $0.34.
Results: Holy shit, guys. To answer the question "What the fuck does bearglove smell like?" It smells like a mixture of cedar and rotten fruit. If you took out a tub of orange Gatorade, urinated in it and left it out in the sun, it would be bearglove. Why must men strive to smell like this? Why must I? And why must this be the cheaper option?
Day 3: Sure, it's inexpensive, but my armpits smell like college.
I wake up to the smell of bearglove, so, not the best morning. I want to Google what it actually is, but then I realize I actually definitely do not. But it's deodorant time, which means choosing a new scent. Lest I be exasperated by my own sweat, I try to avoid anything that may even slightly smell like ripe fruit. "Cool Rush" by Degree sounds innocent enough.
Price: For 2.6 ounces of "motion sense" Degree deodorant for women (which come in scents like "Sexy Intrigue"), it's $6.49, or $5.99 for presumably crappier scents on sale. Here is where it gets frustrating: The same brand has a 2.7-ounce, body-heat activated deodorant for men for $4.19.
Results: Deodorant may be deodorant but good God, is this men's stuff slimy. It feels like wiping lube in your armpit — not that I would know, or anything. Plus, with the dude-like smell combined with my toothpaste shampoo and the body-wash-that-shall-not-be-named, I smell like college. Dunk me in a pool of Four Loko and dare me to jump off a roof.
Day 4: All hail men's razors. For real.
If I'm being completely honest, I've used the same razor to shave my legs for about a month now. Am I gross? Wanna meet up? So really, I'm pretty chill about my razor choices. I go with Schick's XTREME 3 because it seems about equivalent in quality (three blades!) to the Venus ones, and because I like to really go hardcore while I shave my ankles.
Price: For a pack of standard three pink Venus razors, it's 15 fucking dollars and 49 cents. How is this legal? The nice dude razors are just $11.49 — and there are FOUR PER PACK.
Results: As expected, razors are razors. They all work the same. They all feel the same. In regards to the other products I'm simultaneously using, the 2-in-1 shampoo/conditioner is still working great, even while looking like toothpaste. The body wash, however, has become my arch nemesis and my armpits are slimy.
Day 5: Shaving cream is shaving cream, and the whole women's shaving industry is a lie.
I wake up on day five and my hair looks like Nick Nolte's mugshot. It's really not cute, so I settle on wearing it up high for the rest of the week. (Is this why so many men are wearing man buns?) Today, I try out men's shaving cream, which, like razors, I'm not expecting anything all that different. I go with Edge, a recognizable name brand seemingly on the level of Skintimate.
Price: The Skintimate, which comes in smells like "Strawberry Tangerine Twist" or "Mandarin Burst!" is $4.29. For a can of Edge approximately the same size (7 ounces), it's $3.99.
Results: Much like razors, shaving cream is pretty much shaving cream. It does its job, and all is fine. The razors are working just great too, though as I stare at the bottle of 2-in-1 Axe, I see my future: rat's nest.
Day 6: Stop making me buy things my face doesn't need, companies!
You know what's fun about using products mostly geared toward women? You smell nice. Know what's not? There are too many of them, from facial cleansers and exfoliators and toners and goddamn micellar water. (Is this what we mean by "having it all"?) After all, what do men have but a single thing generically called "face wash." Thanks so much, Neutrogena.
Price: For both the cleanser and the exfoliator, which sit together on the shelf like a pair, it's $9.79 each, or $19.58 total. For the blue men's face wash that is probably perfectly fine, it's $9.49. Less than half the price, or 30 cents less if I just went with cleanser.
Results: Although I miss how wonderful grapefruit smells, the men's face wash works just fine and dandy. Sure, it's jarring to slap on what smells like laundry detergent, but my face feels super clean (I guess like... laundry?). As far as the other items I'm testing, my limbs are smoothly shaved but everything else is a total fucking mess.
Day 7: Thanks, patriarchy, for making it so expensive to smell nice.
Love this picture of me! Just kidding. The above photo is what I feel like I look like at this point, even though it's mainly small differences (save for the hair).
Ultimately, most of these products accomplished the same thing — razors are razors, shaving cream is shaving cream. Deodorant has a job it can do, as does body wash. The tradeoff was missing lovely natural smells like lavender and pomegranate, as well as products that weren't named like they were supposed to be weapons.
But I saved so much money. If I had been a woman this week and bought the equivalent products, I would have spent a total of $64.82. Since I was buying products geared towards men, I spent $41.44.
By buying bro for a week, I saved $23.38.
That difference of $23.38 can get me at least three very sad desk salads, or I could ball out at McDonald's. Either way, the pink tax is still alive and well at the common drug stores we frequent, forcing women to make a choice between their prettily scented or the more aggressive alternatives. But hey, I don't need pink things. If you don't mind me, I'll keep on buying those blue and silver razors.