Generation gender neutral: 6 skincare do’s and dont’s to make the ‘pink tax’ passé
Let’s be real: From cleverly deceptive copy to pronoun-specific product names, the world of skincare hasn’t exactly been lauded for gender neutrality. But in the last few years, the beauty industry has made some strides when it comes to diversity and inclusivity (for example, focusing on ingredients above all else). So why does it still feel like moisturizers, cleansers and crew are still mostly gender-targeted? It can all come down to dollars and cents—specifically a phenomenon known as “pink tax.”
The brass tacks on pink tax: According to a NYC Department of Consumer Affairs study, personal care products that are explicitly marketed toward women can cost up to 13% more. In a society where women earn approximately 20% less than men in the U.S., shelling out more for the same items as male-identifying counterparts is not only dated thinking, but also further compounds the wage discrepancy. One small, but mighty, step in the right direction to close the gap? Protest the pink tax and shut down gender-based price discrimination—starting with skincare. Here’s how:
Ingredients are what matter. End of story, really. Traditional gender norms dictate why pinks and pastels signal femininity, while black or neutral packaging give off rugged and masculine vibes. The issue with this is that it might steer you away from less expensive, equally effective formulas. Not to mention, a delineation between “men’s” and “women’s” products can be extremely alienating to those who choose not to identify as one gender. “Marketing should be non-binary,” says Cassandra LeClair, a gender and communication studies professor at Texas State University. “We are silencing a whole group of people when we only have things that are pink and blue, male and female.” When choosing a product, remember it’s what’s inside that counts (like people!). Ignore the bottle and smell it, feel it, really test it out on your skin before committing. You might be surprised by what you go for.
Now that you’re savvy to gendered packaging, get comfortable with reading labels. Consider being skeptical about words like “anti-aging”—these products are traditionally geared toward women and sold at higher costs. Instead, read up on what’s inside the bottle and get to know the high-performing ingredients (e.g., niacinamide, AHAs, vitamin C and so many more) that work best for your skin type. Look for them to be listed in formulas’ ingredient lists.
Speaking of skin type, don’t forget that, for the most part, your gender doesn’t determine whether you’re oily or dry or anything else. According to NYC board-certified cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Michele Green, whose expertise regularly appears in GQ, Allure and U.S. News, among others: “Men and women have similarities in their skin—but there are differences as well. What’s most important is choosing products that are well-suited to the needs of your type of skin. When in doubt, ask your dermatologist to help you determine your type and create the best routine for it.”
Ever notice how certain hair salons charge more for women’s haircuts than men’s? Same goes for skincare services, like facials and dermatological procedures. In fact, many spas even promote special discounts for men as incentive to get them in the door. When looking for a clinic for your next treatment, check their price list before booking to be mindful there’s no gender discrimination at play.
Challenge your favorite brand to get with the times and reject traditional skincare stereotypes. Now more than ever, consumers are interacting directly with marketing teams at companies via social. Thanks to Instagram and the like, you can make an impact by starting conversations (believe us, brands are reading your comments!). And if businesses aren’t open to taking feedback and acknowledging your concerns, you’re in luck—IG search on your explore tab is a great way to learn about inclusive brands that might be more your speed (and worthy of your hard-earned cash). Just search there, as you would in Google—try finding skincare communities like @helloavabeauty or @re_issue, or simply type in ingredients like “niacinamide.”
No matter how you identify on the gender spectrum, our one cardinal skincare rule is this: Wear. Sunscreen. Every. Day. It’s an act of self-care, self-preservation and an important daily reminder that everyone’s gorgeous skin is worth protecting.
About the author: Sheela Soskin is a beauty editor and copywriter who has written for luxury and lifestyle brands such as Tom Ford, The Honest Company and Ipsy. She currently lives in Auckland, New Zealand, where she spends her spare time exploring the lush landscapes and obsessively searching for the perfect red lipstick.