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Beauty

How not to get fleeced when buying “women’s” beauty products

September 27th 2017 / Anna Hunter / 0 comment

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With today's revelation that Bic are charging almost 50 per cent more for "women's" razors, here’s how not to waste your cash on beauty essentials for the sake of pink packaging and flowery (*patronising) lingo

Given that women flex the most powerful economic muscle in the commerce space, not only spending more than men overall but also influencing the shopping choices of the general public in a mighty way, according to Forbes, it’s still quite the shocker that marketers and brands flog products to use on the premise that we’re feeble, weak, need saving and should be ashamed of our appearance. Not only are we told that our razor will “relax body and mind” because it’s infused with an unnecessary scent, cajoled that the floral design will help us to keep up appearances in the bathroom or instructed that a very special short ergonomic handle design is necessary because…lady hands...we’re also charged almost double the amount of the equivalent “male product”, and that’s just in the hair removal department.

In a product analysis report published by The Times last year, in cases where items had a “male”/ “female” equivalent, women were charged 37 per cent more on average across the board. That’s before we’ve figured in the enduring pay gap (19 per cent) and tampon tax (although bravo to Tesco and pending retailers who are taking the VAT hit so women don’t have to). Frankly, it makes our blood boil before we even take on the struggle of the unidentified item in bagging area, and pricing scandals aside, the obtuse, sexist marketing that is still so prevalent, even if in more subtle, underhand guises, is also likely indicative of a lack of women on boards and in decision making positions in companies.

While the Advertising Standards Agency last month declared that it would take a tougher stance against gender stereotyping, discrimination on the shelves, whether on a level of price or language, remains rife. It is to be celebrated that some brands (shout out to MAC, Toni & Guy and Wella in particular) are making a concerted effort to go ‘genderless’, but if you’re faced with sexist shortchanging and a proliferation of gendered insanity, from infantilising packaging to out and out body shaming, here are some ways to save money and redress the balance, right after you’ve complained to the ASA and/ or lobbied the brand (s) in questions of course.

1. Buy men’s razors

As above, a razor is a razor is razor. Take away the curved edges and “ergonomic” woman handles and you’ve got the same tool, doing the same job, but in general at a lower price point. Except you’ll have words and terms such as “power”, “tough” and “get in on the deal” aimed your way instead of “believe in your beauty” and “pink shimmer handle for a pleasant experience” (?). Computer coding whizz, entrepreneur and super (role) model Karlie Kloss endorses ignoring gendered marketing in this area and going for whatever works and comes in cheaper, and we encourage you to do the same.

2. Ditto tissues, shaving gel and deodorant

“Man-sized” tissues (“extra large, “extra strong”, “ideal for anything life throws at you”) make us shudder, but given that you get more for your money in that they’re the same price as regular tissues, in the trolley they go. Shaving gel and deodorant are slightly more problematic in that, while often cheaper (male Gillette shaving gel RRP £1.85, female £2.70), you’ve got some pretty potent, musky fragrance to deal with. We’re pretty sure that men don’t want a skunk-like trail of highly chemical cologne following them around all day either. Sort is out brand people, but this does lead us onto...

3. Wear whatever fragrance you like

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To be honest, use/wear whatever you like across the board, but the fragrance sphere is where gender neutral, unisex branding, marketing, packaging and in-store presentation is making the biggest leaps, and it’s working. According to a survey conducted by bath and shower supplier showerstoyou.co.uk with fragrance encyclopedia Fragrantica, we’re increasingly buying fragrance according to what we like, rather that what brands tell us is suitable to our gender, and as such we’re swapping out many a floral for “masculine” scents, and vice versa. A trip to the fragrance department of many a high end department store now reflects this: consultants at Liberty, Harrods and many others are trained to identify accords by individual taste and preference, with no gendered sphere by which to pigeonhole fragrance choices. Sure, the big brands still plug the ‘for her’ or ‘for him’ binary, but on the whole niche fragrance houses have given the old heave-ho to gendered scent and subsequently, its marketing.

4. Read the label

A bit of detective work on the back of bottles is revealing as to whether you’re paying more for “prestige” ingredients, or whether retailers and brands are trying to play you in the assumption that you’ll succumb to crafty anti-ageing pressure and hocus pocus and part with your money more readily. Women may be buying more (Forbes reports that women drive 70 to 80 per cent of consumer purchasing), but a cursory comparison of price points across male and female lines, combined with product quality, can be very revealing. Take the Tom Ford men and women’s skincare and cosmetics lines- different, yes, but the female product is always the most dear, whether it’s a moisturiser or a concealer. Sure, women are offered more choice in terms of skin tone options, but we shouldn’t be paying for a diversity offering alongside our sex. Let’s focus on the function, not the gender. Your GP wouldn’t prescribe you a different ointment based on whether you’re a man or woman (unless there’s a good medical reason), so don’t let brands dictate that to you either.

5. Spend what you like

All of the above considered, if you want to drop your wages on something luxurious and wonderful, do it without a hint of abashment or guilt against the sisterhood. The revelation that President Macron has spent over £24,000 on both makeup and a personal makeup artist since becoming France’s president (three and a half months and counting), combined with the fact that his predecessor François Hollande actually spent more in the same time frame, should reassure you that, actually, beauty is for all, and that any inch of feeling like you’re not a feminist for buying a designer blusher is unfounded and unwarranted. We also don’t see the same fuss being made about French presidents’ taste for extortionate makeup and on-call personal beautifiers as we did about Theresa May’s infamous £995 leather trousers, but apparently that’s the world we’re living in…

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