The Battle of the Sexes: How different are men and women's beauty products?
Do you believe that men are from Mars and women are from Venus? While the differences can sometimes feel very stark, the fact is that many of our needs are the same, including personal care. I mean, both have the same simplistic goal to get cleaned and look groomed. So why do brands insist on putting out separate product lines for men and women?
We thought we’d dig a little deeper on this issue, and pit men’s products against their feminine counterparts. I went on a hunt to find product lines clearly defined for men and women, from the same brands, promising to do the same things. I ended up with three commonly used items: shavers, facial washes, and shampoos. Based on the product features and its claims, let's find out: is the divide just a marketing ploy, or are there real dissimilarities addressing each gender’s different needs?
Exhibit A: Schick Exacta 2 Sensitive and Exacta 2 Precise Shave for Normal Skin
Fellow PV girl Stacie spotted these Schick razors during while shopping at Watsons. These shavers stay true to their name, in the sense that they’re Exacta-lly alike save for those differently colored handles! While the packaging doesn't explicitly identify them for either gender, even the packaging features differences like soft colors and almost script-like text for the pink razors, and bold fonts and utilitarian design for the green ones. The actual products are exactly the same, though: two blades, a moisturizing strip, a push clean feature, and non-slip rubber grips in pink (P74) and green (P45). So, we could't figure out why there's a P29 price difference between the two. Is it just for the cute pink color???
Curiously, I could not find the Exacta 2 Sensitive in green when I went shopping so I decided to get the Exacta 2 Precise Shave for Normal Skin (P19.25) instead. This one came in a macho blue packaging with vaguely sporty font like that of the green Exacta 2, with a bonus of decidedly masculine face in case anyone missed the rest of the clues. I was shocked to find that the pink one costs P37 for a single razor!
Aside from the obvious color difference, the Exacta 2 Sensitive for Women features a moisture strip (which the Exacta 2 Sensitive in green also has). All other features are the same: non-slip rubber grip, twin blades, and handy push clean feature. Performance-wise, I felt that the Exacta 2 for Men gave a closer shave precisely because it lacks the moisture strip. I personally find that a good shaving cream eliminates the need for it, anyway. Truth be told, this revelation rocked my world. I’d always just gone straight for the pink shaver, figuring it would be gentler on skin. Now I know better!
The verdict: Round 1 goes to Schick Exacta 2 for Men. It’s cheaper and does the job better. I have serious #ragrets for missing out on the men’s shaver for so many years!
Round 2: Pond's Men Energy Charge Whitening Face Wash and Pond's White Beauty Pinkish White Facial Foam
These facial washes are a gender study of society’s expectations. Although egalitarian in terms of pricing and content (both sachets contain 10g and are priced at P15 each), they are as different as night and day. Literally. Pond’s Men Energy Charge Whitening Face Wash is in a dark (of course) brown-black package with bold, in-your-face, straightforward labeling. Pond’s White Beauty Pinkish White Beauty Pinkish White Facial Foam is in angelic white and gentle pink, with a light, softly-edged font.
It’s interesting to note that both claim to whiten skin. While the White Beauty variant doesn’t specify signature ingredients, Energy Charge features coffee bean extracts and cooling menthol! I love coffee and mint so I was curious if these additions would make my facial cleansing experience different. Scanning the ingredients list though, I found that the first 11 ingredients are exactly the same!
I’ve tried Pond’s White Beauty Facial Foam before, and while it’s not my HG facial wash, I do like how foamy it gets when activated with water. The pearly white formula with the signature Pond’s feminine scent might not be exciting, but it does work, leaving my face feeling refreshed and clean. Pond’s Men Energy Charge was a new experience for me. It’s the thickest facial wash I’ve ever tried, and it’s violently orange! I actually like the clean, athletic scent but combined with its cooling effect, the facial wash proved a bit too much on my sensitive skin. I had to remind myself that it’s basically the same thing (since majority of its ingredients are exactly the same), just with different colors and fragrances.
The verdict: It’s a tie. Both have the same content weight, price, and majority of the ingredients. It all comes down to a personal preference for fragrance, and if you're into minty sensations.
Round 3: Dove Men+Care Fortifying Shampoo and Dove Hair Therapy Damage Solutions Hair Fall Rescue
Disclosure: I like Dove shampoos in general. I find that they don’t dry out my hair, and are gently scented unlike most other locally-available shampoos. Dove has “girlier” variants but I chose the one closest to what the Dove Men+Care Fortifying Shampoo promises to do, which is to prevent hairfall. Dove Hair Therapy Damage Solutions Hair Fall Rescue claims to visibly reduce hairfall in 2 weeks.
Just as with the other products, these two come in different colors. Dove Men+Care is sleek in gunmetal gray, while Hair Therapy is mostly white with light accents. Intriguingly, the men's shampoo also features caffeine though the first four ingredients (or main components of the shampoo) are the same for both.
What I found slightly disturbing was the message each one sends. Dove Hair Therapy clearly says on its bottom front, “Love your hair,” while its masculine equivalent declares “Man-proof your hair" on the back panel. What is Dove trying to say here? That man-proofing is the same as loving your hair? Or that women should love and men should “man-proof,” whatever that means? In terms of content and pricing though, Dove Hair Therapy has the upper hand: it contains 10mL, 1mL more than Dove Men+Care shampoo. It’s also cheaper at P4.75 per sachet compared to P5.25. Huh. Curiouser and curiouser.
To be completely honest, my hair felt the same after using both shampoos. Granted, I only used both once but I didn’t notice any telltale difference in terms of cleansing, moisturizing, and volumizing. Dove Hair Therapy has a clean, slightly feminine scent while Dove Men + Care smelled citrusy.
The verdict: The gals triumph in round 3. Dove Hair Therapy Damage Solutions is the clear winner in terms of content and pricing, considering both gave similar results. Again, it comes down to personal preference, but I’ll always go for what gets more bang for my buck.
There’s no runaway winner in this battle of the sexes. In some cases, men’s products definitely work better than women’s but in others, the opposite holds true. The only time there was a difference in results was with the razors, but I imagine that had I picked up the green one with a moisturizing strip, they would have performed in the same manner. Ultimately, the choice boils down to personal preference.
All the same, writing this article has been an eye-opener. As a wife and a mother, I’ve always thought I make relatively sound decisions when it comes to my household purchases. Admittedly, I have laughed at my husband because he refuses to try anything that looks remotely feminine! I realized that I am like him, too, but I was unaware that I had these gender blinders. I (usually) make choices by analyzing the ingredients list and pricing but I mostly pick up what I had always bought before, and have never really bothered to try men’s products.
The dark colors, bold fonts, and “masculine” ingredients might just be for marketing, but I don’t blame the guys for buying into that. I think these choices are rooted in our society’s expectations of men and women: it’s okay for girls to wear jeans and sneakers, but guys who wear skirts and heels are cross-dressers. I guess that the visual cues in packaging is the brands’ way of saying, hey guys, it’s okay to buy personal care products!
I learned something incredibly important as a consumer: never again choose a product by default, just based on its gender association. Just because something is labeled “for men” doesn’t mean it wouldn’t work for me just because I’m a woman. I dearly hope readers of the opposite sex come to the same realization, too!
I also hope to hear from you! Have you tried products targeted for the opposite sex? What are your experiences with that, and would you try more in the future?