Over-the-counter facial moisturizers are a widely-used and commonly recommended skin care product, but a new study from dermatologists at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) finds that, when it comes to price, men’s and women’s products are not considered equal.
Their paper, publish in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, reports finding significant, gender-based price discrepancies in a 2018 survey of 110 facial moisturizing products from three top online retailers Amazon, Target, and Walmart. Water constantly evaporates from the deeper layers of the skin, an effect known as transepidermal water loss (TEWL).
Skin maintains a dry
By regulating its water content, skin maintains a dry, easily shed surface as a barrier against pathogens; also dirt, or damage, while protecting itself from drying out and becoming brittle and rigid. The ability to retain moisture depends on the lipid bilayer between the corneocytes.
Emollients prevent evaporation of water from the skin by forming an occlusive coating on the surface of the stratum corneum. TEWL is normally about 4–8 g/(m²⋅h). A layer of petrolatum apply to normal skin can reduce the TEWL by 50–75% for several hours. Humectants also have an emollient effect; but they act differently, by drawing water into the stratum corneum.
The more lipid in the formulation, the greater the emollient effect. Ointments are more emollient than oily creams; which are more so than aqueous creams; so while most lotions have no emollient effect. If skin is dehydrated, it can lead to serious problems like eczema and rosacea, says the study’s lead author Maryanne Senna, MD, MGH Department of Dermatology.
Despite some recent government led efforts to restrict gender base pricing differences in the retail market; hence their study shows that discriminatory pricing persists and remains a real issue when it comes to dermatologic products. Researchers use three marketing variables language, container color or graphics, and container curvature or shape in order to classify the products into two groups.
Of the 54 facial moisturizers classify as for men, 47 (or 87 percent) contain the word men within the marketing language. In the 56 products target at women, only three were explicitly label “for women.” Still, the products market to women were, on average; so $3.09 more per ounce than those market to men. The total number of fluid ounces per bottle was not significantly different between the groups.
There also was no significant difference between the groups when it came to the number of facial moisturizers label as fragrance free, offering sun protection or anti-aging properties, for sensitive skin, hypoallergenic, or dermatologist recommended.
The authors recommend further study of gender base differences in the pricing of over-the-counter skin care products. The co-lead authors of the report are Athena J. Manatis Lornell and Dustin H. Marks; additional co-authors are Jean-Phillip Okhovat, MD, MPH, and Dina Hagigeorges all of MGH Dermatology.