In 2018, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) did a study on gender-related price differences for goods and services in ten personal care product categories—things like deodorant and shaving products—they found that on average, five of these categories were significantly higher for women’s products than for men. These findings were met with outrage and yet, salon pricing largely remains gender biased.
Real talk: I’m a freelance writer, so dropping over $200 for a cut-and-style is at best, not something I take lightly, and at worst, utterly stomach twisting. Add showing the receipt from this decision to my male significant other, watching him fumble in shock as he strolls into the barbershop and gets his $25 haircut.
For the record, our hair is the same length.
It’s likely that you’ve heard of the “Pink Tax” phenomenon—a form of gender-based price discrimination stemming from the observation that most of the affected products are pink. Companies like European Wax Center participate in #Axthepinktax every year, offering a discount on the average amount that “being a woman” costs. However, with the global struggle for a more inclusive world where gender pronouns aren’t exclusive to “he” or “she” anymore, the inequity of gender-based pricing is further challenged. And beauty salons everywhere are doing something about it.
First, let’s look at the research.
In 2018, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) did a study on gender-related price differences for goods and services in ten personal care product categories—things like deodorant and shaving products—they found that on average, five of these categories were significantly higher for women’s products than for men. Another 2015 study produced by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs found that women’s products carried a higher price tag 42% of the time and men’s 18% of the time when compared with similar products for the opposite gender. Thankfully, to combat this, companies like Malin & Goetz, Aesop, and The Ordinary offer products in gender-neutral packaging that focus on performance, ingredients, and solutions for universal issues for face, body, and hair.
Beyond products that we use in our everyday care regimen, the global movement to gender-neutral salon pricing is still getting the ball rolling. As it stands in the United States, California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa, and Maryland are the only states that have consistently ruled against gender-based pricing. While states such as Illinois, Washington, and Michigan have adopted a case-by-case approach, few other states have made a significant stand.
And they need to.
What many don’t realize is that gender-based pricing is against the law. Most states, Vermont for example, adopted a bill that prohibits the unequal treatment of people based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. This includes discriminatory pricing, though most of us have been conditioned to take that in stride. Outside of the law, the common assumption is that women seek more difficult styles and require more products and chemicals. However, in an evaluation done by Catherine Liston-Heyes and Elena Neokleous, that theory is fiercely debunked. Men are trying new things with their hair and women are trending towards a “more environmentally friendly, fit, and active lifestyle [that] has increased the demand for healthy, naturally looking hair.” The same styling equipment is used on both men and women and Chop Chop, a salon in London, has proved time and time again through their social media accounts that 20 minutes in the chair for anyone is plenty of time to leave the salon with a perfect cut.
It’s not just Chop Chop that’s overhauling their prices and services. Tricia Serpe, co-owner of Chicago’s Logan Parlor said in a 2018 interview: “From the beginning, we felt the only way to establish a structure based on equality was to eliminate gender from the equation and base our pricing off of the length. It’s extremely important to us as hair and similarly gender are very fluid. Length-based pricing is our way of inspiring change in an industry that has been bound by traditional gender roles for many years.” Chicago also offers a unique “Safe in My Chair” program that seeks to educate stylists in soft skills to better accommodate LGBTQIA+ and transgender clients.
Then the question for salons looking to reform is, what’s the best way to implement these gender-neutral factors into their services? Thankfully, there are a lot of great resources out there that offer suggestions and options. The important factors to consider for pricing are legitimate differences in the time of service, such as length of hair, the complexity of the cut, coloring, blow-dry, and styling advice. Modern Salon recommends that by customizing pricing for every client, it can increase booking frequency and allow for a consistent budget for the customer.
Another opportunity to increase loyalty is the transparency of pricing. Letting the customer know if they have shorter hair, the price decreases, versus if they decide to grow it out, it’ll increase—both factoring in time spent in the chair over gender. William Bales of Cherry the Salon in Phoenix says, “All of our stylists in the salon base pricing on the type of cut and style. I think basing haircuts on gender is an antiquated method and hope to see it phased out permanently.”
Personally, I’m excited to see more salons adopt gender-neutrality into their pricing structure… and to that sub-$100 haircut.