Sequin Blog


What Is The Pink Tax? A 6-Figure Beauty Premium For Women.

June 20, 2024

Headshot of Vrinda Gupta

Vrinda Gupta

Sequin CEO & Co-Founder | Women's Finance Expert | Visa Alum

As women, we’re faced with daily challenges our male counterparts don’t come up against. We live in a world where “fair” isn’t always a part of the rulebook—in our personal lives, at work, or walking the aisles of our favorite stores.

But to play any game, you’ve got to know the rules before you can break them. In today's society, we can’t ignore the systems and accepted norms that threaten women’s financial equality. We can’t hope to break down the barriers without first talking about a phenomenon we face each and every day – the pink tax.

What Is The Pink Tax?

The pink tax is the 6-figure beauty premium that all women face. No matter where you shop, what you do, or how much you earn there’s a cost to being a woman consumer.

Let’s set the scene.

Floral-scented, pink products with flowery lettering dot the aisles of your favorite store. Each one promises to unlock a new beauty secret. Begging women like you to buy, try, and spend your hard-earned money. Marketing tells you that you need a 5-step nighttime face care routine, or a new hair mask to add to your haircare regimen.

The beauty expectation is high, the pink tax is even higher.

Meanwhile, male-branded products that sit on the very same shelves are blue or black with hard block lettering and make opposing promises like—this 3-in-1 shampoo will serve all your personal care needs.

The marketing differences are notable, yes. But it’s the price differences that hit even harder.

Necessary personal care products marketed toward women frequently cost upwards of $2,000 per year more than those products marketed toward men. This markup adds up to a whopping $188,000 per woman over the course of her lifetime and creates a 1.6 trillion hole in the US economy each year.

The Pink Tax In Numbers

The pink tax has implications reaching far and wide, beginning from early childhood and continuing on through all stages of life:

  • Girls’ shirts, helmets, and pads cost 13% more, girls’ toys cost 11% more, and girls’ bikes and scooters cost 6% more than similar products marketed for boys.
  • Pink tax markups on everyday products include shampoo and conditioner (+48%), razors, razor cartridges, lotion (+11%), body wash (+6%), and shaving cream (+4%).
  • Women’s supports and braces cost 15% more and women’s canes cost 12% more.
  • Even tariffs for imports on women’s apparel (15%) are often taxed higher than men’s clothing (12%).

It’s important to note that this pink tax premium doesn’t include period products—which are literal necessities — yet are still taxed as “luxury goods” in 21 out of the 50 states.

It’s estimated that women spend $9,000 on period products over the course of their lifetimes. Tack that onto the 6-figure pink tax premium on everyday products that we’re already shelling out.

There’s no way around, it in today’s society, it’s expensive to be a woman.

The Pink Tax + The Pay Gap

Women pay more and earn less through no fault of our own.

The gender pay gap means that, on average, women earn 82 cents for every dollar compared to men. That gap only widens for women of color.

The repercussions of the pay gap are ones that exist not only in numbers, but also in the emotional toll it takes to juggle persistent financial stressors with careers, families, and societal expectations.

Research shows that attractive people are paid 20% more, and for women, personal grooming is the sole determinant of that fact. Arguably, the expectation for what level of personal grooming is expected of a woman is also higher than the expectation for a man.

Add the pink tax to the gender pay gap, and it’s no wonder women are more likely to feel stressed about finances than men.

But no matter how grim the stats may feel, we hold incredible power – starting with our wallets. Women are responsible for making over 80% of purchasing decisions in the marketplace. Meaning there’s power in our choices.

Awareness of the problems is the first step towards leveling the playing field. Taking control of how and where we spend our hard-earned money (and on which products) is the second.

Ways to Pay Yourself Back the Pink Tax

Currently, there are only two states that explicitly outlaw the pink tax — New York State and California. With one county (Miami-Dade County in Florida) following suit. In these locations, discriminatory pricing based on gender is illegal, and if you spot any pink tax discrepancy on the shelves, you can report it to the state.

The Pink Tax Repeal Act has been on the docket since 2016 but, to date, no federal laws against the pink tax have been passed.

So, if we’re unwilling to wait for the laws to change, what can we do to effectively “pocket” the pink tax? Or at least lessen the financial burden it imposes?

Become An Intentional Consumer

When you encounter marketing geared towards women, know how to spot the signs – pink, flowery, & often more expensive for the same amount of product. When you know how to recognize it, you can actively take steps away from purchasing on the pink tax when it’s unnecessary.

Go ahead and buy yourself the male-branded razor or shampoo if you don’t have a strong personal preference for the woman-branded versions.

*hint: they’re almost the exact same product as the ones you currently buy, just with different packaging and marketing claims.

Another option we love is to shop with intention. Do your due diligence and ask yourself intentional questions when buying a new product.

Will the conditioner that’s marked up around 48% actually give your hair 48% more volume, strength, or growth? Does that bottle of conditioner have 48% more value to you than a similar product priced lower?

If your answer is yes, go ahead and make that purchase!

But when you start asking yourself questions like these, you’re actively combatting the high spending on passive pink purchases that can really make that pink tax add up.

Advocate for More Equal Opportunities

The gender wage gap is real.

Another way to stand against higher prices is to combat the pink tax by advocating for a fair salary and doing away with the gender pay gap in your workplace.

Arm yourself with knowledge. Ask your coworkers (yes, especially the male ones) what they’re making. This will help you gauge where your salary currently lands, and if there’s money on the table to negotiate.

Keep track of ways you and your work have directly helped the company grow. So that when you do step into that negotiating room, you’re bringing in evidence of your worth in the form of tangible wins and achievements you’ve given your company.

It can be intimidating to ask for what you’re worth. But the more we start doing so, the more steps we take toward closing that pay gap.

Get Yourself A Debit Card That Fights The Pink Tax

Finally, a card built to fight the patriarchy.

At Sequin, we’re dedicated to recognizing women’s financial power and fighting the threats against it. That’s why we built the first card in U.S. history designed to give you rewards in pink tax categories to combat the costs of womanhood.

The Sequin Rewards Visa® Debit Card is the first debit card designed to fight the pink tax and earn you 6% cashback* rewards where we, as women, are more likely to be spending. Earning cashback rewards on a debit card means you get rewarded without the risk of costly high-interest credit card debt.

  • Pink tax reward categories include areas where women tend to spend more:
  • Women’s Health (Drug Stores & Pharmacies)
  • Self Care (Skincare & Spas)
  • Wellness (Mindfulness Apps & Massages)
  • Fitness (Gyms & Workout Classes)
  • Beauty Stores (Cosmetics Stores, Med Spas)
  • Salon Services (Barber & Beauty Shops)

Womanhood is expensive, it’s time to fight the costs. Get started here.

Arm Yourself With Financial Knowledge

It may be true that on average, women currently pay more and earn less through no fault of our own. But we’re taking steps together toward a more equitable future.

We encourage you to continue to arm yourself with financial tools and knowledge so you can shop with intention and earn with results. If you’re ready to learn more, here are some great resources to boost your financial literacy and set you and you’re finances up for success.

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Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.