Monday, April 29, 2019

Mass. General study finds women pay more for over-the-counter moisturizers

Products marketed to women cost around $3/ounce more than those targeted to men with no significant differences in ingredients

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, published 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.

“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-based pricing differences in the retail market, our study shows that discriminatory pricing persists and remains a real issue when it comes to dermatologic products.”

Researchers used 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 classified as for men, 47 (or 87 percent) contained the word men within the marketing language. In the 56 products targeted at women, only three were explicitly labeled “for women.” Still, the products marketed to women were, on average, $3.09 more per ounce than those marketed 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 labelled as fragrance-free, offering sun protection or anti-aging properties, for sensitive skin, hypoallergenic, or dermatologist recommended. The authors recommend further study of gender-based 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.

Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with an annual research budget of more than $925 million and major research centers in HIV/AIDS, cardiovascular research, cancer, computational and integrative biology, cutaneous biology, genomic medicine, medical imaging, neurodegenerative disorders, regenerative medicine, reproductive biology, systems biology, photomedicine and transplantation biology. The MGH topped the 2015 Nature Index list of health care organizations publishing in leading scientific journals and earned the prestigious 2015 Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service. In August 2018 the MGH was once again named to the Honor Roll in the U.S. News & World Report list of "America's Best Hospitals."

Media contact: Julie Cunningham, julie.cunningham@mgh.harvard.edu, 617 724-6433

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