Sexist design: How gendered packaging reinforces gender stereotypes and toxic masculinity | by Giorgia Lombardo | Jan, 2022


In the ingredient analysis, Skinsort highlights ‘notable ingredients’ and ‘ingredients of concern’, which may cause irritation or worsen already existing skin conditions such as acne or rosacea. The only notable ingredient contained in many of the products is AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid), water-soluble acids made from sugary fruits, like citric acid. As for the ‘ingredients of concern’, men’s products tend to have slightly more ingredients that can cause irritation. Some of the body washes I looked into contain sulphates, alcohol, and/or oils, whilst some others don’t. The difference is not based on whether it’s a men’s or women’s product, but rather on the brand. Nivea appears to be the less skin-friendly brand; the products analysed contain sulphates, alcohol, oils, and are also not fungal acne safe.

As for the fragrances, women’s shower creams tend to have sweeter and more flowery fragrances, such as honey, vanilla, almond, lavender, apricot, and a variety of flowers. Men’s shower gels tend to have more pungent or woody fragrances, such as sandalwood, citrus, mint/menthol, and camphor.

Image 11. Frame from the film Tarzan (2016). From
Image 11. Frame from the film Tarzan (2016). From

To sum it up, men’s and women’s products aren’t significantly different. Men’s ones simply tend to be more exfoliating and stronger in scent. The fact that woody scents, which evoke images of wilderness, are associated with masculinity makes me think men are seen as a sort of Tarzan or homme sauvage. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone started marketing men’s toiletries containing pheromones — perfumes already exist.

Making a complete analysis of the price of men’s and women’s toiletries would probably make another article. What is worth mentioning, though, is that there is a lot of information online showing that discriminatory pricing on products and services based on gender do exist. This is called Pink Tax, which is not a proper ‘tax’, but rather a whole system of different pricing based on gender, which doesn’t only affect adult women. The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs study found that ‘girl toys’ cost on average 2 percent to 13% more than ‘boy toys’, which are often the same other than their colour (Bankrate). Bankrate wrote an interesting article on the Pink Tax.

Image 12. Pink Tax stats. From Bankrate

Deodorants and colognes

The pattern repeats, the colours and fonts used are the same as the products seen before and the copy is similar — “best”, “absolute” and “pure”. However, this time we also see the use of new terms — “inspired by respect” (for what?), “instinct” (present in two different products), and even “bad”. We also find a reference to James Bond, a character whose sexism is today infamous.

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