The differences between men’s and women’s beauty products are mostly bullshit, and women have for years been known to exploit this arbitrary distinction. As any boyfriend can tell you, entering a relationship means ceding bathroom products to your girlfriend. What was once your razor, your shaving lotion and your deodorant will soon become “yours” (meaning yours and hers, though mostly just meaning hers).
This is a key way for women to avoid the dreaded “pink tax,” where brands use pink packaging and floral scents to feminize a product and charge women more for it, even when it’s fundamentally identical to the male version. Men’s products, meanwhile, typically have austere, black, blue or gray branding, and carry some pleasant but unidentifiable scent, such as Cool Rush or Pure Sport.
Rarely do we think of this happening in the opposite direction, however. Maybe it’s because men stand to lose more by using products intended for the opposite gender. If a woman uses men’s products, she’ll smell like pine, which is universally agreeable. But if a guy walks into the room smelling like lavender? Pfft. Gay!
Fortunately, Reddit provides a rare glimpse into the secret habits of men, and it reveals that men do use women’s beauty products — they just do it in the privacy of their own bedrooms.
Did you know men like bath bombs, for instance? A Reddit thread from last year asked men to name their favorite women’s products, and one of the most popular responses was the bath bomb.
“[Bath bombs] are excellent if close (but not too close) to your balls,” reads a top comment.
For the uninitiated, a bath bomb is a mixture of dry ingredients that effervesces when wet. In other words, it’s a fancy bubble-bath contraption that looks like an enormous jawbreaker, turns your bathwater into a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors, makes it smell nice and leaves a permanent ring. Oh, and yeah, dudes love them.
“Those [bath bomb] things are awesome,” reads one of the comments. “My partner and I took one together using the stuff she got from her sister. She neglected to tell me that it also had glitter in it. I was shimmering for days.”
Men also appear to love aloe-infused fuzzy socks. Much like a regular sock, but with the soothing succulent incorporated into the fabric, to keep feet fresh and moisturized. They tend to come in the kind of pastel pink, teal and blue colors associated with feminine products, but that hasn’t stopped some men from trying them and evangelizing about their wonders.
“My god yes I bought these for my sister for x-mas. Then proceeded to buy another pair for me once I felt how soft they were,” writes a Reddit user. “My brother called me gay but I got to laugh when he flinched on the cold tile floor. I just slid across it saying they felt ‘fabulous.’” [All sic.]
In his endorsement of aloe socks, the commenter exposes the reason many men shy away from ever trying women’s beauty products — if they enjoy them, it becomes a statement about their sexuality and/or manhood.
Brands understand this anxiety, and exploit and reinforce it with how they market gendered products. Take, for instance, this man’s paean to women’s moisturizer:
“I can buy a tough looking tin of moisturiser with ‘FOR MEN’ stamped into it’s carbon fibre looking lid for some stupid amount of money or just wander over to the women’s section and buy a jug that has so much I’ll be able to leave it to my unborn children and grandchildren for the same money.”
The quote suggests that there’s a corollary to the pink tax that also resorts to tired gender stereotypes, and also preys on consumers’ insecurities, only it’s directed at men — a dick tax if you will. As one commenter jokes: “But the men’s [beauty] stuff has cooler names, like ‘Nordic Swordfight,’ ‘Chopped Wood and Bear Piss,’ ‘Stealth Awesome’ and ‘Swichblade Explosion.’”
Men are also fans of dry shampoo, but as one Reddit user dutifully notes, “The last thing we need is another excuse for men to bathe less frequently.”
All that said, lest you think men are using women’s products as directed — and in an attempt to better themselves and actively defy societal expectations — please know that the most popular response on this thread was about using tampons as giant spitballs.
Per the top response: “When I was a kid my friend and I discovered that if you dip a tampon in water it gets freaking huge and then you can spin it around on the string and slingshot it at people. It makes a big fat wet thud and sticks to just about anything.”