Women still face more pressure to look groomed, new poll finds

Whilst 85% of women and 78% of men agree women should be equal to men in society, nearly all women (90%) and 77% of men think that that society puts more pressure on women than men to look groomed, the findings show.

Most Britons believe women still face more pressure to be well groomed, new Ipsos MORI research finds. Whilst 85% of women and 78% of men agree women should be equal to men in society, nearly all women (90%) and 77% of men think that that society puts more pressure on women than men to look groomed, the findings show.

The research is part of a new study which looks at attitudes to personal grooming among more than 1,000 British adults.

Changing attitudes

The study finds widespread agreement that it is unacceptable for employers to place strict regulations on how their staff present themselves in the workplace. Some 77% women and most men (58%), disagree with women being required to wear high heels as part of a uniform code, a practice which came under fire earlier this year.

Most men and women do not think it’s acceptable for employers to ban male employees from growing beards, but possibly counter intuitively, women feel more strongly about it (58% of men and 65% of women disagree with such policies.)

However, there is still certain squeamishness when it comes to public grooming – 22% of men and 26% of women do not think it’s acceptable to apply make-up on public transport.*

Body worries

Women worry more about personal grooming, and have more worries than men on average, the results show. On average women report 4.3 different worries about their bodies compared to men’s 3.5.

The top concern for men is smelling bad which four in ten (40%) men worry about. A similar number (38%) worry about their oral health and 34% are concerned about bad breath. Women on the other hand worry primarily about their oral health (52%) with body odour in second place (40%). Women are much more concerned about wrinkles than men (40% cite this as a worry compared to only 12% percent of men), perhaps reflecting different societal attitudes to aging.

This is reflected in the findings which show that women spend more time on their personal grooming – over the course of a year women spend 241 hours and 22 minutes, compared with men’s 192 hours and use an average of 10.2 personal care products, to men’s 6.4.

Both men and women cheerfully use products designed for the other gender. Most men (79%) have used a product which is marketed for women and 81% women have used products which were designed for men. In some cases, there is crossover in the kinds of products people are using, for example half (48%) of women (who have an adult male living with them) have used a man’s razor, and 18% of men have used a women’s razor.

The primary reason for using products aimed at the other gender is the same for both men and women; convenience. However, for women the second most commonly cited reason is how effective the product is.

The future: Unisex or mind the gender gap?

Looking to the future people are generally in agreement that personal care products will be (even) more gender targeted, rather than move towards being unisex.

However, men are slightly more likely to think that the future of care products will be genderless – 16% say more products will be unisex compared with 10% of women. Among both men and women, the tendency to think there will be more unisex products increases slightly with age, with one in five (18%) men aged 55-75 and 16% women of the same age saying this.

Will there be a more a more gender-neutral approach to make up and personal grooming? A fifth of men surveyed (21%) say they agree that in the future men wearing make-up will be the normal. An even higher proportion (30%) of women say the same.


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Commenting on the findings, Pippa Bailey, Senior Director, Ipsos Marketing, said:

“As traditional gender roles start to become less relevant in modern society, it’s interesting to take a look at how this is affecting our attitudes to personal grooming – something which is rarely discussed openly but has massive significance to our self-perception. It’s still widely accepted that women are held to higher standards than men and are spending more of their time on personal grooming. But there are signs that younger generations have less rigidly gendered views. Looking to the future, the fact many people say that in future men wearing make-up will be unremarkable could be is a sign the gender divide for personal care will start to blur.”

Unisex or mind the gender gap - attitudes to personal care from Ipsos MORI 

Technical note

The survey was conducted using Ipsos MORI’s online i:Omnibus service among a representative quota sample of 1,119 adults aged 16-75 in the United Kingdom between 29th July and 2nd August 2016. Survey data were weighted by age, gender, region, working status and social grade to the known offline population profile of this audience.

* Finding corrected 02/09/2016

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