When I was growing up, I always felt insecure and awkward about my appearance. I was too skinny, had terrible acne, and didn’t have typical features. I didn’t put any money toward the cost of beauty.
So when I got my first job and started to make my own money at 17, I was determined to do everything in my power to enhance my appearance. There was one thing I knew: Beauty was a type of currency.
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The Cost of Beauty
I began to dye my hair, wax my eyebrows, and buy expensive skin care products to smooth out my “fine lines.” Then I got teeth whitening strips so I could show off my new smile, which had been hidden underneath braces for several years.
After that, I bought fancy makeup and expensive hair care products. I splurged on several ear piercings because I thought they were cool, and I bought jewelry, to boot.
I also forked over money for “herbal supplements” that promised to increase my breast size. (Hint: I’m still waiting.)
Thinking back on those years, I can venture to say I spent a few thousand dollars on pills, products, services, dyes, and creams — all in an effort to be more beautiful.
The intense pressure to look young and beautiful comes with a cost. The beauty industry is estimated to be a $126 billion market that preys largely on women’s insecurities. It works to make us believe that we, too, can have eternal youth and beauty.
And what’s even more startling? The global cosmetic surgery and procedure market is expected to reach $43.9 billion by 2025, according to a 2017 report by Grand View Research.
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If you’re a woman, think about your own personal beauty costs. Try to calculate how much money you've spent over time on your appearance. How much do you spend per month? Per year? During your lifetime?
When I was younger, I was willing to spend the little money I made on my appearance because I got sucked into the fantasy of what the beauty industry promises.
I thought that spending money on beauty would make me feel better. But in all honesty, the products I bought for my appearance just filled a void. Beauty is not skin-deep.
We asked our readers what beauty products or procedures they have spent a bomb on, or what they really want to spend money on.
- Emma (24): I’ve always wanted to get microblade eyebrows, which can cost from $300 to $800, depending on where you go!
- Kelly (24): I have considered Botox to stop my upper lip from sweating! Seems logical to me.
- Una (46): I’ve had Botox done a few times, around 300 euros ($340) a session.
- Beth (23): I have long, dyed blue hair, so bleaching is expensive, usually around 90 pounds ($118).
- Eve (25): I’ve always wanted laser hair removal ($235 per session, with multiple sessions needed) and professional teeth whitening ($450-$650), and the only reason I haven’t done either is the cost.
- Sean (25): Invisalign, but unless you take out a second mortgage, it’s too expensive (between $3,500 and $8,000!).
- Jessica (26): I need a HydraFacial soon ($150 to $300).
- James (35): I went to a hair restoration clinic, where the consultation alone cost me $280. Add an extra $220 for the products on top of that, and it’s the most expensive beauty thing I’ve done, but soworth it.
How Much Are You Willing to Spend on Your Looks?
“Spending on expensive beauty products is often driven by the things that we subconsciously believe will happen once we change something about our appearance,” says Natalie Taylor, a behavioral financial adviser. “At some level, we convince ourselves that changing our appearance with expensive products will make us feel more worthy, less insecure, less lonely, more important, more desirable, more successful, or less depressed.”
“For example, you might think that if you can just lose 10 pounds, you’ll feel happier, people will be more attracted to you, and you’ll like yourself more,” Taylor adds.
“But the truth is that liking yourself for who you are and what you look like now will help you feel happier and more confident, which will, in turn, make you more attractive to others, none of which requires you to lose 10 pounds!”
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I wasted my hard-earned money on the too-high cost of beauty, trying to secure something that is ultimately fleeting: youth.
Of course, I’m all for women feeling good about themselves, and I can understand how a fresh ‘do or some special makeup can make you feel good. But I think it’s important to do those things for yourself and not anyone else. Not for a guy, a job, your friends, or your neighbors.
And if you do decide that the cost of beauty is worth it, there are ways you can save money. For example, Cosme Deprovides designer and luxury beauty products at discounted prices. And browser extensions like Ebates can help you snag additional deals when you shop online.
How to Stop Wasting Money on Beauty
So how do you break the cycle of buying things you don’t really need to fill the void?
“Bring those subconscious thoughts to the surface next time you’re considering a beauty purchase and decide whether they make sense or not,” Taylor says. “In addition, getting in touch with your core values and working to align your time and your spending with those values can shift your focus when you’re making spending decisions, rather than those subconscious insecurities. This will help you step out of your old patterns of spending.”
I spent too much money on beauty products in the hope that they would make me happier, prettier, and less insecure — not to mention that others would be pleased with the results.
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When I finally realized that I was valuable beyond my appearance, I started to care more about cultivating other areas of my life. I began to save money instead of spending it on something that ultimately made me feel like a shell of my real self.
I realized that I didn’t need my appearance to get a guy. Instead, I focused on taking care of myself. It turns out that being independent and self-sufficient is a lot more attractive than hiding behind a mask of superficiality.
Both my bank account and I are much happier.
Additional reporting by Kelly Meehan Brown.