Fashion & Beauty

$20,000 a Year for Beauty? Um, Maybe Not!

January 12, 2016

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THE “OFF DUTY” SECTION of the Saturday-Sunday Wall Street Journal this past weekend (January 9-10, 2016) ran the front-page feature “The Price of Beauty,” citing in part “the onslaught of new ways  to spend money on one’s looks.”

Haircuts, blow-dries, hair color, mani-pedi—i.e., the usual suspects—were soon joined by more exotic fare: eyelash extensions, Ultherapy and Fillerina Hyaluronic Acid among other things.


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The arithmetic (and no doubt the amount of time spent) added up smartly when WSJ asked three women to “tally the big-ticket expenditures they make over the course of a year.” Even the Journal writer called the results, which included a directional non-force chiropractor and intravenous vitamin therapy, “eye-opening.” The women were all in their 40s: a jewelry designer, an actress and a “style expert” and founder of charity Glam4Good, which  provides makeovers for women “in need of a boost,” from veterans to  breast-cancer survivors. The three weren’t “typical” women, perhaps, but who’s typical?

One of them spent $18,491 for the year, another $20,110 and the third $20,395.20, a pretty tight range, I thought (love that 20 cents). One of the women (smart or extravagant, you decide) admitted to 25 sessions with a makeup artist / hair stylist during the year for a total of $6,250. My suspicion is that she looks a lot more together than I do.

Being too embarrassed to do my own piddling tally, I blasted out an email to everyone I could think of, asking them to take beauty stock. There were a lot of embarrassed demurrers; one “I’m scared to calculate my spend”; an ex-Washington Post reporter who found the challenge fascinating and added up $4,200 in beauty expenses for the previous  year; an arts journalist who wondered whether the total doubled by the decade; and a Washington writer who had already budgeted her expenses with a financial planner  because she was getting divorced. She came up with $10,860 in hair cuts, keratin treatments, pedicures, yoga and Pilates and Sculpt classes, and skincare products and treatments. She does a lot of public speaking, so she does need to look top-shelf, but in fact her financial planner said her expenses were low compared with some other women the planner had worked with.


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Little Bird Janet ran up a tally of about $6,000, what with haircuts and coloring and blowouts, about $200 in makeup, $200 in moisturizers and $2,300 for a bit of filler (it really does work subtle wonders!). But Janet also noted that she often gets samples of creams and makeup from manufacturers who want her to try them.

Little Bird Mary clocked in at about $2,000 for the year. I forgot that our Well-Being columnist makes her own moisturizer(!) from lanolin, Vaseline or mineral oil and almond oil (maybe we can pry the recipe out of her; she thinks the ingredients come to maybe $100 for the year). A good chunk of her beauty budget was allocated to cuts and color (one-step and then low-lights several times a year). If yoga counts, she added later, take that number up to $3,000 a year.

Little Bird Kathy spent just over $3,600 on hair alone, with cuts and color and $450 worth of fancy shampoo. Gotta say, Kathy’s hair IS splendid!  The rest of her tally added a bit less than $1,000 for cosmetics and mani/pedi sessions.

The funniest, and most complete, response came from sometime MyLittleBird contributor Stephanie Cavanaugh. Here’s her list, as she sent it:

  • Haircuts x times a year =  2 professional prunings @ $100 = $200
  • Hair color / year =  6 bottles of do it myself gray cover-up @ $6 = $36
  • Blow-outs / year = We’re big on air drying
  • Hair extensions = see pruning, above
  • Hair vitamins + Ah ha! Costco’s hair, skin and Nails. Great stuff! See pruning! Husband buys it for us both though.
  • Fancy (or not-so-fancy) shampoo and conditioner – $36? ish?
  • Manicure & pedicure – summer kick-off! $50
  • Facials – 1 free. Work related.
  • Chemical peels – Not old enough yet.
  • Light therapy – Sun’s free.
  • Cosmetics –  1 Lancôme foundation every 2 years, so that’s $25? The rest is Wet n  Wild, when it’s 2 for one. So – $25? Total $50.
  • Moisturizers (including Creme de la Mer at $720/year) – My biggie. This and that = $250

Any newfangled “therapy” or “system” you try once.

  • Dermaroller! $12 Amazon. Plus alcohol for cleaning. Total $13. (I got a Clarisonic as a gift a few years ago, so does that count?)
  • Botox injection. Not in recent years
  • Restylane (or Juvaderm or other filler). Not in recent years
  • Eyebrow waxing (or other shaping) – Tweezer, my mom’s.
  • Any other area waxing – Razor, my husband’s.
  • Eyelash tinting – 5 year old cake mascara.
  • Eyelash extensions – Not since high school
  • Massage – I wish
  • Yoga sessions – too lazy
  • Chiropractor or acupuncturist – under consideration
  • B-12 shots – multi-mature vitamins, Costco. husband buys. He also buys laundry detergent.

here’s a good one:

  • Holistic doctor and intravenous vitamin therapy! – mumpf
  • Directional non-force chiropractor – ditto


  • Energy healing – My crystal on a string.
  • The Infinity Call daily meditation – Ahhhh … Open Focus when I remember, free (got the tapes in 1990)
  • Year’s supply of Jiva-Apoha oils for face and body – gonna go look that up

Grand Total = $625ish.  Say $700 — since I’m sure I blew $50 on something. Included in the tally: I picked up a tube of Retin-A in Rome ($18!) last fall and am reminded why it is the best (I last used it in my 40s), replacing everything else. I also bought, as an experiment, German Nivea, having read it’s as good as Creme de la Mer, which I rilly can’t say. Also a bottle of (cheap) Italian argan oil, which is MAGIC on my hair.

But hey, this is a game anyone can play! Take the categories above and then add or subtract from them. Make a list, add up your expenses and—if you’re not hiding behind the bed at that point—email it to Really! We’ll print them.

—Nancy McKeon
Nancy is the managing editor of MyLittleBird.
Read more about Nancy. 

3 thoughts on “$20,000 a Year for Beauty? Um, Maybe Not!

  1. Nancy McKeon says:

    I’m thinking about doing a one-sided dermaroller test on my face, keep waiting for a moment when I will either be in a foreign land or won’t see friends for, well, a month or so. You know, I mentioned that my own maintenance expenditure was low enough to be laughable. But I didn’t mention that I spent about $11,000 a couple of years ago to have my chins sliced off surgically–best money I ever spent!

    1. Oh to be rid of the chin(s)! You roll the derma at night and follow it with something soothing. You’ll look a little red, but that fades by morning. Not about to combine it with retin-a, talk about feel the burn, but expect I’ll go back to rolling when tanning season returns as retin-a and the sun do not sweetly coexist but one can always rake one’s face.

  2. You COULD get me a little stash of Crème de la Mer and I’d do a cheek to cheek comparison with that German Nivea — I have no problem with a lopsided face. Rilly.

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