I Just Realized I Spend Over $4,000 Every Year To Look Pretty

I spend a TON of time (and a healthy chunk of cash, I've realized) maintaining the face I’ve chosen to present to the world.
Publish date:
February 26, 2013
money, hair, style, self esteem, nails

I was lying butt naked on a table in a Korean spa yesterday, being scrubbed to literal death when I started mentally calculating how much money my personal “upkeep” costs me every year. I realized that I've never added it all up, because why would you? It's a horrifying thought.

Natalie's post about spending 172 hours per year putting on makeup and Emily's dissertation on getting hair and eyelash extensions over the holidays both made me think about all the time and money we put into looking the way we wish we did naturally. I'm not talking Botox-level artifice here, just good old fashioned grooming, primping and the pursuit of maximum attractiveness.

In contrast to Natalie, I spend less than 4 hours total per year applying makeup -- I cover up my zits, slap on some lippy, and I’m good to go. But I spend a TON of time (and, I realize now, a healthy chunk of cash) maintaining the face I’ve chosen to present to the world. 
I’m talking about professional services that I consider necessities to look better than what nature gave me to work with -- services that require proper maintenance, constant upkeep and scheduled visits to some sort of beauty procuring establishment.

Do you have any idea what your beauty routine costs you every year? I didn't, so I decided to tabulate what I spend every year on making sure I’m not mistaken for Vincent Price in a fright wig at the mere sight of my unvarnished face. I know I have some pricey beauty rituals, but I like think I am on the low end compared to some babes. So I busted out a calculator and a notebook and made myself a comprehensive list.

HAIR--$1,800.00/year: I am a natural dishwater blonde. You know, it's kind of grey-colored with bits of old food floating in it. So I of course highlight that shit like it's my job. As a result, I can confidently say that my hair color is the very best part of my entire "look."

I get my roots done done every 6 weeks like clockwork. I do this partly because my real hair color is gross, partly because I have horrible cowlicks all over my head and bleach is the only thing that makes them lie down and behave, and partly because I'm all strung out on how deliriously swishy my freshly highlighted hair feels. At $200.00/pop, 9 times a year, that’s $1,800.00 spent before I even leave a tip. I value my colorist Adriana more than my own reproductive abilities, so I tip that babe WELL.

NAILS--$702.00/year: I dress people for a living. This means I touch them a lot. I’m always cramming my hands down someone’s pants or up their shirt. When my nails are raggedy and undone, I feel like actors think I’m dirty and gross. Maybe I’m just justifying an addiction, but Hollywood is a pretty judgmental place. I don’t think I’m wrong.

My natural nails are really soft and as brittle as potato chips, so I get acrylics every 2 weeks like clockwork. (Laugh all you want, but my cat lady nails are going to come in hella handy during a bar fight.) At $27.00 per fill, that works out to $702.00 per year!

EYEBROWS--$255.00/year: Since I don’t really wear any makeup, I try to make sure my natural Brooke Shields-esque eyebrows never resemble 2 caterpillars sexing on a Brillo pad in the forest. What they say is true, eyes are the windows to the soul. Why not put up a nice set of curtains on that window? I get an eyebrow wax about every 3 weeks, and it's $15.00 each time.

FACIALS--$852.00/year: Somehow the acne I escaped as a teen has now hit me with a vengeance. I'm in this endless cycle of dermatologist visits and acne antibiotics, in addition to paying a nice lady to dredge all the waxy junk out of my pores once a month. The spa I go to for facials is relatively inexpensive; a good hour-long facial with extractions is only $70.00. Spending $70/month to clear your congested skin doesn't sound that bad until you multiply it by 12, and suddenly you've splashed out $852 smackers.

BEAUTY PRODUCTS--$600.00/year: Oh dear god. I wasn't going to include this category but it's impossible not to. I easily spend $50.00/month on makeup that I never use and lotions that I overuse. My computer keyboard is covered with greasy lotion streaks, and I am always leaving marks on my desk where my lubed forearms were previously resting. (I tell you this in case you were considering inviting me over, so you'll perish the thought.)

I'd rather not have bothered calculating what I spend on random products every year. I can never resist a good dessert-scented lotion, some chemical free skincare, hand-crafted hair products, and shampoo that smells like cucumbers.

The grand total I spend on my beauty routine yearly? A cringe-inducing $4,209.00. Until I got out a pencil and paper and did some calculating, I considered myself to be kind of a low-maintenance girl. I can go from shower to walking out of the house in exactly 30 minutes.

Now I'm slightly fearful that I might be veering into "Real Housewives" territory. But I'm actually okay with that number -- because while I obviously spend most of my disposable cash on personal upkeep and handbags, the bulk of my clothes are really purchased at Target.

I don't think the world would stop turning if I stopped coloring my hair, nor would I stop getting jobs if actors saw my actual ragged, peeling, fingernails. And I'm pretty sure my dude wouldn't leave me if I had bushy eyebrows. But I love getting these services done -- and I love the feeling of putting my best possible foot forward. It gives me an extra jolt of confidence that I'm not sure I'd have otherwise.

There is also a great sense of ritual in doing some of the same things I grew up watching my mom and grandma do, like going to the hair salon and having a manicure. The last great day my grandma had before she died was my mom and I driving her around to get her hair and nails done.

A good friend of mine recently got expensive porcelain veneers on her teeth. I initially protested her going to all the expense and effort -- because I think she is already so beautiful, and when I can actually get her to laugh, her smile beams right into my soul with pure, radiant happiness.

But then she said something that stunned me: "I've hated my teeth every single day since I was 9 years old." I did an instant about face and told her to go for it. Now that she's had them done, I realized why it was always so hard to make her laugh -- she was ashamed of her teeth, so she rarely showed them. Feeling like the face you present to the world is as beautiful as it can possibly be is powerful stuff, indeed.

I'm dying to know what your "personal upkeep" costs you every year. And are you ashamed of your number? I asked a friend what her number was today and she said "ZERO." I almost passed out.

I think you may as well live it up and leave a good-looking, well primped corpse. Because have you ever seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul? I didn't think so. You can't take it with you.

I'm on Twitter: @IveyAlison