Usually, when people talk about "the price of beauty," they're referring to some physical or psychological toll they're subjecting themselves to in the name of looks. You know, like paying your dues through sit-ups or sticking to the salad at the family barbecue. But I've been thinking lately, ruminating over clips from What Not to Wear or blogs toting the latest magic bullet for perfect skin, and I've come to the conclusion that it is virtually impossible to meet modern standards of beauty if you are not literally wealthy.
First of all, most humans do not wake up in the mornings with a supermodel's hair and face. Washing and regular brushing is usually enough to keep the former at a decent level of attractiveness, but if you want to look gorgeous it takes regular trips to the salon. And not just Great Clips...a good salon. This means $20-$60 every few months, or weeks if you have a short, trendy, or artificially colored coif. Then there's all the products you're supposed to use when you're at home: gels, sprays, serums, deep conditioners, and different kinds of brushes and irons. While they're at it, women also shell out enough on manicures, pedicures, or body hair removal to equal the cost of an exotic vacation each year.
There are also very few people who can wake up with a supermodel's skin. I doubt even supermodels wake up with a supermodel's skin. If you have a basically clear complexion, it's $7-$8 for a bottle of cleanser to keep it that way. If you have a problematic complexion (like me), it's more cash down the drain for benzoyl peroxide creams, salicylic acid wipes, moisturizers, clay/sulfer masks, and oil-free sunblock. Lately I've seen $200 electronics on Amazon with brushes on the end that spin very fast to exfoliate your skin...basically, they're like rotary buffers for your face. The women (and men) in the comments for these products insist it changed their skin textures forever, and they couldn't live two weeks without this costly gadget in their lives. Because you normally walk around letting everyone you interact with touch your face.
Though it's silly to spend so much just to make your face feel baby-soft, it is generally expected that it look smooth and healthy. Yesterday I went to CVS with a $5-off coupon in hand, with the intention to pick up some essentials and replace my diminishing supply of powder. A little bottle of Cover Girl foundation caught my eye that had reviews approximating the "raving" level of the aforementioned face-Zamboni. It was lacking a price sticker, but it was extremely small and all the bottles around it were 5-8 dollars, so I figured it would be reasonable. I brought it to the checkout register and watched it ring up at $15. Yikes. I walked out with a $6 stick of eyeliner instead, which at least will last for a year. But with that kind of foundation, blushes and bronzers, eye shadows, concealers, lip glosses and mascaras, I estimate the collective cost of 'stuff' on the faces of the girls walking around my university's campus totals more than $1,000 per day.
Say you think all that is a waste of money, or you were descended from Greek gods and don't need it. You still need to wear clothes, if you want to retain the label of a law-abiding citizen. If you want to land a job or earn the respect of those around you, they have to be good clothes. And unless you want to spend many hours trying to apply your latent fashion genius extracting a single well-constructed item from the racks at Goodwill, the most practical way to obtain good clothes is to pay up. $20 is baseline for a decent adult woman's blouse, unless you're lucky enough to be a size that appears regularly on clearance racks (which I am not). Jeans that aren't from the Juniors section will be at least $25; $60 if you want them to fit well without altering. Or you could just go to Walmart and choose between two basic styles: frump or streetwalker.
Granted, for all my complaining, I do not spend this much on any of the above categories. I usually just put my hair in a ponytail, apply face powder and lip stick on the bus, and wear the same clothes I did in college. Hence, when I told a classmate it was my 23rd birthday last month, she exclaimed, "You're so old!" in the shock of trying to reconcile my looks with my age. But when I show up to the SLA conference in June, I'd rather people recognize me as a participant, and not a student volunteer or a "real" attendee's tag-along. This will cost money. Lots of it.
How much do you spend on cosmetics? Does it feel like too much?