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Is spending on beauty a luxury?

Is spending on beauty a luxury?

The cost of living crisis

My gut response to the question this blog raises was “yes, spending on beauty is definitely a luxury”. With high inflation and cost of living, now is most definitely a time when many people are having to think about tightening their belts. But when I sat and thought about it for a bit longer, I reflected on the psychological impact of not spending on beauty as well as the impact on small businesses that rely on people like me to be able to pay their bills.

Obviously, if the decision is whether to eat or get my hair done, then I’ll choose to eat every single time. But if the decision is to save less every month so I can get my hair done then it becomes less black and white.

What is a beauty spend?

I think this is probably different for all of us. When I start to think about how much I have spent in the last 20 years on what I consider to be ‘beauty’ the resulting numbers are a little bit shocking! Here’s what I’ve spent on, what could be deemed one seriously guilty confession.

  • Haircut and colour
  • Laser hair removal
  • Microblading
  • Eyelash extensions
  • Nails
  • Skincare
  • Facials
  • Makeup
  • Skin boosters
  • Dermal filler
  • Spa days

You see lists like these in magazines where you score a point for everything you do. The more points you score, the higher maintenance you are. Well, up until now I thought I was fairly low maintenance but maybe I’m not. What does your list look like? Is lifestyle creep affecting you?

Why spend on beauty?

I always say that social media doesn’t have an impact on what I want to look like. That said when scrolling through I do notice myself thinking “her nails look great” or “wow look at her skin”. Social media or not, there’s no getting away from the fact that I am ageing and I don’t want to. Inside I don’t feel 42 but when I look at the skin quality of someone in their 20’s I absolutely want that clear, dewy complexion I once had back. Fickle, I know.

So what do I do? I look for products that “promise” me the world and like an advertisers dream, I fall in to the trap of hoping it will do what I want it to. I’m sure that 10 years from now I’ll look back and wish I had the skin I’ve got now, just as I look back at photos of 10 years ago and wonder why I wasn’t just enjoying my glow!

And it’s not just skin care. 2 years ago I was adamant I’d never consider aesthetics but now temptation is well and truly there. It’s that never ending search for youthful good looks or in my case just great skin and a few less bags under my eyes.

Do I want to look more youthful to fit in to society’s conception of what women should look like? Not consciously. I do it because I want to feel good. It’s about me feeling good in my own skin and that inner feeling of being able to take on the world.

Should I be happy as I am? Absolutely. I don’t believe any woman should have to spend on beauty if they don’t want to and I really don’t care if you have grey hair, wrinkles or natural nails. I do however care about me. Let’s not get me started on how much my grey hair and looking like a badger 3 weeks after a root touch up annoys me.

The psychological impact of not spending on beauty is actually pretty huge for me. How I look really does impact how I feel.

My self-esteem reduces if I don’t look a certain way. Putting on my makeup, gives me confidence, it’s almost like a uniform or a badge that says ‘this is me’. Don’t get me wrong, I have make up free days and days where I make very little effort but it’s my choice when and where they are.

The other psychological effect of beauty spending is that I get time to relax and focus on me. Going for a facial is an hour where I can just stop, breathe and be still. We all lead extremely busy lives and putting ourselves as the number one priority doesn’t always come easy. Going to the salon or having a spa day is a treat that I love.


One of the things I missed most in lockdown was my inability to be able to go and spend on beauty. Being the pragmatist that I am, I soon found some home-based solutions that not only reduced what I normally spend but which have also become part of my long-term routine.

Prior to Covid-19, I visited my hairdresser every 4 weeks for a root touch-up. As I couldn’t do that I ordered myself some box colourant and did it myself. Well, I did the front and sides myself but not so much the back. Hey ho, I can’t see the back so I’m sure it was fine! Post Covid, I still touch up my own roots and only visit the hairdresser every 12 weeks.

Having no social life meant I had a bit more time on my hands so I started researching skincare and the ingredients that dermatologists really recommend. What I discovered was that my fairly expensive lotions and potions may smell nice but they weren’t doing much for my anti-ageing concerns. It shocked me that some fairly inexpensive products are available that have powerful ingredients to do the job properly.

My nails definitely benefited from rest during Covid but when I got bored of chipping normal varnish I decided to invest about £50 in a gel nail kit and taught myself how to do my own. I’m not going to lie, painting my left hand was a doddle but the right took some practice. I still do my own nails and am even giving nail art a go! Probably the best £50 I spent in lockdown as it’s saved me about £75 a month.

The last up is facials. As I couldn’t go to the salon I focused on doing my own. My Sunday night ritual is to have a bath, get a hair mask on and give myself a facial. Honestly, just as good as going out for one.

Small businesses

We all saw the devastation that lockdowns had on small businesses across lots of sectors. Other than for spa days, I always try to choose small local businesses for my beauty spending. I get my brows micro-bladed by the lovely Laura in Woodmansey, my eyelashes are courtesy of the fabulous Nicky in South Cave and miracle worker Rosie looks after my skin.

These are women like me, who’ve set up their own businesses, working from home with a family to feed. I enjoy the time I spend with them, chewing the fat and catching up on lots of nonsense and totally value the way they make me feel.

What happens to them if people like me stop spending on beauty? We are a country of entrepreneurs and we rely on people spending to keep the economy going.

If I was spending money on a global brand I wouldn’t feel guilty about stopping the spending but because these are small businesses I do, and I do consider the impact on them.

Is it affordable?

I think this is the question that needs to be asked instead of whether is beauty spending a luxury. Yes, it’s a luxury when compared to food and heating but if it’s affordable is it really that much of an issue if you spend on it?

Part of me feels guilty for beauty spending when people are struggling to pay their bills but the other part of me thinks if I can afford it and I’m not hurting anyone then why do I feel guilty? Am I helping the economy or is that just an excuse I give myself?

I talk a lot about balance in my blogs and here I go once again! If I can afford to spend on beauty after paying the bills and saving for my future then I feel it’s an acceptable spend. It’s about having a balanced approach to budgeting and knowing the difference between what you want and need. I also like to try to find ways to stretch the budget by looking at how I can save money. Doing my own root touch-ups saves me about £560 a year. When I add in doing my own nails, facials etc I am spending considerably less than I was 2 years ago. And that is definitely my idea of balance.

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