How Much it Actually Costs to Look Like You're Not Trying

By: Elissa Strauss


Photo: Dan Roberts/Instagram/Jen Baumgardner

We are living in the age of not-trying trying. As such, effortless beauty reigns supreme thanks to “make-up free” selfies, unfussy hair, artfully casual wardrobes and toxin-free, anti-inflammatory diets. Out is the woman whose meticulousness is worn on her well-tailored sleeve, and in is the one who can pass for having just woken up like this, even if we all know she definitely did not. In our new world order, Gwyneth Paltrow is the poster child, Jessica Alba, the West Coast ambassador, and Mary-Kate and Ashley, the muses.

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It’s a communal fantasy that has us pretending life is one big Sunday morning, our cheeks flushed with a post-yoga glow, our hair soft and wavy, cold-pressed juice in hand. It’s probably no coincidence, then, that in this moment of unprecedented busyness—or at least perceived busyness—the new aspirational lifestyle is one marked by leisure and ease.

Unfortunately, looking effortless is not making us less busy, or any richer or less insecure for that matter. Our era of sartorial and corporeal nonchalance rests on a myth that looking natural and being low maintenance are one and the same, but for most of us who weren’t born #blessed, they are definitely not. The “iron maidens” of our age, a phrase used by Naomi Wolf in her book The Beauty Myth to personify the “intrinsically unattainable standard of beauty used to punish women for their failure to achieve and conform to it” are far more insidious than their predecessors. When Cindy Crawford achieved superstar status with her voluminous blowouts and perfectly lined lips in the ‘90s, we all saw that she was working hard for it. Today’s It girls (Kardashians notwithstanding) make it so hard to tell, thus adding a layer of deception to the spectacle. So, curious about the mechanics of it all, we decided to do a little accounting and figure out just how much time and money achieving the Platonic ideal of not trying, trying actually costs. Our findings, below:

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HAIR: It dominates the red carpet, has been dubbed “meh head” by the New York Times and “rich girl hair” by the Cut. You know the look: long, shiny and smooth, with a few natural waves.But soft waves with zero frizz potentially requires an arsenal of products and treatments such as:

  • Purely Perfect’s Cleansing Cream. Because you can’t rely on shampoo and conditioner alone for a look this unspooled. And, no, apple cider and coconut oil are not going to cut it. Yearly, itemized damage: $40 @ six (6) bottles a year.

  • Purely Perfect’s Smooth Finish. Because there are exactly zero flyaways allowed: $34 @ six (6) bottles a year.

  • Regular trims from Harry Josh, the mastermind behind Gisele’s generation-defining beach waves or frequent haircuts and relaxing courtesy of Kerry Washington’s mane man, Larry Sims: approximately $2,000 a year.

  • Half head of highlights courtesy of celeb-loved colorist Rita Hazan. Radiance is key, remember? $600 (before tip and tax) @ five (5) times a year.


Photo: Dan Roberts

SKIN: You must glow from within, sans the obvious help of bronzer and Kardashian-level contouring. Obviously chemicals are to be avoided.

  • Hydration by way of one of many new organic face oils. You will need both a trendy oil to cleanse and a trendy oil to moisturize, natch. BY TERRY Cellularose Cleansing Oil, $68 @ four (4) bottles a year; Rodin Face Oil, $170 @ three (3) bottles a year.

  • An all-organic, antioxidant-spiked skin renewal treatment. Oxygen purifying facial with Charlize Theron’s skin guru Joanna Vargas. $550, @ six (6) times a year.

  • 100% mineral sunblock. Sunday Riley Cashmere Sun Defense. $125 @ five (5) bottles a year.

  • All-natural, high-quality, non-orangeing bronzing serum to conceal how sun-deprived your skin actually is. BY TERRY Soleil Terrybly Hydra-Bronzing Tinted Serum. $93 @ four (4) tubes a year.

  • A #flawless worthy concealer. BY TERRY Touche Veloutee Highlighting Concealer. $59 @ five (5) tubes a year.


Photo: Dan Roberts

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EXERCISE: All of those billowy cardigans, waistless dresses, and athleisure separates require a measure of litheness, otherwise it is all frump. In order to pull off ease without looking dowdy, well, to borrow a line from Ms. Spears, you gotta work bitch.

  • Weekly yoga or Pilates or barre or spin classes: approximately $140 a week.

  • Personal training session at the anti-luxe, model favorite Gotham Gym. $125 @ twice (2 times) a week.


Photo: Dan Roberts

NUTRITION: Dieting is out. Detoxing is in. It’s too bad, really, because dieting was a hell of a lot cheaper. Prevailing wisdom has it that in order to reduce toxins and inflammation one must regularly imbibe cold-pressed juices, carefully crafted vitamins, and partake in occasional cleanses with a dollar-per-calorie ratio that rivals the cost of freshly dug truffles.

  • Cold-pressed juices. $60 a week.

  • GOOP-approved, seasonal cleanses: $425 for a 21-day kit @ four (4) times a year.

  • A multivitamin from The Honest Company made with organic, bio-available ingredients: $20 a month.


Photo: Dan Roberts



Photo: Courtesy of Retailers/Jen Baumgardner

T by Alexander Wang French Terry Sweatpants; Band of Outsiders Cotton Dressing Grandpa Shirt; Frame Le Garcon Jeans; The Row Carrington Knit Cable Sweater; Raquel Allegra V-Neck Dress; Mansur Gavriel Bucket Bag; Nike Blazer Mid-Vintage Sneakers; Ileana Makri Rose-Gold Diamond Earrings; Cartier Tank Anglaise Watch.

  • Total yearly damage + one-time watch purchase: an estimated $50,000 a year to achieve what we in the biz call “anonymous chic.”

So, how much exactly does it take to look just so?

By our unsophisticated calculations (carry the one…) in order to look like the third fourth Olsen sister, one must be prepared to pony up an astounding $119,448 a year. That’s right, the grand total is: $119,448 a year!

Put that in your Vitamix and blend it.

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