How much do you spend each year to look good?

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Getty Images

I was sitting around with friends a couple of nights ago and the conversation got on and stayed on make-up and all manner of female maintenance-the shampoos, the lotions, the unending hair removal, hair cuts, hair colors, etc, etc. My friend Chuck was the only man among us and he had lots of questions:
How long does it all take?
How did you learn this is what you were supposed to do?
How much does it cost?
Does it cost more now than when you were a teenager?
And the four of us answered. Now, you're talking to women who are relatively low maintenance and don't spend all that much time or effort on being perfectly coiffed and made-up. Still, once you added up everything, all the waxes and concealers and mascaras and creams, it came to about an average of $3,000 a year (for me). Which is insane and even kind of sad. My friend Courtney admitted that she can't leave the drugstore without spending $100. My friend Melissa discussed how she is always buying new blowdryers. I had to admit that I spend $300 on my hair, about five times per year- it is my one indulgence and I loooove it..
Underlying this conversation was an odd sense of both shame and exhilaration. It's super-fun being a girl. Amazing, actually. It's also stupidly expensive and kind of lame that we fork over significant cash for our physical upkeep and that men would never dream of doing the same (Chuck called this "the secret lives of women").
The issue led me to find this story in Siren Magazine called "Why Vanity Keeps Us Poor." In it, the writer talks about how the cosmetic and toiletries industry is, worldwide, a $45 to $66 billion business and that American women spend an average of $12,000 annually on beauty products and grooming. Wha???
Wow. That's like the cost of a car or a seriously fancy vacation. Of course, you wouldn't look cute in your new car or on your amazing vacation and that, admittedly, pathetically, might ruin the entire experience.

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