I love the Bud Light commercials with Seth Rogan and Amy Schumer, especially about women and equality. It highlights how women earn less than men but still have to pay more for dry cleaning, which my husband always points out, and shampoo of all things. Afterward, Seth calls his mom to address this new and terrible notion. Much to the same point, I was talking with my girlfriend about how much money we spend not only on beauty products, but how to make our hair fuller (or remove hair in other places), nails, clothing, accessories, and the list goes on and on. And it isn’t just the cost, but the time to get our hair and nails done, to get waxed, and to look the part. We need a solid hour to two hours to get ready for a wedding while the men just show up. Maybe they used a little extra gel that day, but that is the extent of it for them.
We have come a long way as women in the workforce and respecting our fellow stay at home moms. I like to call them the non-compensated spouse instead of the non-working spouse. They are working overtime, day and night, workdays and weekends. But somehow, we still feel the need to get all dolled up when we go to work or out at night in order to have confidence. We look at ourselves in the mirror and tell ourselves, we just need to add…some more blush. Then we look again, and add some more mascara…and more lip gloss..and more hair spray. Then an hour later you are exhausted, and late. This might not be you, but I’m sure you know a friend or two like this.
I wanted to look at how much all of this is costing us, and the percentage of our income that has been dedicated to this phenomenon. I started back in the 1920s to see the expense for your basic make up and beauty products and compared it to how much women were earning back then. Just as a quote from the 1930s says:
“There are no ugly women. There are only women who do not know how to look pretty.” I’m not sure who said this, but it could possibly be my grandmother.
Face powder in 1927 would cost you $.87 for the Java Cold Cream Powder, and today you can buy a Revlon face powder for $10.66 or Channel for $65.00. If you compare the Java Cold Cream Powder to the Revlon powder, the inflation has been a cumulative rate of 1,248% or an average annual rate of 2.85%. But if you compare it to the Chanel face powder, it would be 7,371% or 4.9% annually. Women were making an average of $12 a week up to $20 a week, which is $624 a year and $1,040 a year. So if you buy one face powder a week, you would spend about $45.25 a year or 7% of your salary. In 2014, women earn on average $39,621 a year, and if they buy one face powder a week, they would spend 1.3% of their income. This is a much better percentage today than in 1927. Hopefully the inflation rate on face powder slows down, or we will need a separate inflation rate for retirement planning just for makeup.
Let’s look at nail polish, which has become a staple for a well “polished” woman to have. Cutex sold nail polish in 1934 for $.35 versus Essie’s nail polish, which sells for $9 a bottle. That is a growth rate of 2,471% over an 82 year period or an inflation rate of 4% a year. Hair spray was started in 1948 by Chase Products, and Helene Curtis coined the name hairspray with the release of her product, Spray Net. In the 1980s, women set a record by going through a can a day or spending $1 a day. Today, you can spend $2 for a can of Rave hairspray or well over $10 for the salon brands. If you look at the inexpensive brand, the inflation rate is a cumulative rate of 100% over a 36 year period with an average annual rate of 1.9%. And if you want to take a more expensive brand of Nexxus for $14.98, the cumulative inflation rate is 1,398% with an annual rate of 7.8%!
Women haven’t only spent their money on beauty; they also loved their handbags back then as much as we do now. A leather bag in 1920 would set you back $1.39 versus hundreds and even thousands of dollars today. My father goes into shock whenever we Christmas shop for my mom, and then the infamous buyer’s remorse sets in afterward followed by wine. Of course, it is always worth it to see his face after he notices the price tag.
It certainly is a different world now, but our priorities haven’t changed much. We still want to be there for our children, career moms and stay at home moms alike. We want to take care of our families, yet still look good or at least put together. However, it can be easy to get swept up in the Hollywood idea of what we should look like. If you aren’t happy with how you look pre-makeup then you won’t be happy post-makeup. You should feel confident first thing in the morning with your bed head, sleepy eyes, and bad breath. I know easier said than done but you will never be happy if you’re always comparing yourself. You can spend all you want on beauty, but remember the person who loves you, doesn’t care how much eye make-up you wear. They might actually love the money you’re saving. Now I will end with some great quotes I found from the 1920s and 1930s. Please don’t use any of them as advice.
“Don’t eat many sweets. A pound of candy should last twenty-four hours at least.”
“Don’t stand with the shoulder forward or the abdomen thrust out.”
“Don’t be afraid to yawn or stretch when alone. If you do it when your boy-friend is present he may misunderstand and regard it as a signal for departure, instead of a mere exercise.”
“Don’t brush or comb the hair roughly. Remember when you are brushing your hair you are not mopping the floor.
“Don’t be discontented. Discontentment engraves ugly lines on the face. ”
“Don’t use every new cosmetic you see advertised or hear recommended. Let other girls have a chance to ruin their skin.”
Next week I will discuss the ultimate question of what your “push present” should be. In case you don’t know what a “push present” is, it is the gift you get for carrying a baby for nine months followed by a long and painful delivery.
Jessica Weaver, CFP®, CDFA™, CFS®
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