At least, I don’t think so.
After all, it takes me more than a year to use up a small container of foundation, and there are perfectly good eye shadows, each and every one a few decades old, stashed in a bathroom drawer. I’m not big on perfumes or jewelry either, although baby powder and my engagement and wedding rings are always on my person.
And when it comes to apparel, forget high fashion, because oversized sweats and fluffy socks are this girl clown’s wardrobe of choice. Indeed, if I could, I’d be like Hugh Hefner in this one way: I’d wear pajamas all day,
Like my mother, I started going grey in my mid-30s, and unlike my mother, I decided to do something about that right away. As thrifty as I am, at-home products never did the trick (there will be no mention of my brief and disastrous flirtation with henna), so I faithfully began seeing a hairdresser to return my tresses to their original color.
These visits were once every six weeks, but the last few years have seen me in a stylist’s chair, like clockwork, every month. I also go for straightening as needed (organic products have made this much less damaging than even a decade ago), mainly because I hate my naturally curly hair. (I know, I know. We always want what we don’t have. But in this case, I can have it.)
The dreaded W word—waxing—is also in my world.
In fact, in spite of the pain, I actually look forward to going from hirsute to smooth in a few hours.
It started with an upper lip swipe, and soon escalated to using the hot syrupy stuff to shape my eyebrows. Then, after decades of shaving—with that added reward of little cuts from the dainty pink razor—I decided to get my legs waxed. After that, it was easy to move on to the dark hair on my arms, which I had previously bleached. For those missed spots, tweezers remain my handy dandy friend.
Manicures and pedicures are in the mix, too.
When I was a little girl, the only folks who indulged in this luxe pampering were movie stars and those with a lot of discretionary income. But after Vietnamese owned and operated salons began popping up in the mid-‘80s, there was no going back. In fact, during the years I worked in the entertainment business in Beverly Hills and Hollywood, getting a $20 mani-pedi wasn’t an indulgence, but a regular every-other-week outing. Today, I go every six weeks or so, paying a cost-efficient $35.
I shudder to think about what would I look like, and what would happen to me, if I didn’t stick to these routines.
Let’s just say it isn’t pretty.
Within eight weeks, maximum, you’d see a cranky woman with frizzy grey hair, boasting a furry unibrow, visible mustache and not-so-polished chin. My nails and toes would certainly be ragged, as well as visibly chipped with nasty old polish. Previously hairless arms would fast be making up for lost time, as would my legs.
In other words, I’d look exactly like a bag lady, minus the bags.
But it’s only outward appearance, right?
According to a 2008 University of Pennsylvania article in Penn Current, one of that college’s publications, there’s strong evidence that those who take care of how they look also feel better about themselves.
In other words, looking one’s best is a huge confidence booster.
Consequently, and I’m pretty sure this isn’t just me, I believe that this ego shot can translate into wanting to be the best we can be in every aspect of our lives. Other studies back this up, concluding that looking good can also make you more persuasive; raise your salary up to 10 percent, and even amplify how others see your accomplishments.
For me, those conclusions also indicate that you’ll also want to perform to peak capacity at a job, or aim for higher grades in school, or try to engage in a healthier lifestyle. Case in point: I won’t go on a job interview, or even meet a new friend, unless I’m looking my best, because I know I’ll also be feeling my best.
Since being polished gives me this brighter perspective, I don’t look down on those who choose plastic surgery either.
If someone is going to feel better about himself/herself once their eyelids are lifted, or after a crooked nose is straightened, who am I to judge? After all, isn’t coloring my hair, waxing regularly and keeping my toenails just so only a less intrusive version of this?
Given everything that most of us do to look good, does this mean that our society is wildly superficial, and ignores what we’re like on the inside?
The answer, at least from this arena, is a big fat no.
That’s because feeling happier and more confident when you look good is only one positive consequence of a regular beauty routine.
The other, and it’s an important one, is this: taking care of ourselves makes for a significant domino effect that boosts the economy—to the tune of a whopping $426 billion per year.
Yup, Huffington Post says that’s the total that women in the United States spend on beauty products in a 12-month period. In addition, InStyle magazine reports that in 2013, women used about $15,000 on beauty products in their lifetime (this actually seems low). Adding to that figure, the online publication Jezebel says that the average woman’s health and personal hygiene budget rings up to about $2,000 every year.
The consequence of putting that kind of major cha-ching out into the world is definitely not a bad thing, especially if those products and services come from local, family-owned businesses.
Case in point: my hairdresser, who is a one-woman enterprise, sees about 150 clients per month. I happen to know that nearly all of her clients’ payments go right back into our little town—whether it’s food for her family; gas for her car, or fees for her son’s community college education. I also buy organic Epson salts and lavender (essential for my nightly baths) from a unique herbal/spice store down the street, and part of what I give its hands-on creator goes toward hiring kids who live here, who also spend their paychecks here.
And while my nail/waxing place is a 20-minute drive, here, too, it’s a small operation. The long hours put in by the Asian couple who run it use a decent chunk of money they earn to send their two small children to an adjacent private grammar school. Those fees help pay teachers’ salaries, and also give financial aid to those who can’t afford full tuition.
My final point?
I’ve decided that it’s more than okay to be vain.
Even if I’m really not.
What’s your beauty routine, and what benefits do you get from it? I’d love to hear from you!