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11 Women On What An Average Month Of Beauty Spending Looks Like

makeupWhen it comes to beauty and general “appearance maintenance,” it can sometimes feel like there’s no limit to how much a woman can spend. There is always some miracle product that promises to give you clear skin, shiny hair, or full lashes. And even just a walk through a drugstore is fraught with temptation to pick up a new lipstick or nail polish because, why not, it’s not even 10 dollars?

And aside from the (obviously) gendered and emotional aspects of all of this — in the fact that we feel we are always a “work in progress,” something that can be improved upon constantly through spending money on the right products — there’s also a huge financial toll. Some women spend hundreds of dollars a month on products and treatments to get them closer to the vision of themselves in their head, and consider it a part of their normal routine.

Still other women spend almost nothing on beauty products, aside from the very basics to maintain things like clean hair and moisturized skin. And this leads us to have all the more distorted vision of what is an “average” amount for a woman to spend on beauty. So I decided to speak to 11 women in my life about what they spend on beauty and upkeep, and where that money really goes. Where do they save? Where do they splurge? Do they feel any regrets about the amount they’re spending?

I gathered honest (and sometimes surprising) answers below.

“I barely spend anything on makeup (I wear the same five-ish drug store products and never really change my routine), but I spend a good amount on all things hair. I get frequent cuts/colors, waxes, threading, etc. All told, I spend probably at least $100 every month just messing with my hair. Patriarchy!” -Noelle, 25

“The one area where I really spend a ton of money is skincare. I wear a very basic amount of makeup (I buy the same stuff approx. once every few months, and it costs me about $100 for all of it), but I have a lot of monthly skincare costs. I have acne and rosacea as well as really sensitive, pale skin, so between my sunscreen, my expensive moisturizer, my skin creams, my cleansing products, and my dermo visits, skin stuff alone averages out to about $100 a month. It’s very frustrating, too, because I don’t really want to be spending this money, and it doesn’t make me look or feel ‘prettier,’ per se, just ‘more normal.’ I sometimes feel resentful that I have to spend all of this money just to get to a level that nice-skinned women have every day.” -Anna, 26

“I don’t really spend too much on beauty, tbh — I don’t get my hair done, I do my nails at home, I don’t really buy new makeup, and my creams last me a long time. The only thing I really do for myself is get waxes, which I get once a month at $50/each. I get my hair cut twice per year (I like to keep it really long), which is about $75 each time.” -Cristina, 27

“I definitely admit that I’m a beauty addict, especially when it comes to all things colorful. For example, I have one foundation and one face moisturizer that lasts me an entire season, and I don’t mess around with primers or highlight or whatever. But lipsticks, nail polish, eyeshadow, eyeliner, everything where I can have a range of colors, I’m addicted. I love collecting all different shades of things (even when I know they’re going to be unflattering), and I now have a makeup shelf at home with literally probably 200 shades of things. Between that and my regular beauty stuff (bath stuff, hair stuff, skin care stuff), I end up spending about $150/month. Which feels like a lot.” -Natalie, 23

“I actually spend more on beauty stuff quarterly than monthly, because I order things online and use the same things repeatedly, which usually get replaced every three months. I get a case of my shampoo, conditioner, and shower gel for about $60. I get a big thing of my moisturizer (one body, one face) for $70. I buy mascara, eyeliner, foundation, bronzer, lip stain, and a neutral eyeshadow (I wear literally the same face of makeup basically every day), and that is about $130 every 2-3 months. Then I get a haircut 3-4 times a year for $100 each. I pluck my own eyebrows and bikini waxing. Buying everything in bulk forces me to be thriftier, because I feel the hit. When I used to just pick up things as I went, and make a run to Sephora here and there, I spent way more (even though it felt like I was spending less).” -Maddie, 27

“I’d say my monthly spend on makeup is pretty low compared to most (or what I imagine most women have to spend).

I’ve never been the type to have a full-blown beauty regimen. I’ve always (thankfully) had pretty clear skin and freckles so I never had to delve into the world of foundation/concealer/powders/fancy face brushes. I mostly buy my eyeshadows from e.l.f. (which is ah-mazing, super cheap, and works great) and my eye liner from the drug store. I do splurge on Dior Blackshow mascara at Sephora, but I figure if it’s something I’m going to wear literally every day, it’s worth the $25.

Where I really spend my money is on all the other non-makeup categories.

Because I have super curly/wavy/thick hair, I always go to the same woman at the same salon in Soho. I won’t trust anyone else. Unfortunately her pricing has gone up over the years, so I have to shell out about $120 ($100 + tax & tip) every time I go (once every 3-4 months). I also buy my shampoo and conditioner there, which racks up another $40 bucks. But it’s concentrated, works great, and lasts a long time, so I feel ok about it.

I also now have a boyfriend who prefers (though to his credit, does not demand) me to keep things ahem Brazilian below the belt. Never having bothered get waxed until now, I was shocked that it cost so much. Nevertheless, once a month I pay a nice Ukrainian woman $50 ($40 + tax & tip) to rip out all of my hair.

Then there is the beauty ‘stuff.’ I’m talking the perfect face scrub I buy at Lush ($14), and the bath bombs I always pick up while I’m there ($6 each), and the Kiehl’s body polish ($11), the expensive Venus razors ($18), and the Essie nail polish ($8). I get the makeup removing wipes from Olay ($5), and Goodie hair clips ($6), and the Chloe perfume rollerballs ($25). For me, these are the things that I just grab and don’t really think too much about. And some of these things (like buying my own polish and doing my nails myself) end up saving me a lot — but then again, I’m sure I could find cheaper alternatives if I tried hard enough (or considered whether I really needed to exfoliate my legs every day).” -Liz, 25

“I spend as close to nothing on beauty as possible, honestly. I buy basic shower stuff and lotion, I cut my own hair, and my makeup bag consists of a few items from CVS that I put on when I’m feeling particularly energetic. It’s not a feminist statement or whatever, I actually like the feeling of getting super made-up occasionally, I’m just super lazy. And I find that when I wear a ton of makeup on a regular basis, my skin gets worse, which creates a vicious cycle (because I have to cover it with more makeup). Including shower stuff, I probably put $25/month towards my appearance. But I make it up with all the money I spend at bars and restaurants, haha.” -Amy, 30

“My summer and winter beauty spending are very different. In the winter, I buy a lot more makeup and skin products (always from Sephora or NARS), and it ends up being about $100 per month. In summer, I really only wear a few things: tinted vaseline on my lips and eyelids, good moisturizer, a bit of waterproof mascara if I’m going out, and maybe a touch of bronzer and eyeliner for a ‘done up’ look. In the summer, I probably spend a total of $20 a month, besides basic cleaning stuff. (I also get my hair chopped off at the beginning of summer and let it grow out as the summer goes along), so I really spend next to nothing during this time.” -Joanna, 29

“So I spend $10 on Ipsy. I’ve been super happy with it. I don’t use a lot of makeup, so when I was filling out their survey I really narrowed down what I was interested in getting. Mostly skincare products, lots of lip stuff, an eyeshadow here and there. The only makeup I wear everyday is mascara, concealer, powder, and a lip thing, so the other products last for a while. I get a manicure/pedicure once every two months (might as well not do it at all, but) so let’s say that’s 20 bucks per month. I spend something like $140 on my haircut/color, but I only get it done once every three or four months, so that’s $40 on average. I shave at home and have the same pack of razors from a year ago, when I moved into this apartment. Don’t think they’re worth the math. Same re: my moisturizer, I use a big ass jug of Pond’s that lasts at least four months.” -Stephanie, 28

“I spend an embarrassing amount of money on beauty. I get facials, balayage, manicures, and basically every other ‘bougie’ beauty treatment, on top of the stuff I buy for myself. I probably spend about $300 a month on my appearance, but to me it always feels worth it. I just like looking and feeling pretty, lol. I honestly think it makes me better at my job and at life, because I feel so confident.” -Alison, 30

“So I used to spend way, way less money on beauty than I do now. But since I got a job in a very high-pressure professional setting, I find myself spending a lot of money on beauty treatments to a) look a certain way and b) save myself a lot of valuable time. For example, I get twice-monthly gel manicures ($50 total) and weekly blowouts ($120 total) that I maintain for most of the work week, mostly so I can look “put together” without trying.

I don’t necessarily regret this money, especially because my actual makeup routine is a few things from NARS that I buy once every few months ($175 every 3-4 months), but I do resent that the men in my office never have to consider this stuff. We all have to look a certain way in front of the client, but only women are forced to go through a ton of unnecessary spending to get to that point. I think all the time of things I’d rather do with that money, but ultimately it’s more important to me to have that time to focus on things other than waking up super early to get my nails and hair perfect.” -Katie, 33

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  • Bethany Amanda

    I have to admit I’m side-eyeing what most of these women consider “needs.” Even at my most acne-ridden, I just used a drugstore face wash (no foundation or concealer) and called it a day because 1) I didn’t really give a damn and 2) neither does anyone else, unless you’re in a job that specifically requires you to look a certain way. If you like makeup, more power to you. But most “pressure” to look like some arbitrary definion of beautiful is largely self-imposed.

    • I think a lot of people gain more confidence when they follow a beauty regimen that makes them feel comfortable. It might be more about looking your best self (however you personally define that) than what you think other people expect of you.

    • Shannon Schaubroeck

      Self-imposed? Girl girl girl. There are entrenched, society-wide standards of beauty that form a constant backbeat to our days and our beauty decisions–and while some women have the desire and gumption to shake or ignore those standards, others don’t. I would argue that in most professional settings, very-visible acne or poorly-done makeup DO have a negative effect on your success as a professional, or at least on coworkers’ perceptions of you as one. As unfair as it might be, good skin/hair is part of dressing professionally, and women who eschew the standard take a potential hit for it. Believe other women when the call something a “need.” Yes, we should be discriminating about our beauty spending… but we don’t need to feel ashamed about it or shame other women for it. It’s a blemished world out there.

    • Roselyne

      “self-imposed”?? At my last job, I got yelled at by my (female) boss after a conference for not wearing heels all day and not wearing eye make-up. (For the record: I was 8 months pregnant and it was allergy season: both the heels and the mascara were a no-go.)

      Most women don’t get the feedback quite that directly, but there are a whole lot of people who make stupid assumptions about your competence and professionalism based on appearance and don’t say it out loud… it’s just kinda reflected in the assignments you get, in whether they think your presentations are as good as your colleague’s, etc. I’ve found it to be well-worth the extra money and time (ugh, the time, don’t get me started) to do at least basic make-up and fitted quality clothing. It’s just sad that it’s a basic minimum that’s required to have my work taken as seriously as my male colleagues who don’t have to do this BS.

  • blanca

    Hmm. I was like a lot of the women in the article – spending upwards of $100 a month on skincare, makeup, etc. A website I highly recommend trying is eDivv. You take all the unused beauty products in your drawer (because at $100/mo. I KNOW you have a lot of unused product stocked up somewhere) and you trade with other people online for products you actually need. I haven’t purchased new mascara, concealer, polish top coat, sunscreen, etc. in months by just using eDivv. And all you pay is shipping. It’s very fun!

    • Brenna

      That sounds like a great idea for things like polish, but do you mean that you’re trading for used mascara?

      • blanca

        No, of course not. I only trade for new (unused) mascara, eyeliner and lip products. But things like eye shadow, face wash, nail polish etc. can be used.

  • Jean Livingston

    I liked this post and was a bit surprised that these women spend so much on makeup and beauty products. However, I’m still a student and don’t wear makeup except for the occasional special event.

  • Shannon Schaubroeck

    Maybe my perspective is skewed high because I live in SF, but these estimates mostly seemed low to me. I consider my beauty regimen pretty minimal and I stick with mostly drugstore makeup, but I still spend at least $100/month on beauty (not including haircuts), and most of my friends do too. For those friends who buy high-end foundation etc, it’s more than that. I spend ~$25 on makeup-remover wipes alone (Neutrogena), and a similar amount on conditioner. It all depends on what kind of budget you’re working with, but I feel like my hair & skin deserve love and care, and am happy to allot them a solid lil cut of my budget.

  • melly2508

    When I was attempting to find the right products for my skin, I spent a lot of money each month ($100-$200, although, thanks to Sephora’s generous return policy, I was able to recoup a lot of that). Now that I’ve found the right products, I maybe spend $100/month, including makeup/moisturizer/cleanser/Rx acne cream. And perhaps $15/month on “shower stuff.”

  • Roselyne

    I think 80-100$/month is about right, personally.

    I mean:
    – Skin care. I have sensitive, dry, acne-prone skin. The combo of soap/toner/cream that works for me winds up being about 25$/month, but keeps my skin pretty free of acne, and is worth it.
    – Make-up: my foundation is $$$ but lasts forever and doesn’t make my skin break out. Otherwise… blush, eyebrow pencil, eyeliner, lipstick. I own 2 lipsticks and 1 eyeliner. Average cost: 20$/month.
    – Haircut: 80$ every 3 months. With the right haircut, I don’t really need styling products or conditionner, and I use Head and Shoulders shampoo, which is pretty cheap. A bit of almond oil on the tips of my hair helps give a ”

    … That’s 70$ without looking at nail polish, wax (or getting waxed), any specific treatments (dermatological or otherwise), etc. It adds up pretty quickly, and I don’t use that many products.

  • Lina Abascal

    I loved reading this. At first when I was halfway through, I was worried that everyone was going to be on the what I consider cheap (under $50 a month DIY everything) side and I was frustrated because we all know there is a wide variety. But I appreciate the different ranges mentioned.

    I recently got rid of my fake nails for the first time in legit SIX years and I don’t feel the saving $50 as much as I feel saving the TIME and inconvenience/extra time if one popped off. Lets see how long I last 🙂

    linalovesit.com/blog

  • Sophie K

    Its very hard to compare it on a monthly basis because a lot of products will last for several months. That said, in NYC Brazilian/face waxing and mani/pedi 2x a month will be over $100 per month already. So I would say the total budget should be pretty close to double that, and that is just for the basics, i.e. you are not “treating yourself” to anything special like a facial or a massage.

    Also, using RX stuff prescribed by your dermatologist is one of the things that I am shocked to see a lot of women not do. They would blow hundreds of dollars on over the counter stuff in a nice bottle that doesn’t really work, rather than going to their dermatologist and getting a prescription cream that is covered by insurance and can actually treat that expensive skin condition.

    • Kat

      I agree on the Rx point! I have a Retin-A Prescription that costs: $60 co-pay annually and $10 every 3 months to refill.

      • pamb

        That is a great price for Retin A! You must have great insurance! My daughter’s px is well over $100, and our deductible;e is really high…

  • Irisgeist

    Quite interesting to see all those experiences! some few changes that dramatically cut my costs without sacrificing looking polished were:
    -A low maintenance haircut: I used to have long, layered hair, that was very high maintenance: it would only look nice with a blow-out or flat-ironed. Of course, I had to spend money on heat-protecting products, but still was not enough, so I needed extra-hydrating hair treatments ($$) and shampoo/conditioners to make it look decent, not to mention a lot of time each morning to style it. I switched for a reaaaally low maintenance lob that is the perfect match for my hair type. I can let air-dry and still look nice; no more hot tools = healthier, shinier hair, and it only takes me literally 2 minutes to do my hair in the mornings.
    -Embracing the DIY: a quickly treatment with olive oil once a week does wonders for my hair, and it’s less expensive than a fancy hair mask. I learned to do my nails myself, and that natural-ish eyebrows (only taking out the few outlier hairs and trimming the long ones) look better than the few times I had them waxed. The only times I pay for a professional service is when I need a haircut (4 times per year, around $60 per haircut).
    – My “one bag” rule. I have a small bag as my only space for make-up, so the only way I buy something new, is because the original was finished. So, only one foundation, only one concealer, one powder, one mascara, one blush, max. 3 shades of lipstick/lipstain, and one small palette of eye-shadows. Having such a small space forces me to choose only the shades that I really love, and the products that I know will use until the bottle dies.
    -Getting the med I needed, instead of the high-end creams. I have rosacea, and before going to a dermatologist, I spent a lot of time and money trying different creams without much result. Not even the expensive ones fixed my problem. It was only until I got the proper medicament that my skin got greatly better.

  • This seems.. like a lot to me? I spend maybe 20€ on products a month, and that’s including teeth and hygiene products for the time of the month. The only thing I really spend money on is the hairdresser, because my short hair needs to be cut once a month, for 29€. How much product is everyone using???

  • hilsull

    I am so bad: I get my hair trimmed and colored every 6-8 weeks ($120ish incl. tip) as I chose to dye my hair auburn years ago and it takes quite a bit of upkeep. I also spend about $150-200 quarterly to restock makeup/skin care at Sephora because honestly, I just like to look good, and it also feels like armor to me. I don’t feel comfortable leaving the house to go to work unless I have at least mascara on. I think it’s also kind of expected of you in most professions (especially as I used to bartend/waitress during law school, and it can affect your tips) to look like you’re at least trying.

  • pamb

    I rarely finish a beauty product. It’s understandable to switch colors/formulas with changing seasons, but how often are you wearing your lipstick down to the nub, or finishing a pan of blush? I think most women get bored with their hair/beauty products and buy new ones, which is different than need.

    I don’t listen to the ‘expiration date’ nonsense and use my products until they are done (or truly smell ‘off’, which is when I throw them out). I just took out an evening purse for my daughter to use and found two lip glosses in their. They are at least several years old and smell fine. Guess what? Two ‘new’ colors to add to my stash! 🙂

  • crazygemini12

    I didn’t spend a lot of money on beauty in my 20s, either, because I was in my 20s. It’s different when you get older, though I think we should differentiate between beauty (makeup, highlights, etc) and regular maintenance (moisturizer with sunscreen isn’t a beauty product-it’s essential to taking care of your skin the way toothpaste is essential to caring for your teeth).