We humans are social creatures and part of that condition is the imposition of cultural standards of beauty. Every culture has and has had them, and it matters little whether you like it or not. These standards have an effect on both our outer life, such as who pays attention to us, who asks us out, or even whether we get hired. But they also have an effect on our inner lives, our self image, even our self worth. It may not be fair, but there it is.
The challenge for the frugal among us is how to play the beauty game without going broke in the process. The very wealthy have always had greater access to the beauty techniques of the time. I doubt many of Cleopatra’s subjects ever were able to take the milk baths she was famous for. These days a woman could get depressed just looking at the cutting edge treatments available for everything from crow’s feet to fat ankles that we read about in glossy magazines such as New Beauty and Allure. But there is some good news here. Modern technology has made it possible to mass produce and market beauty fixes that would blow away anything available to our great beauties of yesteryear. And they are not that expensive.
The first think to consider when trying to get gorgeous is (sadly) the weight thing. It isn’t fair, I know, but it really is the first thing other people notice about us. And then there is the health issue. I don’t believe it is necessary, desirable, or even possible to diet down to a stick figure. Being OK with your real life body type is attractive too. But if you need a little help in that area, try Weight Watchers. http://www.weightwatchers.com This does cost money, but you could join for awhile and then see how you do on your own. Or join the inexpensive online program.
The next biggest deal in the beauty world is the face of course. Now we are getting into the realm of pure fun. There is a great deal of hype in this arena, and lots of opportunity to blow your hard won cash on things that don’t quite work. For the basic face cleanse and moisturize one of the lovliest women I know swears by any product that has salicylic acid, Stridex for instance, and Lubriderm lotion. Another good frugal choice is the Olay line. http://www.olay.com/pages/DefaultFlash.aspx?TID=b4ce3ae5-f02f-4a36-9124-2a4f58f0f4be The cost is reasonable when compared to most alternatives. And you can find it at the supermarket.
There are also many wonderful DIY formulas for organic beauty products, made mostly with easy to find ingredients. The wonderful thing with these recipes is the control you have over what goes in them. I have just begun reading Sophie Uliano’s book Do It Gorgeously: How to Make Less Toxic, Less Expensive, and More Beautiful Products available at http://www.amazon.com/Do-Gorgeously-Expensive-Beautiful-Products/dp/140134139X/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287431807&sr=1-2 and I will report back with my findings after I test some of the recipes.
As for make-up, I go bare at home but feel a bit naked going out that way. Playing with make-up is a joy, but buying it is another story. Every woman should know her color type and follow it carefully when buying make-up as well as clothes. There are several good guides to color typing, the classic Color Yourself Beautiful by Carole Jackson http://www.amazon.com/Color-Me-Beautiful-Carole-Jackson/dp/0345345886/ref=pd_sim_b_1 among them. But my favorite is David Zyla’s The Color of Style http://www.amazon.com/Color-Style-Fashion-Attract-Impression/dp/0525951539/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287432453&sr=1-1 The man is a genius, though his method does take work. Get some friends together and have a color party, because it is very hard to see your own coloring. Then go to the make-up counter at an upscale store and study. Ask questions. If they are offering a free makeover, take it. Buy a lipstick if you feel guilty, but take the rest of the knowledge you have gained straight down to the drugstore or Kmart, and buy the same shades there at much more reasonable prices. If you are at a loss when it comes to make-up application, go ahead and get a professional to do it. Once. Ask her to slow down and tell you exactly what she did. Take notes. Then practice, you’ll get the hang of it.
Our hair is the next piece of the puzzle. I recommend going just once to the most high-end stylist you can possibly afford. Get them to explain your face shape and color options, as well as analyze your texture and thickness. Tell them you want something easy and inexpensive to maintain. Get them to write down the name of the cut and other specifics, as well as the color formula they used. Then go back to a stylist that is more affordable with your notes. One thing I’ve learned is to not be too much of a bargain hunter when it comes to hair stylists. The chain discount shops give very uneven results. If you want to give it a try go ahead, just realize you may have to go through an uncomfortable “growing out” period. As for color, the least expensive is natural. There are many beautiful women opting for gray these days. If you feel good about this look go for it!
Finally there are the nails. It is fairly easy to give yourself a home manicure or pedicure. You need a cuticle cream, a cuticle trimmer, and some polish or a buffer. It is good to put avocado oil on your cuticles every day, and to push them back whenever you shower. Pretty simple. But, the mani/pedi is generally the least expensive service at a salon, so if you want to splurge, this is a good place to do it.
These are the basics of looking good for less. I also recommend drawing a warm bath, adding a few drops of your favorite essential oil and soaking all your cares away. This is almost free and the relaxing effects are magical. Then sit back and have a cup of tea (or a glass of wine) with someone you love. It will make you feel years younger.