Keeping up with the Kardashians as they get gorgeous is no
frugal feat. While celebrities have deep pockets for tucks and
tweaks, the average Josephine doesn't.
Yet busting out big bucks for beauty is trending. According to a
Global Industry Analysts report, Americans are projected to spend
$17.57 billion on cosmetic surgery procedures alone in 2015. A
combination of factors are fueling the drive, from the perpetual
desire to appear young to the growing popularity of reality
Here's what consumers are paying to shine like stars -- and how
you can avoid the ugly debt that can come with it.
Wrinkles can be smoothed down or puffed up with fillers such as
Botox, Dysport and Juvederm, to name a few. The price for these
injections is typically between $300 and $700 per area (such as the
space between the eyes, called "the elevens" after the two vertical
grooves that often appear) and results last a few months.
Swollen lips are also ultra popular, ("trout pouts" are
practically contractual on the Real Housewives franchise). For a
few hundred bucks, they can be inflated with collagen, hyaluronic
acid or other products pushed though a needle.
If cash is tighter than your skin, Houtan Chaboki, a board
certified facial plastic surgeon at Potomac Plastic Surgery in
Washington, D.C., says injectables can be enhanced with strategic
placements. "A lot of patients want the smile lines filled because
that's what they see on TV, but instead we can use one or two in
other areas for a more natural look and to reduce the cost."
Communicate both what you want done and your financial
parameters with the needle holder. It's easy to overdo freezing and
filling, and not just to the detriment of your expressions, but
also to your wallet. Because these procedures are highly lucrative
for the practice or spa, some will push more than you need or want.
Beware the hard sell and honor your limit.
Weigh the short-term nature of shots against their longer-term
counterparts, as well. Spending more on a pricier procedure in the
beginning can save thousands in the end. For example, says Chaboki,
"It's very common to have injections in the cheeks for a fuller
look, but it's about $1,000 per treatment, twice a year. Cheek
implants are about $5,000, just once." Economically speaking, the
implants win out in about three years.
More dramatic and lasting adjustments -- from a nicer nose to a
tighter tummy -- mean going under the knife, operations which start
in the thousands.
Resist the temptation to cheap out, however, as a bargain
basement doctor can cost far more if he botches the job. Think the
stock market is risky? Try bad cosmetic surgery. Tara Reid's torso
should scare you into prudence.
"From a financial perspective, if you have to have the same
surgery performed twice, the second time just to correct the first
surgery because the doctor was not trained as a plastic surgeon,
what makes the most sense?" asks Marcel Daniels, a Long Beach,
Calif., board certified plastic surgeon.
Instead, Dr. Daniels says, save up for the best in the field.
Make sure that person is board certified, too, as it proves
exceptional expertise in a particular specialty.
To find that doctor and plan for the price, conduct your
research with a respected online community like RealSelf.com, where
you can learn about medical-beauty treatments. "We only allow board
certified doctors to be on the site," says Alicia Nakamoto,
RealSelf.com's vice president of community and marketing. "So if
you get a Groupon and you can't find them here, they aren't board
certified. Avoid them."
The site lists the average national fees for virtually every
procedure, as well as what they're going for in your city. You'll
quickly see that one woman paid $7,000 for a facelift in Savannah,
Ga., and a New Yorker spent $5,800 on liposuction.
Another useful feature is the "worth it" ratings system. Every
treatment has a score of 1 to 100 percent. Low numbers can be used
as an immediate "don't do it!" indicator, whereas a high score can
give a green light. For instance, the average fee for a Lifestyle
Lift (currently running aggressively on the infomercial landscape)
is $5,850 but only garners a 53 percent rating. The traditional
facelift averages $11,125 but has an 86 percent rating.
Lotions and potions
Are cutting and poking too extreme or expensive? There's no
shortage of topicals to explore. The Global Industry Analysts
report projects we'll soon be spending $114 billion on creams and
But if you're hoping to gain the flawless complexion of the
stars like Halle Berry (voted best celebrity skin by
TotalBeauty.com), accept the truth that even the priciest serums
don't perform miracles.
Philadelphi-based beauty blogger Yolanda Kiel writes about the
industry on Fashion & the Steal, and because she was diagnosed
with eczema at the age of 5, has spent thousands on skincare.
"There's been many times where my budget was blown to pieces," says
Kiel. "I did the credit card thing, put it all on there. You get
caught up and convince yourself that you need it."
Eventually she realized that luxe lines harmed her finances and
her epidermus. "Commonly used preservatives and emulsifiers were
irritants," says Kiel. She began to save money and her skin by
focusing on what was in the jar rather than the label.
Consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch, who has a background in
such beauty brands as Sephora, agrees. "Get a recommendation from
an esthetician to look for ingredients," says Woroch. "It's easy to
overspend on products that aren't as good as drugstore brands."
When visiting a department store, be skeptical. Commission-based
sales staff can make wild claims, so always request a sample to try
before you buy. Sephora will squeeze just about anything out in a
to-go container, says Woroch, who also suggests ordering minis from
Salon and spa services: hair, tans, nails and
Sure you'll get gleaming hair with a Brazilian blow out (around
$200) and glowing skin from facials (usually $100 on up), but make
them routine and your bank account can suffer.
Cherie Corso, a former model and co-creator of G2 Organics is a
personality on the new reality show Working Wives of Westchester,
and reports that (shock!) her fellow cast members were spa and
salon-aholics. "In one scene where we were having coffee first
thing in the morning after dropping the kids off at school, one of
the girls just spent $1,500 for hair extensions," says Corso.
That's a mortgage payment plus some groceries for many
If you're going to splurge, be selective. Corso recalls wasting
$350 on a silly procedure that began with a ground coffee scrub,
and was supposed to slim five to six inches from her frame. "I was
then asked to turn over on the table while they put white tea to
help bloat, green tea to calm and black tea ... oh, it was all
loose tea!" Eventually she was raincoated and sent to sweat in the
sauna. The inches remained, but her skin was stained and bank
Still, many treatments are beneficial and economical (a super
durable pedicure may be worth the $30) and bargains exist.
"Sites like Groupon and Dealery feature tons of beauty treatment
deals of up to 75 percent off," says Woroch. "My sister recently
purchased a discount voucher for laser hair removal for just $200,
a whopping $1,000 in savings!"
You can find almost any spa and salon service on such sites, but
read online reviews to gauge quality. And before clicking "buy," be
sure the shop is within reasonable driving distance and mind the
Finally, don't ignore the fact that products sold within a spa
or salon are subject to heavy markups. You can typically find the
same product online for a fraction of the cost. So before you buy,
search the web first. Just make sure the site you purchase from is
reputable and the products aren't just cheap imitations packaged in
look-alike tubes and containers.
Budget your beautification
There's nothing wrong with improving your physical self, says
Deborah Hightower, a financial consultant from Atlanta, unless you
descend into debt doing it. "I had a client who spent many
thousands per year on Botox, spas and things like that and used a
combination of savings and credit cards." The indulgences led to
debt, so Hightower put the kibosh on that behavior.
The trick is to budget for beauty. Sound spending plans should
always have an allowance for nonessentials built in. That's a
percentage of your income that you can spend on anything you want,
"whether it's a boob job or Christian Louboutins," says Hightower,
an admitted shoe aficionado.
What about financing these discretionary prettifiers? Hightower
shakes her head, pointing out that even when the interest rate is
low, you're still paying extra. That's cash you could be using on
the procedures you really want. "Putting Botox on a credit card
makes no sense because it's not asset based," says Hightower. "But
if you use discretionary money, that's yours to spend as you like."
Echoing Dr. Daniels, your best bet, she says, is to start
In the end, moderation is generally best, for both spending and
sculpting. Just refer to Heidi Montag, whose infamous 10 plastic
surgeries in a day cost over $30,000. Heidi who, you ask?