Financial Wellness: Be careful of (beauty) routine spending

The wiry hair sticking out from my head caught my eye. I leaned into the bathroom mirror and with my thumb and forefinger plucked it out for a better look.

My first gray hair. Oh, and there’s the second. I’ll stop counting now.

Being 2014, I of course snapped a photo of the offending strand and posted it to Facebook. Comments rolled in, including several on the topic of coloring.

“My salon should be sending me Christmas presents,” joked a college friend who got her first grays 15 years ago.

I’m not planning on coloring my hair. I want to age naturally, embracing the grays as a sign of maturity and wisdom. It’s about time gray hair on women was considered distinguished, as it is on men.

Plus, I really don’t want to spend the money. Trips to the salon every six weeks aren’t a priority for our family’s budget.

My gray strand(s) got me thinking about beauty routines, and how they lead to routine spending. It’s a touchy topic, given the emphasis placed on beauty in our society. But it is spending that could be damaging your financial wellness.

A British study conducted by Tresemme found the average woman spends $50,000 on her hair over her lifetime, including $160 a year on shampoos and conditioners, $120 for styling products, $520 for haircuts and, for those who color, another $330 a year, a Huffington Post article reported.

I’m apparently not the average woman, buying the $2 shampoo and often trimming my own bangs.

Whether you get regular dye jobs, manicures, chemical peels or whatnot is completely a personal decision, but it’s also a matter of personal finance. Have you looked at the money coming in and going out to see if you can afford adding these ongoing (and not truly necessary) expenses?

If you can’t, are there less expensive ways to improve your appearance? Could you lengthen the time between appointments, or try some at-home beauty treatments

Canadian money expert Gail Vaz-Oxlade, on her show “Princess,” advised the spendthrift young women she counseled to ditch the pricey salon visits and look into no-name beauty products.

“Despite all the consumer reports and experts that try to tell us to chill and read the ingredients, it seems we’re still more likely to use price as our guarantee for success than knowledge,” Vaz-Oxlade writes on her blog. “There are many less expensive products that contain the same active ingredients, and work just as well, as high-end options.”

The beauty industry is huge. Companies depend on us shelling out the green to get rid of the gray. Don’t let their marketing campaigns decide what you do with your dollars. L’Oreal tells us we’re “worth it.”

I say you’re worth more than that. You’re worth a beautiful financial life, now and in the future, whatever color your hair might be by then.

Sherri Richards is a thrifty mom of two and Business editor of The Forum. She can be reached at