The stock market drops by 1,000 points. Banks fail. Brokerage houses go belly up. Unemployment rises along with inflation. Economic hard times seem to be upon us, and when you’re worried about your job and making your mortgage payment, it seems crazy to pay $120 for a few ounces of moisturizer, no matter how miraculous the marketing claims happen to be. The fact is that for most of us, anything beyond the most basic beauty products—moisturizer, cleanser, makeup, shampoo and conditioner, etc.—are luxuries, and luxuries are the first things to go when we’re watching our 401(k) accounts go dry. But while you’re watching the NASDAQ shudder and waiting for the Federal Reserve Board to announce its latest desperate attempt to salvage the economy, there’s no need to completely abandon the idea of looking beautiful.
In these hard economic times, being and feeling beautiful is as important as ever. Studies show that attractive people earn more money, hold greater positions of power, and get special treatment from their employers. Generally, beautiful people feel better about themselves and their situation in the work place Beauty is currency. But how to afford beauty in these hard economic times? Try some of these ideas (some are even free!):
- See your beauty. Realize from the very start you are at least 20% more beautiful than you give yourself credit for. Women tend to underestimate their beauty by 20%. Just giving yourselves that Beauty Boost is a great way to live with real self-confidence.
- Try drugstore brands. Drug store brands are as effective as the department store brands. It’s the ingredients that count, not the packaging. As a matter of fact, many drugstore brands have sister products in the department stores (i.e. Lancome and L’oreal).
- Smile and wear bright lipstick. A smile with the shimmer of bright lips is like a welcome sign for people to feel attracted to your beauty. Eyes are the first things people notice about you but a warm beautiful smile seals the deal.
- Get a Beauty Buddy. Studies show that having close female friends is not only helpful as a support system in hard times, but it is also an amazing beauty booster. Having a Beauty Buddy is associated with a release of the hormone oxytocin, which gives you that feeling of calm, makes your skin glow and helps you feel more beautiful about yourself.
- Keep it simple. You don’t need 10 products to have beautiful skin. As matter of fact, you only need 3-4 daily skin care products: an exfoliative cleanser, a sunscreen, and a therapeutic night cream.
- Look in your kitchen. It’s a great source of free beauty products. Green tea bags soaked and frozen make great eye de-puffers, thanks to the cold and the antioxidants found in green tea. For youthful lips, mix granular sugar with cherry jello and do a light scrub of your lips. You will be left with a smooth, pink tinted pout.
- Grab the free samples. Visit any cosmetic counter or even go to your dermatologist for your annual skin care exam and free skin care samples are yours. Many of the big cosmetic companies want you to try their products and they are yours for free.
- Try natural alternatives. Scrubs and masks made completely from plants like papaya and pumpkin are very common at high-end spas and provide real benefits, but you don’t have to pay spa prices. Just get your hands on the fresh fruit or vegetables and make your own products. The Budget Ecoist is a wonderful source of information on how to make your own safe and effective home beauty products.
- Take care of your health. The Health stage of the Beauty-Brain Loop dictates that when your whole body is healthy, you feel and look better inside and out. One of the first steps you should take when trying to stay gorgeous through belt-tightening times is to make sure you’re in the best health possible. Exercise regularly; 30 minutes of exercise five days a week releases pleasurable hormones, makes your skin glow, improves muscle tone, and enhances attitude. Eat a diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and fish, which gives you important fatty acids. Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. Don’t smoke. Keep the alcohol, which can dehydrate you, to a minimum. Get enough sleep.
- Find smart ways to manage stress. Some stress in your life is normal and even healthy. But the chronic stress that can come with tough financial straits can wreak havoc with your skin. The release of “stress hormones” like cortisol stimulates your sebaceous glands to produce extra oil, which can lead to breakouts and acne, not to mention what stress does to your heart and blood pressure. Whether you rely on long walks in nature or a daily yoga or meditation regimen, come up with tricks to help you let go of stress and relax your body and mind.
- Do your research. Often, the most costly cosmetics and skin care products are not necessarily any better than the cheaper department store brands. In 2006 the beauty industry was rocked when Olay Regenerist Night Cream, which runs about $20, was voted best anti-aging product by a consumer panel, beating out products that cost four or five times more. Cetaphil makes great cleansers and moisturizers at reasonable prices.
- Shop online. If you care more about price than you do about sampling a product at a department store beauty counter, then do your shopping on the Internet. Sites like Cosmetic Times offer all the major brands at savings of 40% and more (of course, you have to pay for shipping, but if you place a big order the shipping becomes insignificant compared to the savings.
- Protect yourself from the sun. The sun is still the major culprit in skin damage. What about Vitamin D? You get all you need walking to and from your car each week. Every morning, put on a moisturizer that contains a broad-spectrum (meaning it blocks UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen of at least SPF 30. Wear a hat and UV protective clothing if you’re going to be out in the sun for a long time, and be prepared to reapply sunscreen every two hours or so. If you can, avoid being outdoors during the hours when the sun is most intense, typically about 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. That’s usually not a problem on weekdays, because most of us are working. But on weekends (or if this recession costs you your job and you have lots of time on your hands), you’ve got to be careful. This applies to your hair as well; use a conditioner that contains an SPF.
- Take care of your teeth. Your smile is an important part of your appearance, and as long as you have dental insurance, there’s no excuse for not taking care of your oral health even if you can’t afford expensive products. Visit your dentist twice a year for exams and cleanings and if your teeth are dingy, look into inexpensive home whitening kits. Even if you don’t have dental coverage, you can still floss, brush and rinse at least twice a day and use whitening toothpaste. A great smile is a terrific accessory to beautiful skin and hair.
These steps may not be as glamorous as spending a small fortune on skin cremes, night cremes, home microdermabrasion scrubs and so on, but they’re good medicine for tight financial times. Keep in mind that prevention is always the best medicine for your beauty, so stay clear of the sun, eat and drink smart, sleep, and try to keep from getting too stressed out. Better times will return…so they tell us.
Debi & Eva