Your collagen-injected pout glistens with cherry red lip gloss, your freshly highlighted tresses shimmer, your eyes are perfectly lined with smoky Dior shadow and your French manicured nails are flawless. You may feel there's no question that your complex beauty regimen is paying off ... but at what cost?
As it turns out, it's no pittance. Americans spend about $7 billion on cosmetics each year, according to a 2008 report by the YWCA. We spend another $1.5 billion on breast augmentation, $1.3 billion on liposuction and almost $1 billion on tummy tucks. While you may argue that you can't put a price on beauty, it's clear that when it comes to looking gorgeous, women across the nation are pulling out all the stops.

The Stunning Statistics
When it comes to America's beauty obsession, the numbers do the talking. Statistics show that American women spend ungodly amounts of money on everything from designer mascara, foundation and fancy moisturizing creams to Botox, breast implants and liposuction. But what could these women have bought instead with the money they squandered on beauty products?

  1. Colossal Cosmetic Costs
    The average American woman spends $86 a month on cosmetics, skin care and hair products, based on a 2008 survey by Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG). That comes out to more than $1,000 a year. $86 could also pay for a gym membership, a fancy restaurant dinner, car insurance or high-speed internet service. Even better, if you invested this $972 each year at a 5% interest rate, you would accumulate nearly $50,000 over 25 years. Now that's beautiful!

  2. Hair-Raising Numbers
    Depending on their age, hairstyle and preferences, the average American woman pays anywhere from $1,000 to $7,000 to color, cut style and highlight her hair. $1,000 also covers a year's worth of the average girl's cosmetics. That same amount could cover a new computer, a tropical vacation for two or a portion, if not all, of your mortgage payment. In fact, if you made this yearly payment on a $300,000, 30-year mortgage with a 5% interest rate, you would save $33,000 in interest (ie. you would pay $33,000 less for your house!) over the course of the mortgage. You would also be mortgage-free faster - in 27 years, rather than 30. (To learn more about how extra payments add up over the course of your mortgage, read Paying Off Your Mortgage.)

    According to the YWCA report "Beauty at No Cost", five years' worth of beauty products costs about $6,423 on average. One full year of college tuition and fees at a public instate college is $6,185. But the investment in education will continue to pay off, by ensuring that your earn a much higher salary than your non-college educated peers.


  3. Pricey Surgical Procedures
    Americans spent a little less than $12 billion on cosmetic procedures in 2008. Of that total, approximately $7.2 billion was spent on surgical procedures, and $4.6 billion was spent on nonsurgical procedures. Overall, 92% of these cosmetic procedures were performed on women.

    In many cases, beauty doesn't just take money - it takes plenty of time, too. The average woman spends nearly three years of her life primping and preening, according to a survey commissioned by the British beauty brand Nephria. This results in what in economics is referred to as "opportunity cost". Cosmetic procedures have an opportunity cost, too, particularly when they require recovery time. In other words, instead of spending hours on your looks, you could work extra hours or learn a new skills that might increase your value at work, resulting in higher pay.

  4. The Final Bill
    Over the course of a lifetime, the average U.S. woman spends nearly $450,000 on beauty products, treatments and procedures, according to a recent NewsWeek report.
    Think about all the things you could do with this chunk of change if you were to forgo the expensive beauty regimens! This would make for a life-changing contribution to anyone's nest egg, but you could also buy a very nice house in many location - in cash. This is worth more than you think - about $420,000 in interest, which is what you would pay if you financed this house with a 5%, 30-year mortgage.

The Beauty Balancing Act
Of course, no one is saying you should quit your beauty addiction cold turkey, throw out all your eyeliner and hair serum and go "au naturale". However, you can make some compromises and find a happy medium when it comes to paying for beauty.

First and foremost, create a monthly beauty budget, and stick to it. Decide the top three or four beauty luxuries you absolutely can't live without, and cut out the rest. Also consider giving up designer makeup for the drugstore variety. You may shudder to think about purchasing your mascara in the same store where you buy your peanut butter, but it may be well worth it. If you buy your cosmetics at a department store, you could easily spend $50 or more on one eye shadow shade. You could probably find the same shade in your drugstore for $10 or less. Making the switch could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run. And that's a beautiful thing.

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