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Why The Makeup Tax Is Hurting Women

Melanie Lockert
March 27, 2019

It seems everywhere you look, ads are telling you how your life can be better. If only you had [insert product here] your life would be better! This is especially true for women. Women are bombarded with advertisements on how to look younger, get skinnier, remove those unruly grays, smell nicer, have whiter teeth, look sexy in the right clothes, and how to have it all. All of this serves to do one thing: make money off of the insecurities of women. In fact, the beauty and wellness industries make trillions of dollars each year.

A look at the numbers

According to the Global Wellness Institute, the Global Wellness Economy in 2017 made up $4.2 trillion. From that number, a whopping a $1,083 billion dollars came from beauty and anti-aging and another $702 billion came from nutrition and weight loss. Wellness tourism also made up $639 billion while fitness and mind and body made up $595 billion.

Courtesy of Global Wellness Institute 

That’s a lot of money. And while there’s nothing wrong with feeling good and investing in your health and wellness, many of these products and services prey on insecurities and are barely even effective. 

That’s true for men and women, but women are conditioned from a young age to understand that beauty and youth are forms of currency. We’re expected to look a certain way, be a certain size, to be deemed “acceptable” or “attractive.”

Buying anti-aging cream, hair dye, weight loss programs, facials, fad diets and more all add up. Women are already paid less thanks to the gender wage gap. On top of that, there is a pink tax, where women’s products like razors end up costing more than those same products for men (seriously, this is a thing). 

Combine the impact of the wage gap and pink tax and you’ll find that women are earning less and spending more. The makeup tax — the expectation that women spend on beauty — only adds insult to injury. And there are very real costs. 

For instance, women are saving less for retirement than their male counterparts. Imagine if some of the money getting funneled into buying beauty went to long-term savings and retirement. What if that money was used for life-changing experiences? Every dollar you spend, in a way, is a vote for something and is at the expense of something else.

Every dollar you spend, in a way, is a vote for something and is at the expense of something else.

When we allocate so much money to beauty and wellness, it can feed into the industries that tell us that we’re not enough. And it keeps us in a cycle of spending more and more, at the expense of our future.

This is personal

When I was younger, I was very insecure and bought into these predatory ads. I too believed that if I were skinny enough, pretty enough, and young enough I could have it all.

Before the age of 25, I bought anti-aging cream, breast enlargement pills (spoiler alert: they didn’t work), went for regular waxes and hair dye appointments. My first paychecks when I was younger went to these types of products.

They made me feel temporarily good but didn’t have a lasting impact on my life. Instead, I threw money away, when in fact I could have been building wealth and paying off debt.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, it’s not to say that some of these things aren’t nice and worthwhile. But I think it’s important to understand what actually brings you joy and has a lasting impact. What compels you to buy these things? Are they for you or because you feel pressured to live up to a certain image?

What compels you to buy these things? Are they for you or because you feel pressured to live up to a certain image?

Putting money back in your pocket

The beauty and wellness industries make bank off of everyday consumers. If you want to put money back in your pocket, first take an inventory of all the beauty, diet and wellness products and services you buy.

How much are you spending each month? How much of your monthly salary are you spending in these categories?

Then, take a deeper look. Are you spending money because you feel pressured or do these things actually add value to your life? Self-love and acceptance are two things that can combat unnecessary spending.

Are you spending money because you feel pressured or do these things actually add value to your life?

Many of these ads try to tell you you’re not enough, which drives you to buy their products. It’s that hope and optimism that opens your wallet, but many of these purchases can lead to disappointment. You’re not suddenly prettier, or ten pounds lighter or ten years younger. You’re just you.

Having this awareness and being more mindful can help you put money back in your pocket. Instead of letting your insecurities drive purchases, you can make decisions on your own about what adds value to your life or not.

Melanie Lockert is a personal finance expert, the blogger behind DearDebt.com and author of the book “Dear Debt: A story about breaking up with debt.” Melanie paid off $81,000 of debt and is now on a mission to help others do the same.

Feature Image: Twenty20

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