Beauty in Wealthy Cities: Nature or Nurture?
Note that the article doesn't quote any dudes. Could guys really be investing zero in beauty upkeep? I see a lot of dudes with perfect white teeth and full heads of hair in Los Angeles? I must again --- selection or treatment?
It is true that this article is published in the fashion section of the Times and most dudes don't read this section but I'm looking for "fair and balanced" coverage in my newspaper!
Economists seem to care less about their physical appearance than other people. Maybe we are wrong -- maybe we have the wrong status function valuing general journal publications much more than being thin? We write down signaling models but many of us are sending some funky signals about our priorities. I'm now thinking of doing some situps!
June 28, 2007
Beauty Regimens Reach for the Gold Standard
By NATASHA SINGER
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.
IN a city that considers 25-year-old actresses aged and those over 45 practically ready for pasture, a woman who spends 10 hours and $1,000 a week on beauty treatments to maintain her looks does not view herself as unusual.
“I get my hair blown out every two days, I get a manicure every week and I have just started this new electrical-current thing twice a week for my thighs,” said Ginger Grace, a real estate agent here who was having her hair colored last month at The Salon by Maxime on North Rodeo Drive.
Tall, blond and toned, Ms. Grace, 40, said her maintenance routine also includes frequent facials, eyebrow waxing, a personal trainer, a hiking coach and the occasional Botox injection or tanning parlor session, a beauty program that she considers to be minimalist by local standards. “I am probably the only person in Los Angeles who doesn’t see a chiropractor, an acupuncturist or a nutritionist, but it’s so youth-driven here that maybe I should.”
For a coterie of professionals like Ms. Grace in major cities across the country, the standards of upper-middle-class beauty upkeep are moving stratospherically higher. Although women have long engaged in grooming activities to attract romantic partners and to compete in the work force, the increased availability of nonsurgical options like wrinkle injections and skin-smoothing devices — along with the explosive proliferation of nail salons and spas — has shifted the beauty norms, making grooming routines more elaborate, more time-consuming and more expensive.
“We have more procedures than we did 10 years ago to help you maintain your appearance and to undo some of the damage you did to yourself by sitting in the sun,” said Dr. Flor A. Mayoral, a dermatologist in South Miami. Dr. Mayoral said that she asks every new patient the size of her yearly beauty budget and works within the limits. She estimated that many of her patients spend $2,400 a year on facial injections and $2,000 a year on hair coloring.
Lisa Oliver, the head colorist at The Salon by Maxime, calculated that her clients spend even more on grooming.
“Depending on how much Botox and the pricier stuff you get done, when you add in hair care, nails, face and body, it’s got to be between $2,000 to $3,500 a month,” Ms. Oliver said. In Los Angeles, she added, such grooming is considered basic maintenance.
“If you are high maintenance, you could spend a lot more money,” Ms. Oliver said. “I can think of a couple of people where $3,500 a month might be low.”
It may seem shocking that some women are prepared to spend as much — or more — a month to try to keep the physical signs of age at bay as other Americans spend on rent. But beauty spending is not limited to business executives.
In a survey conducted for her forthcoming book, “Going Gray,” to be published in September, Anne Kreamer found that women who earned $25,000 to $50,000 a year spent an average of $60 a month just on hair color.
Manisha Thakor, a financial analyst and co-author of “On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance,” said that because beauty treatments are intangible purchases — they don’t stack up in the closet like shoes — women may not notice them mounting.
“If you took that $100 a month you are spending on manicures and pedicures and invested it starting at age 25 in stocks that went up 10 percent a year, you would have over $500,000 by the time you were 65,” Ms. Thakor said. “That makes the monthly $100 look like phenomenally expensive manicures.”
But Dr. Mayoral in Miami said that, for many professional women, beauty upkeep is a business expense.
“Some women feel that they can’t look older and unkempt, that they have to look groomed,” she said. “You are competing with other women who are doing exactly the same thing.”
Following is a sampling of women in different cities who agreed to share their beauty regimens.
Ginger Grace Before Ms. Grace moved to Santa Monica from New Mexico 17 years ago, her beauty routine involved no more than coloring her hair every six weeks. Now she says she has several facials a month, a weekly manicure and twice-weekly eyebrow grooming.
“L.A. is very ageist and very beauty-driven,” she said. “I think anybody here would do anything to look young.”
Sitting under a dryer last month at The Salon by Maxime in Beverly Hills with her hair sectioned off in foil, Ms. Grace calculated that she now frequently spends 10 hours and $1,000 a week on personal grooming.
She is not just driven by social pressure, she said. Beauty treatments like Botox and hair color help her maintain an advantage as a real estate broker.
“My field is highly competitive,” Ms. Grace said. “Clients pick you more or less for your style and appearance.”
The facials and thigh treatments help boost self-confidence, but it is the thrice-weekly hair blow outs that are nonnegotiable, she said.
“If I have a client I’m showing a lot of houses or if I am in escrow, I will drop all the beauty stuff except for the blow out, which I will get no matter what,” she said.
Ms. Grace said her immaculately kept hair, skin and nails are intended to convey to clients that she is well groomed but not high maintenance.
“I try to appear like I am not trying too hard, to look like a relaxed natural,” Ms. Grace said. “But of course, I am trying very hard.”
Maria Eugenia Blanco For Ms. Blanco, 47, an architect from Coral Gables, Fla., who designs high-end homes, Miami is a city with high expectations for physical appearance.
“In other cities, winter is wonderful because you wear a big coat and a hat and a sweater and nobody knows whether you are overweight because all they can see is your eyes,” Ms. Blanco said. “In Miami, there are a lot of Latin women who are very concerned about how they look, and there are a lot of beaches and bathing suits and you are naked half of the year.”
Running from one construction site to another, Ms. Blanco said, she does not have time for an elaborate beauty routine that involves a lot of different weekly appointments.
And her work environment, which leaves her splattered with mud and paint samples, does not require a glossy self-image, she said. But when she turned 45 and noticed her face begin to change, she found herself at Dr. Mayoral’s office for nonsurgical cosmetic procedures.
“After you hit 45, things start changing from one day to the next,” Ms. Blanco said. “It is like an avalanche you never expected.”
She now opts for the occasional dermatological treatment like Botox injections and Thermage, a radio frequency device that is supposed to tighten the skin, she said.
Ms. Blanco said the treatments help maintain her self-confidence.
“I want to look healthy and feel good about myself,” she said. “I want to look refreshed, but not in an exaggerated way.”
Amy Krakow Twice a week, Ms. Krakow, 57, who owns a public relations company in New York that specializes in design and food, visits a sports medicine clinic on the Upper East Side for a 30-minute session in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber.
She believes the oxygen inhalation treatment, originally developed for deep-sea divers with decompression sickness, helps keeps her skin baby soft, she said.
“I’m convinced that the hyperbaric chamber is better than an oxygen facial because the oxygen is going internally,” she said last week as she clambered into a hard-sided blue capsule that resembled a coffin. “It also speeds up your metabolism so you lose weight faster.”
Ms. Krakow said treatments like the hyperbaric chamber, along with plastic surgery procedures that she underwent on her face and torso, help her stay competitive in a youth-driven profession.
“I am in an image business,” said Ms. Krakow, a petite blonde with an eclectic style that embraces both Fendi handbags and Yohji Yamamoto backward jeans. “Plus I am up against people a lot younger than me, and that is critical.”
To make time for manicures, hair straightening and Botox injections, she gets up daily by 6 a.m., she said.
Expenses for the treatments can add up.
“I just spent $411, an astounding sum of money, on a facial and skin care products, but my skin looks spectacular,” she said. “I have nice skin, so why not keep it that way?”
Ms. Krakow said the effects of the procedures have been noticed.
“It’s nice to have a guy in his 40s tell you you look hot, because you don’t necessarily feel that way as you get older,” she said.
Ms. Krakow said that she stopped getting artificial nail tips a few years ago because she found them too time-consuming to maintain. But she is considering other beauty treatments.
“I’m thinking seriously of tooth veneers,” she said. “I think that’s next.”