​Vanity, Incorporated. Just how much do we spend on looking good?

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Looking good is big business around the world, but no one spends more on cosmetics, beauty products, surgeries, and grooming than people in the U.S. In fact, in 2015 alone, the beauty industry generated $56.2 billion in the United States (to put it in perspective, the medical technology industry makes only $44 billion every year).

But is our spending on vanity out of control? You be the judge once you read these facts about the beauty industry:

Goldman Sachs estimates that the skin care industry is worth $24 billion a year, the cosmetic industry $18 billion, $38 billion on hair-care products and $15 billion annually on perfume.

In fact, analysts identify the trend that the global beauty industry is growing by 7% or more per year, which is more than twice the rate of GDP growth in the developed world!

In the U.S., the skin care industry is the fastest growing, expected to exceed revenues of $11 billion by 2018.

The fastest growing niches of the skin care market are products for men, seniors, and babies/children.

There are about 86,00 hair care locations in the United States!

The beauty industry also provides jobs for a WHOLE LOT of people in the United States. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one million people work in the primary service sector of the beauty industry, and that number is growing rapidly.

That includes:
Barbers and hairdressers: 656,000 with 10% expected growth by 2024.

Manicurists and pedicurists: 113,600 with 10% expected growth by 2024.

Skincare specialists: 55,000 with a 12% expected growth by 2024.

Massage therapists: 168,800 employed with 22% growth by 2024.

Are cosmetics, beauty products, and our rituals of trying to look better really such a significant part of our lives?

According to a Huffington Post survey, 25% of men and 21% of women take more than 30 minutes to get ready each morning.

When it comes to hitting the town for a night out, 42% of women take longer than 30 minutes to get ready.

We’ve heard the saying “beauty fades”, but apparently, the amount of time we spend trying to look beautiful fades, as well – at least within a given week. Research shows that the average morning beautification and grooming ritual takes about 76 minutes on Mondays, but the time we spend dwindles to only 19 minutes on Fridays!

On makeup alone, women spend an average of 20 minutes a day.

4 out of 5 U.S. women wear makeup and 85% of all beauty products, services and cosmetics are purchased by women.

However, skin, hair, beauty products and procedures for men are one of the fastest growing segments of the beauty industry!

According to The Beauty Company, a typical women age 16 to 65 shops for cosmetics at least five times each year and spends an average of $43 per trip.

That adds up to about $215 in cosmetics per year, or $15,000 over a typical lifetime.

Economists point out that if they put that same $215 into a conservative investment vehicles like a traditional IRA instead of spending it on makeup, If that $215 went into a standard retirement plan (like a traditional IRA), the average woman would have an extra $100,000 or more by retirement.

If we spend an average of $15,000 over our lives on beauty products, where are we spending it?

Mint.com found that the average woman spends $3,770 of that on mascara,
$2,750 on eye shadow and $1,780 on lipstick in a lifetime.

A survey of 2,352 women over age 18 found that the average female in the U.S. owns an average of 20 pairs of shoes; yet only wear 5 of those regularly.

The average cost of those shoes was $53 per.

The same survey found that the typical U.S. woman owned 7 pairs of jeans, but only wore 4 pairs regularly. However, 25% of all American women reported owning 10 or more pairs of jeans.

During the Great Recession, 45% of women surveyed reported cutting back on their beauty product and cosmetics budget, yet 15% say they are already back to spending more.

We’re not only using a lot of beauty products, but spending truckloads of cash on surgeries and cosmetic procedures. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were about 15.1 million cosmetic procedures performed in 2013, which was up 3% from the previous year.

About 13.4 million of those were minimally invasive procedures like chemical peels, Botox, etc. But at least 1.6 million people underwent significant surgeries like breast augmentation, nose reshaping, and liposuction.

According to the Cosmetic Surgery National Data Bank, here are some typical costs for these common procedures:

Buttock Augmentation


Tummy Tuck

Breast Augmentation

Brow Lift


Lip Enhancement (other than injectable materials)

Nose Surgery


Laser Hair Removal

Tattoo Removal

A common neighborhood drugstore like CVS, Rite Aid or Walgreens carries about 25,000 beauty products on their shelves at any given time.

The U.S. isn’t the only nation obsessed with improving their beauty, as Japan ($25b), France ($14b) and Germany ($13b) spend a shocking amount of cosmetics and beauty products.

In fact, about $382 billion is spent on beauty around the globe every year, about the same GDP as Austria, Norway, or the United Arab Emirates.

The largest beauty brands in the world by yearly revenue are:

Olay $11.8 Billion
Avon $10.2 Billion
L’Oreal $7.7 Billion
Neutrogena $6.4 Billion
Nivea $6.6 Billion

But are the cosmetics we buy really worth their price tag? It’s a badly-kept secret that cosmetic companies charge ridiculous sums for products, that people keep buying because of the name, brand, or perception.

In fact, the average retail markup on cosmetics is 78%!

However, the most common ingredients in cosmetics are oils, waxes, and fragrances, so there are only very slight differences between brands…except price.

Yet 50% of women say they don’t plan to stop buying expensive designer brand cosmetics!

But is all of ours spending making us feel more beautiful? Tragically, it doesn’t seem like it. In fact, only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful.

Although miniscule, that number is actually up from 2% in 2014.

More revealing, 80% of women surveyed agreed that every woman has something about her that is beautiful, but they did not see their own beauty.


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