About $7 billion is spent each year on cosmetics. Another $1.5 billion is spent on breast augmentation, $1.3 billion on lipoplasty, and nearly $1 billion on abdominoplasty — aka, “tummy tucks.”

Beauty At Any Cost is an important report from the YWCA. The organization has quantified the economic costs of the never-ending search for ‘beauty,’ and broken down the health implications, and impacts on interpersonal relationships — especially as these issues translate to young girls.

One of the most serious behaviors cited in this report include that fact that over 1/2 of teenage girls use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, vomiting, and taking laxatives. In addition, 13% of women smoke to lose weight.

On the economic front, the report points out that if a woman invested the average amount of money she spends on a monthly manicure-pedicure treatment (estimated at $50) into her retirement account every year for 10 years, she would have nearly $10,000 in the account by then.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: While women’s ‘obsession’ (YWCA’s word) with beauty is nothing new, the quantification of it as presented in this report does provide some useful data for discussion. The report raises the issue of appearance-based workplace discrimination, finding that “lookism” — the prejudice based on physical appearance and attractiveness — is an increasing equal-opportunity problem.

I found it particularly disturbing that young people aged 18-24 have a very high level of interest in cosmetic surgery. Eating disorders, which impact about 10 million women in the U.S., continue to challenge girls age 15-19, with some cases occurring even in kids at very young ages.

Finally, cosmetics can contain many ingredients that are bad for one’s health. Many contain phthalates, shown to cause liver and reproductive system damage. In the European Union, this substance has been banned from cosmetics, but not so in the U.S. Here’s yet another FDA-oversight.

While I’m not about to give up my monthly pedicure — I believe in the many benefits of healthy feet — I will be mindful of the ways that my own cosmetic-commitments could ironically be compromising my health, my well-being, and the signals I’m sending my daughter.

2 Comments on The cost of beauty, an American obsession

Lois said : Guest Report 7 years ago

Thanks for this consciousness-raising post.

A new meaning for “skin in the game” in health care | Health Populi said : Guest Report 12 years ago

[...] I’ve written about beauty in health in Health Populi many times before now: with respect to the cost of beauty, brand “health,” selling Metamucil as a beauty brand, Women and Walmart in health, and [...]

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