A couple of years ago, Sandra Loznjak, a Toronto-based jewellery designer, plopped herself down in a stylist's chair in Paris to get a haircut. She was visiting and her red, curly locks needed a trim.
That's when, between snips and clips, the stylist let her in on a secret: Forget expensive styling products. The only thing hair really needs to stay luxuriously soft and manageable? Nivea cream.
That's right. The old drugstore standby that typically goes for about five bucks for a 60-millilitre squeezy tube, or even less if it's on sale. Chances are, your mother – or grandmother – has a tub stashed somewhere in a drawer.
Intrigued, Ms. Loznjak slicked some of the hand cream through her hair once she got home and was instantly hooked.
"I got a trim in the summertime and the hairdresser said, 'Wow, your hair is really healthy.' This is the longest I've had my hair in my entire life without having to do much to it. It's amazing," she says.
The rest of us could learn something from the French stylist's "less is more" (and, admittedly, very Parisian) attitude. According to 2014 data released by market research firm NPD Group, Canadians spent $1.4-billion on prestige beauty products. Meanwhile, a British survey revealed the average woman's cosmetic collection includes an average of 54 items and is worth more than $800.
No doubt, looking good is important, not only as a poise booster, but because numerous studies have made a correlation between attractiveness and a bigger paycheque. According to one U.S. study, physically attractive workers are more confident and tend to have better communication skills, so employers (sometimes wrongly) expect them to be better at their jobs than their colleagues.
Luckily, for the vast majority of us who do not look like Angelina Jolie or Priyanka Chopra when we roll out of bed in the morning (or ever), simple good grooming can still go a long way at work. Those who put a little extra time into their appearance are more likely to be hired in the first place, studies tell us. What's more, looking our very best doesn't necessarily mean shelling out a week's pay to cover the cost. From spending less for face cream and hair colour to buying clothing that actually fits, make these small tweaks to your beauty spending habits and look like a million bucks, too.
Don't be fooled by packaging gimmicks and fancy bottles.
Does a bottle of foundation or skin cream really need a fancy pump? No way. A pump actually makes it harder to get at the makeup at the bottom of a near-empty bottle. A big waste, especially if the bottle set you back $40 or more.
"Flashy packaging and designer names do not necessarily mean the product is better. Sometimes they're hiding a basic product that costs so little to make that [the company] can afford the packaging," says Tsippora Shainhouse, a Beverly Hills dermatologist who received her medical degree from the University of Toronto.
Instead, look for simple and cheaper packaging to save money.
Don't be taken in by fancy prices either.
That eye cream costs more than a month's worth of lattes. Is it worth it? Not necessarily.
"One of the key things I teach patients is that expensive does not mean better," says Dr. Shainhouse.
The problem is, we expect a higher cost to reflect a superior product so we are willing to pay more – and even believe it's more effective than it really is. This willingness doesn't end at the cosmetics counter either. Researchers have proven that cost affects our perception of quality in anything from wine to running shoes. So why do so many consumers swear by their $120 night cream? Dr. Shainhouse has an idea.
"It is possible that if one spends a lot of money on a product, they will be more inclined to use it, making it appear that an expensive product is more effective," she says.
Wear sunscreen. Period.
Besides smoking, there is nothing that ages skin faster than spending days in the sun or fake-baking under a tanning bed light. Do yourself a favour and wear sunscreen year-round. There's less need for creams and peels later. Dr. Shainhouse recommends stocking up on broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 at the end of the summer when it's more likely to be discounted.
Stop overpaying for haircuts.
We get it. You've come to know your hair stylist so well you can anticipate her every snip. But is that coziness worth spending $100 for a mere trim? Unless you're planning a whole new do, or have particularly challenging hair, visit a cut-rate salon for simple, uncomplicated trims.
DIY colour? Really.
Hot tip: It is possible to colour your own roots without looking like Cruella de Vil. Reach for an $11 drugstore product like Clairol Nice n' Easy Root Touch-Up and, in about 30 minutes, you can say goodbye to your stripe. No more spending $60 and two hours in a salon chair.
If you do decide to spend extra on salon colour, be sure you take care of that costly coif. Wait for two or three days to wash your hair after it has been coloured so the dye pigments can bind to your hair's outer layer. And always use cool or tepid water. It keeps hair dye from fading too quickly.
Wear your frugality with flare.
If you're like most people, you've probably got a few shirts you have only worn once. Talk about a waste of money. From now on, take your time when choosing clothing and shoes to be sure they fit well. (In other words, it's time to face that fear of change room lighting and try your clothes on anyway.)
Maria Calautti, a master tailor and alterations specialist in Oro-Medonte, Ont., an hour north of Toronto, says choosing the right colour to highlight a person's skin tone is one of the most cost effective ways to look good, even on drab weather days. Does your skin have cool undertones? You'll look good in jewel colours, she explains. But take a pass on the pastels. They'll make you look ill. To find out what works for you, grab scarves in different colours and place each one in turn next to your face.
"Colour is free and makes all the difference," she says. "Really, it doesn't cost you any more to buy a green shirt than a red one."