The 'Treat Yourself' Era Of Beauty Treatments Is Ending

We can't afford our nails right now. And yes, it matters.
Justin Lambert via Getty Images

Nails, hair, wax, eyelashes and eyebrows, in that order. These are beauty treatments I’m usually loyal to on a monthly basis. The feeling of sitting back and letting someone paint your toes, dye your hair or even get your eyebrows threaded (though painful) cannot be understated. When you look good, you feel good. It’s a form of self-care for myself and many other women.

But, feeling like an Insta baddie comes at a price. If you’re getting four to five beauty treatments a month this can rack up to a couple of hundred pounds. Sure, we all want to look our best, but with bills, petrol, food and pretty much everything else rising in price, not everyone will be able to afford the constant up-keep.

I’ve had to say bye-bye to getting my eyelashes done and go back to wearing strip lashes, I dye my hair by myself rather than going to the salon and eventually, I’ll probably take a break from doing my nails. And I’m not the only one.

Michele Theil, who is a 23-year-old freelance writer from London, was a regular at her nail shop, but she’s decided to take a break as her bills have increased.

“My salary isn’t going up, plus I’m doing contract work so it wasn’t guaranteed,” she says. “I loved getting my nails done, it was such a perfect 1-2 hours of self care, I would listen to a podcast or an audio book and not be on Twitter or Instagram constantly, and just be in the moment watching my nails become beautiful.”

Now, she’s getting her nails done every two to three months, depending on how much money is in her account. “I have to let them grow out or remove them myself in between the appointments, because otherwise they break,” she says.

The cost of beauty crunch isn’t just impacting customers’ self-esteem. The hair and beauty industry is a large employer that covers every corner of the country, with more than 8,000 UK salons. The overwhelming majority (88%) of staff are women, according to a 2021 report by National Hair & Beauty Federation (NHBF), as are over 80% of business-owners.

What will happen to these women if their clients stop booking appointments?

Dejan Marjanovic via Getty Images

Alice* who is also a freelancer writer from Liverpool, would do her nails every fortnight, wax and tint her eyebrows every six weeks and get her hair done around every six – eight weeks.

“Now I do my nails myself – twice a week ’cause they always chip, which is very annoying, but there are far worse sacrifices to make,” Alice says.

She’s also learnt how to tint her own eyebrows, embrace having natural roots and having slightly longer hair to avoid getting it done at the salon as often.

“Beauty has been a big part of my life growing up and it’s always been a social thing for me, whether it was going to get my nails done with my friends or spending hours doing our makeup in our bedrooms – two of my friends even accompanied me to get my armpits waxed for the first time when I was about 15!” she shares.

“It’s very much something that’s ingrained with me. Despite this, it isn’t something that’s toxic – I would never worry about leaving the house without make up or anything else – more of a self-care/survival tool.”

Mary*, a 24-year-old PR from Leeds, hasn’t seen her nail or eyelash technician in a while, because as she’s invested in her own nail lamp, which allows her to do her hands and feet whenever she wants.

“I have bought individual lashes to do my own eyelashes but found it easier to invest in quality strip lashes. I also bought a wax kit to do my own waxes at home. It’s all easier, convenient and saves me a lot of money,” Mary says.

Though she can technically still afford to spend money on these things, they aren’t a necessity to her. “My lashes used to cost £50 for a full set. They now cost £70, so I’m pretty happy I’m not spending money on these treatments anymore and I’m happy I have the ability and means to do this myself. I can now invest my money elsewhere.”

StefaNikolic via Getty Images

Nasyah Bandoh, who is a 23-year old programmes officer from London, has also cut down. “I’ve scaled back on getting my hair braided and nails done as often as I used to,” she says.

“This is a combination of an increase in service prices but also the fact that everything else has gotten more expensive so ‘trimming the fat’ helps me meet my other important financial responsibilities.”

She still gets her hair braided regularly, but she’s stopped getting her nails done – for a few months, at least. She says local salons now charge £45-50 to get a full acrylic set, compared to £25 a few years ago.

“I hope to start getting them done more regularly again soon should my budget allow,” she says. “It’s a small self-care luxury that I really enjoy doing!”

What do beauticians make of the situation? After all, they will be facing higher business costs and ramped up bills in their private lives.

“The beauty industry is facing a lot of challenges due to the cost of living crisis. The high cost of ingredients, the increasing minimum wage, and the rising prices of goods are putting a lot of pressure on the industry,” says Blanca Aguirrezabal, who is a the founder of TheBlogStuff and an organic skincare business.

“In fact, many people are struggling to afford quality beauty products and are looking for cheaper alternatives.”

Aguirrezabal has noticed that more people are choosing to do their beauty treatments at home. “This growing trend can be attributed to a number of factors as well as the cost of living crisis, including the increasing availability of information and resources online,” she says.

If you want to cut the costs by being your own beautician, Aguirrezabal suggests researching thoroughly.

“Secondly, make sure you are using sterile tools and products. Finally, be sure to do a patch test on a small area of the skin before applying anything to your face or body,” she says.

“Additionally, be careful not to overdo it – it’s easy to damage your skin if you’re not careful.”

And if you can afford to still visit your local salon? Don’t feel guilty about spending money on something others may call frivolous. It’s a valid form of self-care – in an industry than employs a hell of a lot of women.