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The Color of Money / Home & Consumer

Color of Money: Chic on the Cheap

WASHINGTON -- I know that hair and makeup matter to a lot of people.

I don't happen to be one of them. I'm comfortable with the way I look naturally. My daily beauty routine involves a bar of Dove soap, Mary Kay lip gloss and a black elastic band to pull my hair back.

Of course, I dress up more for work and important events. But I like myself without makeup. I don't desire to wear the latest fashions. I just don't want to spend a lot of time and money to look stylish.

But for those of you who do put in that extra effort, I've found a book that could save you some money and time.

This month's Color of Money Book Club selection is "How to Look Expensive: A Beauty Editor's Secrets to Getting Gorgeous without Breaking the Bank" (Gotham Books, $25) by Andrea Pomerantz Lustig. The author is a contributing editor at Glamour who wrote a beauty advice column for 10 years.

Pomerantz Lustig says she wants to help women get that Hollywood red-carpet look for less. She promises and delivers on providing beauty advice on hair, cosmetics and clothes that will make you feel like a million bucks without actually spending those bucks.

"These days we're all much more money-conscious than we were before," she writes. "Spending a bundle on your hair doesn't seem so sensible when filling your tank with gas costs more than a haircut. And this means there is a huge disconnect between the price of beauty and the money real women can actually spend on it."

But lest you think this is all about vanity, Pomerantz Lustig has a personal beauty philosophy that I came to admire despite my skepticism when I first picked up the book. I've always felt that beauty stuff is irrelevant. And I know that insisting on a glamorous look can harm women both financially and psychologically. In a 2008 report, "Beauty at Any Cost," the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) wrote about its concern about the consequences of America's beauty obsession.

"Engulfed by a popular culture saturated with images of idealized, air-brushed and unattainable female physical beauty, women and girls cannot escape feeling judged on the basis of their physical appearance," the report said. "As a result, many women feel chronically insecure, overweight and inadequate, as these beauty images apply to an ever-shrinking pool of women. Moreover, the diet, cosmetic and fashion industries are often too willing to exploit these narrow beauty standards so women and girls will become cradle-to-grave consumers of beauty products, cosmetic surgery and diet programs."

But there are those who aren't trying to get movie-star beauty, just reasonably priced cosmetics that enhance or hide the things they like or dislike. I'm about to have a very big birthday (and no, I'm not telling you which one), and something simple I've done with my hair has made me feel better. I've had jet-black hair for ages (I will never let my gray show). So recently I decided to splurge a little and get hair highlights. The compliments I've been getting have elevated my self-confidence as I approach that big birthday.

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Copyright 2012 Washington Post Writers Group



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