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You can look and feel good without breaking budget

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By Michelle Singletary
Herald Columnist
Published:
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.
"I've always believed that improving your looks is a way to improve your life," Pomerantz Lustig says. "Looking the part is part of getting the job, getting the promotion, getting the guy, having your best life. ... I believe that beauty is power. When your hair looks polished, you feel polished. When you get your skin under control, you feel more in control of your life. The right lipstick color can lift your mood better than Prozac."
OK, maybe the last sentence was a bit much, especially for those with serious depression issues, but I get her point. The money and time people spend to look better aren't always wasted.
And to further her point, Pomerantz Lustig says to look at the book's title. "Notice that I didn't call it 'How to Look Loaded' or even 'How to Look Rich.' That was very deliberate because to me, looking expensive is about looking chic and understated, polished and professional, your personal best. ... It's luxe, not loud."
Just like with the money you spend on other consumer items, you have to be money-wise about your beauty choices. Love yourself, but if you want more glamour this book will help you achieve a chic look for less.
Michelle Singletary: singletarym@washpost.com.
Washington Post Writers Group
Online chat
Michelle Singletary will host a live online discussion about "How to Look Expensive" at 9 a.m. Pacific, Oct. 4 at washingtonpost.com/conversations. Pomerantz Lustig will join her to answer your questions.
Every month, Singletary randomly select readers to receive a copy of the featured book, which is donated by the publisher. For a chance to win a copy of this month's book club selection, send an email to colorofmoney@washpost.com with your name and address.
Story tags » Personal Finance

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