Looking good (and feeling the confidence that goes along with it) doesn’t always come cheap. From your hair, nails, and skin to your clothes and shoes, pulling it all together can really add up. And while I’m all about saving money where you can—after all, there’s no need to spend $20 on an eyeliner whose doppelganger costs $2 at Target—some luxuries are worth every penny you spend.
Read on for my guilt-free guide to splurge-worthy beauty treats that will pay off in dividends.
1. A Stay-Put Manicure
When others look at your hands and see ragged cuticles, haphazard lengths, and nail polish chips, they may see you as lacking attention to detail. And while you can do your own nails or get a salon manicure pretty inexpensively, your perfectly polished nails often start chipping a couple days later, making you feel like you’ve wasted money (and now have to find the time to remove, reapply, and wait to dry).
The solution (and my latest beauty obsession) is Shellac Nails, a new type of nail polish that lasts a full two weeks. Not only does the color stay shiny and bright, but the treatment strengthens nails so they resist chipping and breaking. Most places charge $28-30—about twice the cost of a regular manicure—but Shellac Nails last about seven times as long. One less thing to worry about for a couple of weeks!
Since this type of nail treatment takes a few minutes of drying time under a UV light (which means nails will dry instantly so you won’t smudge your polish on the drive home), play it safe and smooth a zinc-based sunscreen on your hands before heading to the salon.
2. Non-DIY Hair Color
Few things look worse—or cheaper—than an obvious dye job. So if you’re contemplating a completely new hair color, don’t waste your money (and time) trying to do it yourself. You never really know if your hair will end up being the color on the box, especially if you’re going more than two shades lighter or darker. A professional will help you find exactly the right tone to complement your skin. Take it from one who knows all too well—you’ll spend even more if you need to get your DIY color corrected at a salon.
To make sure you really get your money’s worth, do your homework and find the right stylist: Ask a friend whose hair you love or scour reviews on Yelp. When you go for your appointment, bring along pictures you’ve cut out of magazines so that there’s no room for misunderstanding. And afterward, prolong the time between appointments by using sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner to preserve your color. L’Oreal Everpure products are great for this, and a steal at $6.99 each (drugstore.com).
3. The Right Foundation
Since your face is the first thing people see when they meet you, one of the biggest beauty blunders you can make is wearing a color that’s different from that on your jawline or neck (one makeup artist I know calls it the equivalent of a visible panty line for your face).
Sure, you can pick up a foundation at the drugstore, but are you really going to find the perfect shade if you can’t swipe it on your skin? Plus, think back: How much money have you wasted on formulas that didn’t look (or feel) right once you brought them home?
The right foundation, though, makes you feel like a new woman, smoothing the look of your skin and erasing imperfections that make you feel self-conscious, like redness or acne. So head to a place like Sephora, where a makeup expert can help you find the perfect shade and formulation for your skin, without forcing you into one brand (which would happen at a department store makeup counter). Once you see how good your skin can really look, you won’t think twice about spending that money again.
4. Beautiful Brows
Most makeup artists will tell you that your eyebrows can change the look of your whole face: Because they frame the eyes, they’ll either enhance them beautifully—or leave you looking messy and unkempt (or even worse, over-plucked and angry). So if you’re going to reserve one hair removal task for an expert, make it your brows. The right pro—be it a tweezer, waxer, or threader—can quickly clean and shape your brows to create an elegant, polished look, something that isn’t so easy to do yourself.
If you schedule an appointment every couple of weeks, you’ll easily be able to clean up stray hairs yourself in between visits (just don’t give in to the urge to keep on plucking). For home tweezing, treat yourself to a pair of Tweezerman Slant Tweezers ($22, tweezerman.com). Yes, they’re more expensive than the drugstore varieties, but they’ll make pulling out even the tiniest, trickiest hairs a breeze. Plus, when they get dull, all you need to do is send them in and Tweezerman will sharpen them for free—for life.
Now, want to learn which splurge-worthy fashion purchases go with your new look? Stay tuned for my next column to create a closet of professional, polished pieces you’ll reach for over and over again.