‘Septic’ is Cork argot for vain, and while I don’t want to write Irish women off as being totally obsessed with appearances, we are in the top ten of the most beauty-obsessed countries in the world.
That’s a lot of make-up.
The average Irish woman owns 22 beauty products, according to a new survey by the discount site, Picodi.com. However, only 12 beauty items are in regular use.
We’re not without a bit of sense though, as most of the women surveyed said that price is the determining factor when choosing cosmetics.
Only 4% of Irish women do not wear make-up at all, which is kind of heroic of them.
It’s not easy to have your broken veins on show when all around you are flawlessly made-up women who last went au natural around the time of their Confirmation.
(I have a friend who hasn’t been to the hairdressers in about five years. She cuts and dyes her own hair and can’t be bothered wearing any make-up. And goddamn it, she looks well. )
Most of us, though, are suckers for make-up to compensate for what nature failed to endow us.
Statistically, Irish women own eight lipsticks, three lip liners, three blushers, four mascaras, seven eye-shadows and eight nail polishes.
I can add eye brow kits to that list. Eyebrows are very big these days. They have to be sculpted. Unfortunately, they often look scary.
The annual spend on cosmetics is a bit scary too — around €393 a year per woman. And that’s not even including a blow dry.
Yes, the dirty secret is really not what we spend on lipsticks but rather what we shell out on our tresses.
I figure I spend about €800 a year on my hair — and that’s just basic colour and the occasional trim. There are women who spend a lot more on various types of highlights, complicated jobs such as balayage (where women often end up with dirty blonde-looking hair with dark roots).
But one thing is for sure, having been through lockdown, my annual spend on my appearance is going to be cut back. Who needs to go to the hairdressers every three weeks to get the roots done?
Now that I’ve found a spray that does a good temporary concealing job, I won’t be trotting off to the salon as often as I used to.
Lockdown meant that we were pared back to our essential state, sans tinted eyelashes, painted nails and all those other unnecessary cosmetic accoutrements that we think make us look well, or just presentable.
What would American writer and director, Nora Ephron (who died in 2012) have done during lockdown had she been alive? She wrote a great essay entitled On Maintenance. On the subject of hair, she wrote that twice a week, she went to a salon to have her hair blow dried.
“It’s cheaper by far than psychoanalysis, and much more uplifting. What’s more, it takes much less time than washing and drying your own hair every single day, especially if, like me, you live in a large city where a good and reasonably priced hairdresser is just around the corner.
“Still, at the end of the year, I’ve spent at least 80 hours just keeping my hair clean and pressed. That’s two work weeks.
“There’s no telling what I could be doing with all that time. I could be on eBay, for instance, buying something that will turn out to be worth much less than I bid for it. I could be reading good books.
“Of course, I could be reading good books while having my hair done —but I don’t. I always mean to. I always take one with me when I go to the salon.
“But instead I end up reading the fashion magazines that are lying around, and I mostly concentrate on articles about cosmetic and surgical procedures.
“Once, I picked up a copy of Vogue while having my hair done, and it cost me $20,000. But you should see my teeth.”
I don’t know about you, but lockdown has made me penny-wise.
While I was dying for my first cup of café-bought coffee after four months of deprivation, I now begrudge €3 for one that I used to unthinkingly buy at least once every day.
So too with hair expenditure, clothes buying and fripperies. The amount of money we all wasted in our consumerist lives was shameful.
This is not to put coffee shops out of business. I love them but for me, they’re going to be more of a treat than a daily habit.
We used to spoil ourselves. Now, maybe we’ll just occasionally treat ourselves.
Mindful spending rather than the mindless variety is surely desirable?