The beauty industry is valued at £9.3 billion, but how much time, effort and money does the average woman spend on her body admin? On a mission to destroy the illusion that us ladies spend our precious free time fussing over facials and following fads, we’re asking a cross-section of people how much time they really dedicate to their beauty routine. Do they follow a nine-step Korean programme or are they actually applying their make-up on the bus to work? Let the veil of mystery be lifted once and for all.
I’ve always been quite high maintenance, and these tendencies have definitely been encouraged by the fact that I’ve dabbled on and off in beauty writing for the past four years or so, a major perk of which is that I often receive samples to try out. The only downside is that there’s a major disconnect between these beauty habits and my salary: I often get hooked on products or treatments that are way beyond my means. My main beauty expenditure is my hair, which I colour in the salon every three to four months, and treat as a non-negotiable. I’m also more partial than the average person to fake tan. This week is a particularly extravagant one, as I’m attending the wedding of one of my best friends and want to look half decent in photos….
7.15am: I finally take notice of my alarm, after hitting snooze a couple of times. TMI alert: the first thing I do this morning is use Hand Chemistry's Heel Hydration Complex (£15) on my feet; I'm wearing sandals a lot in the warm weather and super conscious of how grotty my heels are looking. I then use Mixa's Restoring Body Lotion (£4.29) on my arms and legs. This certainly isn't a habit – I'm just very aware of the fact that I'll have to do a half decent job of fake tanning later in the week, as I'm attending a wedding, and obsessively preparing for said fake tan surely can't hurt, right?
7.20am: Head to the bathroom and wash my face 'properly' with Kate Somerville's Gentle Daily Wash (£32). My skin has never been great, but for the last few months it's been open season for adult acne; I tend to find dedicated anti-acne cleansers far too harsh, so am best off using something very simple, like this one.
7.25am: My eye is feeling pretty sore and looks a bit red, so I heat some water, dissolve some salt and bathe it for a little while. Not ideal, in this weather. Why am I falling apart?
7.30am: Once that's cooled a little, I start off with skincare in earnest. Deep breath. I use Kate Somerville's Wrinkle Warrior Eye Cream (£51) under my eyes (one of the only creams I've found to actually help with dehydration lines) and the same Serum (£80) on my face, followed by Olay's Total Effects SPF30 (£9.99), a day moisturiser with SPF. Thanks to my work, I know enough about skincare to be fully aware that this probably isn't enough sun protection: I'm usually a lot better when it comes to using a dedicated facial SPF50, but my last one ran out a week ago, and I've been too lazy to replace it. Must do better. I forget to use a primer. Again, not ideal in this weather.
7.35am: Make-up wise, I put on mascara first (Benefit's Roller Lash, £21.50) then get started on foundation (Nars Sheer Glow in Deauville, £33, an expensive habit I can't break) and concealer (Maybelline's Fit Me!, £5.99, to offset the Nars expense), applying it with Real Techniques' Expert Face Brush (£9.99). I then swipe the darker end of Diorblush Light and Contour stick (RIP, it's been discontinued) onto my cheeks and blend out with another brush. The jury's out on whether this does anything apart from make my face look a bit muddy, but it makes me feel less like a Cabbage Patch Kid, and isn't that what make-up is really for? I then dust on Benefit's Hoola Bronzer (£25.50) and their new Gold Rush blush, (£25.50) use the light end of the Diorstick as a highlight and add translucent setting powder from Beauty Pie (£26). I'd usually wear eyeshadow, but skip it today. Finally, I use Anastasia Beverly Hills Dip Brow Pomade (£19) on my eyebrows, applied with a spool and an angled brush. I finish off with setting spray: it's from Glam Glow (£24) and purports to add a slight glittery sheen (I'm a huge fan of the natural look, can you tell?)
7.55am: Brush teeth. I'm trying out Pearl Drops Luminous White Pro Shine Complex (£6.99), which is a luminous pink colour when squeezed from the tube. Is it working? It's too early to tell, but I'm certainly no Jack from Love Island at this stage. I then line my lips with Charlotte Tilbury liner (the gold standard, as far as I'm concerned, £16) before using a Tarte Liquid Lipstick in a dusty pink colour (£17). Leave my hair as it's too humid for any form of heat styling to last; I just brush it with a tiny Tangle Teezer (£11). Put on deodorant (£2.10) and spritz DKNY's Fall eau de toilette (£19.99).
5.55pm: My hair is a dry, frizzy mess thanks to the humidity, so I give my curling tongs (£49.95, Paul Mitchell, or as I told the last person who asked about my curling tongs, Phil Mitchell) a go, first using Toni & Guy's Heat Protection Mist (£5.16, I'm such a devotee that it's gone through about three fragrance changes in the time I've been using it) then setting the curls with Duck & Dry's All-Round Hairspray (it's light and non-crispy). (£16).
10.30pm: Return home from dinner at my university friend's house. I use the Gentle Daily Wash (£10) in the shower, and co-opt some body scrub (Dirty Works Glow Girl Scrub, £4) that's piled in the bathroom in a continued attempt to slough off old fake tan. One of my housemates works in the beauty industry which means plenty of free samples, which means most things in the bathroom are fair game to test out (I hope!)
10.45pm: I take off any remaining make-up and mascara smudges with micellar water (Sainsbury's – I love their own brand, My Skin Matters, and it costs just £2) then pump a little of REN's Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic (£25) onto a cotton pad (£1.15) and do a quick sweep over my face. I want to start using more acid-based skincare as it'll help to fade the marks from breakouts, and this gentle formula seems like a good place to start (I'm still a little bit scared of retinol and keep flattering myself that I'm 'too young' to use it). Then, I use Kate Somerville's Age Arrest Eye Cream (£64) and Anti-Wrinkle Cream (£76). I've run out of The Ordinary's Salicylic Acid, which I'd usually treat a breakout with, so have to improvise: I've read online that my Omorovicza Deep Cleansing Mask (£62) can be used as an overnight spot treatment, so decide to give that a go. I brush my teeth (obviously) and then use my favourite coconut Balm Dotcom from Glossier (£10) on my lips. I'm fully resigned to the fact that my skin will never be good enough for their make-up, but at least I can use the lip balm…
7:20am: I decide to make moisturising a habit, so reach for the Mixa again, before heading to the bathroom to use the Gentle Daily Wash. (If you're wondering why I use this brand a lot: I was given a personalised routine for a beauty feature, and have stuck with the products I liked).
7.30am: It's now time for the full skin care and make-up programme, just like yesterday, but with a couple of differences. For one, I remember to use my primer, Laura Mercier Foundation Primer – Radiance (£25.50). I also brush on a little iridescent eyeshadow in a grey-brown mink shade from Charlotte Tilbury's Instant Eye Palette (£60), using Real Techniques brushes, then line lips with one end of CYO's Two Clever By Half Lipstick and Liner (£5.50, a beauty cupboard find) and finish with Bourjois's Rouge Edition (£7.99) liquid lipstick in an orangey red (think a high street version of MAC's Lady Danger). Spritz with setting spray, because I'm definitely going to need it.
1pm: I have to film a short video during work, so fresh my foundation and lipstick a little and apply Eyeko's Skinny Liquid Liner (£16) to my upper eyelids (don't want to look like a vole on camera)
8.45pm: Thanks to the thirty-something degree heat, even showering feels like a major effort. I use the Gentle Daily Wash on my face (spotty skin means a super-boring, super-regular skin care regime) and as I'm still in the throes of pre-tanning, I use the scrub again. Though my hair is looking particularly ratty, I don't wash it, as I have a hairdresser appointment tomorrow. Once I'm out of the shower, I use the micellar water to remove make-up dregs.
10pm: Post Love Island, I use the Age Arrest Eye Cream and Anti Wrinkle Cream, plus the Glossier Balm, and use the Mixa cream on my legs and arms.
7.15am: Moisturising time! I honestly don't think I've ever felt more passionate about non-streaky fake tan. Probably because I'll see people from university (a dark era in my life, in tanning terms) at this wedding on Friday and want to prove that I've learned from my mistakes and grown as a person. No prizes for guessing that I then use Gentle Daily Wash, micellar, eye cream, serum, Olay SPF, primer.
7.25am: Make-up is the same as usual, as is the perfume. Once I've brushed my teeth, I use Charlotte Tilbury lipstick in America's Sweetheart (£24), a rosy pink colour. It's even hotter today, so setting spray remains vital (although I'm not convinced it can actually be doing anything).
2:15pm: I have a half-day from work, which I am using… to go to the hairdresser! (As I now know, it's semi-impossible to book a weekend appointment at short notice in London, woe is me). I've decided that money has no meaning, so I've booked in for a full head of highlights and a cut. I'm also mentally steeling myself for the potential extra cost of toner, as I'm attempting to gradually take some of the warmth (read: yellow) from my colour.
5pm: Nearly three hours later, it's finished – and I'm £215 poorer. I've ended up with a little more off the length than I'd anticipated, but it looks much healthier. There should be a study into the psychological boost of not having dingy brown roots.
8.30pm: Shower time. I've tied my hair up in the most rudimentary fashion to stop it getting wet. Shave my legs with a razor that definitely needs the head changing, with Dove's avocado shower lotion (£2.89, thank you housemate), then use the scrub, because that's a thing I do now. Oh, and I use a face wash, too.
8.45pm: This is where it all gets a little tense. I've bought a new tanning mitt (St Tropez, no less, £5) for this very occasion, and liberally spray Isle of Paradise's self-tanning water in medium (£18.95), before rubbing it in with the mitt. Leave it a few minutes to dry, but then get bored and needy, so get dressed to harass my housemates.
9.15pm: Remove nail varnish with generic acetone remover (£0.98) and cotton pads while sitting on my kitchen floor, half-watching Love Island.
10pm: The Post Love Island ritual: Eye Cream and Anti Wrinkle Cream. Attempt to sleep in an awkward position that won't impede my fake tan.
6.45am: Of course, I got precisely three hours sleep, but – moment of truth – my tan looks OK, so maybe it was worth it?
7.15am: Getting increasingly stressed, hot and bothered as I think about all the things I've probably forgotten to pack: I'm heading off to Sheffield straight from work, so there's little margin for error. I do my usual routine, just a bit stress-ier, sweatier and grumpier (I am Glossier's less aspirational sisters).
4.30pm: Arrive in Sheffield, where it's almost as blazingly hot as London. I make a beeline for Boots, where I pick up some Eylure lashes for £4.95 (having forgotten, of course, to pack any of the pairs I have knocking around at home or in work). I haven't worn them for years, so choose the lowest-key pair on offer, while internally bemoaning the fact that it's 2018 and shops no longer sell Girls Aloud eyelashes in 'Kimberley.'
6pm: Looks like my setting spray was not made to withstand 30degree plus heat, because I'm now left with about a quarter of a face of make-up, which has fallen, Picasso-like, wherever it chooses. Wipe it off with the micellar water when we arrive at our (very spartan) Airbnb, because frankly I look horrifying.
10pm: After spending a couple of hours watching my friends paint their nails, thinking about painting my nails, not painting my nails and watching Love Island instead, I have a shower and wash my face with the Gentle Daily Wash, in preparation for….
10.15pm: Tanning! As I'm pretty impressed with the Isle of Paradise spray so far, I decide to chance it with another layer, liberally applied. I realise that there is now a major colour disparity between my face and my body, so reach for the same brand's Self Tanning Drops in Light (£19.95) and mix in with the Anti Wrinkle Cream, which I apply after the Eye Cream. Spend the rest of the evening trying not to coat the (strangely shiny) bed sheets in tan, while watching Set It Up on Netflix.
8.00am: Wedding time! I wake up, wash my face and brush my teeth. One week in, and the whitening toothpaste has made precisely zero difference. Sigh. I decide that two layers of tan just isn't enough, as my arms are still looking a bit pale. Round three of Isle of Paradise – but just on the arms.
8.30am: Last night's procrastination comes back to haunt me, as I have to do an extremely rushed job on my nails and toenails, using No.7's Gel Finish polish (£7.50) in a bright red. Grab the nearest hairdryer and put it on the cool setting to speed things up (I'm not particularly proud of the fact that I then proceed to use said hairdryer to dry off the fake tan, too).
9am: Put on a bit of mascara before rushing out to catch the bus into town. Given the skin situation, not wearing any 'proper' make-up feels like kind of a big deal, but it'll be easier to do a proper face later without having to worry about concealer-y dregs. Plus, the skin gods have decided to look kindly on me for once and I'm not actually looking too spotty. It's also started to chuck it down, so I fear for the viability of my tan.
9.30am: My friend and I have booked blow dries, because who needs money when you have nice hair?
10.30am: Given the hot weather and the fact that it's a long day ahead, the hairdresser has given me very, very tight curls. We're talking Taylor Swift Fearless era level of poodle. I know from experience that they'll drop in an hour or so, so I'm not too perturbed. My friend, on the other hand, is a little bit traumatised by her similarly poodlesque appearance. We pay and leave, after the hairdressers repeatedly warned us to avoid touching our hair AT ALL COSTS until we reach the venue. £30.
11am: We arrive back at the Airbnb, where everyone else tells us we look 'very curly.' I have 45 minutes before the taxi gets here. Panic stations. Once I'm in my dress, I use a bit of micellar water, then the usual skincare bits and pieces: Wrinkle Warrior eye cream and serum, Olay moisturiser, Laura Mercier Primer. While I'm applying this, I squeeze adhesive glue onto the fake lashes I bought yesterday.
11:10am: It turns out – who knew - that attempting to apply fake lashes on a deadline is impossible unless you're a pro, so I give them up as a lost cause. I apply my usual Sheer Glow foundation all over, with a bit of concealer, then use the two darkest shades from Cover FX's Contour Kit (£40) on my 'cheekbones,' with a dusting of Benefit Hoola and Benefit Gold Rush. Then, it's time for the highlighter end of the Diorstick, and the usual setting powder from Beauty Pie. As it's a fancy occasion, I brush on a bit of highlighter from my Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit palette (£41, an old birthday present from my sister, who is much better at the whole contour-and-highlight thing than me).
11:30am: If this was 60 Minute Makeover, things would be getting very tense now. I brush Anastasia Beverly Hills Dip Brow onto my eyebrows, then apply a creamy colour from The Balm's Nude'tude Palette (cringing internally at the name) across my eyelids (£32). I reach for the failsafe Naked2 palette (£39.50) and apply Half Baked, my favourite golden shade, on the lids, too, then take a wet brush to apply a Peaches and Cream loose eyeshadow pigment (£6.95) in a bronze-orange (another gift from my sister; they're a salon based in Liverpool) around the crease and slightly below the lash line. Add a sweep of Eyeko liner (not as smoothly as I'd like, because the pressure is real) and some more mascara.
11.43am: Of course the taxi is early. I do a straw poll of lipsticks among my friends and decide upon Charlotte Tilbury's The Duchess (£24). Then, it's a case of liberally spritzing perfume (Marc Jacobs' Daisy Dream, £42) and setting spray (Glam Glow), throwing a few bits of make-up in my tiny bag and rushing out, while attempting to remain upright in five-inch heels. Men have it very easy.
11.50am: In the taxi, I realise that I haven't brushed my curls out. Pray that nature will take its course and I'll soon look a bit less Swift-y.
1.30pm: After holding it together for the ceremony (just), I end up bursting into tears when I hug the bride once the service is over, because I clearly just have a lot of feelings. Retreat to bathroom to check eye make-up – luckily, it's still intact, but I top everything up a little anyway.
5pm: Post speeches, I do another bathroom check. Given the heat, the alcohol and my emotionally volatile state, I'm quite surprised that everything has just about held up, though I end up having to use my brush to blend out foundation creases from smiling too much (there are worse things). I have a mini Jo Malone Peach & Nectarine Blossom EDT (£45, from a gift set) in my bag, so do a quick spritz of that, too.
3am: My eye make-up is on the panda side, my lipstick is now mainly attached to the face of someone the bride and groom went to school with, but my hair FINALLY looks right. Sod's law that it takes a wedding disco followed by an ill-advised night out to reach the precise level of done but not too done. I may now be 79 per cent vodka and coke, but I'm not an animal: I use the micellar water to take off my make-up and then lurch upstairs to use the face wash (and brush my teeth) – as if that's somehow going to mediate the effect that vast quantities of alcohol will have on my skin. I also use the eye cream and wrinkle cream. I am a very thorough drunk.
9am: Obviously, I'm hungover. When I look in a mirror, it soon becomes clear that drunk me thought it would be a great idea to add the tanning drops to my night cream, so I'm even more orange than when I went to sleep, with the addition of a major streak across my forehead. Why am I like this?
10.15am: Only a shower will save me now.
10.30am: We have to clear out of the Airbnb at 11, and earlier in the week I had the bright idea of arranging to meet my grandparents for lunch afterwards. I do my usual skincare – heavy on the hydrating serum – and make-up, though it looks as if it's been applied by a five-year-old (because that's my current level of dexterity).
3.30pm: Post-lunch, I have to retreat for 'a lie-down.'
8pm: Finally, I'm home.
10.30pm: Somehow, I've managed to stay awake until now. I take my make-up off with micellar water and face wash, then add liberal quantities of eye cream and anti-wrinkle cream. Clearly, I never learn from my mistakes, as I decide to mix a little drop of Isle of Paradise tan in with said cream.
12pm: Are two-day hangovers a medical phenomenon? Jump in the shower and wash my face, then apply the usual. The tell-tale line on my forehead aside, the tanning drops look surprisingly OK. So OK, in fact, that I decide to use a foundation with – the horror – less coverage. I've had a bottle of Benefit's Hello Happy foundation (£25.50) on my chest of drawers for a little while, so give that a go. Weirdly, my face tingles a bit when I apply it, but the colour match is a good one. Given that I'm planning on spending the rest of the day returning the various extravagant wedding outfits I ended up buying and vetoing (why does wedding season make me think I'm an influencer?), I just wear mascara, Dip Brow and lipstick (another pinky Charlotte Tilbury shade).
8pm: A confession. Having spent the last four months religiously avoiding dairy in pursuit of better skin, the combination of sheer exhaustion and my housemates' bad influence has me joining them in a Dominos order. Who needs clear skin?
9pm: If I wasn't properly lactose intolerant before giving up dairy, I definitely am now: the pizza tasted great in the immediate moment, but I feel pretty wretched now. Have a shower and wash my face with the Gentle Daily Wash, then use micellar to remove anything else. In an attempt to atone for the pizza, I use La Roche Posay's Effaclar Sebo-Controlling Mask (£13) all over my face, another clay mask with a reassuringly medicated name and packaging.
9.30pm: Wash off the mask, then use REN's Ready Steady Glow AHA tonic, before brushing my teeth and applying Age Arrest Eye Cream and Wrinkle Cream (I decide to give the tan a rest – tomorrow is another day)
Cost of make-up: £552.37
Cost of skincare: £456.09
Cost of bodycare: £174.69
Cost of haircare: £327.11