‘I’ve Spent £600 On Beauty Treatments To Go On Holiday’: Meet The Women Whose Pre-Holiday Beauty Routines Cost More Than Their Trip Away

With so many of us admitting to spending almost as much on pre-travel beauty treatments as the trip itself, we have to ask: has the pre-holiday beauty routine taken on a life of its own?

by Shannon Peter |
Updated on

There once was a time when it was the flights and hotel (you know, the actual ‘holiday’) that constituted the most expensive part of travelling. But it seems, nowadays at least, that we’re forking out a healthy wedge of our vacation budget before we’ve even so much as looked at a suitcase – and it’s all in the name of the holiday beauty routine.

Sure, it’s no new thing. Who hasn’t booked a last-minute pedicure in preparation for a week spent in flip flops? And as the hair-removers among us can attest, a quick wax can save time which is better spent lying on a sun lounger. But all it takes is a cursory scroll through TikTok to see that this pre-travel beauty routine has become a whole lot more complex – and expensive – than ever.

We can’t be the only ones whose algorithm consistently throws up videos captioned terms like ‘holiday prep to do list’ and ‘pre-holiday glow up’, fronted by beauty influencers extolling the benefits of month-long regimes that see them flit from manicures to lash lifts, haircuts to facials, waxes to massages and even injectables, all with the end-goal of getting “holiday-ready”. Add up the time it takes to embark on this extensive schedule of pre-flight beauty treatments, and you’ve soon put in a day’s worth of work – just to enjoy a week of what is supposed to be your hard-earned time off.

As for the cost, a tot-up of the bills within some of the most popular videos on the topic reveals some are spending well over £700 on their pre-holiday beauty prep alone. Even outside the influencer sphere the numbers stack up. Karina, 39, an event manager admits to spending £600 on beauty treatments to get her ready for a three-day trip, while even at the lower end of the spectrum, Francesca, 27, a beauty buyer from London has spent £235 in the lead up to her hen do.

High maintenance now, low maintenance later

For some, all this beauty prep is simply an exercise in time preservation; dedicating the hours, energy and funds now to cut down the hours, energy and funds we feel are required later. See the high maintenance to be low maintenance’ trend doing the social media rounds. ‘I get a brow lamination and shaping and a lash lift and tint, as well as a full body wax and hair braiding,’ says Charlotte, 34, founder of influencer marketing agency SevenSix, whose pre-holiday treatments cost her a total of £410. ‘I love it because it means I need to do absolutely nothing but put on SPF and lip gloss on holiday.’ More time to spend scouting out local flea markets or whiling away hours by the pool? Makes sense.

Hannah, 31, UK merchant lead at Pinterest says we can’t underestimate the practical benefits of pre-holiday hair prep for Black and mixed women. ‘For me, it’s key to get a protective style, otherwise too much of your holiday is spent doing haircare or avoiding pools and fun activities because you can’t enjoy them. Braids allow you to do more on the trip like swim and enjoy the sun without ruining your hair.’

Then there’s the shopping. Yes, a dash around Boots to stock up on all-important sun cream remains a key pre-holiday ritual but TikTok is awash with holiday beauty hauls, where creators regularly rack up beauty product bills in the hundreds. Lucy, 26, a midwife from Bristol, is all too familiar with the pre-vacation beauty aisle sweep, having recently spent £325 restocking her entire hair, skin and makeup bags before a trip to Greece.

Again, for Black women, these pre-holiday beauty hauls can feel imperative, lest they be caught short at their destination. ‘The prep of the holiday can be the cost of the holiday for Black women because a lot of the places we go to simply do not have any of our foundation shades or hair products should we forget anything,’ says Dior 33, a life coach and founder from London. ‘We have to make sure we are fully stocked ourselves’. Hannah agrees: ‘Hotels won’t have inclusive shampoos or [hair] diffusers so taking it into your own hands and costs reduces the chance of error.’

All work and no play?

There’s no denying that there is some joy to be found in indulging in beauty treatments and products that offer us a chance to relax or to make us feel good. And many of the women quoted in this piece say that’s the motivation behind their laborious pre-holiday beauty routines. Is it worth it? They reckon so.

But what if we peel things back a little further? Does our growing obsession with these pre-travel routines say something about the beauty standards that continue to hover overhead? Anita Bhagwandas, author of Ugly: Why the world became beauty-obsessed and how to break free (£10.99 paperback) certainly thinks so. ‘t’s a shame that we are conditioned to think that we have to prepare for something joyful like a holiday, when really, we should be able to pack our suitcases and enjoy some time out. But that pressure to look a certain way is still with us, and as our beauty routines become even more intense, we aren’t really afforded that break anymore.’

Holidays were once a chance to ‘let go’, to ditch the makeup bag and to subject your hair to the salt and the sand. Yet now, we have the omnipresent gaze of social media to contend with. ‘I attribute it to the advancement of smartphones and the ‘show’ mentality we have developed,’ Bhagwandas continues. ‘Now, thanks to social media, we feel a pressure to tell everyone about our holiday and so we want to look a certain way in the pictures we post. When we look back to more analogue days, no one saw your holiday snaps unless you physically showed them to people; it would be great to get back to that.’

There’s a double standard here, too. ‘I wish I didn’t feel the need to [prep for a holiday] but what annoys me more is that my husband has never felt the same pressure,’ says Lex, 40, a rosacea and skin positivity creator. ‘He packs deodorant and toothpaste and considers his ‘beauty’ packing done.’ Hard relate.

Take A Break From Beauty

Could you – or would you – ditch your pre-holiday beauty treatments? It won’t surprise you to hear that some women have done just that – and have returned unscathed. ‘This year was my first holiday abroad for six years,’ explains Rian, 35, a local government communications officer and mum of two young children. ‘I went with a friend who always looks very put together. I didn’t have time (and couldn’t justify spending the money on myself!) to do any holiday prep, and I worried I’d feel a bit lacklustre. Once there it didn’t matter at all. I had the best time away and not having my nails done, brows done etc didn’t factor in at all. Now I wonder why I spent so many years worrying about this before a holiday.’

Bhagwandas urges us to challenge our attachment to social media, too. ‘Could you try a social media-free holiday? To have a break that actually feels like a break? I use the majority of my holidays to dial back my normal beauty routines. At the end of the day, it’s a job on top of our other roles and it’s very freeing to let go.’

But that’s not to say that beauty has to be totally off the cards. ‘Beauty should be about enjoyment, so if you enjoy these procedures, then that’s great. But don’t feel like you have to prep to look a certain way,’ Bhagwandas recommends. ‘Use beauty in a fun way. Try out a new scent. Try bright makeup shades to see how you enjoy those. Engage in the local beauty culture; so many places have amazing spa rituals that focus more on your wellbeing than how you look at the end of it.’ A mid-holiday massage? Sign us up!


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