Sunday | September 16, 2001

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The price of being beautiful

Petulia Clarke, Staff Reporter

THERE are many things that money can buy. But when you're a woman, you'll realise that the 'price' to maintain that distinction often exceeds the cash available to go around.

For some, braiding the hair, painting the nails, getting the clothes and the education necessary to define themselves as a woman is the first step. It does take a lot to be female. And almost all that it takes has to be bought.

If you are into the whole glamour look, then the garb alone is expensive. Executive Secretary, Pamela Stuart, shops for shoes at the end of the month and says she "buys sensibly so that each time I'll have a colour shoe to match my outfit." She shops at stores like Sammy's in Half Way Tree where she gets shoes from as low as $700.

Clothes follow. She shops at least once every three months and says that "I'm lucky we wear uniforms at work". Stuff like jeans cost around $1,000 per pair while trendy skirts and shirts can go from $500-$1,000. Overall she says that every three months she spends at least $5,000 updating her casual wardrobe.

It's pricey

And so are the numerous visits to the salon, 'cause just imagine if the lipstick and nailpolish doesn't go with the trendy handbag! All things considered, the expense of maintaining the appearance, of buying the hundreds of pairs of shoes, the endless tubs of makeup, the perfume and all other things necessary to be classified totally ladylike, can be phenomenal.

"Any conscious woman will want to keep up the fashion show", said Lamar Cowan, a 22-year-old sales clerk.

And so, persons like hairdressers and beauticians take home what Pamela describes as "money for the first most important procedure that all women should get" --that is the weekly to monthly beauty treatment.

A typical weekend visit to her St. Andrew-based hairdresser for Pamela includes washing or processing of her hair, a manicure, pedicure, facial and eyebrow shaping. Relaxing her hair costs between $700-$1,000 with treatment, a shampoo costs $400. The manicure (she puts tips on) costs $1,000 for the initial application and $500 every two weeks for the filling. The pedicure costs $400 while a deep facial goes for $600. After the hairdresser, other beauty products including makeup, body washes, lotions and soaps run her into an extra $3000 per month. Monthly visits to the aesthetician will cost $1500 for each consultation excluding whatever products are prescribed. Other miscellaneous feminine products run her into the thousands.

"Ever notice the pharmacy and supermarket shelves? The douches, all the feminine must-haves?" Pamela asked, "I can say truthfully that nothing there cost under $300."

And if you're a single mother or single girl trying to make life without a guy's help, the financial burden gets a lot harder to bear, as your costs are added to that of maintaining a growing child. It could run into tens of thousands of dollars. Pamela lives with her young son who is supported by his father occasionally. Thus stuff like food shopping is done every week at around $2,000 each trip.

The date

A few women still believe that the man should take care of all expenses on a date, but there are still other costs that have to be considered. The 'get vex' money is a must for every woman and will include taxi fare, and food money just in case things don't work out as planned and she either has to take a taxi home or split the bill. It's usually standard to take at least $1,000 on each date.

And just consider the typical woman who has to maintain a car, and doesn't know how and when to change the tyres or the oil. Mechanics can recognise naiveté, and many will charge an arm and a leg to get minor problems worked out.

Cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery is often a plan B or extreme accidental expense, but hey it figures right up there on some persons list. When beauty fades (as it will) , or the perception is marred in some way, change is necessary.

Surgeons then take home millions of dollars each year, as more and more women go for that illusive image. For some it is only attainable under the knife.

For years, many have been hooked on liposuction, breast augmentation and implants, laser surgery, wrinkle treatments, eyelid tuck, nose surgery, and more.

And it's not just for the rich anymore. Anyone can be made perfect at affordable costs. And it's big in Jamaica. Dr Kemel Gajraj of the Ripon Surgi Centre said that despite popular belief, cosmetic surgery like breast augmentation, liposuction and eye surgery is very popular here. The centre offers cosmetic surgery procedures and the doctor said that those like liposuction are done at the centre every day, and fixing the eyelids, the face and the breast are popular.

"I wouldn't say that these women (doing the surgery) are very rich people," he admitted, "they're a mix, they're not particularly well off or high up the social ladder." He said that especially for the liposuction procedure, where excess fat is removed from the abdomen, waist, thighs or sides, the mix is more pronounced.

Then there's the other group who do the breast augmentation or reduction. "We do a breast augmentation every four months," Dr Gajraj said, "saline implants are used now and the cost of the implants, which you have to consider before all else, is US$1,000 (about J$45,000). The whole procedure, including the surgery costs $160,0000 a price which differs very little with the breast size desired.

And they don't stop there. Of course there will be more problems. To remove puffiness from the eyes by removing fatty deposits or to raise the eyelids cost around $40,000 while an entire facelift costs $160,000. Liposuction, the doctor said is very cheap, ranging from $52,000 for the abdomen to $48,000 for the thighs.

The costs are comparable to those across the United States. The average costs for 2001, as directed by and derived from a survey of plastic surgeons at are as follows:

Costs include the surgeon's and anaesthesist fee, hospital fee, facility fee, and (where appropriate) the implant fee. Breast augmentation goes for US$6,000, breast lift, US$5,300, chin or cheek Implants, US$3,500, collagen injections US$500-1,500 , eyelid tuck US$4,500, face lift US$8,000, lip augmentation US$2,000, liposuction - 1 area - $3,200, 3 areas - $5,800. Other procedures done include face peels, nose surgery, permanent eyeliner, lipliner, tattoo removal and tummy tucks.

The schooling

Then there's the cost of getting adequate schooling to support the 'beauty and brains theory'. Tertiary level fees can run from J$60,000-100,000 each year and that's not even including texts, transportation and food bills. It will take a whopping sum to get the desired education to be the perfect woman -- beautiful and bright, and after many have overdone the beauty bit, the costs of being brilliant seem even more monstrous.

Costs broken down

Casual Clothes -- $5,000 every three months

Hair -- $700 to relax every six weeks,

$400 to shampoo every two weeks

Nails -- $1,000 for tips, $500 for refills

Facial -- $600

Breast surgery -- $160,000

College Degree -- $100,000+ per year for three years.

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