In America, and across the developed world, unrealistic beauty standards are set by airbrushed magazine covers and celebrities transformed by makeup artists. The consequences of this are as harmful as they are pervasive.

The emotional distress this causes isn't the bone I want to pick today. I'd rather do a purely economic assessment. After all, beauty isn't cheap.

In 15 years I've spent about $50 a month and 25 minutes a day on altering my appearance. This includes make-up, salon visits, perfume, hair products and shaving. By my estimation, I've spent a total of $9,000 and 2,281 hours.


Sadly, all I have to show for that money is photos of myself looking marginally different than I would have otherwise. How many books could have enriched my life in 2,281 hours? There are infinite ways $9,000 could have improved my life or the lives of others.

Looking beyond myself, Americans spent $55 billion on cosmetics in 2014. And that is just the beginning. Allied Market Research anticipates the global cosmetic market to exceed $390 billion by 2020.

Double yikes.

What if we collectively invested differently? It's estimated that $44 billion a year could end world hunger. $13 billion would provide every mother and child in the developing world medical care. $10 billion a year would bring clean drinking water to every person on earth.

Can our culture return to it's perception of women's beauty before a beauty industry hijacked it? If we can, we could literally solve the world's problems for the price of hairy legs, gray roots and an uneven skin complexion. That seems a small price to pay to me.

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