Be a Beauty Guinea Pig
Every time I hear that consumer spending is on the rise, I think, “Really?” In my circle, we’re still a bit wary of shopping too much outside of sales or splurging at fancy eateries. But Americans’ disposable income is indeed growing, and with it, spending on beauty treatments and cosmetic procedures has increased as well. The upside for those of us still keeping close tabs on our wallets? More demand for training in lucrative aesthetic procedures means more savings opportunities for those of us brave enough to be a beauty guinea pig.
From basic salon services to complex plastic surgeries, opportunities for free or very discounted aesthetic treatments are more available than ever. Here are some ways to look and feel gorgeous for less, ranked from the least risky to the most.
Be wowed: If you’re new to beauty volunteering, here’s the place to start: Salon apprentices across the country need fabulous heads of hair to practice their shampoo and blow drying skills on, and the service (which usually runs $25 and up) is almost always free. Check out a site like Salon Apprentice or the beauty services section of your local Craigslist to indulge.
Be warned: This is ultimately a practice session, which means your blowout can take more time than usual. If this is a concern, call the salon to get a ballpark on how much time to put aside. While you’re on the phone, ask about their tipping policy: some salons do not accept tips from volunteers, while others expect 15 to 25 percent of the standard price of the treatment.
Be wowed: It’s hard to feel guilty about indulging when you’re spending just $6 for a manicure or $20 for a facial, no? Find a beauty school in your area that offers spa services performed by senior students or under the supervision of an instructor.
Be warned: If you like your spa services with a calming dose of zen, the atmosphere of a beauty school may not be ideal. And be sure to ask if your facial involves extractions. If it does, there may be the chance of temporary redness after the procedure.
Haircuts or Color
Be wowed: If you flinch at the idea of dropping major cash for a spin in a top stylist’s chair, here’s your opportunity to affordably update your look. And you don’t have put your hair in the hands of a rookie: Many free and radically discounted (think 10 to 20 percent of the listed price) cut and color services are performed by very experienced stylists working on master certifications. Look for hair model requests from established salons, check a local magazine or website for listings or simply call the place you’ve been dying to try and ask if they need models.
Be warned: Salon requests can be very specific: They may only need women with curly hair, for instance, or hair that’s never been dyed. Communicate clearly with your stylist and be willing to go as short (or as blonde) as they specify. While a disastrous student cut should be cleaned up by a superior before you leave your chair, you often have no veto power over the final style, and no “do-over.” If your hair color is radically changed, prepare to pay for the upkeep or revert to your natural color when roots begin to appear.
Be wowed: Lash extensions are becoming increasingly popular, and the courses that teach aestheticians how to apply them require live models. If you’ve been curious about how you’d look with a proper Kardashian fringe, but unwilling to pay three figures to find out, contact a company that offers extension certification courses (search for “lash certification” online) and ask if they need models in your area.
Be warned: There’s always the chance that you may be allergic to the glue used to attach the individual lashes to your natural ones, particularly if the glue contains formaldehyde (ask if hypoallergenic adhesive is available). Extensions only last for the growth cycle of your natural lashes: If you love them, expect to pay for a re-do in three to four weeks; if you hate them, know that you’re not stuck with them for long.
Medical Cosmetic Treatments and Surgery
Be wowed: If crow’s feet taunt you in the mirror every morning and no amount of spin class seems to banish those saddlebags (and you can’t bear the thought of looting your retirement fund to get rid of them), you may have the opportunity to receive significantly discounted cosmetic procedures at medical school clinics. Doctors with years of experience extend their training in everything from Botox to facelifts under close supervision by top plastic surgeons, and $11,000 of lipo may end up costing you less than $2,000.
Be warned: All medical procedures involve risk, and you should be prepared to sign a medical waiver. Make sure to research the doctors who will be performing the services. Communicate closely with your clinic and understand your rights as a patient, who will be supervising, and what options are available if you are unhappy with the results. Depending on the popularity of the clinic, you may have to schedule a procedure several months out.