Economic crisis and the price of beauty

16-(2)_37Venezuela is known for its beautiful women –if we are allowed to say so ourselves.

But our high beauty standards are expensive, and no stranger to scarcity. So a negative involuntary consequence –what us economist usually call a “negative externality”- of the current economic crisis is that we are becoming less and less tidy, stylish, and flirty.

Let’s not forget the very popular Venezuelan saying:

“No hay mujer fea, sino mal arreglada”

-There is no such thing as an ugly woman. Just an unkempt one.

We decided to ask the opinion of experts: our more-than-girly girlfriends. The question: how is the current economic crisis affecting the beauty habits of Venezuelan women?

The beauty salon is a must… up to what we can afford.

Beauty salons used to be full, at all times. The smell of burnt hair and nail polish would let you know that there was beauty in the making only a few feet away.

However, times seem to be changing.

“Women sacrifice to pay for their beauty treatments, because they are one of the only affordable pampering treats you can give yourself. But maybe you used to go to the beauty salon once a week, and now you can probably go once every other week”.

“Now I get a manicure and pedicure once a month, instead of once a week”.

“I’m seeing more curly hair in the streets, probably because keratin hair straightening treatments are imported, and have become really expensive”.

According to El Nacional, a woman can spend between BsF 910 and BsF 1,500 for a wash, cut, and blow-dry combo. That represents between 13% and 22% of one month’s minimum wage.

No wonder clients are cutting their visits to the hair salon by half.

Our hair is a direct victim of the crisis.

“My curls are suffering. Everytime I have to change my hair product brand, my curls take some time to adjust and I can’t showoff my full and beautiful curls”.

Scarcity is the number one enemy of our hair problems. It’s pretty tough to get any type of shampoo, let alone our favorite brand. And if we do get it, we have to take care of it as if our [hair’s] life depended on it.

“The other day I left my shampoo and conditioner at the club, and I almost had a nervous breakdown because I thought had lost them and wouldn’t be able to wash my hair”.

belleza-630x300

“I don’t even dye my hair anymore”.

Hair coloring is a rather expensive service. If you’ve got the cash to pay for it, the beauticians might ask you to get the products on your own. And if you choose to DIY at home, you’re going to come across the almighty scarcity problem.

Hair coloring products are hard to find. And if you do find them, it’s not your preferred brand or color. Blond and purple are the colors you tend to find regularly in pharmacies so, as you might imagine, many women have had to change their hair colors.

Are we becoming fatter?

“The crisis is also affecting the dieting habits. Many products are nowhere to be seen and one must eat what can be found. That is probably affecting the weight of Venezuelan women.”

We both, Anabella and Bárbara, have pretty different eating habits.

One of us can eat pretty much whatever she wants and keep a ridiculously light weight. The other eats ridiculously healthy stuff to keep her weight.

Anyhow, both of our eating habits have been affected by the crisis. We cannot always choose what we want to eat. The “there’s no beef or chicken” welcome is becoming rather common in many restaurants. And the popular Sasha Fitness dieting recommendations are almost impossible to find – or way too expensive.

Maduro claims we are obese because we eat too much. We think that Venezuelans might be eating more, but are not eating healthier. And the official data seems to prove this.

pollo_29By 2013 (the last official available data), of the 20 most consumed food products, 39.8% of the Venezuelan diet consisted of corn flour, white rice, bread, pasta, refined sugar, pasteurized fruit juices, and soft drinks; 15.5% consisted of chicken, beef, eggs, cheese, milk and black beans; 11.6% consisted of plantains, melon, papaya, guava and natural orange juice; 1.4% vegetable oil; and 8.9% coffee.

And with the increasing scarcity levels of beef and chicken, and the difficulties in finding milk and quality affordable cheese, protein levels are being substituted for more and more processed carbs.

Becoming fatter is not just a matter of aesthetics. It’s a matter of health.

“I used to go to a nutritionist… not anymore”.

We all are victims of la cola.

It’s becoming rather common to find that many are missing work hours or whole days in order to be able to buy the groceries for their homes. And hair salons don’t seem to be the exception.

A friend told us that a couple of weeks ago, she went to get a haircut. Right after she got her hair washed, someone came into the salon, said that some scarce products had arrived at a supermarket close by, and all salon workers raced out, abandoning their job posts to get on the supermarket line. EVERYONE, including the salon’s cashiers.

***

There are many more examples to give, like the scarcity of make-up and nail polish remover, or the impact of los apagones -blackouts- on beauty salon equipments. But the bottom line is still the same: we probably won’t lose our “most beautiful women” status, but it is going to be rather difficult –and expensive- for us Venezuelan women to keep looking tidy, stylish, and flirty.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.