Back in the day it was pure heresy to think that a couple would split the bill on a first date. The accepted norm was that whoever asked the other person out on the date would be the one forking over their cash. Nowadays, splitting the bill has become commonplace, but the cost of your pre-date beauty treatments... now there’s a cost that is solely yours alone. You could devote an entire book to a discussion about who pays on a date, however, there is very little discussion about all the cash that gets thrown down before a meet-up even happens.
For many women, first dates are a huge deal and some call in the beauty big guns for the occasion: professional blowouts, manicures, pedicures, eyebrow shaping, facials, special products and devices, the works! When it comes to first dates, women will quite often drop some serious cash to look like a better version of themselves for a guy they hardly know.
In fact, women spend billions of dollars every year on their beauty regimens, but it’s a no-brainer as to why that is: beauty is empowering. Feeling gorgeous allows you to bring out your best you—and that’s huge when you’ve got a first date. However, some women are spending their hard-earned money on beauty treatments and supplies solely for specific occasions, like a first date, even if that means busting their budget for a one time event. This all-in approach can become pretty (no pun intended) costly if you’re actively on the market and going on multiple first dates.
Feeling confident is the ultimate goal for Jordan Barnes, a photo editor in New York City. "I want the guy to look at me and think that I make an effort to take care of myself and that I’m not messy." Jordan spends an average of $150 on her first date beauty routine, which includes: waxing (head to toe), threading and shaping eyebrows, a blowout, and a matching mani and pedi. She’ll retouch her highlights, even if she isn’t due for another appointment for a few weeks. "It’s a lot of money that I would normally not spend at once," she admits, "but it makes me feel less gross."
And Jordan considers herself to otherwise have "low-maintenance" beauty tendencies. Imagine what a high maintenance beauty aficionado would do! Karla Mango, an account executive in Las Vegas, claims to have these kind of high glamour standards, and it shows in her regimen. Her routine for a first date involves a little DIY, the kind you can’t get from your fridge or pantry: A combination of Dr. Dennis Gross’s Alpha Beta Peel ($16) and her reVive Light Therapy Device ($100) helps to smooth and brighten her skin at home, bringing on a natural glow. Then she heads to the experts for a blowout ($55), mani and pedi ($40) and eyebrow and lip threading ($20). Total: $231. "Sometimes, I feel guilty about spending the money, especially if the date doesn’t work out, but it’s important to make a great first impression," Karla explains.
First impressions are the sole reason women are spending their hard-earned cash on their beauty routines. "First impressions are everything," says Michelle Alfi, a lawyer in Los Angeles. "The effort you put out to meet someone new creates an impression that lasts and is always remembered; going that extra beauty mile is a good idea in the beginning. It’s what sticks with a guy—and it can’t be made again." Michelle’s beauty must-have for a first date: a bottle of Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille Parfum ($220 for a 1.7 oz bottle).
Some women, on the other hand, are more interested in making a new date feel boastful of the woman they are being seen with. "I don’t mind feeling like I’m arm candy," says Carolina Almonte, a Special Events Manager in New York City who takes the first date as an opportunity to experiment with a sexier look. "Go bold or go home" is Carolina’s motto. "The minute I know I have a date, I head straight to my nearest MAC store and buy the boldest lipstick I can find—I have a ton, but there’s always a newer, bolder and better one I could have." A MAC lipstick will cost Carolina around $16, then she hits up DreamDry for a swingy blowout at $45, and Sephora for "sexy" products like fake eyelashes ($25) and "fancy" shower gel and body lotion (she favors those from L’Occitane and will spend around $60). "I want to smell good enough to eat. The goal is for the guy to drool over me." Total: $146.
Looking like a doll and making guys drool is not what the majority of women seek to accomplish on a first date. For example, Sheila Munguia, a publicist in New York City occupies the other side of the spectrum. "I definitely call in the beauty reinforcements for a first date, but in no way do I want to look like a doll. I’m not a Barbie. I want to look good, but I also want the focus to be on my personality." For Sheila, it’s not about transforming herself, but more about creating a look that influences how men perceive her and that, like Carolina’s routine, costs a pretty penny, too! "My strategy is to look presentable. I talk a lot with my hands and so having a freshly done manicure is key ($45), a good blow-out ($40) and a red lip using NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella ($26) makes me feel polished and pulled-together for a date." Total: $111.
And just to be clear, looking pulled together does not mean looking plain…nor does it mean you penny-pinched your first date look. Some women want to send cues that they’re friendly and approachable and again, that can be costly too. "I’m careful about not looking too overdone," says Jessica Goldberg, a compliance Manager in Los Angeles who adds that setting the right "beauty tone" usually works for scoring her a second date. Jessica starts her pre-date routine with "clean-smelling" hair and body products ($40) and a manicure ($30) and goes for a "no-makeup makeup look" (that bare-faced style costs her upwards of $65). Total: $135. "I aim to feel good in my skin, which helps in the way that I carry myself; it’s especially nice to have that confidence when you meet people for the first time."
But not all women are spending big bucks when it comes to first dates—especially in a culture where "dates" aren't always the norm. Alana Levinson, a staff writer at Medium and the creator of I Call This Look, says that often she goes directly from work to a date, whatever that might mean. Her outings aren't "traditional" dates, she says, and she has a side-eye for the whole experience. "Most first dates are going to be a disappointment. Why add to that by spending a lot of time, energy and money?" She keeps her purchases to an absolute minimum: a tube of Wet N Wild lipstick (99¢), and a dash through Sephora for a free perfume spritz. "I just don't have time, frankly," Alana says, adding, "I just feel like they should like me for what I actually look like? Which isn't really gussied up." Total: 99 cents.
But it all comes down to confidence. Without a doubt, being confident helps you effectively manage first date stresses (it helps with everything else in your life as well), and many women are willing to stretch their purse strings in an effort to achieve it. Whether you opt to go for the girl next door look or prefer the va-va-voom approach, the end result is the same — looking and feeling like your best self. Like most people, women like to receive compliments on their appearance, which directly correlates to a heightened sense of confidence—but beware of the flattery as it can result in increased levels of spending and have serious repercussions on your budget! Like Carolina says, "I don't need a man to tell me that I'm hot to feel good—but it's sure nice to hear. However, it’s a good thing for my wallet that I don’t have a first date everyday."