Many New Zealanders are doing their own hair, making their own toiletries and slashing beauty routines as the cost of living bites.
Staying platinum blonde and wrinkle free may be a challenge in a recession, but beauty fans and businesses are rising to it, with the personal care industry booming as people turn to DIY beauty.
Salon businesses crippled with rising costs are forced to increase prices, introduce payment plans and offer lower maintenance alternatives, but are still buoyed by die hard customers who would rather freeze or starve than have bad eyebrows or hair, who see pampering as a must-do for mental health.
When Lower Hutt woman Beryl Colley gets baking soda, coconut oil and cider vinegar out of her pantry, her husband asks, “what’s on the menu?”.
He’s not getting biscuits, but homemade shampoo, soap, deodorant and even toothpaste.
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Colley is saving hundreds of dollars making her own toiletries. Her shampoo might not lather but leaves hair “squeaky clean”.
“Not only are we saving a fortune, but it’s natural. It’s what our grandmothers did, before we got the idea that we had to buy everything.”
TikTok is the new grandma in the cost of living crisis, where beauty fans share tips on how to save thousands on skincare and makeup.
Videos revealing “drugstore dupes” are trending – with people sharing bargain finds at a fraction of the cost of expensive brands.
Makeup company MCo had TikTokers sprinting to Chemist Warehouse for the release of its Flawless Glow foundation – half the price of a cult product from top brand Charlotte Tilbury from Mecca – even in similar bottling.
Kmart – dubbed by fans as “so cheap it’s practically free” – has expanded its affordable beauty range in the cost of living crisis. Its Elf and Oxx products, also hailed as “dupes” for upmarket brands, are regularly sold out. Its new ‘In the Clouds’ perfume is flying out the door, a quarter of the price of Ariana Grande’s ‘Cloud’ fragrance.
Dupe lovers are unapologetic.
“Savvy consumers are learning you don’t need to eat ramen noodles for a month to pay for an expensive cream. Dupes are a way you can still participate in rituals, have great make up and skin that doesn’t cost the earth,” says TikToker Lucy McPherson, a hairdresser and skincare fan.
Cosmetics New Zealand general manager, Martha Van Arts, said in the cost of living crisis, there are more discount and mark down products available.
“Leading cosmetics and boutique brands are all available for less. With the rise of online beauty brands there’s more competition, so consumers can access quality beauty products at more everyday prices. “
Tight budgets are also driving consumers to DIY solutions. In pharmacies, the DIY beauty segment is showing yearly growth of 84.6% year, recent IRI MarketPlace research revealed.
The at-home beauty market is booming in both Australia and New Zealand said Rachel McKendry, marketing manager for McPherson’s Consumer Products New Zealand.
“Australia and New Zealand are similar markets … the Australian beauty and personal care products market was valued at NZD $5.97 billion in 2020. It is projected to register a compound annual growth rate of 3.87% to NZD$7.22 billion, between 2021 – 2026.”
Motivated by increased consumer demand, the beauty industry has developed at-home devices for a “cost-effective salon experience at home”, said McKendry.
“Starting in 2020 with Covid and repeated lockdowns, coupled with the uncertainty of future circumstances and now with an increased cost of living, is seeing people looking for alternatives rather than, not doing it at all.”
McPherson’s Manicare brand is a market leader in New Zealand’s beauty accessories category. Its vast lashes and nail range mean you can skip the nail bar and eyelash extensions. Instead of pricey salon treatments, there are innovative home tools to firm and lift your face, sculpt your body, remove unwanted hair, and even vacuum your pores.
Hair and beauty salons were not only impacted by customers’ squeezed budgets, but their own increased costs of staffing, supplies and freight which has forced them to increase prices.
Mum of four, Pauline De Thierry, owner of Pamper Me Medi Spa in Thames, said price increases were inevitable as overheads increased, and “we won’t have seen the last of them in the industry”.
“I know of some businesses that have already closed their doors, relieving staff, selling off equipment. I can not imagine being in that position, the heartbreak.
“To give you an idea of what increases we face, a box of gloves used to cost a little over $10, now they range from $18-$35.
“There is only so much a business can absorb before the business is running at a loss … everything from water, insurance, lease, power, laundry, training, music, wages, booking systems and more continue to rise.”
Just breaking even is an achievement in itself, and profits are “a luxury in these times”.
De Thierry supports clients on lower budgets with payment plans and sells at-home products.
“Anyone in beauty knows, you are not in this industry for the money, but because you have a passion for caring for others.”
Owner of Hamilton’s Jingles Hair design, Ann Maree Young, agrees products are forcing prices up but warns bad home jobs are even more expensive to fix.
Fox Hair Blonde Bar owner Deb McCauley said some are stretching appointment times, and opting for lower maintenance colours rather than bright blondes, or taking advantage of the fashion for silver tones by transitioning to grey.
Big players are not immune, said Lynden Mason, director of Vivo, which has 80 salons across Aotearoa. The salons had not yet put up prices but would later in the year, he said.
“Our central metropolitan salons have struggled more, possibly because of rising costs of travelling to them, or more people working from home.”
Wage costs had also soared as the company started apprentices on minimum wage which increased in April rather than the lower training wage.
The lower maintenance balayage highlights trend was sticking around in New Zealand unlike other countries, simply due to less cost, and staff were being trained to talk to clients about budgets. There were still “die hard” customers who adopt a “good hair, don’t care” attitude, determined to be platinum at any cost, he said.
“Some consider hair essential to mental health. With everything else going on in the world, the salon is an oasis, and feeling they look good is part of that,” he said.
Tauranga Ado salon owner Jason Davies agrees. While supplier prices could force prices up by 10%, customers still value the “therapeutic, healing” power of a salon.
“The hairdressing industry perfectly aligns itself with the look good, feel good mantra.”
Despite this, some have given up the hairdresser completely. Louise Russell Holland is saving $300 every six weeks by not colouring her hair, and has embraced being fully grey. She also cuts her husband’s hair, saving $40.
Tauranga businesswoman Jackie Brown shopped around to compare prices, but didn’t go as far as one UK Tiktoker who went to Turkey for cheaper hair extensions.
“I only went down the road to Pāpāmoa, but did save as she did them in her house.”
Cheaper ways of looking good did take Brown to Mexico for weight loss surgery in which she has lost 26kg in six months. At around $7300, it was a third of New Zealand prices.
“I was toying with a Jenny Craig diet, but would have been buying their food for a year, so surgery in Mexico worked out cheaper.”
Cosmetic and weight loss surgery is a priority for some even in a cost of living crisis, she said.
“People set it as a goal, and save up or even consider withdrawing their Kiwisaver.”
Brown is currently in Thailand accompanying Kiwis having bargain facelifts, and has already taken six other women to Turkey for bariatric surgery, including a cost-strapped single mother and midwife who was “investing in her wellbeing” said Brown.
“It’s life changing. I’ve never felt so good. And as I don’t eat and drink like I used to, my husband noticed we’re even saving hundreds at the supermarket.”