A gift to me, from me: UK make-up spend revealed

15 December 2016


  • Women spend average of £12 each month on cosmetics, equating to £9k over a lifetime
  • The average make-up bag contains products worth just shy of £90
  • Around half of British women are reluctant to leave home barefaced

Christmas can be an expensive business and looking good for the festive season can be equally harsh on the purse strings as research1 from Nationwide Current Accounts reveals women’s lifetime make-up expenditure.

The research was carried out as part of a wider look at how the UK spends and saves, and follows the launch of the Society’s Christmas Spending Report. While make-up is a staple Christmas stocking filler, Nationwide wanted to determine how much is spent on looking and feeling good more generally.

Treating yourself this Christmas?

The insight into consumer spending habits revealed women in the UK spend an average of £12 each month topping up their cosmetic collection. While this might not seem extortionate at face value, when added up over a lifetime, from 18 to 80, this totals almost £9,000 – or the cost of a new car2.

However, one in five women spend £21 or more on make-up each month, equating to over £250 a year, or £15,500 across a lifetime – enough to fund a luxury three-month around the world cruise3.

The cost of a make-up bag

The research, which polled 2,000 women aged 18-45, shows that on average, female Brits have 15 items in their make-up bags, costing just under £90. But one in five admitted to owning more than 20 items, which, if replaced every six months as advised by top beauty experts, could see cosmetic expenditure rocketing.

The average cost of a make-up collection can be broken down as follows:

Make-up item Average spend per product
Moisutiser £9.27
Fake tan £3.03
Primer £4.57
Concealer £5.97
Foundation £11.37
Blusher £5.97
Bronzer £4.82
Highlighter £4.56
Mascara £9.27
Eyeliner £6.00
Eyeshadow £7.40
Eyebrow Products £5.38
Lipstick £7.62
Lip liner £3.80
Total £89.03

Au naturel

Almost a third (30%) of those polled revealed they only wear make-up for special occasions, with a further one in 12 women confirming they generally do not wear make-up at all. Interestingly, a quarter of women claimed to not be bothered about leaving the house barefaced.

With foundation, mascara and moisturiser voted as the three most popular beauty essentials, this does point towards the favoring of a more natural look, yet one that still requires a little effort. Fake-tan and bronzer were much less popular with less than 2% of women claiming them as beauty staples, while eyebrow products and highlighter ranked most popular with 18-24-year-olds.

But is the natural look all just a big façade? When asked how leaving the house without make-up might make them feel, nearly half (45%) of women said it would be an uncomfortable experience, with only 1 per cent confident they would feel beautiful au naturel. Despite their youth, one in five (19.55%) of 18-24 year olds would not be confident either if put in this situation.

Regional differences

Regionally, it appears that it is Northern Irish females who are splashing the most cash when it comes to make-up. Here, the average make-up bag contains £113 worth of items, compared to lower maintenance make-up bags in the East Midlands, where items collectively averaged just £73. Those in Northern Ireland also topped the poll for the most items in their make-up bags, at 18, and total monthly make-up expenditure (£15.39).

Welsh women felt the most uncomfortable about leaving the house barefaced, with a quarter in the region preferring not to be seen without their trusty cosmetics. Despite this, the Welsh possess a less than average number of items in their make-up bag (13) and spend less than the monthly average on their cosmetics (£11.02).

Notes to Editors

1One Poll research: total sample size was 2,000 UK females aged 18-45. The survey took place between 12 July and 13 July 2016.

2Car based on an Aygo Toyota, costing from £8,495 as of November 2016, as seen on Toyota’s website.

3 Cruise based on worldwide, luxury cruise from Southampton to Los Angeles, costing £15,799 per person as of November 2016, as seen on Cunard’s website.

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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