How to Look Expensive
It’s been awhile since we’ve had a book review here on full clutch, so I’m excited to bring you a review of How to Look Expensive: A Beauty Editor’s Secrets to Getting Gorgeous without Breaking the Bank by Glamour editor Andrea Pomerantz Lustig. This book came out in August of 2012 and is available in hardcover (though it’s a very small book and could easily fit in most handbags) or Kindle edition (because of the visual aspect of this book, I’d recommend sticking with the hardcover version if you have an older Kindle). The concept–of getting an “expensive look” for a bargain–is timely and compelling. Let’s dive in.
Ms. Lustig goes through different facets of style and beauty, chapter by chapter (“Your Hair”; “Beautiful Bareable Skin”), and discusses what looks expensive, and what looks cheap, and how to achieve the former and avoid the latter. She compares expensive products to drugstore products that produce the same effect. She has several at-home tutorials. She interviews experts in the industry and gets their tips and tricks. It’s an easy to read, easy to follow book, with illustrations and pictures of celebrities for reference.
The information in this book is quite good, depending on your needs. For instance, I don’t color my hair but I think for those who do, the section on hair coloring would be really helpful. Ms. Lustig points out that cheap-looking color is usually all one tone, doesn’t match the coloring of the person wearing it, can be dull, and perhaps looks too uniform and perfect. She underscores the importance of highlights and lowlights, conditioning for colored hair, placement of color, and so on. Plus, she makes recommendations on what kind of color to get depending on how much you have to spend. So if you can only afford coloring every six months, get highlights around the face, or ombre color at the ends, because neither requires a lot of upkeep. For coloring and for hair style, she tells you how to talk to your stylist about what you want, which is SO great. So if you want long layers to wear your hair curly but manageable, she tells you what to ask for, or how to describe the perfect-looking highlights. I think many women know what beautiful, expensive looking hair looks like, but they don’t know how to get there, so it’s really helpful to get the necessary language to communicate this with your stylist.
Other favorite sections:
“Give yourself a pricey blow-dry”: Directions and illustrations for an at-home blow-out. Love the practicality of this tutorial which acknowledges that you’ll probably get tired of holding the round brush and blow dryer above your head after ten minutes. Thus it advises you to start in front where people will most notice your hair and work your way back.
“Six steps to a luminous face”: This tutorial shows how to get a dewy glow while avoiding a greasy, overdone look. I tried it out and it really looked professional and subtle.
“How to apply false lashes like a pro”: I’ve never even been tempted to apply fake lashes because it seems like such a hassle. But this how-to is really thorough and makes me think I might be able to tackle it. The lashes she features are only $6–Revlon Fantasy Lengths Maximum Wear Self Adhesive Eyelashes.
“What’s in my makeup bag?”: One of my favorite sections, Ms. Lustig goes through her makeup bag and lists everything she uses. Then she goes to the drugstore and finds nearly identical versions for much cheaper. The cost of her luxury products totaled $500.50 while the cheaper version totaled $151.63. My favorite substitution? The extraordinarily popular NARS the Multiple in Orgasm, which is a cream blush/highlighter, costs a hefty $39. She found a duplicate in NYX Cosmetics Tango with Bronzing Stix in Merengue Flush for a mere $8.
She actually does this throughout–while mentioning that her favorite cleanser for oily skin is Dermalogica Dermal Clay Cleanser for $34, she also makes sure to include a drugstore alternative, CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser for $11.99. As an avid bargain hunter, I love this feature of the book.
“The custom blended tan”: Nothing says cheap like an orange spray tan. This detailed tutorial tells you how to get a great at home tan, with tips on contouring so that it looks natural and beautiful. Ms. Lustig also gives options for fixing a disastrous tan. Who knew there was such a thing as St. Tropez Tan Detox to remove a bad tan?
At times the tone of this book is self-congratulatory (stories about people she’s helped make it big in the business, though it has no bearing on the topic at hand) and a bit obnoxious (“The right lip color can lift your mood better than Prozac”). Plus, it occasionally misses. For instance, it showcases four ponytails that “will make you look luxe.” One of them is putting your hair in a regular ponytail but not pulling the ends of your hair through the band so it’s tucked up and looks like a half-assed bun. Yeah, I wore that all of 7th grade and I did not look luxe. But overall it is a helpful tome for tackling the beauty product aisle, especially for readers who consider themselves to have moderate to advanced skills and experience in beauty and style. (The tutorials don’t go into enough detail for someone who is just beginning to wear makeup or style their hair.) I’d definitely recommend this book to beauty enthusiasts.