Category Archives: Maths in the Media

Women sometimes buy makeup, you know.

£100,000 spent on make-up over a lifetime… not in my world!

By Zoe Baker, Maths Heaven Online Tutor

Women sometimes buy makeup, you know.

Women sometimes buy makeup, you know. Don’t they know there’s a recession on?
Image: Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Who would have thought it? £100,000 in your lifetime spent on makeup and beauty products, based on a press release from… guess who… Bionsen, who manufacture deodorants, amongst other beauty products.

This story was gleefully reported by The Mirror, Daily Mail and these other bandwagon jumping news recyclers TopNews, Moneycontrol and even the Times of India. Although, it’s questionable how relevant this figure in GBP is to the populace of India is beyond me.

You could swallow these published statistics whole by resorting to a groan of “well of course, women these days have to look good, it’s the media wot done it…”, but numerically, this works out (over an average life expectancy of 80 years) as £1,250 per year. Put this yearly figure into your calculator and divide by 12 months: this makes a mean average spend of just over £100 per month. If I compare this monthly figure with that of the monthly Band D Council Tax bill for 2011 in Andover, Hampshire, it’s only marginally lower. Are you seriously telling me that these evil average women spend nearly as much on make-up as they do on their council tax bill? That makes me think that perhaps the council tax bill simply ain’t high enough!

And I haven’t really examined the concept of “per month” effectively enough. I don’t remember buying make-up until I was at least ten years old, and even then it certainly wasn’t anything that cost more than £5; I simply didn’t have that kind of disposable income at that age. So that’s at least ten years off the life expectancy (down to 70 years of buying time). £100,000 divided by 70 years is £1428 per year. That does exceed the amount that I pay yearly in Council Tax on a D band property.

This figure of £100 per month might be easy for many people to brush off due to an ignorance of their own actual monthly finances and a certain amount of sexist propaganda (“I suppose I do buy some expensive brands”, “my wife spends more than that on nail polish every month”).

So, we must look at these “surveys” with a large dollop of scepticism. There are quite a few missing but crucial details. Firstly, how do you define “make-up”? Does it include nail and hair products? Does it include deodorants and perfume? The survey apparently asked 2,200 women – but how were these women selected for the survey? Was it a random collection of data, or was it just those women who had the time to stop and answer the survey? Was it a written or online survey? Did Bionsen ask their own customers? We need to know these details before we can take any notice of any of the claims that are made.

Most importantly, who carried out the survey? I mean, apparently Bionsen did; but was it their marketing department? Was it an independent researcher? Did Bionsen fund the research? What questions were asked and how? What makes this survey a credible source of information? I was really interested to find out how, where and why these statistics had come about.

But I can’t find the survey results. It does not seem to have been published. The summary of the findings is available, quite obviously via a Bionsen press release that has been lazily regurgitated by a whole bunch of online news websites, waiting for the influx of Googlers to their “advert rich, content-low” domains. And of course Bionsen’s Sales department is joyfully reaping the rewards of a successful PR campaign.

To be sure… I’ve visited Bionsen’s website and entered a plea for the survey data, but I’m not holding out much hope.

I decided to do a little bit of my own research. And I found that on average, a woman spends 30 years of her life trying to prevent pregnancy and another sixteen months crying. I felt that it was important to demonstrate the ease at which statistics can be taken out of context and circulated and re-processed by journalists until the facts have all but gone.

And I’ll declare right now – this was independently funded and I am not sponsored by any marketing departments! Although I do endorse Kettle Chips. They’re really nice, especially the Balsamic Vinegar ones.

I researched the average amount of time we spend on different activities each day, and used this information to work out how many years this makes up of a woman’s life expectancy. And obviously, I totalled all the hours up to see how long all this would take if we did it all in one lifetime.

Although the results are surprising (there’s a few there that I felt would have been a bit further up the list than masturbation), I’m sure you’re all just thinking “some people cook and talk on the phone at the same time…” but that doesn’t count! There are exceptions, but I assure you, but very few people have sex in a queue – it’s just not that thrilling and your knees go all wobbly.

Activity and years spent

Sleeping 27.00
In the kitchen 18.00
Watching television 13.00
Listening to radio* 9.55
Shopping 9.00
Working 8.50
On the internet* 5.70
Smoking cigarettes* 20/day 5.56
On telephone 4.00
Masturbating* 3.33
Looking for lost items 3.06
Getting ready 3.00
Driving 3.00
Reading the bible 2.89
Rumour monging* 2.89
Playing computer games* 2.72
In meetings* 2.66
Doing hair 2.50
Chores 2.50
Cooking 2.50
Eating* 2.17
Putting on makeup 2.00
Thinking about next meal 2.00
Queuing 2.00
Bored 2.00
Locked in the bathroom 1.50
Deciding what to wear 1.00
Exercising 1.00
On toilet 0.50
Having sex 0.49
Stuck in traffic 0.33
Removing unwanted hair 0.16
Total 146.34 years

*Based on an average life expectancy of 80 years

My findings, which are based on a random Google survey of nearly 28 websites of nearly all anecdotal and questionable descent, will not be published. I would advise sticking just to the top five, as these total approximately 76.5 years. That’ll give you a few foreign holidays and an extended hospital stay towards the end.

*Fill in my survey, to help me find out how much women really spend*
Click here to take survey

Zoe Baker is Managing Director of www.MathsHeaven.co.uk and is a Functional Maths Lecturer in an FE College in Hampshire.

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