It seems that the “golden age” that Lebanese women have enjoyed for decades has become one of the “past eras” that Lebanese women will look back on with nostalgia and longing. After having been an example of beauty and elegance, and excelling in other interests such as culture, art, politics and everything going on in the world around her, today the Lebanese woman is facing a severe economic crisis that turned her most basic needs into “luxuries” she can no longer afford.
It is a crisis that has greatly affected women and left more than 75% of the women residing in Lebanon outside the wheel of economic activity.
The most disturbing thing about these figures is that they have imposed a new reality on women based on the saying, “Live and spend within the limits of your income”. So the question remains: Would there be anything of this “income” left for a woman to take care of herself?
With the Lebanese lira losing 90% of its value so far, and with a minimum wage that does not exceed 675,000 Liras (equivalent to 30$ US dollars according to the black market’s dollar rate today), and with the salaries of what used to be known as the “middle class” - that has now essentially become the poor in Lebanon - ranging between one million and two million pounds (or 50$ to 100$ US dollars), the majority is spent on generator electricity, transportation, housing, food, education and medical care... How has the way of life and lifestyle of Lebanese women changed after the crisis hit? How did this change affect her self-image? What is the impact of everything that is happening on the mental health of women?
It seems that the “golden age” of beauty that Lebanese women enjoyed for decades and got them on the list of “the most beautiful women in the world” is now one a gone era that the Lebanese will look back on with nostalgia
Personal Hygiene... “Very Costly”!
Women in particular have been affected by the economic crisis that Lebanon is facing, so much so that most women now have difficulty getting access to essentials or “basic necessities”. A study published by the Lebanese NGO Fe – Male showed that “Today, 76.5% of women and girls in Lebanon suffer from difficulty in accessing menstrual products due to the sharp increase in prices.”
A packet of sanitary pads used to cost no more than 6,000 Liras when the dollar was equivalent to 1,500 pounds ($4). Today, the same packet costs at least 30,000 pounds, or 5 times its normal price, amid stagnant wages and the decline of their value following the removal of subsidies on all products.
Pricing according to the black market rates has made the prices of beauty and personal hygiene products “skyrocket”. The following is a list of some of the “approximate” prices for these products, since they fluctuate on a daily basis!
A face wash costs about 50,000 liras, while a locally made shampoo bottle is sold for about 40,000 liras, when imported ones cost 100,000 liras at the very least.
The cheapest deodorant starts at 50,000 liras, while the price of nail polish may reach 200,000, depending on the brand. There is a great difference when it comes to the prices of Lebanese-made beauty products as opposed to imported ones, and this has encouraged and increased the demand for the local production.
The economic crisis has greatly affected women and left more than 75% of women residing in Lebanon inactive. Lebanese female workers unemployment rate has reached 25%
A locally manufactured facial cleansing mask may be sold for 30,000 liras, while one bearing an international brand can sell for more than 150,000. As for a locally made makeup remover, it would sell for 40,000, the imported one would sell for 200,000, while the cheapest hand cream is sold for 30,000, some 5% of the minimum wage rate.
The world of makeup is no better. The price of foundation starts at 100,000 liras and goes up to more than 400,000, while eye shadow starts at 100,00. Lipstick which was previously sold at 30,000 pounds, is sold today for 400,000 pounds!
The cost of cutting and dyeing hair
Known for their distinguished appearance, most Lebanese women rarely neglect taking good care of their hair and looks. But with a stifling economic crisis, the prices of beauty services have become extremely high, and today, it’s no longer possible for most Lebanese women to take care of themselves the way they used to.
Speaking in this regard, hairdresser Samer Khalil stresses that women are currently just requesting basic services, and that the rate of women visiting beauty salons has decreased by at least 50 percent. This prompted nearly 65 percent of beauty salons in Lebanon to close down, according to statements by Akram Radwan, head of the Union of Salon Owners in Lebanon.
Khalil asserts that before the crisis, the cost of a haircut, for example, ranged between 30 and 40 thousand Lebanese pounds, while it today starts at 150 or 200 thousand pounds at the very least, while the price of a hair dye has risen from about 80 thousand to 250 thousand pounds. As for highlights and lowlights, nowadays each alone ranges between one million and two million Lebanese pounds.
Some salons in the Dbayeh area have even decided to price their services in the US dollar currency, leaving a mere haircut there to cost around 600,000 Lebanese pounds, and their highlight and lowlight services priced at more than 4 million pounds, or $200 dollars. If a woman goes to these salons, she should expect to pay the equivalent of 7 times the minimum wage in Lebanon if she wishes to merely cut and dye her hair!
The crisis imposes change
Although her husband gets paid in dollars from abroad and sends her a sum of money at the beginning of every month, Dania Azzam, 40, feels like she’s committing a “sin” every time she spends money to take care of her physical appearance. She feels that her family and children “are more deserving of that money”. In addition, the current situation in the country makes her feel that she is spending money “rashly”, while some families “aren’t able to find dinner for their children”.
Azzam doesn’t deny that she’s one of those women who care for their beauty, but she would not have gone to a plastic surgeon and spent “a large amount”, had it not been her husband’s wishes. She says that it is essential for her that she has her partner’s approval over her external appearance.
For her part, Rayan, 30, lost her teaching job as a result of the ongoing crisis. After having been a teacher at a school, she is now giving private lessons at home. She was someone who wouldn’t leave her house if her appearance didn’t abide “by the latest trends”, subjecting herself to fillers and botox injections on a regular basis. However, she was unwillingly forced to remove them from her dictionary, as she put it. She hasn’t been able to reconcile with such a change in her way of life, especially since she is engaged, and therefore hopes that she and her future husband will find a job opportunity abroad, so that she would not be deprived of her previous lifestyle.
As for Reem Muhanna (pseudonym), a woman in her twenties whose profession and social relations make it imperative that she meets specific beauty standards, even though her salary does not exceed 3 million Lebanese pounds, which is today the equivalent of $120 dollars. She describes how her life was turned upside down with the crisis, “I used to buy at least two pieces of clothing every month, but now I do not buy any clothes at all. These days, I only mend my old clothes, and I borrow my mother’s clothes and tailor them to fit me.”
What Reem does to clothes, she also does to shoes, fixing them instead of buying a new pair. Since this reality forces her to repeat her looks and outfits, she resorts to the wily ways of styling the same outfits differently every time she goes out, such as wearing the same shirt with different pants and accessories.
As for how times she frequents hair salons, she now limits her visits to straightening her hair once a week. She pays about 200 thousand Lebanese pounds per month just for hair straightening, and she wouldn’t do that in a salon if she hadn’t had to cancel her electricity generator subscription due to the rising cost of the bill. As for manicure, pedicure, and cleaning eyebrows, they are all things she does herself at home.
Speaking on the psychological impact that all these changes have had on her life, she reveals that she is stressed all the time. The entire situation is making her miserable, since a woman “needs to feel her femininity and highlight her beauty, which consists of small details but affects the way I view myself a lot. Not being able to do them lessens my confidence in myself, but there is no escape from having to adapt to this reality.”
Plastic surgery clinics... waiting lines despite the crisis!
As for plastic surgery clinics, it seems that they are “beyond the reach of the crisis”. In fact, one woman, while speaking to Raseef22, described how, at the height of the Covid-19 crisis and social distancing, she was required to “wait in line” for her turn!
Thus we contacted more than six cosmetic beauty clinics in Beirut and abroad in this regard, and received one response, “The turnout has increased and our clinics have not been affected by the crisis at all.”
In an attempt to better understand women’s demand when it comes to cosmetic surgery clinics despite the crisis that affected at least 80% of the population in Lebanon, plastic surgeon Dr. Elie Mehanna believes that caring about their beauty is still among the priorities of a large segment of Lebanese women despite the current economic conditions.
He fears that, when a woman’s purchasing power prevents her from getting plastic surgery, it will negatively affect her psyche and may turn into frustration and despair, as plastic surgery “enhances the self-confidence of women and provides them with positive energy”.
For his part, plastic surgeon Dr. Paul Audi links women’s increased demand for cosmetic surgery with the psychological factor that usually accompanies global crises. The economic crisis in Lebanon “has made a portion of women resort to plastic surgery as a way to raise their morale and alleviate the psychological suffering brought about by the crisis.”
For her part, clinical psychologist Nour Hafi confirms that the change in the lifestyle of Lebanese women - which didn’t happen gradually and was suddenly forced upon her - would inevitably affect her mental health. That’s because any change in a person’s life is usually accompanied by great anxiety and high psychological pressure, so what if this change was actually imposed on women and they had never chosen it?
Hafi adds that a woman’s satisfaction and approval of her outward appearance greatly affects her self-confidence and how good she feels about herself, which has a direct impact on her mental health.
The clinical therapist believes that the great pressure Lebanese women are suffering from today will either lead to complete self neglect and extreme apathy, or to an adverse reaction that pushes women to search for ways to take excessive care of their beauty, because the lack or deprivation of something usually generates a stronger desire to obtain it.
Accordingly, Nour Hafi gives the following recommendations:
Every woman undergoing major changes that have been imposed upon her as a result of the economic crisis, must not suppress her feelings. She must talk about these feelings to people that she trusts will not judge her and will understand her.
She must also understand her feelings and realize that this change is a reality imposed on everyone nowadays and that she is not alone.
She also advises that women must not neglect themselves, must maintain their own self-care routine, and must be creative when it comes to looking for alternatives. Women may be able to take advantage of this crisis by developing their skills in styling their hair, dyeing it, or trimming their nails, for instance. The important thing is that they do not neglect themselves.
Seeking the help of friends and neighbors who are experienced in self-care can be useful, in case it is not possible to go to beauty salons. Also, the support and understanding of one’s partner and family is necessary in stressful stages such as the ones we are going through today.
And if a woman feels that the pressures and sudden changes in her way of life are starting to affect her negatively, and feels that she needs a specialist to deal with her condition, she should not hesitate to resort to therapy sessions, which many organizations now provide for free.
Raseef22 is a not for profit entity. Our focus is on quality journalism. Every contribution to the NasRaseef membership goes directly towards journalism production. We stand independent, not accepting corporate sponsorships, sponsored content or political funding.
Support our mission to keep Raseef22 available to all readers by clicking here!