High-maintenance beauty is back
More and more women, especially high-earning 20- to 35-year-olds are again spending big money on weekly high-maintenance personal grooming.
Extravagant facials, Hollywood bikini waxes and long-lasting Shellac nails are now seen as essential weekly treats for many women and a potent symbol of a returning economy.
During the recession, beauticians say women generally opted for cheaper "lift me up" treatments such as an eyelash/eyebrow tint, a quick paint and polish or a spray tan - mostly before attending a special occasion or family event.
However, the tide has turned with many women and men splashing the cash to maintain a polished look.
Lorraine Galligan, owner of The Galligan Beauty College in Dublin, now celebrating 40 years in business, says there has been a significant improvement.
"People are definitely spending more. During the downturn, it was all about the basics and giving someone a little lift with a two-week manicure or spray tan. There wasn't as much demand for expensive, advanced, spoiling treatments but that is definitely beginning to come back now," she told the Sunday Independent.
Clients are coming in more often, too.
"Ladies used to come in to get their nails done for a special occasion, like a wedding or communion, whereas now they might be in every two weeks. They want to look their best when they go out at the weekend," she said.
Although beauty treatments such as nails, waxing, tanning and eyes are still hugely popular, splurging on facials and home care products is now commonplace.
However, the Celtic Tiger "tangoed look" complete with Ugg boots and diamanté designer tracksuits is unlikely to make a comeback as experts say Irish women are not interested in "in your face" looks.
"They want to get the balance right, it's not too extreme - they are all after a classy look that is well put together," said Lorraine.
Experts say consumer knowledge of beauty treatments and regimes has skyrocketed, mostly due to the wealth of celebrity and beauty bloggers posting advice, videos, tips and reviews online. Models, bloggers and beauty entrepreneurs, such as Pippa O'Connor and Marissa Carter, are considered among the main online beauty influencers.
Marissa Carter, the award-winning founder and creator of Cocoa Brown - one of Ireland's leading tanning brands - is a former student of The Galligan Beauty College, set up by Lorraine's mother, Kay, in 1976. Lorraine says her mother developed her business acumen from working on the family farm in Co Cavan.
"A lot of women are following different bloggers to get ideas, so your average woman on the street is much more knowledgeable and aware of the trends, latest treatments and cutting-edge products so they are coming in with a vision," she said.
Experts also say social media and "selfie culture" has also put added pressure on men and women, of all ages, to be image conscious and photo ready at all times.
Over the last year, interest in careers within the beauty industry has also surged.
"We are seeing about a 20pc increase in student numbers. We currently have around 70 students enrolled in our daytime and part-time courses and we expect that to continue growing, " said Lorraine.
Linda Ennis, owner of Beauty Academy in Drogheda, Co Louth, says beauty courses are now a primary career choice. She says a growing number of men are also signing up.
"The beauty industry is the third largest sector in the world. The students are coming to us straight from their Leaving Cert with full support from their parents, whereas years ago they might have been dissuaded by family, friends or peers to go into the field.
"Now, they see there are options and ways to make money outside the salon, depending on the effort you want to put in," she said.
Linda, who is 11 years in business, says people are willing to spend for quality.
"Customers are coming in with a much higher level of expectation than they did in the past," she said.