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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

We're going to end today's show with our Monday California Dreaming story.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Looking hot is a big part of achieving the California dream. You know it's a cliche, but Alex, it's true.

CHADWICK: Well, it is true. I lost weight, more than ten pounds, after I moved here from Washington, D.C.

BRAND: Well, Day to Day and California Dreaming producer Shereen Meraji hit the streets of L.A. to see if the dream of looking as fabulous as Alex Chadwick has been affected by the economic slowdown.

SHEREEN MERAJI: I know this isn't the most hard-hitting economic story of our times, but it occurred to me one day after picking at my chipped nails that I've stopped getting regular pedicures. I have a long commute to work and paying for gas trumps getting my toenails polished. Turns out, I'm not alone.

Unidentified Woman #1: With the economy and budget and stuff, I cut my own hair.

Unidentified Woman #2: Well before, we'd go for a waxing every at least four weeks and stuff, but now, I started kind of doing it at home.

Unidentified Man #1: I hardly ever get a haircut. My best friend cuts it for me.

Unidentified Woman #3: Oh yeah, I haven't gotten my eyebrows done in like six months. I do my own now. So that's another thing.

Unidentified Woman #4: Getting my nails done costs a lot of money. It's like 30 dollars every time I go. But now, I've gone once in the past, like, what, four months?

MERAJI: This very unscientific poll on Melrose Avenue made me think hmm, my theory might be true. And according to a survey conducted by the National Cosmetology Association, it is. The NCA reports that more than 70 percent said customers are spending less. 65 percent said they're tipping less. That's big when you take into account your average cosmetologist, manicurist, or wax technician makes about 30,000 dollars a year. People like Elham Jazab.

Ms. ELHAM JAZAB (Los Angeles Cosmetician): I can't stand it!

Well, no, I can get my lips done...

MERAJI: Elham is trying to realize her California dream as a stand-up comic and actor, but she makes ends meet by waxing Angelenos' eyebrows, mustaches, bikini lines, and, in some cases, backs.

Ms. JAZAB: People tip less, unfortunately.

I'll catch you next time, doll. Oh, my husband didn't get the bonus this year, you know, because of the strike, you know? He normally gets like 50 grand. Like 50 grand! I wish I could make 50 grand! And also, like, for example, for waxing, people put it off much longer, so they're like, oy, I grew it a lot for you. I'm like, lady, that's not a favor!

MERAJI: The National Cosmetology Association's executive director, Gordon Miller, says in the past, the beauty industry was almost recession-proof.

Mr. GORDON MILLER (Executive Director, National Cosmetology Association): If you go back to when the last recession occurred and what the industry looked like then, it was quite different, you know. But it was going in and getting your regular haircut, going in and getting your regular style. Those who were involved with hair color, they were extremely committed to their hair color because to miss an appointment meant to maybe show some roots at a time when showing roots was not maybe as trendy as it is for some people today.

MERAJI: And today, salon loyalty isn't what it used to be. According to Miller, more Americans are flocking to value-price salons to meet their beauty needs.

Mr. MILLER: Salons that are shocked that they're feeling any pinch from the economy, they're feeling it by a customer who comes in every six weeks now coming in every eight weeks. So the client is still focused on getting the services done, maintaining their look, but they're stretching it just a little bit longer. And you add that up times the whole lot of clients, and that will, all by itself, push your economic picture for an individual salon down.

MERAJI: It looks like, at least for some, the California dream - actually the American dream of looking fabulous is in a budget crisis. Shereen Meraji, NPR News.

BRAND: You can go to our blog, npr.org/daydreaming, and tell us there if your beauty regimen is in a budget crisis.

CHADWICK: And when you're there, check out wax technician and comedian Elham Jazab in action.

(Soundbite of song "California Girls")

BEACH BOYS: (Singing) Well, East Coast girls are hip, I really dig those styles they wear.

BRAND: Day to Day is a well-quaffed production from NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.

CHADWICK: And I'm Alex Chadwick.

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