Miscellaneous

America’s Vainest Cities: How Much Time We Spend Getting Ready… And Where We Cut Corners

How vain are you? It’s a tough question. Everyone likes to look and feel good, and it takes a certain amount of “mirror time” to handle basic things like washing your face or brushing your teeth. But how many extra minutes do you spend primping, preening, and getting your hair just right? 

Maybe you’re a low-maintenance type who rolls out of bed and heads out the door. Maybe you already know your routine goes way above and beyond the norm. But what exactly is normal, anyway? And do you ever make up the time you spend in front of the mirror by cutting corners elsewhere?

To find out, we partnered with an independent research firm to survey residents of 25 U.S. cities — more than 2,700 people in all — and ask about their personal care habits. (See the methodology here.)

Americans spend $93.5 billion a year on beauty and personal care products, and we have the selfies to prove we use them. But we also take shortcuts to save time and do some pretty gross things when no one is looking. Does picking your nose count as personal care? Well, your nose does get cleaner, but most of us are diligent about some things and more laissez-faire about others. So the researchers asked people to ’fess up about that, too. 

Here are some things the analysis revealed:

  • Americans spend an average of 33.6 minutes on personal care each day, including things like showering, putting on makeup, styling hair, shaving, and brushing teeth. But that time span can vary greatly by individual.
  • Nearly three-quarters of us (73%) admit to picking our noses. And those young Gen Z’ers who spend the most amount of time in front of the mirror? They’re the most likely to dig for gold on the sly.
  • Peeing in the shower is really common — almost two-thirds of us (65.8%) do it. There’s no doubt it’s a time-saver, and it is arguably environmentally friendly, cutting down on the 5-7 gallons per flush that toilets use. But that doesn’t make it less controversial.
  • The next time you go swimming, think about this: 28.4% of American adults admit to peeing in swimming pools. We understand the convenience factor, but this is an area where people should take the extra time to get out of the water. 

Read on to see what else the researchers discovered.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, which city’s the vainest of them all?

Americas vainest cities

Living in the modeling and fashion capital of the U.S. apparently brings a bit more pressure to look stylish and put together than living in a city settled during the Gold Rush and best known for its mountains and beer. Our survey found that people in New York City spend considerably more time on their appearance and personal care (38.4 minutes daily) than folks in Denver (10 fewer minutes per day at 28.4).

You might expect more image-conscious cities like Los Angeles or Washington, DC, to place among the top cities for primping time, but they came in well behind second-place Phoenix and third-place Charlotte (37.6 and 37.5 minutes a day, respectively). Even the nation’s capital of big hair, Dallas, ranked near the bottom for time spent grooming at 31.7 minutes.

Face time! How long do we take?

Americas vainest cities

Results fell along the bell curve when our researchers asked people how long they take to get ready every day. Only 4.2% reported spending less than 10 minutes on personal care daily, which might be lucky for the rest of us. An even smaller number show up at the opposite end of the spectrum, with just 1.2% of people reporting more than 2 hours of mirror time daily. 

The largest percentage of people (31.2%) spend 20-30 minutes on personal care every day. On either side of that average, about 22% of us spend 30-45 minutes getting ready, and slightly more 23.2% confine primping to 10-20 minutes per day.

Do gender and generation affect our preparation?

The data revealed that overall, women spend more time on personal care than men — no surprise there, especially when you consider that American women spend roughly $225,000 on grooming products over a lifetime, and men spend a quarter less than that. 

It takes time to use all those products! Consequently, women spend an average of 37.9 minutes a day on personal care, vs. 28.7 minutes daily for men. Although that 9.2-minute daily difference might not seem like much in the span of a day, it calculates out to 56 hours a year — or a whopping 58.3 days between the ages of 25-50! 

Americas vainest cities

The youngest people surveyed spend the most time on personal care at just over 40 minutes daily, but the duration drops off sharply after age 21 with a difference of 6.2 minutes a day between Gen Z and millennials. The numbers stay relatively close between millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers — 33.9, 32.9, and 30.6 minutes a day, respectively — but then drop off again pretty steeply with the Greatest Generation at 22 minutes daily. They’re already great, so they don’t need extra primping!

What are the most common “shortcuts?”

Is peeing in the shower gross, or a great example of multitasking? A lot of our private behaviors are driven by practicality — cutting corners to save time. If we spend extra time primping and preening, we need to make it up somewhere, right? But that doesn’t mean we want to get caught picking our noses or indulging the “5-second rule” on food that has hit the floor.

After surveying 2,700 people in 25 cities, the research team learned that the most common “gross” habit is peeing in the shower — probably most common because it’s such a gray area and apparently doesn’t pose a health risk.

Where do we draw the line?

Americas vainest cities

Some behaviors are set on a more slippery slope than others. There’s room for argument when it comes to picking your nose, talking with your mouth full, and ignoring expiration dates on food. The validity of some habits depends on the situation — for instance, whether you’re pressed for time, whether anyone is looking, or whether the food still smells OK. Other behaviors are more black-and-white — either you do or you don’t pee in pools or neglect to flush the toilet. 

When the data analysts took a closer look at people’s responses, they found that a full 73% of us pick our noses at least some of the time. However, a comparable number said they never pee in a swimming pool (71.6%) and never forget to flush the toilet (71.4%). 

Which cities boast the most questionable habits?

Americas vainest cities

Busy, busy Washington, DC, tops the country’s list for indulgence in numerous unsanitary habits, including peeing in the shower, as 38.2% of its inhabitants report doing often or all the time. Seattle and Las Vegas were not far behind in this category, at 37.6% and 36.6%, respectively. 

Many Midwesterners apparently toe this line, though, as Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Detroit were among the top five least likely cities to let loose in the shower.

Americas vainest cities

When it comes to regularly cleaning bats out of the cave, DC once again leads the rankings by a wide margin — 35.6% compared to nearest nose-picking competitors Las Vegas (25.7%) and New York (25.4%). People with noses in Miami, Charlotte, and St. Louis were least likely to dig for gold. 

Wherever you fall on the spectrum, don’t worry. While it’s not doctor-recommended, spelunking in your nasal cavity is rarely a health risk.

Americas vainest cities

We get it: Getting out of the pool, grabbing a towel, making your way to the restroom, and wrestling with wet swimwear is time-consuming and inconvenient. So, more than a few of us have peed underwater and figured the chlorine would take care of it. 

Unfortunately, scientists have studied the chemical cocktail created when urine and chlorine mix, and it’s not pretty. If you can help it, you probably want to avoid swimming in pee-polluted water. But that might be tough in Washington, DC. Our survey found that people in the nation’s capital are far and away more likely to pee in swimming pools that residents of other cities. A third of Washington, DC, residents said they pee in pools “often” or “all the time.” 
That stunning number far outstrips even the closest followers in the rankings, New York and Las Vegas, at 16.3% and 15.8%, respectively. At the opposite end of the scale, people from Detroit (82.2%), Charlotte (80.9%), and Pittsburgh (80.6%) overwhelmingly reported that they never pee in the pool.

Whose timesavers are the grossest?

Americas vainest cities

Research shows men can be slightly grosser than women, but not by much. There was not a huge gender divide between who’s likely to pee in the shower; men are only about 5% more likely than women (27.7%) to do it. But men outpace women (6.3%) by nearly double (11.6%) at peeing in the pool, and time-and-a-half at picking noses (22.1% to 14.4%). 

Research suggests there are evolutionary reasons for women being less disgusting. The gap just might not be as wide as many people think.

Americas vainest cities

Younger people spend the most time on their outward appearance but apparently make up those minutes elsewhere by cutting corners behind the scenes. It appears that the younger you are, the more likely you are to indulge in certain gross habits often or all the time. Members of Gen Z report peeing in the shower roughly 3.5 times more often (44.2%) and picking their noses more than 3 times more often (31.2%) than Baby Boomers (at 12.3% and 9.7%, respectively). Millennials, not to be outdone by their younger siblings, are more than twice as likely (10.5%) to pee in a swimming pool as Gen Xers (5%) or Baby Boomers (4%).

Conclusion

Appearances aren’t everything, but it’s nice to leave the house feeling good about how you look. And achieving that feeling takes time. So amid the hustle and bustle of daily life, many of us make up a few minutes here and there by taking shortcuts. 

At Quality Logo Products, we sell more than 500 personal care products that make people’s lives easier by helping their daily grooming routines go quicker. From compact mirrors, nail files, and combs to dental floss, lip balm, and clip-on sunscreen, we make helpful items companies can customize for busy people on the go. (And for those who are concerned about germs, we sell about 800,000 hand sanitizers each year, too.)

Methodology

We hired an independent research firm to conduct an online survey of 2,730 people, polling at least 100 residents in each of 25 major cities across the United States. The cities were chosen based on population, media market size, and geographic location. They were:

  • Atlanta, GA
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Boston, MA
  • Charlotte, NC
  • Chicago, IL
  • Cleveland-Akron, OH
  • Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX
  • Denver, CO
  • Detroit, MI
  • Houston, TX
  • Indianapolis, IN
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, FL
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN
  • Nashville, TN
  • New Orleans, LA
  • New York, NY
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Phoenix, AZ
  • Pittsburgh, PA
  • San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA
  • Seattle-Tacoma, WA
  • St. Louis, MO
  • Washington, DC

Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 82, with a median age of 33. There were 46% men and 54% women. In segmenting the data, any subgroups with a sample size of less than 25 were excluded from the analysis. For city breakdowns, results were weighted to reflect the gender and age of the population where relevant. In terms of relationship status:

  • 40.9% were married.
  • 29.8% were single.
  • 15% were in a relationship, living together.
  • 8% were in a relationship, living separately.
  • The remaining 6.3% were divorced, separated, or widowed.

The survey was based on self-reporting, a method which can have limitations. However, the margin of error was ±1.9% with a confidence interval of 95% based on all adults in the target cities. Respondents who missed an attention-check question were disqualified. 

Fair Use

If you’re a journalist or blogger interested in covering this project, feel free to use any of the images or graphics above. All we ask is that you kindly credit Quality Logo Products and link back to this page so your readers can learn more about our study and its methodology.