Simone Colanecco used to get her hair cut and colored every six weeks. Every two weeks, she got her nails done.

But that was before.

After a three-month hiatus, Colanecco, a 20-year-old college student, finally gave in Monday afternoon and got a dye job at Cherry Hill's Bernard's Salon & Day Spa. At this visit, however, she skipped the haircut and the $40-a-pop gel-tip manicure.

"I used to get blond highlights, but I'm getting it all dyed my natural color [brown] because this costs too much," Colanecco said.

"The price of everything is going up and I'm trying to save as much money as I can."

With a recession in full swing, beauty knows limits. To a limit.

As bare-bones as their regimens are becoming, most fashionistas don't intend to let themselves totally go. They are just spacing out services and really considering what they need.

Take me. I've decided I'd rather get biweekly manis and pedis than get my locks retwisted every four weeks. Give me two hours and a few Sex and the City episodes, and I can do the hair myself.

In some cases, our fashion frugality is starting trends.

The once fashion-forward choppy Posh Spice bobs are becoming softer Diane Sawyer, shoulder-length styles.

"We are doing a lot more cleaner haircuts with much less shredded ends that last longer," said Alan Gold, a stylist at Haig & Co. Salon in Bala Cynwyd.

Bold blondes are choosing shades of brown and noir (it has a greater shelf life when growing out). Bone-straight hair that required a weekly blow-out is giving way to waves and curl. Natural nails are replacing gel tips. Long lashes are replacing red lips and becoming the new sexy.

This all means local salons have seen a 5 to 10 percent drop within the last three months in visits by regular customers, but more new customers drawn in by deals designed to generate business.

Hairstyling isn't the only beauty business that's suffering. Nationally, sales of prestige makeup - defined as makeup sold only in department stores - fell from $2.47 billion for the first 10 months of 2007 to $2.3 billion for the same period this year, according to Karen Grant of the NPD Market Group.

Grant said this is the first time NPD has seen a drop in such makeup sales in the 10 years it has tracked the category. This contradicts the theory that lipstick sales usually go up during tough times because women want cheap, quick pick-me-ups.

"Lip gloss declined 3 percent, lipstick is down 7 percent, and total lip color is down 6 percent, overall," said Grant, who also reported that blush and eyeshadows have seen a dip in sales. "Skin care is the only beauty category in the prestige market that is having a positive performance." Mascara sales, Grant said, also went up.

Grant said it's too early to say exactly why this is happening, but my theory is that people are willing to spend money on the beauty basics. After all, if you have stellar skin, you don't need much foundation. If you have a great haircut, you don't have to get it touched up as often, and a good color job will blend in with natural color.

That equals less money spent.

And that explains why Joy Harris, 33, a self-employed sign-language interpreter, is willing to pay $125 for her quarterly haircut at Center City's SignaCurl by Joseph Lentini.

"In this economy, I'd rather spend my money on a good haircut," Harris said. "I don't color my hair; I don't do my nails. This is where I choose to spend my money."

Contact fashion writer Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or ewellington@phillynews.com. Read her blog at http://www.philly.
com/philly/blogs/mirrorimage/.