This article first appeared on ClarkHoward.com
Toiletries and cosmetics are notoriously difficult to shop for. Manufacturers make completely optimistic (and often fantastical) claims promising everything from the fountain of youth to teeth so white they’ll stop traffic. Cosmetics, toiletries, feminine hygiene products and skin care regimes can cost anywhere from a dollar to hundreds of dollars, yet it’s almost impossible to do an apples to apples comparison. Think that spending more equates a higher quality product? Think again!
Take Wen hair care products as an example. Wen has been in the news lately due to reports of irate customers who’ve claimed hair loss and scalp irritation after splurging on their bottles of $32 Cleansing Conditioner. This unfortunate situation only hammers home that when it comes to cosmetics and toiletries, you don’t get what you pay for! (Also, simpler is often better, as my $1 White Rain brand shampoo has yet to give me any problems.)
Here’s what you need to know when it comes to choosing the very best personal care products without emptying your credit union account.
Do your research
Hair care products
You can choose to splurge on expensive infomercial or salon hair care products, or you can shop at your local supermarket or drugstore. The website Cheapism awarded their best everyday shampoo award to humble Garner Fructis, and I’ve always been perfectly happy with my White Rain shampoo. A buck per bottle, people. A buck per bottle.
Your teen may be pleading for expensive and highly advertised $40 Proactive products, but the active ingredient can be bought for just a couple of bucks. Yes, I’m referring to Benzoyl Peroxide, which comes in a simple $5 tube and was a big success with my teenagers. The only thing to note with any peroxide product is that it’ll give a tie-dyed look to bedding, so maybe dedicate a few sets of scrappy sheets until their skin clears up. No Justin Bieber with the generic, but maybe that’s a good thing.
Makeup is another category where a more expensive item does not guarantee a higher quality product. Yes, many high end cosmetics deliver on their promises of smooth application and a finished look, but so do a good number of the less expensive brands. Need an example? Paula Begoun rates the $1.99 Wet-n-Wild eyeshadow as high as the $59 Giorgio Armani alternative! No brand rates high across every category, so you’ll need to do your research. But that’s true with any purchase in life.
Avoid needlessly gendered products
Whether it’s deodorant, shampoo or razors, women’s products tend to cost more and often include less product. So unless it’s a scent issue, (I’m look at you, Axe!) you’d be smart to check out both sides of the aisle.
Feminine hygiene products
The average woman spends $1,773.33 on tampons over the course of her lifetime, which is an expense ignored by many personal finance experts. It’s a monthly expense for an average of 40 years, but can be alleviated by one simple purchase. The menstrual cup. Not highly advertised, these reusable silicone cups last for years before needing to be replaced. The main brands are Diva Cup and Moon Cup and come in two sizes, pre and post-childbirth. Once only available online, menstrual cups are now carried at mass merchandisers such as CVS and Walgreen’s. Safe and FDA approved, these $40 one-time purchases will change your life.
Skin care lotions
Although you can buy separate lotions for your face, eyes, feet and even your elbows, it’s not necessary. Skin is your largest organ and it’s the same from head to toe. Women have somehow been convinced that they require specialized eye creams, which can easily run $400 for 1.7 ounces. (Yes, you read that right!) One of Paula Begoun’s main soapbox stands is that “you don’t need a separate eye cream for the eye area.” It would be great if a miracle elixir could erase signs of aging, but that isn’t biologically possible. So keep your money in your wallet and choose a single allover body lotion.