Skin Care: Where to Save and Where to Splurge


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Does a moisturizer or shampoo have to be expensive to work?

Beauty may be only skin deep, but achieving it can plumb the depths of your bank account. Take ReVive’s Intensite Volumizing Serum Targeted Skin Filler: It promises to fight the signs of aging for about $600 per ounce. Alterna’s 10 shampoo, at $60 a bottle, offers customized results. And then there’s Cor. The large size of its Silver Soap costs about $120 for 120 grams.

Do you really need to shell out big bucks to get results?  Read on to find out when budget beauty products work just fine and when you should spend more on yourself.

Where to save

  • Shampoos: Linda Gearke, president of personal care product company Strictly Personal, says you should focus on ingredients rather than cost. “The answer is you can buy a very expensive shampoo and get everything you’re paying for. Or you can buy a cheap shampoo that’s every bit as good as the expensive one,” Gearke said. “It’s all about the ingredients.”  Details, a men’s fashion and personal care website, has a list of ingredients to seek in shampoo, including glycerin and nut and seed oils — and some to avoid, such as isopropyl alcohol and sulfates.
  • Conditioners: The key here is to match the conditioner with your hair type, stylist Sherri Jessee told WebMD.
  • Facial cleansers: “The Cosmetics Cop” Paula Begoun recommends several inexpensive brands, including Neutrogena, Olay and Trader Joe’s brands, “along with many others, [they] are, at the very least, as good, if not better than cleansers priced 10 to 20 times as much.”
  • Toners: You need toner only if you have extremely oily skin and don’t already use another product to control the oil, according to Ranella Hirsch, vice president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery, in an interview with Real Simple.
  • Body lotions. Consumer Reports tested 14 body lotions ranging in price. “Eight products worked better than the most expensive, CeraVe, and two cost just 18 cents and 27 cents per ounce,” it said.
  • Exfoliants. The best facial scrub I’ve found is St. Ives’ apricot facial scrub, which costs less than $5 at any drugstore. Or search the Internet for recipes to make your own and save even more money. I mix baking soda with a little water to make a paste and use that as a scrub.
  • Moisturizers: For everyday moisturizing, you don’t need a fancy cream. “The purpose of any moisturizer is to seal in moisture, keeping your skin supple and smooth,” San Diego dermatologist Jeffrey Benabio told Oprah.com. “Whether the  moisturizer costs $200 or $20, it uses the same basic ingredients to do that.”
  • Sunscreen:  Consumer Reports’ review of 12 sunscreens found the best value to be a Target store brand called Up & Up Sport SPF 50, a spray costing just $1.16 an ounce. Second on the list of recommended sunscreens was also the cheapest – Wal-Mart’s Equate Ultra Protection SPF 50 lotion at only 47 cents an ounce.

Where to splurge

If you have conditions like acne scars, sun or aging spots, or deep wrinkles, your best bet may be to see a dermatologist who can recommend treatments or pharmaceutical-grade products. However, they can be pricey and aren’t usually covered by insurance. For example, Oprah.com asked dermatologists what they would recommend (and what they charge) for skin problems:

  • Wrinkles: Prescription retinoid for $40 and up, or a fractional ablative laser treatment for $1,500 to $1,800.
  • Redness: Topical antibiotic for $30 and up, or monthly KTP laser treatments for $300 to $500.
  • Dark spots: Prescription hydroquinone cream for $50, or fractional non-ablative laser treatments for $750 to $1,500.
  • Dull or rough skin: Over-the-counter products for $15 to $22, or chemical peels for $75 to $250.

Ways to save

Buying inexpensive products will save you a ton, but you can save even more with these tips:

  • Use less: You need only a dime- or nickel-sized amount of product.
  • Mix and match: You don’t have to use the same brand for all of your skin care products.
  • Buy in bulk: If you love a product, see if a warehouse store like Sam’s Club or Costco carries it in a larger size for a lower per-unit price.

Have you found that skin and hair care products at the drugstore work as well as the much more expensive brands? Let us know on our Facebook page.

Kari Huus contributed to this report.

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