5 Ways to Save on Skin Care and Hair Products

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Living on the Cheap.

There are lots of ways to save big on skin care and hair products when you make small changes in your personal hygiene routine.

If you aren’t sure where to start, let me share some money-saving tips based on personal experiences that opened my eyes to areas where I can spend less on hygiene.

Using the following methods, I’ve slashed my costs by 50% to 80% on basic toiletries for personal hygiene such as hand lotion, shampoo, hair conditioner, toothpaste and soap. Try some of these small changes and see if they result in big savings for you.

1. Buying in bulk doesn’t always save money

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My “save big” campaign started innocently when I wanted to buy hand lotion for sensitive skin. The drugstore carried only fairly large bottles (8 ounces and larger), beginning at $8 or $9. That was more lotion than I needed, and more money than I wanted to spend.

I wandered over to the sample size bins and found the same brand at 3 ounces for $1.99. Two dollars was more in line with my budget. Surprisingly, the travel size cost less per ounce than the large bottle.

While this is not often the case, it can’t hurt to check the sample size bins when you are buying toiletries, especially when you know you only need a small size of a specialized product or want to try something new. Even if the smaller bottles are slightly more expensive per ounce, you will save by spending $2 on a skin care product you will use, rather than $9 on a bottle you ultimately throw away mostly full.

2. Use less of each product

Woman holding toothpaste tube
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On my last two-week vacation, I wanted to take only carry-on luggage, so I could pack only travel-size toothpaste and shampoo. Although you can carry up to 3 ounces of product, the bottles I bought were only 1 and 2 ounces. I would be staying in a city, so I planned to buy sample sizes during the trip when I ran out.

As it turns out, I became very frugal with my toothpaste and shampoo. Not only did I have enough product to last the trip, but I also brought home both original travel-size containers.

For toothpaste, I used only a small pea-size amount each time — the amount many dentists recommend. Back at home, I now use that same tiny amount of toothpaste every day.

To save further, you can also substitute economical baking soda and sometimes simply brush your teeth without any toothpaste at all. Learn how to save money by making your own toothpaste.

3. Cut out unnecessary products

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During that same vacation, I didn’t have room for my hair conditioner. So I washed and conditioned my hair thoroughly before leaving. During the trip, I used a pea-size dot of shampoo on my fine, medium-length hair, made sure to rub it in well (even though there weren’t a lot of suds) and rinsed thoroughly. My hair looked fine despite using far fewer products on it every day.

At home, I still use that tiny pea-size dot of shampoo, and I also decided not to shampoo every day. I also partly or completely dry my hair without using a blow dryer. Less shampooing and less blow drying means less conditioning is needed. Therefore, I only condition my hair once or twice a week. On bad hair days, I pull my hair back in a ponytail or headband, wear a scarf or hat, or use a dry shampoo.

Using fewer products daily has allowed my bottles of hair products to last longer, saving me money each year.

4. Go back to bar soap

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When health problems stemming from the use of anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers were reported in the media, I dumped the liquid soap and shower gel in our household and went back to using bar soap.

Since I’ve gone back to using bar soap, I’ve noticed my skin is much less dry. There are fewer harsh, drying chemicals in bar soap.

Bar soap is far less expensive than liquid soap because a certain dollar amount of bar soap lasts much longer than the same dollar amount of liquid soap. Plus, it uses less packaging and is more compact, which lowers shipping costs by requiring less fuel to deliver it to stores.

In sum, bar soap is not only better for your health and your pocketbook, but it helps our environment, too.

5. Buy generic brands

Generic brand products in the store
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Skin and hair care products span a wide range of price points. You can spend double digits on tiny bottles of skin cream or organic shampoo. But fancy packaging and “natural” ingredients don’t always guarantee that the products are safer or more effective.

You can often save money on the store-brand version of a product (such as generic dandruff shampoo versus Head & Shoulders) rather than the name brand. Compare ingredients; they might not be all that different. Try a cheaper brand for a month and see if you notice a difference. If you don’t, you can switch to the cheaper bottle and cut your hygiene costs.