Beauty at What Price?

by Jennifer Beam

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It is estimated that over a billion dollars are spent on beauty products each year. That's not such an alarming statistic when you think about it. Makeup, hair care and bath products can really cost you. A 12-ounce bottle of lotion can cost as much as $18 or more. The retail cost of some perfumes is outrageous. The truth is, we put a lot of money into looking our best. But can you save without skimping? You bet.

While I do agree that some makeup is of better quality than others, I do not think it is necessary, or even beneficial to spend $18 for a bottle of liquid foundation from a department store makeup counter. What's more is that when you approach the women behind these counters for advice on purchasing makeup, the odds are that the only advice you will receive is the more you spend the better you are going to look. There is no reason why the less expensive drug store counterparts won't work just as well as the expensive brands. Granted, there is no one dressed in a white lab coat in the Maybeline isle at Wal-Mart trying to convince you to drop $100 on a complete cleanse, tone and moisturize regimen to enhance your new foundation, but I think most of us can get by without that luxury. Certain skin types, especially sensitive, may benefit from the more expensive facial products but it's important to experiment. There is a wide range of hypoallergenic products available in an even wider price range.

As we add color to our facial palette, we should remember that no matter how much we pay for lipstick, it will never last all day. With that said, eyeliner, mascara, shadow and blush are all available at discount drug stores and are just as functional at $5 as they are at $15. Take caution when paying less than $5 for a product like mascara or eyeliner. Anything cheaper is likely to smudge easily, be thrown away and then replaced which ends up costing you more in the long run. However, it is not unheard of to spend around $3 for an eye shadow duo and like it. My suggestion is to purchase makeup at a Walgreens or CVS that has a satisfaction guarantee on their makeup. If you buy it, try it and then hate it, you can return it if you've saved the receipt.

What about expensive salon products for hair? In most cases, if you purchase them from a salon, you're getting what you pay for. Paul Mitchell, Sebastian, Nexxus and Matrix are all high quality products. Invest your money in the styling products not the shampoos and conditioners. Most any shampoo will clean your hair. Conditioners also typically do what they are intended to regardless of the brand. Your choice in styling products however, can make or break a bad hair day. To save even more, look into Generic (brand name) styling products. Sold at Sally's Beauty Supply, Generic products have comparisons to nearly every professional product. They are not identical in fragrance, but performance isn't lacking. Most of them are almost or as good as the product they claim to simulate and available at a fraction of the price. National brands such as Salon Selectives and Suave have tried to keep up with professional brands and done a relatively good job. When you can buy an effective shampoo and conditioner for $2 each, you can easily justify spending more on your finishing products. However, if you see a professional brand product at a local grocery or drug store, don't buy it. Companies such as Paul Mitchell, Rusk and Sebastian do not authorize the sale of their products to any retail establishment other than a professional hair salon and often the price tag is higher than at the salon itself. It is likely that it was a black market purchase and the quality of the product may be compromised, so you may not be getting what you pay for anyway.

In general, we tend to gravitate towards high priced name brand beauty products simply because of the association of the name with looking good. When you consider that you have probably filled many a prescription with a generic equivalent without a second thought, it makes you wonder why you would shell out more than necessary just for a skin balancing toner and a new shade of blush. Especially when there is a half priced equivalent just waiting to be discovered. Experiment with several brands, read the products labels and performance claims carefully and you're sure to find a way to cut the cost of looking good. Consider the savings and you'll not only look good, but also feel good for spending smart.

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