Health and beauty products you don't need
Some things in your medicine cabinet are superfluous -- and some could actually be harmful.
How many bottles of lotions and moisturizers do you own? Too many, maybe.
In "9 unnecessary skin care products" on the TotalBeauty.com website, Beverly Hills dermatologist Harold Lancer says that "what most people really need is a good face and body wash and moisturizing sunblock -- that's it."
This isn't some minimalist talking. It's a medical doctor who works with one of the richer (and vainer) populations on Earth.
Why do we think we need so many other products? Guess.
(Hint: It has to do with money.)
That's right: The same marketing forces that sell cupcake bakeries and greeting cards from pets would like you to think the moisturizer you put on your face isn't effective on your neck, or that you need a specialized unguent just for your heels or elbows.
But skin care products aren't the only not-strictly-necessary health and beauty items out there. From "foot masks" to hydrating serum to cotton swabs, these products are superfluous to most of us -- and some can actually be harmful.
The list below isn't comprehensive, but it should make you scrutinize your medicine cabinet more closely. It might also irritate you when you realize how much you've spent on products you don't need.
Specific lotions. According to Lancer, a good body lotion can be used on many parts of your body. One product reviewed favorably by TotalBeauty.com is Nivea Cream, which isn't particularly expensive and can be used on hands, legs, arms, elbows and feet.
Neck cream. In "Unnecessary cosmetics" on Oprah.com, writer Jenny Bailly suggests treating your neck just like your face: "Apply a moisturizer with sunscreen every morning, a retinol cream every night."
Toner. Lancer says toner might have some benefit for enlarged pores and excessively oily skin, as well as those prone to the skin condition rosacea. However, dermatologist Leslie Baumann calls toner "a waste." Originally the product removed "soapy film" left by cleansers; today's products don't leave that residue, she told Oprah.com.
Age-reversal products. People with fine lines and wrinkles will see a 5% improvement at best from over-the-counter products, according to Lancer. "Drastic" improvement, however, can happen only via a prescription product or surgery.
Other body parts
Mouthwash. ShopSmart magazine, which is published by Consumer Reports, notes recent concerns about mouthwashes causing stained teeth and impaired sense of taste. More to the point, mouthwashes aren't the way to achieve fresh breath: "Regular flossing, brushing, and professional cleaning are all you probably need to keep your teeth and gums healthy." In fact, halitosis could be the sign of a digestive issue that needs tending. Besides, the magazine notes, mouthwashes mask the problem only for a few minutes anyway.
Cotton swabs. As doctors are fond of saying, you should never put anything smaller than your elbow into your ear. Cotton swabs can introduce bacteria and, if inserted too deeply, even puncture your eardrum. Use a washcloth and soap instead.
Lip balm. Some people do develop allergies to certain lip balm ingredients. A dermatologist quoted by ShopSmart recommends using plain old petroleum jelly, which is certainly the frugal way to do it. If you must have a lip balm, choose one with no added color or fragrance; the magazine suggests Dr. Bronner's Organic. Incidentally, the urban legend about Carmex containing irritants to ensure repeat business is bogus, according to Snopes.com.
Lip scrub. If your lips are flaky, here's a tip from makeup artist Emily Kate Warren: Apply that balm or Vaseline, then rub your lips with a tissue-wrapped index finger. "You'll remove the flakes without risking irritation," she told Oprah.com. I've heard of a simple recipe for lip scrub: Mix raw sugar with petroleum jelly.
The rest of you
Peroxide. Did your mom pour peroxide on cuts? Or did she use alcohol, mercurochrome or iodine? Ixnay on all four, according to ShopSmart. Plain soap and water do just as good a job at cleaning out a cut or scrape, and the other solutions can irritate the already-damaged tissue. Wash injuries well and apply an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin, the magazine advises.
Foot masks. Use a moisturizer for rough patches on your feet, that Oprah.com piece suggests. A frugal method is to rub petroleum jelly into your feet at bedtime and wear socks overnight. This feels somewhat icky initially, but you'll soon be asleep and won't know a thing.
Cellulite-reducing creams. "Cellulite" just means fat deposits under the skin. According to dermatologist Lancer, no magic unguents currently exist that can make your body less dimply. Sorry.
Vaginal douches. Sorry if that's TMI for you, but the process is utterly unnecessary and may even be harmful, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. This fact sheet from WomensHealth.gov notes that douching can cause irritation and/or infection. It's not an effective family planning method, either -- that's another urban legend, and a potentially costly one.
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I wouldn't put this crap on my skin, especially on my lips which would lead to ingestion. May as well drink a can of motor oil.
Check the ingredients of ALL products used on the body for possible carcinogens, etc. by going to www.ewg.org.
The only products I buy special are my facial moisturizer which I also use on my neck and ears, it has a bit of sunscreen in it, facial serum and eye gel. I have been using the same products since I was 18 and I am now 37 but people think I am around 27! I also have a lotion for hands and body and lip balm. For really dry heals I use vaseline and cotton socks. I switched to 99 cent shampoo and conditioner. This past year and I love it! (my hairdresser also commented my hair looked and felt great)
My sister is a beauty products whore, she spends 100's of dollars a month, so wasteful!
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