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Skin care: When to save and when to splurge

Does a moisturizer or shampoo have to be expensive to work? Experts say no -- and offer tips on choosing products that wok but don't cost a fortune. Plus: When to pay more.

By MSN Money Partner Sep 11, 2013 11:08AM

This post comes from Angela Colley at partner site Money Talks News. 

MTN logoBeauty may be only skin deep, but achieving it can dig all the way down to the last dollar in your bank account. Take ReVive's Intensite Volumizing Serum: 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? We'll explain 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. Gearke told CBS Minnesota the second ingredient listed on the shampoo bottle (after water) should be a sodium-based surfactant. Ammonia-based surfactant is harsh on hair, especially if you dye it.
"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," said Gearke. "It's all about the ingredients."
Conditioners. The key here is to match the conditioner with your hair type, stylist Sherri Jessee told WebMD.

Facial cleansers. 
Paula Begoun, "The Cosmetics Cop," recommends several inexpensive brands that, "along with many others, are, at the very least, as good, if not better than cleansers priced 10 to 20 times as much."

Woman shopping at beauty store (© Jack Hollingsworth/Brand X/Getty Images)Toners.
Dr. Ranella Hirsch, vice president of the American Society of Cosmetic Dermatology and Aesthetic Surgery, told Real Simple you need toner only if you have extremely oily skin and don’t already use another product to control the oil.

Body lotions.
Consumer Reports tested 14 different 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.

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.

For normal 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 "Whether the moisturizer costs $200 or $20, it uses the same basic ingredients to do that."

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, 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 nonablative 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?

Karen Datko contributed to this report.

More on Money Talks News:

Sep 11, 2013 11:49AM

While I splurge on my favorite daily moisturizer (with SPF) it's only about $20 a month.

However, I used to use expensive shampoo and condtioner, I switched to 99 cent VO5, I didn't tell my hairdresser until after she mentioned how good my hair felt.  When I told her she leaned foward and said she didn't even use the stuff they sold at the salon "all shampoos are basically is the same"


I have been using  it over three years exclusively and love it.

Sep 14, 2013 1:12AM
I'm shocked the biased video is running on MSN.COM. 

You cannot go wrong al natural. Makeup in teens contributes to acne and skin damage due to pitting. Makeup in twenties and beyond contributes to wrinkles. A simple once-daily soap wash will suffice if you skip the makeup. 

Next most costly and damaging beauty practice is heat-treating or perming your hair. If you are experiencing hair loss, review of your daily routine will usually show you a cause with exception of a heredity hair-loss with age/hormone change even for women. Brushing wet hair, permanent waves, 30 minutes of blow drying + curling iron or flatting iron or even frequently wearing your hair back will increase hair loss and can cause patch balding, especially for the black ladies who wear their hair dune-up big all the time. A middle-priced drug store shampoo/conditioner brand such as Pantene is frequently just as good as the triple-priced salon brands. 

99% of all beauty products are only luxuries and flat-out scams with the exception of hydrating lotions/petroleum jelly and soap cleansers. This is just the advertising executives working on your insecurities so keep your wallet shut. 
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