At what price, beauty?
At what price, beauty?

What’s beauty worth? Despite, or maybe because of, the recession, the amount of money spent on beauty products and maintenance has continued to rise, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Is it considered an affordable luxury, or has it become the norm?

“The ugly truth is, most women see personal care and beauty expenses as a ‘need’ instead of a ‘want,’ so they don’t look for ways to save,” says Andrea Woroch, consumer savings expert at Kinoli, the creator of CouponSherpa.com.

Read on for tips on how to save and still feel pampered.

Are department store brands better?

Are department store brands better?

“The idea that expensive means better is nonsense because beauty products are all made using the same types of ingredients. There are effective drugstore products and irritating department store products and vice versa,” says Paula Begoun, creator of the website The Cosmetics Cop and author of “Don’t go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me.” She adds that skincare and makeup products packaged in jars can’t keep beneficial ingredients stable, so look for squeeze tubes whenever possible.

M’chel Bauxal, a celebrity and TV makeup artist and hairstylist, says the majority of all beauty and hair products are made by two giant cosmetics companies: Estee Lauder and L’Oreal. For example, L’Oreal owns and manufactures the drug store brand Maybelline and the department store brand Lancome. “What makes any beauty product worth the money, no matter what the price or where you bought it, is if it works for you and you get the result you want,” she says.

Love an expensive store or product? Consider buying a discounted gift card from a website that aggregates unused gift cards to save right off the top, says Woroch.

Gimmicks can be beauty budget-busters

Gimmicks can be beauty budget-busters

Tempted by that vibrating mascara or spray-on foundation? “Gimmicks grab your attention so you think they’ve improved the product. But gimmicks usually cost more and don’t provide better results, so they are a complete waste of money,” says Begoun.

“Don’t get sucked in by clever TV infomercials either,” says Pasquale Caselle, master colorist and hairstylist for It&ly Hairfashion. “It’s a specifically written script portrayed by models and actors so you think you must have that product. Remember, no product is good for everybody all the time, as they would have you believe.”

Woroch also cautions against daily deal savings at spas and salons. “If the timing or location is bad, you’ll use up your savings in gas or not use the deal at all. Search the service provider on Yelp.com for reviews and call up the salon yourself to see if they seem overwhelmed by the deal, have a long waiting list or are rude to you,” she says.

If you have unused deals, you can look into reselling them on the Internet as well.

Depend on dollar stores for beauty basics

Depend on dollar stores for beauty basics

“You’ll pay 30 percent to 40 percent less at dollar stores for generic, basic items such as cotton balls, makeup remover pads, cotton swabs, makeup applicators, hair clips, bobby pins, scrunchies and many other beauty items,” says Woroch.

“I shop the dollar stores for many basics, including hand sanitizer, bath mitts and sponges, manicure kits and even makeup,” says Bauxal. Dollar stores carry brands such as e.l.f. and L.A. Colors and closeout stores may have buyouts from national brands such as Almay and Revlon, she says. “Why pay three or four times more for the same brand at another store?”

Research and sample before you buy

Research and sample before you buy

Add some research to your beauty routine and try before you buy:

  • Check reviews of beauty products on Beautypedia.com, because they are based on the ingredient list and published research and comparisons to similar products for the price, not on personal opinion.
  • Download free beauty applications such as ModiFace MakeUp and InStyle Hairstyle Try-On and upload your photo to try on hairstyles and makeup shades before you buy.
  • Use coupons, scan quick response, or QR, codes (a type of bar code), join social media for your favorite brands and stores and work store reward programs and department store gift-with-purchase promotions.
  • Sample colors and skincare products for free at cosmetics specialty stores such as Sephora and shop online wherever your choice of samples is free with your order at sites such as Sephora.com, Ulta.com and others.
  • Always ask for fragrance samples in small vials so you can try them over many days before buying a whole bottle.

And remember: “Most websites and retailers have relaxed their return policies for beauty products, so save your receipts and return it if you are unhappy,” says Bauxal.

Help your hair color last longer

Help your hair color last longer

Hair coloring can be a big budget-buster. Caselle advises choosing a color close to your natural shade to extend time between coloring.

“Women make many mistakes in caring for their color-treated hair that damage the hair’s outer layer (cuticle) allowing color to escape and fade faster, but many fixes are free.” Among Caselle’s recommendations:

  • Allow two to three days before washing after a color treatment to allow color pigment to bind and hair’s outer layer (cuticle) to calm down from the damaging chemical process.
  • Use tepid water with a cool final rinse and set your 450-degree flat iron down to 200 degrees for healthier hair and less cuticle-damaging heat.
  • Protect color-treated hair from pigment-fading, discoloring UV rays with a hat and leave-in conditioner with sunscreen.
  • Use haircare products formulated specifically for color-treated hair, which do not contain the harsh, cuticle-damaging cleansing agent sodium lauryl sulfate (or similar derivatives) or drying alcohol.

Also, save more than 50 percent on salon coloring by finding “student” coloring days at your favorite salon or local beauty school. Just be sure the instructor or master colorist is supervising, says Caselle.

Also, do-it-yourself hair color products sold at the grocery or drug store cost around $10, much less than the price of an average beauty salon color treatment.

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