Fancy Lady Equipment

Most conspiracy theories make me giggle. I’m a pretty open-minded gal, but the notion that the moon landing was faked strikes me as downright bizarre. However, I do believe that most major cosmetics and personal care products companies actively conspire against women. These corporations strive to manufacture discontent among women to convince them to buy new products, more products, complex systems of products to combat our apparent flaws. In many cases, the conspiracy goes even deeper, getting women hooked on certain cosmetics or procedures as mere gateways, eventually revealing that more costly versions will yield even better results. It’s a system that not only convinces women we’re undeniably imperfect, but also snows us into believing that our “imperfections” can be cured with products. And, of course, bales of money.

So I find myself seething with frustration at the discovery that, in many cases, paying more for beauty products and services actually DOES make a difference. Often times, the more expensive option is the better one. Not always, of course, but far more often than I’d prefer.

For ages, I got two haircuts per year. At Cost Cutters. My big mane of curls could handle just about anything that a $12 trim could dish out. But over a year ago, I got a pixie cut and quickly realized that corraling my thick waves into a tidy short cut required a bit more expertise. I fared better at a spendy salon, working with a stylist who specialized in curls and waves. And the outrageously expensive products that stylist sold me? They kept my locks in better shape than the drug store gels and mousses I’d used for ages.

A friend of mine makes her living writing and teaching about wise and prudent spending, so when SHE informed me that a $150 Clairsonic Mia would help with my acne and blotchiness, I was inclined to believe her. And she wasn’t yanking my chain. I can’t quite believe I plunked down that kind of cash for a little, humming, swirling face brush, but damn, it has made a noticeable difference.

The first blush I ever bought was the legendary NARS Orgasm, and I adored it. But it set me back $28 and I felt like a fool for spending so much. Five types of drugstore blush later, I understood how a blush becomes legendary.

Now, I still refuse to do pro manicures. I’ve gotten at least a dozen in the past few years and from dirt cheap to breathtakingly expensive, they’ve all sucked. I’ve never met a cheap lipstick I didn’t love, including the $2 jobbers from Target. I use drug store wipes to prep my face for my wildly expensive Clairsonic Mia, and I’m proud of it. There are so many beauty bargains out there and I seek them whenever I can, but I’m amazed and aggravated to find that many products, tools, and services are actually worth the extra cash.

Of course, this all assumes that you are a woman who wears blush or wants to straighten her hair. Plenty of women go completely natural, and that route is an undeniably fabulous one. After all, it could be argued that even a $2 lipstick feeds the manufactured discontent machine. But for those of us who tweak our looks with fancy lady equipment, I’d wager the majority have grudgingly found spendier options to be spendier for a reason.

And so: HRUMPH.

*This post originally appeared on The Frisky.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for alreadypretty.com. See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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  • The best hair product I’ve ever used is a toss up between coconut oil and apple cider vinegar. I use the same things for my face, as of recently, in addition to honey. I like finding cheap solutions. On the other hand, I spend money on expensive haircuts and find that it’s worth it, and I am attempting to start regular pedicures, because that is also worth it for my runner’s feet. I have never liked other people touching my feet – but pedicures feel so incredible lately. I try to save in a lot of areas so that I can splurge on others.

  • In some cases I think it’s absolutely worth the splurge. I happen to love the GHD brand also. My GHD flat iron just gave up on me (literally, this morning) after 10 years. I honestly can’t believe it lasted as long as it did and kept working it’s magic after all these years so I will definitely spend the money again!

  • Valerie

    Don’t think of the cost–think of the value. Your hair and complexion are on view 24/7/365. Using the best, high quality products and professional services only makes sense. Think about how you approached your tattoos–another 24/7/365 on view–you were probably willing to make the investment for the best quality outcome. One thing I do know–nothing lasts as long as a bad haircut.

  • eGFR

    I’m over 40, and it has surprised me that only in the last few years that many of these options were feasible (ie existed, and I have the option for more discretionary spending than my younger days). I purchased a clarisonic (the original kind), which I do think has made a significant difference (I don’t pine for microdermabrasions as I did in the years preceding), and turned to fancier creams than in the past (fancier than a $12 bottle of J&J Purpose moisturizer). And earlier this year I made it my goal to get my hair as shiny (perhaps not as straight) as Hetal’s in this video: http://showmethecurry.com/pickles-chutneys/cranberry-pickle.html. (I ran into this video after Thanksgiving when I was trying to figure out my own cranberry pickle recipe!) This quest led me to purchase a) a fancy blowdryer, the Sedu revolution pro. I questioned my shampoo/conditioner/leave in and ended up keeping what I had been using. I started using different hair oil/blends, decided my favorites are Argan and the AG blend. Of course this wasn’t enough, and I finally decided I needed the GHD flat iron (same brand as my stylist used at the time). Watched for it come back in stock at Costco for a few weeks, but couldn’t wait any longer and finally bought it from my local Beauty Brands. It does transform my hair. I am amazed that I can walk through my workplace wearing the same exact outfit/heels/bright lipstick combination that I wore the week before but now that my hair has been straightened, I am now TURNING HEADS!!! Not sure if I like this or not. I mean I don’t think my hair looks bad unstraightened, but apparently it looks THAT MUCH better straight. And for lipstick, bring on the L’oreal options! I love to stock up during Walgreens clearance time so I can experiment with colors I wouldn’t usually try. That is how I ended up with my current favorite, L’oreal endless kissable shinewear in wine and roses! Of course I wish I had stocked up in this color/style but never thought I’d wear a color like this day to day! I do like a nice pedi/mani but tend to do most at home. I make a point of getting a professional pedi before spring break and then a few times during hte summer, doing my own in between. I have the best nail tech ever and have been going to her for over 9 years! Once I found her I couldn’t go to anyone else, because I could most of the time do a better job at home. Now don’t ask me how many nail polishes I own…

    • eGFR

      Just thought of a few other splurges: I get my brows threaded every month or two (haircuts usually quarterly). Brow shaping is inexpensive but adds so much to my look. I love goat milk soap from goat milk stuff, not expensive in the soap schema, but certainly more expensive than the kirkland version of dove soap, my old standby. Totally worth it!

      • Anna

        I love goat milk soap too! I started using it about a year ago after I had gotten a three-pack of Olay Beauty Bar on sale, and it made me itch all over (yes, Olay, I was shocked too). I gave away the Olay, found the goat milk soap, and now get IT by the three-pack. Wonderful stuff.

    • Have you looked on ebay for that L’oreal lipstick? I had a limited edition L’oreal nail polish I loved, and when it ran out I was able to find several listings on ebay for it.

  • Jen

    I am with you here! I am always on the hunt for compromise in beauty products. Where to splurge and where to save. I have found that Carmex, good old Carmex in its yellow and red tube, fares better than and expensive brand when it comes to Midwestern winters and chapped lips. I have tubes in the pockets of every coat and pouch of every purse. And probably spent less than I would have on one single tube of something more pricy! My mascara is a drugstore brand that I love and have used for several years. But I simply cannot find a cheaper eyeshadow that compares to Mac, Stila, or Benefit cosmetics (my go-to brands for eyeshadow). Those brands mill their powders much finer and the pigments are much richer. I find I use less and at the end of the day the shadow isn’t caked into every crease on my eyelids. Makeup brushes are another area where I’ve learned the hard way-there just isn’t a substitute for a good (read:pricy) set of brushes. But give me my Pantene hairspray over any other brand any day of the week. It is fantastic and the price-right where I like it!

    • Agreed, high-end eyeshadows are usually worth it in my experience. They wear better and are more pigmented.

    • Anna

      I started using Carmex on the best kind of recommendation: from a trumpet player who had to take excellent care of his lips and be very picky about what he put on them.

  • Stacy

    I buy nearly all of my make-up from a cheapish store in Holland called Hema. All of the make-up is of a good quality and goes on really well. Their make-up brushes are also cheap and still last.

    And the best bit is – they do not test on animals. That’s something quite important to me.

    I did get an Anastasia set for my eyebrows on the advice the person who styled them for me when I lost their shape completely – that was 90 euros and far more than I have ever spent on make-up. The set is great (it was worth it just for the amazing tweezers to be honest) but when the brow power and highlighter pencil run out I will try Hema’s version to see if they are as good!

    The only other thing I never go cheap on is a hair dryer. I tried cheap ones and and nothing doing. I like the Philips Salon Pro series. Not cheap, but wonderful hair dryers.

    Stace

  • Anonymous

    I have yet to find a cheaper item that is better. But I am also allergic to most makeup and skin care products. I’ve really only found cheaper as better with clothing (like Target having better quality clothing than Express etc). My thought is if it works then its worth the money. I found a product at Lush that made my acne go away. Is it expensive? sure. But now I don’t have painful bumps so its worth it. Its all about whether or not the result outweighs the price in my opinion.

  • Caroline

    I usually spend more on my hair products (shampoo and conditioner), because my hair is curly and also damaged from years of coloring. Drugstore shampoo and conditioner really don’t do much for my hair. I also used to get haircuts at an expensive salon but I was never very happy with the haircuts because they never felt like they changed. So now I go to the Paul Mitchell Beauty School because it’s cheaper

    However, I recommend Groupon for anybody who wants expensive beauty things for cheaper. I ordered a set of Carol’s Daughter Chocolat Shampoo and Conditioner and Blow-Drying cream from Groupon for $25! I loved the stuff ever since I tried a sample from Sephora, but never could bring myself to buy them. Hooray Groupon! They also sometimes have brushes similar to the Mia Clarisonic for much cheaper. I have been thinking about buying the Mia Clarisonic – I may ask for it as a gift for Christmas. My forehead is always covered in little bumps and is pinkish and I hate it!

    I’ve also heard that Birch Box is good for people who want to try expensive beauty stuff but not commit to the full-size versions.

    • Gabi

      birchbox can be very hit or miss. some months I love the products and others the sample size is so tiny that I barely get to try the product at all

  • I am a true believer in pantry beauty ~ My beauty regimens cost me under $15 annually! ~ I use only a French milled soap as my cleanser, apple cider vinegar/witch hazel as my toners, and olive oil as my face/body moisturizer ~ I do my own weekly manicures/pedicures/facials ~

    What I do splurge on is makeup and skin/health supplements ~ I’m quite minimal in the makeup dept ~ I ONLY PURCHASE WHEN I RUN OUT ~ And I do not have doubles ~ In the supplement dept, I only buy the most reputable brands ~ I’d have to say I spend $100 several times a year, but health is wealth in my book!

    Great post, Sally!

  • Jessica

    Sally, I could not agree with you more about investing in a professional-grade flat iron for those of us with wavy/curly hair! I straightened my curls all the time with an old ConAir straightener- it had a detachable head with a wick in it, and once you filled it with water and re-attached the head to the iron, the water would create steam that would straighten your hair. “Flatten” your hair was more like it! My hair was still wavy & even more frizzy and loked terrible!

    Finally, I splurged on a $120 flat iron that was “on sale” from $200 (I personally think the $200 was only a mark-up and there was no real discount), and now whenever I straighen my hair, it is silky, glossy, and beautiful! Sometimes that extra money DOES make a difference!

  • I’ve found a great little salon in So. Mpls that I can get a terrific haircut, highlights (2 color) and brow wax and pay only around $100. With long hair I can typically sneak by with about 5 cuts a year and some bang trims now and again. I feel pretty fortunate for that and have on occasion shared my “guys” name and have had friends who are now devoted fans of his. It’s always nice when things work out.

    On the cosmetics side – I got hooked on one of the major brands exclusive to department stores – they just seemed to perform better. I haven’t stayed completely loyal because of the cost – but try to be super selective and when either there is a great giveaway or the department store offers one of their special sales including cosmetics – I’ll try to make a few selective purchases to stretch what I have.

    And I’m learning to be more content going au natural too – sometimes it’s nice to be low maintenance!

  • Eleanorjane

    Yup, that’s how marketing works – invent/ promote a need and sell you the solution. Cleaning products is another place that bugs me – dishwasher cleaners, different products for every surface and every area, steam mops etc. etc. There’s practically a whole aisle of different washing powders in the supermarket!

    In terms of beauty stuff, it’s a bit of a crapshoot as to whether expensive is better. I guess reviews by real people are the most reliable test. For example, I used to think foundation was something that should be invested in, but my current one is a cheap as chips one from Za that I bought one day when I forgot my makeup. It works beautifully. That said, I do find Clinique lipsticks and eyeshadows just make me look prettier than cheaper ones. The colours are more flattering and the textures blend and sit better.

    (shrugs) what can you do?

    Cheers,
    Eleanorjane

  • KL

    I subscribe to the same philosophy as you, but my saves and splurges are a bit different. I have very long, straight Asian hair, so I go to Chinatown for haircuts and they are just as good, if not better, than my previous salon cuts. They are the experts, after all!

    Conversely, I’ve tried about 6 different brands, both department and drugstore, of “moisturizing” lipstick/tinted lip balm/balm+lip color combos… all of them left me with chapped lips worse than when I wear nothing at all. (As did regular lipstick from both price ranges.) Recently I splurged on a Laura Mercier tinted lip balm, thinking that I could always return it if it dried out my liips, and it finally worked! I get a light wash of color without flakiness the next day. I don’t have particularly sensitive skin, but apparently I have sensitive lips and I have to shell out $$ to baby them.

  • My one big beauty splurge is my haircuts and periodic highlights. I get my short hair cut every 5-6 weeks and it’s worth every penny because I no longer need to use a curling iron, lots or products, or even a blow dryer. Most days, I wash, comb, and go. That’s it. Totally worth the savings in time, products, and electricity use.

    For makeup, I’m still finding the right way. For a long time, I used a department store mascara, until I discovered that it was identical in formulation and produced in the same factory as a drugstore brand. At this point, the few products I use are a combination of high end and drugstore.

  • My hair is miserably fine and goes flat in the winter. When my stylist worked temporarily at an upscale salon, I was able to sample Kerastase Volumactive (green packaging) hair products. What a difference from my drugstore shampoo and mousse! Before I tried them, I was skeptical that any shampoo or mousse, much less a $30+ one, could be *that* different. But it was. I only needed a small amount of each and my hair had noticeably more body and shine. Since I’ve been unemployed for so long, there’s no way I can splurge on this right now, but when I do find another job, it is going to be my treat to myself.

    Sally Hansen’s nail polishes are as long-lasting as OPI, though I don’t have that experience with other drugstore brands. Nivea Soft is one of the best moisturizers I’ve tried, thick but not greasy. As to makeup, I mostly wear Bare Escentuals, which doesn’t aggravate my rosacea, covers the red cheeks and dark circles better than most other foundation I’ve tried, and has SPF too. I can’t speak to eyeshadow, mascara, or lipstick…I use both BE and drugstore brands, and haven’t noticed a difference.

    • Kristin

      Debby, you are not kidding! Kerastase Volumactive is worth every single penny. I have very fine hair and it’s amazing how good this stuff is. Plus it smells nice! (The purple-can version of the Kerastase mousse is really good, too.) This is the only beauty product I ever splurge on, really.

  • D

    I don’t go for many fancy beauty products or services, but I do splurge on Aveda shampoo and conditioner. It gets along with my hair pretty well most of the time, and it doesn’t irritate my head like cheaper shampoos I’ve used. But I don’t usually have a problem with eyeshadow or liner from Target. Fancy face lotions and nail polishes don’t seem to be much better for me either. Coconut oil and Sally Hansen for me!

  • Aziraphale

    Oh, absolutely, with a flatiron, a professional one is a must. The drugstore ones just plain don’t work. Especially for you, Sally, with your straight, flat hairstyle and hair that is not remotely straight or flat in its natural state!

    Things I will spend extra money on because I think it’s worth it:
    – haircuts
    – lipstick
    – foundation
    – mascara
    – flatiron
    – earrings (cheap ones irritate my ears)
    – certain hair styling products, like good hairspray

    Things that can be bought cheaply at drugstore and still work just fine:
    – concealer
    – eyeliner
    – facial cleanser
    – blowdryer
    – UV protection cream

    Now, I acknowledge that I have non-problem skin, and using CeraVe cleanser (or even mild soap) is just fine for me. If I get a bit of a breakout, it’s a sign that I’ve been drinking too much and staying up too late, so I scale back on those things and the problem goes away. If I had real trouble with acne, though, I would happily shell out for an expensive face brush or cream.

    Things I don’t care about, so don’t know if it’s worth the money or not:
    – manicures/pedicures
    – nail polish
    – mousse
    – gel

  • GingerR

    I think that it’s often the skill of the stylist more than the product they use that makes the difference. When I have my hair done I watch attentively as she blows it dry and uses product. She’s quite happy to tell me what she’s doing and it makes a big difference in how well I can keep the look in the following weeks.

    I’ve also taken to searching out uTube hair/makeup videos. I wasn’t ever interested in hair/makeup when I was a young girl so I didn’t pick up the tips about application. There are many useful lessons to be learned out there, when the student is ready.

  • Signe

    My experience shows several trends.

    1) High-end hairdressers are generally better than the low-cost ones.
    They have skills, creativity and an eye for haircuts that suit you. BUT you should still find The One who gets the idea you have of yourself and doesn’t force anything on you. I’ve found mine, and I wouldn’t like to change back to cheap ones.

    2) There IS a huge difference between cheap and expensive anti-insect (midge/tick) aids.
    I live in a place where the few sunny and warm months are also the peak for flying and creeping insects, so an anti-insect aid is a must for outdoor activities, especially in evenings or near water/woods. The cheap ones are pungent and smell really nasty, and some brands even don’t work as they should, while the expensive ones are almost pleasant-smelling and reliable.

    3) Scincare products may differ in price, but you still have to follow what’s inside.
    Both the cheap and expensive products can contain potentially harmful substances. In my opinion silicone, mineral oil a.o. similar substances are a bad thing to cover my skin with on daily basis, so now (for 3+ years) I am a fan of “MADARA cosmetics” skincare producs. They are quite expensive (~60$ for a 3-step skincare set), but long-lasting, as natural as an skincare items can be, and most importantly my skin likes them. But on the other hand I use a 5$ body cream which also matches my requirements.

  • It’s definitely all about knowing when to splurge and when to save, and that’s different for every person. I spend a lot on skincare, but I do my research so I know I’m getting products with high amounts of effective ingredients. Citrix spf 30 sunscreen is a holy grail product that isn’t all that much more expensive than drugstore ones. I used to spend on Aveda shampoos, but I love the L’oreal “Ever” line, and they’re so cheap. I will not color my hair at home, because I fear damage, so that splurge is worth it. High end eyeshadow (I like MAC and Shiseido) is so worth it, but I love Maybelline XXL mascara and Revlon lipsticks, concealers and foundations are really good. I think Revlon nail polishes are excellent quality. I have a pricey hair dryer ($80ish on sale) and it’s so worth it. Cheap hot tools don’t cut it. Oh, I am also constantly in awe of how great Nars Orgasm blush is! Just gorgeous, and it does last a long time. Hmmm, I could go on, but the point is you have to figure out what products have the most impact for you and find a balance between high and low end.

  • Anne

    Oh boy, you got me where I live! I am all over the map when it comes to beauty products. My hair costs a small fortune. I get it cut and colored every 4 weeks. I have tried to “Break up” with my stylist and find someone closer/ cheaper/ more available, but she is just the best. After seeing her every 4 weeks for 11 years she has become a dear friend and I would miss her terribly.

    For face care I am so happy with Aveeno products. I’ve been using them for about 7 or 8 years. I find make up hit or miss: my blush, bronzer, and eye shadow are all from Bobbie Brown and are worth the money but I am just as happy with my Neutrogena foundation and my Loreal lipstick. My hair appliances fall in the middle of the road for price and quality.

    It is a struggle to figure out just how much you need to spend on any given item to get decent quality and I suppose that is the beauty of blogs, to share those tips with one another. Recently I stumbled up on a blog that preached the “Bottom -up” theory. Start out with the least expensive option. Look it over, check for quality and if it looks as though it’s going to work, great. If it won’t do, move to the next tier up, and so on until you find the quality that makes you happy. This way you don’t feel duped or resentful for spending more on something than was necessary.

  • TB

    One cheap product that still rises above all the rest: Aquanet.

    • AnnR

      It can be hard to find hairspray sometimes. A lot of brands have gone to spray gel. I always try to have hairspray around because there are some styles it’s the only thing that works.

  • Courtney

    I agree with the commenters who talked about value vs. cost. It can be frustrating that it is so expensive to get the products that give you the results you want, but I would be more pissed off if the spendy products DIDN’T work.

    When I was in high school and college, I went round and round with my mom over the purchase of Clinique face products. In the 10th grade, I developed a horrible series of breakouts on my chin that just wouldn’t quit. We didn’t have insurance coverage for a dermatologist, and a friend told my mom to get me the Clinique skin care products. She did, and they worked wonders. But she went on and on about how much the face soap cost. (Oddly enough, she didn’t complain about the toner and moisturizer.) But the (large) bar of fancy soap that cost $8 in 1989 just pushed her buttons. The thing is, that soap was so hard-milled that it lasted me into college. Four years later, I was still using the same bar of Clinique soap. I finally said, “You had no problem buying me $3 Neutrogena soaps. I would have gone through at least a dozen of them by now.”

    • Anneesha

      I remember the Clinique 3-step system being the first product that I saw actual (good) results from! I remember that hard-milled bar soap fondly….

  • Peppermint

    Beauty is so unique to the individual, its hard to make generalizations. I will splurge on skincare and foundation, but the assistance in picking out products and the no questions asked return policy if the product isn’t all it’s cracked up to be is a big part of the reason. I have found that Cover Girl Lashblast 24 mascara works better for me than similar products by Lancome or Dior, but I’m probably the exception in that area.

  • Moira

    For me, the splurges are:

    haircut and color
    good quality hair dryer (helps me with my blowout)
    foundation
    sunscreen
    manicures (though this is mostly because I am so inept at doing them myself that there’s no point)
    pressed powder
    hair wax

    My saves are:
    shampoo and conditioner (my hair is short enough that long-term care doesn’t come into it)
    mascara (Great Lash, baby!)
    most other makeup besides foundation and powder
    moisturizer
    hairspray
    hair gel

    And actually, a drugstore straightening iron is fine for me. Then again, my hair’s not all that curly, so I really only need the straightening iron for the occasional touch-up.

  • I used to work in department store cosmetics (various brands), and I like trying new products, from dollar store brands to luxury items. While I’ve found that in a lot of cases, the more expensive brands produce better results, that is not true in every case. I keep trying cheaper brands, hoping to find a quality product and save a few bucks, but there are certain pricey items that simply cannot be beat (though I’ll keep trying the cheap ones just to be sure!).

    I tend to put more of my dollars towards items that will get regular use, like moisturizer, foundation, and mascara, but I’ll go cheap if it’s a color or product I probably won’t wear too often, like electric blue eyeliner, or a new trend I want to try out.

    For nails, I love the gel nail polish and think it is worth the price, especially since any traditional nail polish I have tried lasts 2 days at most, regardless of the price. I have found, however, that I get just as good results with the at-home kit as I do with a salon manicure. It costs more than regular polish, to be sure, but less than having a manicure every two weeks.

    As for hair … I am hair deficient. Maybe I just need to try more expensive products!

  • Anonymous

    The main reason I don’t buy drugstore products is because of the cheap preservatives (parabens, BHT) they use, some of which have been linked to cancer.

    If you look at my bathroom and my makeup collection, you’ll see a mix of “natural” products (mostly cleansers, lip balms, and oils), which I like because they are simple and non-irritating.

    Then you’ll also see some expensive skin care treatments, because those are the products that yield results, without utilizing toxic preservatives.

    With makeup, I’m also more likely to go high-end, again, because of the toxicity concerns, and also, because I like the packaging better. I do think that the quality of luxury brands tends to be better; but I’m not convinced that the huge difference in price is justified!

  • Hair color at an Aveda salon–spendy but my hair looks about a thousand times better than it did when I was coloring it at home. Professional pedicures, ditto. I have a cheap blow dryer and flatiron, which is probably why my hair’s in a bun, pony, or braid everyday, but I haven’t been able to force myself to drop the $200 on a good one.

  • This is a tricky one for sure. As a beauty product-loving gal myself, I have definitely found that this rings true. Sadly, sometimes it really does seem “worth it” to pay more for beauty products. But I have discovered while these products might seem to work better, there is often a downside. The obvious downside is the extra cost. I used to be MUCH more concerned with having the “best” of everything beauty-related, until I realized that lifestyle simply wasn’t sustainable with the income I have. I was forced to cut back, and doing so was a really valuable learning experience for me. Even more significantly, I have recently made the switch to more natural, chemical-free beauty products, combined with better nutrition choices and supplements. And low and behold, what I’m finding is that often times the more expensive products are really just a way to achieve an appearance of optimal health. They can actually mask the poor lifestyle choices that we make, and in the same degree cause further damage to our health by pumping our bodies full of nasty chemicals. I FEEL so much better when I am making healthy choices, and surprisingly enough, I look better too, which leads me to feel much less secure in my natural state and less desperate to cling to the “miracles” of expensive beauty products.

    All this said, I do still make the choice to spend a little more on certain parts of my beauty routine. My hair just can’t handle Super Cuts, so I shell out $50+ for a quality haircut from a stylist who knows how to handle curls and waves. But, I also have longer hair which allows me to only have to invest in a cut 3-4 times a year at most. I’m spending money on vitamins and supplements (which can get pricey). I do still wear makeup, but stick to the more natural choices (which cost a little more than the drugstore variety, but usually not as much as the Sephora options).

  • I’m about as unspendy as they come in matters of beauty and fashion, and yet even I cannot resist the siren song of NARS Orgasm. As you said, that blush is legendary for a reason.

    I agree with the other commenters who bring up the question of value vs. cost. I think about this with regards to highlights/hair color. In the past, going for the cheaper options (like home color) may have saved me money but they cost me aggravation in the end. I’ve come to value my time and my sanity as much as I value money, so it’s not a problem for me to trade one for the other.

    Aside from those couple of splurges, though, I’m pretty much a Target-and-drugstore type of lady. Ask me about my book spending though, and it’s a whole different story…

  • I definitely skew more high-end in my beauty and skincare tastes, especially as I’ve been introduced to new products and brands through beauty blogging. Nevertheless, I do have some cheap thrills that I simply can’t give up:

    -Lipstick (I have quite a few Revlon colours mixed in with Chanel and Tom Ford lipsticks in my collection)
    -Mascara (can’t justify spending a ton on a product that only lasts 3 months, plus drugstore mascaras work really well)
    -Japanese cotton makeup remover pads (only $2 for 100+, plus they don’t leave fibres behind unlike Western cotton pads)
    -blotting papers ($2 for a box of 200 sheets from my local Japanese discount store)
    -Shampoo (Dove 2-in-1)

  • Rhonda

    I’m a curly girl myself and as another poster pointed out I have learned so much about hair and make up from YouTube. I have also learned a lot from The Beauty Brains. The key to knowing when to skimp and when to splurge is understanding the chemicals that make up beauty products.
    I had to laugh when I saw this post because in college I used to say “It’s a ploy by the manufacturer to get you to buy stuff you don’t need”. As another poster pointed out, it wasn’t until I had disposable income that I could justify to myself that it was worth it to spend more on some things than I had in the past like:make-up brushes, facial cleanser, straightening serum, hair straightening tools, facial exfoliation. I am on the fence with lipsticks because I have never had a tube of Lancome lipstick that broke and every other cheaper brand has, even MAC my favorite.

  • Lucyna

    I have wasted quite a bit of money on cheaper drug store brands for the sole purpose of trying to save money in the long term. For example, I have now bought three different shampoo/conditioners, but they all make my hair look/feel gross, and I always go back to salon brands (Morrocan Oil all the way!). I have also blown money on cheap eyeliner, when the absolute best I have found is URban Decay 24/7. $22/eyeliner, but it goes on with NO pulling, stays all day and the colors are fab. Eyeliner is important to me. I also shell out money for good moisturizer and eye cream, but in terms of cleanser, I have found Aveeno and Neutrogena to perform very well.

    I have a CHI straightener. Best money I ever spent on a hair styling tool.

    I also do the salon cut/color; I find that salon color doesn’t fade like a home color, and my hair is significantly LESS damaged.

  • Leah

    I splurge on nails as I am hard on my hands and only the professionals can keep them from looking ragged. Also on sunscreen. Everything else I buy cheap or not at all. I cut my own hair, love my natural color, I use or a bit of Argan oil if I am feeling dry in my skin or hair. I don’t wear makeup generally so I don’t ever need to scrub my skin, just a quick splash of water. What I save on beauty, I spend on awesome new additions to my wardrobe. My beauty idol is Emanuelle Alt, who never wears makeup or coiffs her hair, but as the editor of French vogue she has the coolest wardrobe ever. Not being chained to cosmetics is very freeing and I feel like th world gets to see my true face every day, and I can spend more time choosing my outfit or getting more rest rather than working on my skin and hair.

  • The only thing I spend a lot of money on is shampoo. I buy mastercut’s tea tree oil shampoo because it keeps my hair balanced and I don’t live near anywhere else that has a cheap tea tree oil shampoo (example: trader joe’s), but I buy it by the salon-sized bottle and share with the DH. It lasts us a few months.

    I go to cheap salons, I’ve been using straight body lotion on my face because EVERYTHING breaks me out, no makeup, no polish, no hair gels. I have a $29 conair ceramic straightener that I bought in 9th grade (8 years, still working great when I use it). I switched to natural henna for coloring my hair. It cost about the same or cheaper as a box dye if you buy in bulk, I do.

    I am not a beauty guru, I sometimes worry about how low-maintenance I am, or if buying better stuff might work better, but I got tired of the the lotions and potions and losing so much money on stuff that didn’t work for me.

  • I generally cheap out when it comes to makeup – I don’t wear much, because I’m in and out of a dance studio daily during the week (university dance team), so I shower a lot. I’ve got it down to a three minute daily routine of eyeliner, mascara, and coverup where needed. Which is also good, because I run late for class a LOT. I would (and have) just end up wasting high end stuff.

    But I consider my hair an investment. I get a trim/cut every couple of months, and I go to a nice salon. I’ve got finicky curls and I need specific layers or otherwise I get the weirdest looking hair-shelves in the back of my head. But I don’t really spend a lot on product – after two years of trying everything, from cheapo to expensive, I’ve finally found a mid-low range match. I don’t even really use a lot of different things, just cowash, conditioner, and a gel. ALL DAY ERRY DAY

    I’m a minimalist at heart. The less I can get by with, the better. Unless we are speaking about cereal. I buy ALL THE BRANDS

  • Olivia

    I don’t go with the cheapest options for most of my products because they usually don’t work. But, the mid-priced stuff, like Avon and Sally Hansen, usually does. I can’t afford to go with the top of the line and only splurge a little for my hair cuts.

  • Wendy

    My big splurge is brow and cheek waxing. I go to a salon that exclusively does waxing and it costs and arm and a leg. But I have pale sensitive Irish skin from my mother and dark Puerto Rican hair from my Dad. Plus, I’m a big baby. So it’s worth it to me to have a painless session and no lingering redness.
    My favorite cheap product is Cover Girl Lip Perfection lipstick. I like it better than anything else-high end or low end. It keeps my lips from drying out.

  • BamaCarol

    Because of my exercise routine (swimming several times a week), I use a more expensive shampoo and conditioner to keep my hair from looking like straw. I am also fortunate in that I work from home some and on the days I do, I air dry my hair until it is almost dry to avoid the heat of a blow dryer. I no longer wear much makeup and what I do is drugstore brand. My goal is to not have to wear a foundation and I found that when I stopped using the expensive toners, cleaners and lotions and switched to Dove and a very light lotion in the winter, I have much better skin with almost no breakouts. I did splurge on a nice blow dryer recently…because my hair is very thick and long, it was taking 15-20 minutes to dry it with my old dryer. My new dryer takes much less time and I think that is healthier for the hair. I do have a decent ceramic flat iron that I use on occasion but I think it was only around $100. It works for the few times I choose to flatten my hair.

  • Elizabeth

    I don’t wear make up. I have hyper sensitive skin, and an allergy to fragrance. This makes it really hard to wear make-up, so after an incident of swelling eyes, I chose not to wear it. I find this saves me a lot of time, money, and puffy, swollen skin.

    I do splurge on a great hair cut. My stylist gets it. When I had a baby and wanted a mom on the go look, she helped me get that stylishly. I spend more on shampoo and conditioner, but that is as much about my sensitive skin and allergies as anything.

  • Shaye

    I’m always skeptical as to whether the expensive version is really better, because sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t, and there’s not necessarily any telling which is which unless you try it.

    In the “you get what you pay for” column for me is Bare Minerals mineral makeup. I tried several drugstore brands for years but switched back to the real deal once I had the income to justify it. There’s no doubt, the expensive mineral makeup is simply better. I also will continue to use Tarte’s cheek stain because it may be almost $30, but it lasts forever and I’ve never found anything quite like it. I would also never get a cheap haircut. My stylist has raised her prices $15 in the last 6 years, but even if she raised it $50, I’d still happily pay it. I’ve got long hair now for the first time in my life, because she can cut my curly hair in a way that makes it behave.

    In the “you can’t fool me!” column is stuff like conditioner (used plenty of spendy conditioners for years until I realized the Trader Joe’s tea tree conditioner was just as good, if not better), makeup primer (Monistat Chafing Relief Powder Gel really is essentially the same thing, and I can attest that it didn’t clog my clog-prone pores), and hair color. I’ve dyed my hair at home for almost 20 years now and I have no intention of stopping.

    I’m on the fence about moisturizer. I’m still not convinced that eye cream is worth the extra expense, and although I feel like my moisturizer of choice is pretty spendy – it’s $20 at Target – I know I could easily spend a lot more. I’m just not sure it’d be worth it. I’m also unsure whether to try YSL Touché Éclat. I’ve heard marvelous things about it, but at $40, is it really that much better than the Neutrogena brightening eye concealer I already have??

    • Halo

      While I love YSL Touché Éclat, it’s not really a concealer, just a brightener. For my $40, Chanel’s concealer wand is the way to go. But go to a department store and try everything. It’s free. Just my two cents.

  • Halo

    As some have mentioned, semi-expensive tools like Clarisonic and services like haircuts and brow arches are worth it. But now that I’m in my late 30s, I’m really investing in skincare and realizing that high-end makeup is often better for me. I recently discovered Le Metier cosmetics and the powdered shadows and blushes are so fine they go on well and don’t gather in my fine lines. I’ve gone to Le Metier, Chanel, Dior, and Guerlain for most makeup, but because I don’t wear a lot or keep a huge stock of colors, I don’t end up spending massive amounts of money.

    While I would love to be able to afford SKII skincare, I just can’t do it. However, I can afford Amore Pacific, Algenist, and Chanel (seriously, Chanel has great skincare). One thing I love about high-end skincare is I find it much easier to get my hands on deluxe samples than the cheaper stuff. That way, I have enough product to find out if I like it and it works. I’m happier to spend $100 on moisturizer I actually love than $10-15 on something I end up hating and tossing.

  • Anna D.

    This is such a dilemma for me – I go through phases where I vow to buy only “good quality” (i.e. expensive) stuff, but less of it, and then flip around to buying lots of stuff, but cheap.

    Things I consider worth spending the money on:
    – GOOD HAIRCUT (sorry to shout, but this is non-negotiable for me)
    – professional hair color (but that’s because I get highlights to blend the gray and I know I can’t do that at home – I have used other kinds of home coloring without a hitch)
    – regular brow maintenance (as I get older my brows have gotten bushier and, argh, gray – so I get them shaped once a month and tinted every other. it’s a small thing that makes a HUGE difference. I might not even get them shaped this often since I don’t mind plucking my own, but because they grow long, I need someone else to trim them for me. It’s almost impossible to do this on my own)
    – hair dryer (getting a high-quality hair dryer made SUCH a difference! I have very thick hair with enough body not to be straight but not enough wave actually to curl. I have to style it every morning so a good dryer that dries it more quickly is worth every penny)
    – skin care (my skin goes through phases of getting very cranky/broken out – currently what’s working well is a $10 face wash, but I will spend quite a lot on serums/treatments if they make a difference and keep my skin happy) (where quite a lot = $30-40; we’re not talking that La Mer cream that’s some ridiculous price!)
    – foundation/concealer (I got some Dermablend concealer after a particularly bad acne phase and the stuff is BRILLIANT)
    – blush (I tried a Mac blush for the first time a year or so ago and it is AMAZING! I had no idea blush made such a difference!)
    – good base coat/top coat for manicures (they make a HUGE difference in the longevity of a manicure!)

    Not worth spending money on for me:
    – straightening iron (never use one)
    – gel manicures (unless I’m traveling for work and want to make sure my polish isn’t going to chip – I like the look, the problem is that after 5 days I pick at the gel polish and peel it off, so it’s not worth the extra money
    – fancy shampoo/conditioner (mostly because I condition wash, i.e. wash my hair with conditioner, so I just buy really big bottles of really cheap stuff for that purpose. Then I try to buy slightly better quality stuff for the actual condition part, but really, Trader Joe’s conditioner is pretty great)
    – eye shadow (never wear it because I have hooded eyes and it just rubs off) (although I suppose it might not if I tried better quality stuff…)

    Things I go back and forth on:
    – professional manicures (I like that they do a better job than I do of cleaning up the cuticles, and I think, “oh, they’re so cheap.” then I realize that I have dozens of colors of polish at home and have got very good at doing a clean manicure)
    – makeup brushes (because I don’t wear eye shadow I don’t need a ton of these, but I love the idea of having nice, luxurious brushes – plus, the better ones do seem to work better. that said, I still own a lot of cheapies because, well, I’m cheap)
    – hair gel/mousse/spray (I usually buy cheap stuff because I haven’t found expensive stuff that’s much better, but that said, if I found something in this category that worked really well for me, I’d probably spend more on it)
    – makeup besides foundation/concealer/blush (I like high-end stuff, especially because I think the packaging is usually prettier and I like pretty packaging! but I go back and forth on whether a given item is really worth the money. I love the Clinique chubby pencil lipsticks, for instance, but I also love Revlon lip butters. And the Clinique isn’t even that expensive, in the grand scheme of expensive makeup. I tend to buy more expensive eyeliner because I really want something that won’t wash down my face, but I’ll try drugstore stuff too. If I won the lottery I would have no problem replacing all my makeup with fancy high end stuff because of the luxe feel, but I’m not sure it makes that much difference, especially since I don’t wear much.)

    I think for me, it’s important to spend money getting the basics/foundation laid really strongly – good hair cut, good skin, tidy brows, makeup to polish the skin. Then I might buy a fair amount of cheap “fun” stuff that’s more icing-on-the-top.

  • f.

    I splurge on two things: Clinique 3-step face cleanser, clarifier and moisturizer; and Dior perfume. Those are non-negotiable! My lipstick, blush and eyeshadow are also all Clinique, but I wear so little makeup that I can make do with samples I get while buying my moisturizer etc. (I make sure to buy it during free gift time). Otherwise? I keep my fingernails buffed rather than using polish, do my own pedicures with drugstore polish, and buy silicone free shampoo at the drugstore. I agree with the person above who likes apple cider vinegar for her hair, it really works wonders if you have hard water where you live, like I do. I make a solution with 5 parts water to 1 part vinegar, and add a few drops of tea tree oil.

    I do wonder if my habits will change if I get more disposable income though. I have a haircut appointment this week, and you ladies have got me wondering if I should get my brows done as well.

  • I spend lots on Apriori skincare, because it is hands down the best thing I’ve ever found. But mascara, hey, most any new mascara is better than any old mascara, so that’s a reasonable place to save.

  • Angela

    I’ve had my GHD for two years now, and I could never go back to any other flatiron! It’s so good!

    My beauty splurges are haircuts (I tried both Great Clips and Fantastic Sams, thinking that “take two inches off my blunt cut” was straightforward enough, but every time I try the discount places, I end up having to go back), Venus razors (the kind with the built-in gel, so I don’t have to fuss with shave cream), and Kevin Murphy’s “Hair Resort” beach texturizer goo (which gives my hair that perfect, effortless “been at the beach all day” texture).