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The Backyard Blog

Unique take on popular topics, useful resources and financial advice by renowned writers, specialized experts and experienced bloggers.


April 22nd, 2018

How To Save Money On Skin Care & Cosmetics

How much do you spend on your cosmetics and skin care products? A recent study by financial management company Mint estimates that on average, a woman will spend about $15,000 on make-up, lotions, and other beauty products over the course of her life. Men aren’t exempt from this figure either! Although men usually spend substantially less than women on these types of products, there are still a robust men’s personal care and grooming market, complete with high-end retailers and expensive offerings in small tubes. Perhaps we have the metrosexual movement to thank for this, perhaps its the glam rock or emo music eras that empowered men to wear a bit of makeup, or maybe men are just realizing that it’s nice to take care of themselves, but whatever the reason, the bottom line is this: we spend a lot to make ourselves look good.

Do we need to spend so much? Probably not. There are so many ways to cut back on what you spend on makeup, skin care products, and other personal products. And, if you think spending less will force you to compromise on how good you look, how nice you smell, and how smooth your skin feels, think again: by making a few easy changes to your buying habits and lifestyle, you can get the same exact beauty and grooming results at a fraction of what you used to pay. Read on: here are some helpful ideas for saving money on cosmetics and skin care.

Limit Your Purchases To Only What You Need
It can be so much fun and such a great sensory overload to go into a store like Sephora or Ulta and do a little retail therapy: buy a few cool new colors, a new product or two, and maybe a flowery fragrance. However, if you’re on a budget, this type of behavior doesn’t fit with your need to save money. So, you’ve got to curb your spending and start looking carefully at your skin and assessing your make-up needs. What products must you really have in order to achieve the look you’re after?

Chances are, you don’t need nearly as much as you think you might. A good moisturizer is always important. The right shade of lip color can do a lot for brightening up your face, as can some tastefully applied eye make-up. However, you can probably do without a lot of things, such as a heavy foundation, a pricey toner, and an eye cream of questionable effectiveness. This useful article from Real Simple Magazine goes over five of the least essential beauty items and explains who should use them and who can skip them.

Then, once you’ve got the products you need, use only the amount you need to get the look you want. Remember, a small amount of any make-up or skin care product can go a long way.Not only will using a little bit at a time stretch your budget, but it will also give you a cleaner, more natural look. Make-up should enhance and bring out your natural beauty, not cover it up under layers of powder.

Try Before You Buy — For Free!

save money on cosmetics and skincareOne of the best things about the cosmetics and personal care industry is its willingness to allow people to sample their products. Walk into just about any department store, specialty beauty store, or even high end drug store, and you’ll see tester products out for you to try. Many cosmetics manufacturers take this one step further and create small free samples in an effort to get customers. If you’re pinching pennies, these free samples are definitely something you will want to take advantage of.

What products can you sample? Perfume is the classic example; tiny tube-like bottles of perfume samples have been the norm forever. However, small envelopes of make-up, lotion and cream, specialty shampoos and conditioners, and other products can be yours for the asking. Even if you’re shopping online, many retailers like Sephora will allow you to select a few free samples with your order. They allow you to make sure you truly love a product before purchasing a whole bottle or tube. And if you don’t like a product enough to buy it, you at least get a few days’ worth of it for free.

Frequent Discount Stores
When you think of places to buy cosmetics and skin care products, you probably think of department stores, places like Sephora and Ulta, and maybe the drug store. But what about discount retailers? Places like TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and even department store outlets like Saks Off 5th and Nordstrom Rack have luxury and high end cosmetics at surprisingly low prices. If you’re going to shop like this, you’ll need to have a keen eye to spot the best deals, and you’ll also need to be flexible, as you may not be able to find your favorite product. However, if you’re willing to look around, you might get lucky and score a great product for a fraction of its retail price.

One thing you’ll want to be aware of if you shop discount stores for these products is that you may be buying something that’s been on the shelf for a while. It will still be good, but you will want to use it relatively quickly, as it probably won’t last as long as products for which you pay full price. This brings us to our next money saving idea…

Cap It And Stick It In The Fridge
Cosmetics and skin care products can dry out easily when they’re left exposed to the air. Fortunately, they all come with tight-fitting caps and lids. The trick is to use them! Cap your products tightly to keep them hydrated. Need another good reason? Putting the lid on your make-up and lotions helps to reduce their spoilage due to bacteria exposure.

It’s also important to keep in mind that these products can go rancid if they’re not used within six months and they are left at room temperature. If you have a special product that you don’t use every day, stick it in the fridge to keep the oils in them from turning bad. Just like the keeping your food cold extends its life, keeping cosmetics cold can prevent you from having a tube or compact of off-smelling product.

Use Every Last Bit
When you’ve got a brand new tube of a new product that you’re dying to try, it can be tempting to crack it right open and not finish the tube you’ve already got open. However, doing this is wasteful. We all inherently know this, but think about it from a financial perspective: unused product is just wasted money. If you’re looking to stick to your budget, be vigilant about finishing up an old container before opening a new one.

If you’ve got lotion, mascara, or another product that’s somewhat congealed and hard to use, don’t throw it away! Instead, put the tube in a container of warm water. That should loosen it up so that you can apply it easily.

Look for Discounts
As with any online shopping activity, it’s always a smart idea to look for discount codes and e-coupons before you finalize your purchase. There are a few ways to find them. First, check Retail Me Not for any and all available codes that have been collected. With discounts from over 50,000 stores, it is highly likely that you’ll be able to find a code that you can use.

The next thing you can do is to sign up for individual retailers’ email lists. If you’re willing to put up with a bit more inbox clutter, you’ll be rewarded with savings. Many online retailers offer a big discount when you sign up, kind of as a thank you for receiving their messages, so be sure to try this approach before placing a stock-up order. Also, many sites offer discount codes right on their front page; the catch is that you actually have to enter the code when you check out. It’s easy to forget that! Go slowly when you order.

Finally, if you’re shopping in person at a drug store, sign up for the rewards program. Just about every drug store chain has one. Link it to your email account, use your savings card, and you’ll be eligible for members-only discounts, a few bucks off here and there, and rebates. You’ll want to use your rewards card every time you shop at the drug store, not just when you’re buying cosmetics and skin care, to reap the most savings.

Recycle Old Compacts and Tubes In Exchange For Free Stuff

save on skincareWe all know that recycling is the earth-friendly thing to do. However, with some cosmetics companies, it’s also the budget-friendly thing to do! Many companies offer free products and great discounts in exchange for your empty containers. For example, MAC Cosmetics will give you a free lipstick (a $16 value!) when you return six empty packages to them. Kiehl’s has a similar offer: return ten empty bottles from their store and be rewarded with a free 2.5 ounce product of your choice.

If your store or cosmetics manufacturer of choice does not advertise such a program, ask about one! There may be one that they’re not announcing widely. If they don’t have one at all, you might inspire them to think about the planet and start one.

Use Brands That Are More Affordable
We’ve all seen the high priced luxury cosmetics and skin care products in their proprietary stores — places like Kiehl’s and L’Occitane — and they look so appealing. Surely their price means that they’re better, right? Actually, this is not necessarily true; with cosmetics, as with anything, high price is not necessarily an indicator of superior quality. In fact, you can find some amazing products at affordable prices at the drug store!

For exmaple, L’Occitane makes a wonderful hand cream that costs $28 for a 5 ounce tube. However, Aveeno makes a similar product that is just as effective, but a 3.5 ounce tube costs just $7. This is almost always the case: your drug store can sell you a roughly equivalent product for a fraction of the price. As another example, you can buy an expensive face cleanser like Murdock London Daily Cleansing Facial Wash, but it will run you $24 for a 5.2 ounce bottle. Cetaphil, however, which can be found at any drug store, costs around ten bucks for a 16 ounce bottle. That’s quite a difference!

Your local drug store will probably also have mid-range products that are a good compromise between the luxury brands and the less expensive ones. For example, brands like Burt’s Bees have lotions, soaps, and other all-natural personal care products that may be expensive by drug store standards but are relatively affordable by luxury standards.

Love Your Shade? Find It For Less
Continuing the previous tip, if there’s a particular color or shade that you just love, but it’s made by a luxury manufacturer that charges a lot for their products, see if you can find something comparable in a less expensive brand. If you do this, the great news is that a list of color equivalents has already been created. Called a make-up “dupe” list, they can be found with a simple Google search. This lipstick dupe list is from Money Can Buy Lipstick, and this one is from a Reddit thread. Be aware, however, that making a “dupe” of your favorite shade may involve the blending of two shades. Still, two inexpensive colors will save you over a single very expensive one.

Make Your Own!
If you’re interested in both saving money on cosmetics and skincare products and using products that are all natural and free of potentially toxic ingredients, then you’ll be glad to know that it’s quite easy to make a lot of different types of makeup. The food blog Live Simply is a surprisingly great resource for make-up recipes and formulas: here is one for foundation powder, and here is one for a great hand and body lotion. A web search can turn up lots of others, like this one for a natural shampoo.

Finally, sometimes you don’t even have to make your own cosmetics and skin care items, as there are inexpensive products already on the market that can work as a moisturizer and make-up base. These include things like coconut oil, shea butter, and baby oil, and using them can save you both money and exposure to synthetic chemicals.


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