Is It Worth It? Rising Cost of Cosmetics – Frugal Tips to Save Money & Look Great « Frugal Café Blog Zone

Is It Worth It? Rising Cost of Cosmetics – Frugal Tips to Save Money & Look Great

Posted By on March 29, 2009

By Vicki McClure Davidson * Frugal Café Blog Zone

High-end cosmetics and grooming items have always cost a small fortune, but they’ve truly escalated in price during our past year of recession. With a limited budget, it’s more difficult for you to keep your allotted “beauty dollars” in-line with a diminished income or increased costs in other areas, such as food, utilities, mortgage, insurance, and car payments.

Good grief, a tube of Estée Lauder Pure Color Crystal Lipstick is now retailing for $22.00. Lacôme’s sunscreen products start around $29.00 and go up from there. Chanel’s Ombre Essentielle Soft Touch Eyeshadow and its Inimitable Waterproof Mascara are both $27.50, with its Stylo Yeaux Waterproof Eyeliner costing a dollar less. Elizabeth Arden has a variety of fragranced body lotions branded by celebrities like Mariah Carey, Usher, Britney Spears, Elizabeth Taylor, and Hilary Duff—none are priced below $20.00 and they all are less than 7 fluid ounces. Is it worth it?

Usher She Lotion: Is it worth it?

Usher She Lotion: Is it worth it?

Why does a 6.7 fl. oz. bottle of Usher’s She Moisture Body Lotion cost $38.00? This computes to about $5.67 a fluid ounce, or $90.72 for 16 fluid ounces, or a “fluid pound”; a half-gallon of the lotion (64 fluid ounces) would cost $362. Fluid ounces are a measure of volume and are different than avoirdupois ounces, which are a measure of weight. There probably is no such thing as a “fluid pound,” but it kinda puts the high cost in context, like buying meat or tomatoes. Fluid ounce measurements vary slightly between the US and the UK. Both US gallons and “Imperial” (UK) gallons contain 8 pints—but the US pint is 16 fluid ounces, while the Imperial pint is 20 fluid ounces. So an Imperial gallon contains more fluid than the US gallon. Ounces get a lot more complicated from there. With fluid ounces, different fluids weigh different amounts. The weight of 1 fluid ounce of water is less than the weight of 1 fluid ounce of molten lead.

As I said, it gets complicated. And it makes my head hurt, so that’s the end of the math lesson.

Back to “if it’s worth it.” It’s your money to spend, your call on how you spend it. If you think celebrity cosmetics are worth the high price tag, you’re free to spend your money on them. But if you’re not sure, here’s the promo description of the Usher She body lotion, a lofty sales pitch of its esoteric qualities to explain (or justify) its pricey-ness:

“USHER Moisture Body Lotion leaves skin touchably soft with Shea Butter and Vitamins A, C & E. Mysterious and addictive, this fragrance imparts a mouth watering sensation with a sexy heart. Voluptuous florals add sophistication and femininity. The fragrance reveals its intense allure with captivating amber and rich woody undertones.”

Florals are “mysterious” and woody undertones are “mouth watering”? Bizarre ad copy is trying waaay too hard…

Is it worth it? Again, your money, your call, eye of the beholder and all that good stuff. But if you want/need to be frugal, you’re better off financially by steering clear of anything this stunningly expensive for something that isn’t an imperative for life or survival, since there are thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of thriftier cosmetic alternatives.

Anything branded with a celebrity’s name costs more than a non-branded counterpart. Always. Anything advertised in a fashion magazine or on TV costs more. Always. Companies pay millions of dollars to have Mariah’s name on a lotion or to run a full-page glossy ad in Cosmopolitan. Someone has to pay for that additional marketing cost. That someone doesn’t have to be you.

How can you beat down the hits to your wallet that the high costs of makeup and grooming aids inflict? Here are four suggestions:

1. Do Without, Recycle, & Repurpose: Tightening the belt can be difficult, but if you are serious about being frugal, think about scaling back on how much makeup you wear. Stop buying cosmetics altogether for a set period of time, like six months. Be more of a hippie, if possible, and wear little to no makeup. You might be surprised about how good your own skin looks and feels without artificial enhancement.

Giving up all cosmetics for a more natural look may turn your stomach, so instead, review and recycle what you already have.

If you’ve been using beauty products for a number of years, you have likely accumulated a gazillion beauty and grooming items. Look under your bathroom sink or in the bottom bathroom drawer, look in that spare makeup bag that is still in your suitcase from your visit with your folks last fall. You’d be amazed at how many beauty items you’ve accumulated.

Pull them all together into a huge pile and evaluate. What is still serviceable? Some makeup items, like mascara, need to be discarded for health reasons before they’re used up because harmful bacteria can grow quickly in the vacuum of the tube (6 months is the recommended shelf life of a mascara tube once it’s been opened). Other items, like eyebrow pencils or powders, can last for years without any harmful effects, especially if they’ve been stored in a cool, dark place. Check to see if the oils have separated. Smell the product; if it’s gone bad, it will often smell “funky” or rancid (especially true of lipsticks).

Like “mix-matching” a wardrobe, you can blend colors of blush or eye shadow you have on hand to get a new look for free. Use up all those trial sizes you’ve collected of shampoos, moisturizers, soaps, face scrubs, and body lotions. Most last a few days, and if you have a good supply, can satisfactorily fill the gaps in your beauty regime for months without any financial investment. Same with those sample vials of fragrances.

Trade with friends and family if you all have sample cosmetic items you can’t use. For instance, you may have an oily complexion and have a dozen samples of different heavy moisturizers you can’t use, but your mother would love. You may have a fair complexion and have no desire to use a sunscreen with a low SPF of 4.

Try repurposing. Rather than investing in a white contour powder for your cheeks, use a white or beige powder eye shadow that you already have on hand. Be careful using lotions on your face that weren’t tested for the eye area or face; these can have fragrances or ingredients added that can cause allergic reactions or sensitivities. Fragranced items used around the eye region can cause tearing, burning, and puffiness.

2. Find Cheaper Outlets: There are many online cosmetic outlets that offer designer and name-brand items for less money. Google search “cheaper beauty aids” or “cheaper cosmetics” or just the name of your favorite brand.

Bear in mind that shipping costs could diminish your savings to the point that it isn’t cost-effective, and could cost you the same or more. Local discount outlet stores such as Ross or Alta have frugal alternatives. You’ll need to visit the stores often since the inventory changes frequently and is unpredictable.

3. Shop the Dollar/99-Cent Stores: Great place for stock overruns and alternative brands. If you’re not satisfied with what you bought, the dollar you invested is a far cry better than forking over 20 or 30 times that. I’ve found these stores are limited and are sometimes “hit and miss” in makeup items, but usually are a haven for a variety of body lotions and creams, sunscreen products, bath products, shampoos and hair care products, body sloughing products, and basic hygiene care (like Epsom salts for sore feet, baby powder for dryness and freshness in shoes, under arms, “netherland” regions). Sometimes even high-end hair coloring products and hair straightening products make their way to the 99-Cent Only stores. Cheaper isn’t always “better,” but often, it is “good enough.”

Lemons are cheap and can be used in frugal skin care and grooming. | Photo credit: Paulo Neo,

Lemons are cheap and can be used in frugal skin care and grooming. | Photo credit: Paulo Neo,

4. Make Your Own: Tough times sometimes call for creative decisions. Rather than going without, many women are turning to concocting their own homemade beauty aids using vegetables, fruits, herbs, eggs, coffee, and basic ingredients like oatmeal, salt, baking soda, flour, and vinegar. I really like these methods, since they are cheaper, do a good job (sometimes much better than expensive designer products), are “green,” and hearken back to the frugal beauty recipes and simpler methods our grandmothers used to pinch pennies. Many luxury spas use lemons, cucumbers, pumpkin, avocados, and other foods in natural “environmentally conscious” skin treatments (but with hefty price tags attached).

Read the Frugal Café’s article on cheaper beauty and grooming tips and recipes for grooming items: Beauty Is As Beauty Does: Great Ways to Reduce Your Grooming & Beauty Aid Expenses.

You have to ask yourself if it’s worth it to you to spend so much on non-essentials. It’s a personal question.

If you have no problem spending $30 for a sunscreen or $25 for a face scrub, that’s your choice. But, likely for you and definitely for me, slashing costs on beauty and grooming expenditures will leave an extra chunk of money each month, which can be spent paying for something else that’s more dire. Like the heating bill or a tank of gas.

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About the author

I'm a conservative frugalist. My priorities: Watchdogging the government, making sure our tax dollars are spent wisely, living within our budgets (at home and in Washington, DC), and adhering to our Constitution and the conservative principles upon which it was developed by our founding fathers. Also, loving God, my family, and my country. Be wise, be frugal. God bless America!      


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