Lessons Learned from a Minor Frugal Beauty Fiasco

mirrorI was recently thwarted in my efforts to be frugal!

Here’s what happened: I ran out of shampoo, conditioner, and moisturizer all in the same week, so I dutifully recycled my Kérastase, Bumble & Bumble, and Dr. Hauschka containers, and resigned myself to going to my local chain pharmacy and buying cheaper brands. I figured I’d try out some Garnier hair products and a Neutrogena moisturizer (Neutrogena has often been my frugal skincare alternative in life).

I was frankly dismayed by how gigantic the Garnier containers were (what if I hated these products?), but I felt pretty confident about my Neutrogena purchase; I picked the Healthy Skin face lotion with SPF 15, multi vitamins, and alpha-hydroxy.

Well, turns out that not only does Garnier make my hair look and feel like straw, but I’m totally allergic to the new moisturizer I tried! Which isn’t a big surprise since my skin is ridiculously sensitive, but usually Neutrogena products work well for me. (I actually really like their fragrance-free soaps and sunblocks!) So now I’m kind of stuck with these products, and instead of SAVING money, I WASTED money. Grrr.

In an attempt to make the most out of my frugal fiasco, I’ve been using the shampoo and conditioner anyway, though I’ve been putting my hair up a lot to hide how it really looks. (This is also my version of a “comb-over,” since in another attempt to be frugal I’m getting my grey roots dyed less often.) And I’m using the moisturizer on my body instead of my face, since the rest of me is slightly less sensitive.

But you know what they say, hindsight is 20/20, and only afterward did I realize that I should have:

Checked the travel toiletries section for travel-sized versions of the cheap shampoos/conditioners I wanted to try – duh!


Taken a hint from all the beauty bloggers out there! They get free samples all the time, right? But you don’t need a beauty blog; beauty and skincare Web sites often offer free samples (especially for new products), discount coupons, and online sale prices.

(Now, I’m waiting for free samples of my new Aveeno Nourish+ haircare products to arrive. I’ve got a writing gig with a glamorous Beverly Hills dermatologist and beauty connoisseur who swears by them.)

Alternatively, you can also get great beauty deals by:

  • Signing up for email newsletters from beauty, style, and fashion sites
  • Submitting your email address to the mailing lists of beauty/skincare product sites
  • Getting the skinny on deals from beauty bloggers who spend way more time thinking about this stuff than you do
  • Subjecting yourself to department store beauty counters and asking for samples
  • Befriending/dating someone who works in the beauty biz (not only do they get a ton of free stuff, but they usually get discounts on products made by their company, as well as their parent company’s other brands)
  • Hitting beauty/skincare product sample sales
  • Buying your European beauty products in Europe (or getting a benevolent vacationing friend to bring them back for you)
  • Shopping online at well-known discount sites

Let me know if you’ve got any other frugal beauty tips!

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