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We Used Science to Find Alternatives to Pricey Products You Thought You Needed

alternative beauty buys

Avocado toast and Starbucks aren’t the only things draining our wallets. The pressure of looking Can I see your ID-worthy has been following us since Lip Smackers were cool. And according to an infographic compiled by Mint.com, women will spend an average of $15,000 on makeup alone in their lifetime.

Not surprising though. Outlets and newsletters constantly deliver headlines like “items worth every penny.” But in today’s economy, many of these items fall more into should we care? We break down five trendy buys and give you real self-care alternatives.

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$400 on hair care or just use air?

We’ve all heard about the “game-changer” Dyson Supersonic hair dryer, which is supposed to be quieter, more efficient, and keeps your hair happy. But you don’t need to swap out your Walgreens dryer.

Use that extra 20 minutes for some much-needed rest instead. The all-natural, bed head look is in — as it should be — so it’s never been a better time to flaunt that laid-back, lazy girl vibe you left back in middle school.

hair care

Or keep your dryer setting on low and dry your hair a little — let the air do the extra work on your morning commute. If you need to tame frizziness and unexpected poofs from wet hair, work a little — like, very little — coconut oil into your hair to help control flyaways, protect your hair, and strengthen your tendrils.

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Self-care alternative: With the $400 you didn’t spend, indulge in a massage package or split up that money into several hair sessions with a stylist you love.

Get a glow from your groceries, not lip balm and powders

While we can’t emphasize enough the importance of using a lip balm with SPF in it, you can safely pass on lip treatments and superfoods packed with “vitamins” and “antioxidants.” Same goes for wellness products touting fancy ingredients like nascent iodine or eleuthero root.

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The science behind antioxidants is generally inconclusive about the direct benefits and even less conclusive for superfoods you’ve never heard of. And sometimes, you may be buying into a pretty picture.

groceries

Molly Young, from The New York Times Magazine reported that the activated cashews and dusts from celebrity-favorite health food company Moon Juice, can also be found at a fraction of the cost on male-centric Infowars.

There might not even be that big of a difference between “activated cashews” and regular old Planters. Take a peek into your medicine cabinet and determine if it was the product or the packaging that made you buy it.

Self-care alternative: The most effective way to get antioxidants is through consumption as your body can absorb the nutrients directly. So spend that $25-35 on foods rich in vitamins and antioxidants instead or go on a picnic with your friends — there’s a lot of benefits to being outdoors and sleeping under the stars.

Toss the $400 facial brush and try your fingertips

The skincare industry has attempted to change your facial cleansing routine for decades, but how many of those efforts are here to stay? Personalized facial cleansing brushes like Foreo or Clarisonic that also claim antiaging, aren’t doing the work. In fact, most estheticians have stopped using these devices altogether.

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facial brush

“Fingertips are always better [than devices],” says Lisa Pfeiffer of the Santa Barbara, California based Peaches Skincare. Anything that rotates in a harsh, circular motion can actually tear the skin.

She reminds us, “Your skin is a smart organ, so it knows what it needs to do to stay healthy.”

Self-care alternative: Rather than splurging on a device that’ll hurt your skin, get to know it. Drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen, eat fruits and vegetables, and perhaps, book a semi-regular date with your facialist.

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Please your pores with a wash, not a coat of powder

Now that water conservation and convenience is on the rise, the purchase of dry shampoo is up … like, way up, according to this infographic by Toni&Guy Hairdressing Academy.

powder

These days, every brand from Living Proof to Pantene sells their own version of the stuff, turning women on to the idea that washing your hair can be a once a week endeavor.

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Turns out, that’s not always good for you, especially if you’re using products and letting them buildup on your scalp. Regular washing is just as important for keeping the pores on your head clear. So keep on washing!

Self-care alternative: Soak up some oily strands with baby powder and call it a day!

Flawless, naturally — for less than $400

Airbrush machines that spray on foundation can set you back upwards of $400 and will cake on makeup for up to 12 hours. Unless you’re in the movie business or plan on filming in HD regularly, the benefits of splurging on a personal airbrush device should be slim.

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vitamin c

Self-care alternative: Save that cash and get a real glow with products that have vitamin C, niacinamide, and arbutin. These dermatologist-recommended ingredients are known to help reduce pigmentation, fine lines, and blemishes. Keep these items in your routine and make it a goal to love yourself makeup free.

Stop underselling yourself

Investing in personal care is a form of self-care that allows you to feel most comfortable in your own skin. But with each new trend comes a price tag, so take the time to ask if you’re buying into the picture or product.

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Invest in your well-being with alternatives that have scientifically proven products and ingredients. These will deliver long-lasting results down the road.

Smart beauty buys:

  1. Massages, facials, and other self-care indulgences that you can’t DIY
  2. Water to stay hydrated — not coffee or soda, even if it’s free
  3. Antioxidant-rich foods such as blueberries, dark chocolate, or artichokes
  4. Skincare ingredients with proven benefits, such as vitamin C, niacinamide, and arbutin
  5. Baby powder and a brush, for DIY dry shampoo

Quick fixes aren’t the answer, and when it comes to self-care it should be about finding what fits you and your budget best.


Meaghan Clark Tiernan is a San Francisco-based journalist whose work has appeared in Racked, Refinery29, and Lenny Letter.

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