published Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Phillips: Many generics fine as beauty products


by Ellen Phillips

Q: Beauty products have become terribly expensive. Store brands are supposed to be as good and they’re certainly cheaper, but I’m just not sure they get the job done. Any thoughts? — Babs Beautiful

A: Dear Ms. Beautiful: I’ve looked in several beauty magazines and, even better, researched Good Housekeeping for its investigation in the field.

Some interesting information popped up.

Testers had split views on what products fare better, with shampoo/conditioner and body lotion coming up about even. However, anti-aging face moisturizers and other beauty products differ somewhat. GH tells us how best to decide whether to buy the store or the name brand.

• Check ingredients. Even if the ingredients list is the same, a product might be too different. For example, one of the main elements in the name brand might be active but inactive in the store brand so it’s better to pass on the latter. Obviously, if a primary component is missing from the store brand, the product probably is not what you want.

• Compare the claims. What language is used on both products? Usually, a name brand can correctly claim its product is “clinically proven.” Most store brands simply can’t make that claim, according to GH.

• Where will you use it? Is your skin sensitive, for example, or do you have allergic reactions? Then, GH advises you to stay away from a store brand. (Naturally, this isn’t always the case.) Even basic skin cleansers are different in ways that affect the skin, which is normally more sensitive than the rest of one’s body.

• Stick to store brand products that work for you instantly. Hairsprays are a good bet, as are body lotions. These days, many companies provide a return policy, provided you’ve kept the receipt so if you don’t like the product (or, if it doesn’t like you), you can take it back.

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at under Local Business.

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