12 Personal Care Products to Use – and 12 to Skip

By   

View as:

young woman selecting skincare in store
Photo credit: JackF/istockphoto

There are plenty of cosmetics, toiletries, and other personal-care products out there that claim to help us look and feel our best. But which ones are worth the money, and which ones are better off staying on the store shelves? From sunscreen to hair dryers, we've rounded up a dozen tried-and-true favorites that have earned the praise of buyers and experts, and a dozen others that should make you think twice.

Estee Lauder Double Wear Stay-in-Place Makeup in Wheat
Photo credit: Courtesy of esteelauder.com

Price: $42 | Buy it at Ulta
Tired of foundation that seems to just slide off your face as the day wears on? Ulta reviewers say this matte-finish Estee Lauder formula lives up to its long-lived billing, and over 40 shades mean you can find the exact match for your skin.

array of powder foundations
Photo credit: InkkStudios/istockphoto

Unless you have very oily skin, chances are that powder foundation is a no-go. That's because these products can age you by settling into fine lines and drying out skin, Good Housekeeping cautions.
L'Oreal Paris Voluminous Superstar Mascara in Black
Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

Price: $9.76 | Buy it at Walmart
Celebrity makeup artists unanimously recommend this drugstore cheapie, which they say is a winner because it lengthens and thickens equally well. It's available in both washable and waterproof versions.

stroke of black mascara with applicator brush
Photo credit: shumskaya/istockphoto

Experts agree that splurging on high-end mascara probably isn't worth it. High-end and mass-market formulas are usually produced in the same labs, they say. And since mascara has a short shelf life, spending a lot on each tube doesn't make sense.
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil
Photo credit: Courtesy of dermstore.com

Price: $28 | Buy it at DermStore
This all-purpose cleanser easily "melts off" makeup and doesn't leave a residue, according to happy DermStore reviewers. The formula includes olive oil and vitamin E to keep skin moist.

young woman removing makeup with makeup wipes
Photo credit: MilanMarkovic/istockphoto

Yes, they are oh-so-temptingly convenient when you're exhausted and just want to fall into bed. But these pre-moistened wipes can leave behind a chemical residue that can dry out and irritate your skin, dermatologists say.
Benefit Benetint Cheek & Lip Stain
Photo credit: Courtesy of benefitcosmetics.com

Price: $30 | Buy it at Sephora
This longtime favorite gets a shout-out from Vogue for creating that hard-to-replicate natural flush that comes when blood rushes to our cheeks -- and hundreds of fans at Sephora agree. The sheer color is kiss- and smudge-resistant.

woman looking in mirror, blending her makeup for a natural look
Photo credit: PeopleImages/istockphoto

Sure, stars may walk the red carpet with bright pink cheeks, but that's a look best left in the hands in professionals. For everyday life, stick with a shade that matches, well, how you actually blush and you won't accidentally veer into clown territory.
Equate Sport Lotion SPF 50
Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

Price: $4.98 | Buy it at Walmart
Could it be? This humble, inexpensive Walmart store brand takes a top placement in Consumer Reports testing, notching high marks for its UVA and UVB protection and beating many pricier brands. It's water-resistant for up to 80 minutes and is one of Cheapism's top picks for best sunscreen.

female hands with sun protection cream
Photo credit: penyushkin/istockphoto

More is always better, right? Not really, experts tell WebMD. An SPF 30 sunscreen will block 97 percent of UVB rays; upgrading to SPF 45 blocks only 98 percent. None offer 100 percent protection, so don't pay a premium for those ultra-high SPF 100 formulas.
Art Naturals Argan Oil Shampoo and Conditioner
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

Price: $26.13 | Buy it at Amazon
This set is a No. 1 best seller among Amazon's dizzying array of shampoos and conditioners. Reviewers rave that the salon-quality formula leaves hair strong and shiny. There are no potentially damaging parabens or sulfates, either.

woman with hair loss problem
Photo credit: mraoraor/istockphoto

Thin hair is an increasing concern as we age, and experts say there are some ingredients that can speed hair loss. They include sodium laurel sulfate, or SLS, which can cause a shampoo to foam up and produce all those lovely bubbles, but in the process robs hair of essential oils and proteins.
Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

Price: $6.12 | Buy it at Amazon
A panel of testers at The Wirecutter gives Aveeno the thumbs-up over several competing brands. Why? It's easy to rub in, smells inoffensive and is less greasy -- and less pricey -- than other lotions.

woman in grocery store, smelling body lotion
Photo credit: zoranm/istockphoto

While this may come down to personal preference, fragrances in body lotion can easily become overpowering, given that it's slathered all over the skin. And fragrances are among the most common allergens in skin care products, so anyone with sensitive skin will want to steer clear.
Differin Gel Acne Treatment
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

Price: $11.99 | Buy it at Amazon
If you're still struggling with occasional breakouts, this retinoid gel -- the first approved for over-the-counter use -- can make quick work of them. An Allure "Best of Beauty" award winner, it treats both clogged pores and inflammation.

teenage girl putting acne medication on pimple
Photo credit: Klubovy/istockphoto

Benzoyl peroxide has long been a go-to active ingredient for managing acne, but at higher concentrations (10 percent is the max) it can leave skin dry and red. Experts say lower amounts will do just fine without irritating skin.
R.E.M. Spring Facial Hair Remover
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

Price: $17.95 | Buy it at Amazon
Tired of tweezing those pesky facial hairs? Devotees highly recommend this easy-to-bend stainless-steel spring, perfect for more quickly grabbing unwanted hairs -- root and all -- from the lips, chin and other sensitive areas.

female three-blade razor with pink handle
Photo credit: dstaerk/istockphoto

Sure, men shave their faces all the time, but women who want to remove facial hair discretely and cheaply are still better off trying other methods, experts say. Results are short-lived, and hairs are left with blunt ends that make them appear more coarse when they grow back in.
Oral-B Glide Floss Picks
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

Price: $21.02 | Buy it at Amazon
Plastic picks and shred-resistant floss are a good combination, especially for reluctant flossers. Amazon reviewers say these picks make a tedious chore a lot less awkward, and many say they are less prone to breakage and do better between crowded teeth than other varieties.

woman using water flosser
Photo credit: MilanMarkovic/istockphoto

Water flossers are convenient and trendy, and they can help remove debris, especially in the case of people who have braces, dental work, or other special situations. But they may not grab all sticky plaque, and experts still recommend traditional flossing for thorough cleaning.
Oral-B Pro 1000 Power Toothbrush
Photo credit: Courtesy of walmart.com

Price: $45 | Buy it at Walmart
Upgrading from a manual makes sense -- researchers have given electrics a slight edge for combatting plaque and gingivitis -- but a basic one will do just fine. Reviewers give a nod to the basic Oral-B Pro 1000, which has a pressure sensor and a timer that helps you brush each area equally. It's also one of Cheapism's favorite electric toothbrushes.

young African American woman texting on her phone
Photo credit: tommaso79/istockphoto

These pricey models, which allow you sync your toothbrush with your phone and track your brushing habits there, are more novelty than genuine necessity, experts tell The Wirecutter. They also warn that these brushes are no substitute for the expert feedback of a real dentist.
Revlon Pro Collection Salon Infrared Styler
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

Price: $16.69 | Buy it at Walmart
Sure, you could spend $400 on this well-reviewed Dyson, but ... ouch. Buyers praise this inexpensive Revlon for fast and gentle drying at a low price; it's also one of Cheapism's favorite budget hair dryers.

woman with hair-drier
Photo credit: ivanmateev/istockphoto

Unless your hair is super thick or coarse, blow dryers with very high heat settings aren't worth seeking out, experts say. What's more, they can lead to over-drying and damage if you use high heat for too long, and low heat is best for thinner hair or hair that isn't dripping wet.

Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.