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Three Easy Ways to Save Money on Beauty Products

You could spend a small fortune on personal care products — from makeup to moisturizers. That’s just what the industry wants, of course. But staying beautiful just got a little bit less expensive with these three surprisingly easy ways to save money on beauty products every day.

How to save money on beauty products.Looking good can be expensive, especially if you’re a woman.

The Huffington Post and YouGov recently polled 1,000 people and found that 35 percent of women use up to two beauty products daily (54 percent of men, on the other hand, don’t use any products in the morning).

Collectively, women spend $426 billion a year on hair, nails, and beauty products. (Unfortunately, Marie Claire found that women are often charged more for such products than men are).

We’re not suggesting you go makeup free, unless you’re in the mood for a back-to-nature experiment. In fact, experts have long noted that there’s a mental health benefit to buying small, luxurious items – like lipstick – during lean, economic times. They reason a small purchase like lipstick boosts a woman’s spirits, since she can’t afford big-ticket items.

We want you to be happy, but still save money. So we asked Jen, the force behind The Budget Beauty Blog, for tips on how to look good without breaking your budget.

1. Sign up for loyalty programs

Every major retailer has some sort of loyalty or reward program. When a consumer signs up, he or she usually receives a card, which entitles them to a discount on the current or future purchases, or free items.

Jen’s favorite loyalty programs in the beauty world are the CVS Beauty Club and Sephora’s Beauty Insider. “If you sign up for the CVS Beauty Club, which is free, you’ll get $5 in Extra Bucks for every $50 you spend on beauty products,” Jen says. “It’s essentially like a $5 gift card you can spend on anything in the store.”

You don’t automatically become a member of the CVS Beauty Club when you join the store’s loyalty program. You must sign up online. Once you do so, you’ll get a 10% off coupon for beauty items in your email inbox.

Sephora’s program rewards you with free items instead of discounts. “The Sephora Beauty Insider gets you a free gift on your birthday, which is usually a deluxe sample of a really coveted product,” Jen says. “You also earn points every time you buy something. You can put them towards free deluxe samples, and free beauty classes.”

If you’re a hardcore beauty fanatic and spend  $350 in a year, you become a VIB (Very Important Beauty Insider) and get everything the Beauty Insiders get, plus advance notice of sales, advance notice of new products and special VIB only gifts.

If you spend $500 in a year, you become a member of VIB Rouge, which gets you everything mentioned above plus free shipping on every online order, surprise gifts, and exclusive Rouge events.

How much you’ll save:  For CVS, it depends on the amount you spend on beauty items in their store. According to Mint, the average woman spends $216 on makeup per year. If you spent that amount on beauty products at CVS, you’d earn $21.60 in CVS Extra Bucks.

At Sephora, if you spend $216, you’ll rack up 216 points. Right now, that will get you free samples of a Dior Diorshow mascara and Origins GinZing Refreshing Eye Cream. Together, the full size versions of those products retail for $55.

2. Buy drugstore “dupes”

If you’ve never heard the term “dupe,” it’s a drugstore version of a high end product.

Often, the cheaper version has the same, or similar, ingredients to the more expensive item. “Many people don’t realize that several high and low end brands are owned by the same company, and that they use the same ingredients in both brands.  For example, L’Oreal owns Lancome,” Jen says. “I’ve found L’Oreal skin creams that contain the same active ingredients as Lancome skin creams.”

The hardest part of dupe shopping is finding which products are matches to one another. “To find a dupe, I usually Google a product with the word ‘dupe’ after it,” she says.

Jen has compiled her favorite dupes on this Pintrest board. For example, she found that Wet n’ Wild’s Take on the Day Shimmer ($4.99) is a close match to Urban Decay’s Sin Primer, but costs about $5 less.

How much you’ll save: You can save anywhere from a few dollars to $30 or $40, depending on the product.

3. Return makeup you don’t like, even if you used it!

Many women assume makeup is like milk – once you open it, you can’t return it just because you don’t like it anymore. Not true, says Jen. “Many women throw away hundreds of dollars of beauty products because they don’t like the color, or it didn’t perform as expected when they got home,” she says. “My advice is to save your receipt and if you don’t like it, bring it back.”

According to Jen, Sephora, CVS and RiteAid will take back any product, for any reason, even if you’ve used it. Some women have reported Target has a similar policy.

How much you’ll save: It depends, of course. But Jen estimates she saves $100 each year returning makeup that doesn’t work for her.

Do you have any cost-saving beauty tips you’d like to share?

Published or updated on February 20, 2014

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About Patty Lamberti

Patty Lamberti is a freelance writer and Professional-in-Residence at Loyola University Chicago, where she teaches journalism and oversees the graduate program in digital media storytelling. If she doesn't know something about money, you can trust she'll track down the right people to find out. You can learn more about her at And if you have any story ideas, or questions about money etiquette that you'd like her or an expert to answer, email her at


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