Whether you’re shopping for moisturiser or shampoo, there has never been more choice in your local pharmacy or supermarket.
And with prices for everyday essentials varying from just a few pence to well into two figures, you can make some serious savings by shopping smarter and avoiding those pricier products that are no better than budget rivals.
We’ve spoken to the experts to find out when buying the budget version will do as good a job as premium alternatives.
There are more than 100 toothpastes available in supermarkets, with prices starting at less than £1 and rising to more than £10. Toothpastes with claims that they repair gums or with extracts of charcoal sit on the shelf alongside supermarket own-brand toothpastes costing as little as 50p. So how do you choose?
The key ingredient in toothpaste is fluoride and, unless you have dental issues such as sensitivity, this is the only ingredient you really need to look for. Aim for a toothpaste with the highest concentration between 1,000ppmF and 1,500ppm – check this on the tube or box. 1,450ppmF is the figure you’re likely to see most often on adult toothpastes. Most of the other ingredients in a standard toothpaste are only there for taste and texture.
If you have sensitive teeth, brushing with toothpaste specially formulated for this may help, but, dental experts say you might get more effective relief by gently rubbing the sensitive toothpaste over the affected area with a finger after brushing, or at a different time from your usual brushing times.
Tooth sensitivity is usually temporary, so you may not need to use a special toothpaste for long. You should also check with your dentist that your sensitivity isn’t down to another issue such as a cavity.
If you want whiter teeth, you are better off looking at the things in your diet that might be causing discolouration and staining rather than buying whitening toothpaste, as its whitening effects are likely to be small.
Do you need to spend more to get a decent toothpaste?
For most people, the answer is no. As long as the fluoride concentration is correct, go ahead and buy as cheap a toothpaste as you like. For more on the claims made by toothpaste brands, read our guide on choosing the best toothpaste
The consensus among experts is that all shampoos are going to clean your hair pretty much as well as each other, whether they cost £1 or £100. They all contain a surfactant (detergent), the most common being sodium laureth sulphate, although free-from and sulphate-free shampoos will contain different cleaning ingredients.
With pricier shampoos you are largely paying for fragrance and brand. Although some secondary ingredients may suit your hair, they are likely to have limited effects, as shampoo is a rinse-off product.
For all cosmetic products, manufacturers have to list the ingredients that their product contains, but not the quantity. However, the higher up the list the ingredient is, the more of it there is – the first five ingredients listed are by far the most relevant.
Dr Laura Waters of the University of Huddersfield says: ‘If you don’t use conditioner, you might want to choose a shampoo with conditioning agents in it (although most shampoos will include something of this nature) as the smoothing action of conditioner can help stop dirt and dust re-attaching to your hair for longer. But a separate conditioner will serve this purpose better.’
Do you need to spend more to get a decent shampoo?
If you have dandruff or other skin conditions, a shampoo designed to help your skin problem makes sense, otherwise there’s no need to splash out.
3. Sun cream
As long as it has adequate UVA and UVB protection, your sun cream should do its job no matter what the cost. Some products may feel less greasy, be absorbed more quickly or leave less of a white cast, but all will protect your skin.
When we’ve tested sun cream, we found no link between price and effectiveness. Both cheap and expensive sun creams scored well in our application tests. Find out which ones topped our tests as the best sun creams for 2018.
Much of what you pay for is going to be packaging, fragrance and name. However, there are a number of active ingredients that manufacturers can choose to use in their formulations, and some are more expensive than others.
Sun cream expert Saul Pyle, of Skinterest Consulting, says you don’t need to splurge on sun scream but, at the same time, it’s so important to wear it that if the one you like the feel of is a bit more expensive, it might be worth the extra if it encourages you to wear it. You could still save by using a cheaper product for your body and save the more expensive sunscreen for your face.
Do I need to spend more to get a decent sun cream?
No. But if spending more on something you like means that you’re more likely to use it, then it could be worth it.
The purpose of moisturiser is to help our skin barrier function (the mechanism by which our skin keeps us hydrated) essentially by holding our body water inside. Moisturisers can temporarily help the appearance of fine lines and make the skin look plumper. But there is no long-term effect, and spending a fortune on moisturiser will not make you look younger in the long-term, no matter what a product promises.
Dermatologist and spokesperson for the British Association of Dermatologists, Dr Anjali Mahto, says that if your primary concern is anti-ageing, the only things that have any substantial body of evidence for anti-ageing are sunscreen – by far the most important factor – and retinol/retinoids.
When it comes to simple moisturising, you don’t need to spend much. Look for the type of ingredients that suit your skin. There are three main types of moisturising ingredients that can be found in creams of all price ranges:
- Humectants are good for oily skin, as they work by binding water from deeper layers of skin and pulling it towards the surface layer. Hyaluronic acid is a common humectant.
- Occlusives form a protective layer over the skin to prevent water loss, but this can block pores, so are best-suited to dry skin types. They are usually oil-based; lanolin is a popular occlusive.
- Emollients fill in gaps between skin cells to soothe skin and improve its appearance. They tend to work well for skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. They can be oil-based or water-based and include ingredients such as shea or cocoa butter.
Do I need to spend more to get a decent moisturiser?
No. If you are buying a cream based on its anti-ageing properties, bear in mind that retinol/retinoids and sun cream are the only things that currently have a strong body of evidence.
We asked the experts to look at the evidence on a number of everyday health items so you can decide if they are worth spending on in 15 health products you don’t need.