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By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 8/6/2007 7:15:57 PM ET 2007-08-06T23:15:57

Think you don’t use very many skin-care products? Think again.

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The American Academy of Dermatology reports that the average adult uses at least seven different skin-care products each day, including sunscreens, makeup, perfume, aftershave, shampoo, skin cleansers, moisturizers and deodorants. (Yes, guys, this column applies to you too!)

Clearly, you don’t have to be a big makeup wearer to be forking over more dough in this category than you realize.

These tips can help you avoid spending too much on all that stuff for your skin.

1. Start by not spending anything at all. You’re likely to be given a stash of free samples to try at home if you get a free makeover at a department store. Even if you don’t get a makeover, you can often reap big rewards by politely asking for free product samples at department stores, cosmetology schools, beauty-supply stores and even drug stores.

2. Score free samples online. You often can get free samples and obtain valuable coupons by filling out simple forms on the Web sites of many of your favorite product lines. Another route you can take: Do a quick Internet search for the name of your favorite product line along with the word “coupons” or “samples.”

3. Seek out sales and special deals. Check the Sunday newspaper for ads for drug stores, discount retailers and department stores in your area. Be on the lookout for two-for-one deals on, say, all Revlon products, or on your favorite soaps or lotions, and stock up when such sales hit.

4. Verify the hypoallergenic hype. Before you pay extra for products that claim to be alcohol-free or to limit skin irritations and allergies, check out the claims here. This Consumers Union site explains labels such as “hypoallergenic” and “unscented” and lets you search for information on items found in the site’s “personal hygiene” product areas.

5. Stay alert at the drug store. You can find super-low-priced, obscure or generic brands of cosmetics as well as makeup supplies, such as brushes, application sponges and powder puffs, by taking a very thorough pass through the store’s entire cosmetics and skin-care sections. Many generic brands offer the same level of quality as name-brand products. Remember to look for tucked-away deals at the ends of aisles and long display walls.

6. Time your trips to big department stores. By timing your cosmetics purchases correctly, you can nab free gift bags that contain all sorts of expensive items – and if these are items you’re likely to use, you’ll have saved a bundle. Early fall and early spring tend to be good times to obtain good gift bags. You can call ahead to find out what’s available.

7. Remember to look in unusual places. You can sometimes find great deals on a wide variety of products at neighborhood beauty-supply stores, dollar stores, flea markets, warehouse stores, discount clothing stores in strip malls, and low-profile five-and-dime stores.

8. Pursue discounts on brand names. You can buy brand-name products at a discount via Beauty Boutique’s catalog or through its Web site. To order a free catalog, call (800) 816-5313.

9. Do the math. When shopping for skin-care products, don’t be distracted by the attractive packaging or the overall sticker price. Figure out how much you’ll be paying per ounce so you can make accurate cost comparisons. Be aware that some foundations vary in size from as little as 0.17 ounces to as much as 1.4 ounces – even though the size of the packaging might not look all that different.

10. Check makeup colors in the daylight. It’s hard to tell how something really looks on you in the dull, fluorescent lighting of a drug store or the bright, warm lighting at a department store’s cosmetics counter. Before you splurge, try on the testers or ask a sales associate for help applying samples. If possible, leave the makeup on for several hours so you can see how it holds up.

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