What to look for in hygiene products?

It would really take a long time, effort and money for me to determine which hygiene product is the best by trying out each product individually and seeing which one is better.

I was hoping that there are specific things that would make one bottle of shampoo work better than another one.

Can anyone tell me how I can tell if one hygiene product is better than the next. Specifically toothpaste, shampoo, body soap, face soap, or any lotion.

I think thus may be a difficult question to answer because people have different needs.

For example, I could tell you that “So Sleek” is the best when it comes to shampoo. My husband thinks that using olive oil would get better results.

I could tell you that Dove is a wonderfully neutral soap, but my husband could tell you that it does nothing for issues such as stink.

Even discussing formulas would be difficult because not every one agrees with a standard:

I could tell you that ‘expensive hair salon’ shampoos are better because they are concentrated. Someone else could tell you that it’s all the same and that Suave works just as good and saves you money.

On top of that, you’d have to account for personal preferences, such as scent and taste. Brand A toothpaste may be the best, but if you think it tastes awful, there is no point in using it.

Paula Begoun has written several books on this type of thing, but as far as I know, she has only written about cosmetics.

Two possible ways to proceed:

  1. Buy and read Consumer’s Report religiously. They in fact buy four dozen different shampoos and compare them.

  2. Adopt my philosophy, which is that most ordinary consumer products have reached the ‘good enough’ stage through competition with each other having lead to the poorer ones dying off or being improved.
    As in, there are 60 different laundry detergents on the shelf of my grocer. Absolutely every one of them will get out all the dirt in your clothes assuming your clothes fall within the ‘ordinary’ range of dirtiness. (So if you are an automechanic or smelter or something, then you have to be more picky.)

I’m not saying they are identical, but if there were ten categories of judging them (like, how white do the whites get, how much odor do they get out, how little damage do they do to your clothes) and you could award from 0 to 10 points in each category, the cumulative score for every single one would fall in the 88 to 98 point range. And anything above 70 will do a ‘Good Enough’ job on your clothes. Do you really need whites that are glow in the dark bright?

So choose on some other basis: Which one did your mom always use, so that’s the one that smells ‘right’ to you? Which jug is easiest to pour from? Which brand is on sale this week? Whose commercials do you like best?

Pick on any basis you choose, and it doesn’t matter: they ALL are GOOD ENOUGH.
And that goes for soap and toothpaste and mouthwash and shampoo and any of the other ordinary consumed goods. One of them might be a half step better at the moment, but genuine improvements quickly spread to all the other offerings in the same category.

I’ve got better things to waste my rapidly aging neurons on that trying to be sure I’m picking the #1 everything all the time. Good enough is good enough for me.

The Baboon who posted above mentioned Paula Begoun, thus demonstrating that this baboon is considerably smarter than most of its kind. Paula has written several books (“The Beauty Bible”, “Don’t Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me”, something similar about hair products . . . ) that both explain (in a nonscientific way; she’s a journalist, not a chemist) formulations of cosmetics and review individual ones. The reviews are brief, and focus on problem ingredients, but they’re fairly helpful. She’s got a website up at http://www.cosmeticscop.com/ - it’s a nice resource. I have several of her books, and they’re quite fascinating (to me) and pretty solidly informative.

You asked about shampoo, though. Shampoo (and hair products in general) are surprisingly similar. There just aren’t that many different chemicals that the formulations use. There are a few problematic detergents, that will tend to be harsher to the hair or more irritating to the scalp, and those are to be avoided, but there’s nothing that sets salon hair products apart from the drug store options. Personal preference is a lot of it.

Skin care products, again, can’t be judged on their prices, but their formulations differ a lot more. There are all sorts of facial cleansers that won’t cleanse your skin - or will irritate it (and promote breakouts). Plenty of others have strong scents that can cause allergies or do harm to you. Again, the site above sells Paula’s line of skin care products. (Her motives seem fairly pure: her books don’t recommend her stuff to the exclusion of all else; my impression is that she wants to earn some money while selling decent, well-formulated products.) They’re all unfragranced, and I’ve used her oily-skin cleanser for years. I’ve never found a product to equal it. The products are also very reasonably priced - a little cheaper, in fact, than the average drugstore brand.

But it’s hard to make any sweeping statements. Stay away from anything that makes your skin tingle (they tend to be irritating) and anything with strong scents (same thing, plus the possibility of an allergic reaction). Higher priced products may be virtually identical to drugstore brands - or even worse. Most of the drugstore brands are owned by the same parent companies as the higher-end brands, and many of them sell virtually identical products.

Personally, I stay away from salon brands, any kind of soap - as opposed to a detergent cleanser, anything for my face with any fragrance whatsoever, and anything with annoying TV commercials. That’s about all I can suggest without getting into all sorts of specifics. You might check to see if Ms. Begoun’s books are available at your library. Page through the informational front section, and check the reviews of specific products. They helped me get my face reasonably smooth, at any rate.

StarvingButStrong’s pretty much right here, though. There are a few very bad products, and if you have problematic skin you should do some real research, but in general, if you’ve got ok skin and hair, there’s no product that’s gonna make you look amazingly better, and very few that’ll hurt you. There aren’t any silver bullets; all the products out there are mixed from the same set of chemicals, mostly from the same suppliers, and there’s just not all that much difference between 'em.

That is what tweaks me off about most ‘non animal tested’ cosmetics…if you adhere to the national formulary you can get from the USDA, and don’t add items that are not listed in it, they have all been animal tested in the past [which is why they are in the formulary to start with…] They are getting away with appearing to be all bunnyhuggy under questionable pretenses…they didn’t animal test, but the chemical combinations they use have been previously by other companies animal tested.

So, what do you want them to use as ingredients? A whole new set that haven’t been tested at all?

Think of it this way: the longer ingredient X continues to be used in Y, the more humans have benefitted per bunny harmed. The sacrifice has already been made, why make it be one in vain?

This thread is more a matter of opinion than fact, so I"ll move it to the IMHO forum. Debates about animal testing are better suited to the Great Debates forum.

moderator GQ

The problem with comparing personal items to, say, laundry detergent is that the later is easily tested impartialy. It is easy to make a test that determines which did the job better at whitening your socks. It’s not so easy to make a test for personal preferences. If Brand A is rated as the best, but you abhore the taste of cinnamon, it’s not going to do you any good to buy that brand.

The other factor to take into account is that we all have different needs. If Brand B is rated the best, but you have different hair than those who tested the product, it’s not going to do you any good to buy that brand.

I prefer salon brands because in my experience, they are more concentrated (and thus last longer). I also believe that “So Sleek” (as an example) leaves my hair feeling much softer than Pantene. I also get less tangles. However, what is desirable to me may not be desirable to others (they may think it is too soft, for example).

Saying that all hygene products are ALL are GOOD ENOUGH, IMO, is incorrect. Secret, for example, is loved by millions of women. I wear it and I smell like my namesake. It’s not that the products per say are bad, but if they don’t work well with me, they are not good enough.

Consumer Reports is great for stuff like dishwashers and such. I don’t put much stock in what they have to say in regards to personal items because as the the name implies, they are personal choices. However,I think Paula Begoun’s books give good lines for cosmetics (mascara tends to be better with drug store brands and foundations tend to be better with department store brands).

I’ve never really considered it, I always figured hygiene products were almost identical. I honestly can’t see there being a big difference among soaps, shaving creams, toothpastes, etc. They all have the same ingredients more or less, and the difference is probably negligible.

However with deodorant there is a difference. Before i started using Gillette clear gel with power caps type deodorant i would still get underarm sweat. I’ve gone through a few brands of roll ons and sprays but only this type works (it was recommended to me by a fellow doper).

As far as shampoo, i don’t really care what brand i use as long as its for oily hair. i have used about 3 different brands of ‘deep cleansing’ shampoo and they all work the same.

Naturally, your milage always varies in these cases. If a product causes irritation on your skin, but is harmless to everyone else, you’ll have major trouble with it. Or a cleanser that works for someone with oily skin - leaving the less greasy folks out there with dry skin. It’s not only your preferences (though Consumer Reports has stated that most folks, whether they realize it or not, pick their shampoo by the smell); the idiosyncratic chemistry and anatomy of your body have their effect on whether a product works for you. So the product that makes your hair soft might make someone else’s hair limp and oily.

The “salon brands are more concentrated” thing, though, really is a myth. Don’t get me wrong - I buy fairly expensive shampoos too, because I just happen to like the particular brands of shampoo I buy. But it’s honestly straight up not the truth that quality or strength or concentration of any beauty product correlates to price. And why should it? The salon brands still pay about a quarter for the bottle and a matter of pennies for the ingredients. Their costs for marketing are higher, but the chemicals themselves are not pricey.

People don’t usually evaluate products well on their own. It’s hard to compare - your hair might happen to be particularly uncontrollable the first day you try one brand of shampoo, and then another week, while trying another new shampoo, it could be particularly tame and beautiful - all due to coincidence. And you’re making very subtle judgments anyway - has anyone ever used a shampoo (in real life, not in a commercial) and had their hair look so dramatically different that passersby just had to comment? Mix that with all the marketing (everyone thinks they’re immune, but no one really is) and the factors totally unrelated to how the product works (the cool bottle, the nice smell, etc.) - how could anyone really honestly determine if a shampoo was better for their hair? If it lasts longer, it’s just because you’re using too much of the store brand.

And few cosmetics will make you look significantly worse - unless you pick makeup in all the wrong colors or have an allergic reaction to something. The differences between different products matter, but they’re still slight. You might feel better when you find the perfect foundation, but honestly, how many people notice?

It doesn’t bear too much thinking about. They really are fairly similar in how they work. If you look ok already, stick with what you’re doing. If you don’t, then don’t expect a product to magically clear up your skin or fix your hair. In fact, you’re likely to have to go to some real effort to treat bad acne or other skin conditions. If one brand of deodorant works for you, buy it. If another brand makes you smell like a manure lagoon next to a pig farm, don’t. Doesn’t mean it won’t be reversed for your best friend.