Skincare scams: Pay less for the same stuff

My wife has always been serious about skincare, but when she started working for a premium cosmetics company, she became downright obsessive. She started poring over makeup reviews, lurking around Paula Begoun's website, and having heated arguments with herself about different ingredients, cleansers, and product lines. It was a little like watching Jack Nicholson's character in The Shining descending into madness, except that he sported a five-o'clock shadow, while Virginia's skin was radiant.

Although my wife's employer gave her a steep discount and provided a large amount of free samples, I started noticing that her medicine cabinet was filling up with skincare products from several different companies. When I asked her about it, she told me that many of her company's competitors sold what were essentially the same products for far less money. Even with her discount, it was often cheaper to buy comparable skincare from other product lines.

Part of the reason for this is that many of the different brands are owned by the same parent companies. For example, Estee Lauder owns both the upscale "La Mer" brand and the less expensive "Clinique" line. Similarly, Lancome sports both a pricey mall brand and the bargain-priced "L'Oreal" brand. Although the parent companies vary their product lines somewhat, many of the active ingredients that are sold at a premium in one line are available at a discount in the less expensive lines.