RQ: Which beauty products to invest in



photo + tutorial source: my dear friend Coconutrobot.com

Reader Question: If you are living on a budget that doesn’t allow for the expendable income of purchasing extra products, what should you invest in? Is it better to invest in good shampoos & conditioners? Or should you skimp on those and really put your money in the products? Which would you recommend?

This is a really great question. And there isn’t a cut and dry answer to what should ALWAYS be invested in and what you can go cheap in, but I thought I’d answer by sharing what I’ve learned in my experience.

I’m going to answer in light of hair products, not makeup or skincare because I think you are asking about hair products.

So, FIRST of all. The very, very first thing you should invest in when it comes to your hair is a good haircut. A good haircut is key to your hair styling well and looking nice. So, find a stylist you love and get a haircut that flatters you and looks fantastic. Don’t go cheap on your haircut–you’ll regret it. Products cannot fix a bad haircut.

Then I would argue shampoo and conditioner could go either way. If you have otherwise healthy hair, you can probably go a bit cheaper on shampoo and conditioner. If you hair has  a lot of needs from being colored or damaged, it will likely be worth it to at least invest in a great conditioner. If you can’t get both, get a cheaper shampoo and a nicer conditioner.

As far as styling products go. I think hairspray is the biggest game changer when it comes to your hairstyle lasting. So if you are going to take the time to style it, use some good hairspray. My favorite is Kenra Volume 25.

Smoothing oils, leave-in treatments and even volumizing products can be bought cheaper but you may not have the best results with them.They shouldn’t be damaging to your hair, though, so the worst that could happen with a cheap styling products it residue or leaving your hair unaffected.

When it comes to tools, go cheap with brushes, clips, combs, etc. Invest in a really good blow dryer. Why? I think a great deal of the damage done during styling is with a blow dryer thats too hot. Instead of looking for heat in a dryer, look for speed of air flow. My favorite blow dryer is the Rusk Speed Freak. Look into getting a good flat iron, but you can go mid-range with a curling iron to save some cash. Hot Tools often has sales and their irons are great mid-range options!

I hope this gives you a bit of a jumping off point as you try to decide what to invest in!

Leave a Comment Cancel Comment

Comments (50)

  1. Victoria says
    Posted June 11, 2015

    What do I tell my hair stylist when I tell her the number color of your hair? Because the info you have given in FQA is different, and how do I explain the cut besides bringing a pic, I want to be able to say the hair cut and color you have (p.s. I am an upcoming senior and plan to go into cosmetology, so you are like my idol:)) jk,….but I really admire you:)

  2. Victoria says
    Posted June 11, 2015

    What do I tell my hair stylist when I tell her the number color of your hair? Because the info you have given in FQA is different, and how do I explain the cut besides bringing a pic, I want to be able to say the hair cut and color you have (p.s. I am an upcoming senior and plan to go into cosmetology, so you are like my idol:)) jk,….but I really admire you:)

  3. Posted June 11, 2015

    I don’t use a ton of hair products just because I don’t like the feel of them but I use one, regularly, which is Bumble and Bumble’s Thickening spray. It’s the only spray that actually makes my hair feel thicker and doesn’t leave a nasty residue. It’s about $20 a bottle but if you’re not dousing your hair in it, a bottle can last a long time.

    And I got lucky to get it for $10 last time because it was on sale. So I would also say that shopping sales at your salon can also help to save money on more expensive products. My salon a lot of the time will have Buy One Gert One 50% off sales or something like that. I usually try to buy when that happens.


    • Jenna says
      Posted June 11, 2015

      I’m so glad I took time to read the comments on this post because I’ve been thinking about getting the Bumble & Bumble Thickening Spray, but didn’t know if it would really make a difference. Your comment convinced me that I should give it a shot!

  4. Posted June 11, 2015

    This post was very helpful for me. Thanks for sharing.

    I have naturally curly hair which is really thick and coarse (and I do mean REALLY thick), and because of that I have a hard time finding a cut/style that I like. In fact, I’ve never had a hair cut that I truly loved. Do you have any tips for finding a style that would work well on hair like mine? I don’t even know where to start.

    Thank you,

    • Nicole says
      Posted June 11, 2015

      Look into a Deva Curl specialist. If there is one in your area, they do great things!

      • Posted July 2, 2015

        Thanks Nicole!
        I took your advice and got a Deva cut. Life changing!

  5. Karen says
    Posted June 11, 2015

    Interesting advice. I think, though, that if you really need to keep your haircare economical you would be better served by going with a cut that makes the most of your texture and skipping the hot tools altogether except, maybe, a good hair dryer.

    Working with your hair to enhance what it wants to do is not only cheaper but healthier for your hair in the long run.

  6. Melanie says
    Posted June 11, 2015

    Thanks! I’m getting a fresh haircut today and am in need of some new products, so this is helpful!


  7. Jenna says
    Posted June 11, 2015

    I got a great cut and color last Friday, but while I was checking out, the owner of the salon was trying to talk me into getting the Eufora hair thickening regimen. I told her I would like to do some research on it and maybe get it the next time I’m in. She made me feel so… I don’t know what the right word is… inferior, maybe? Like, “well, since you’re not going to buy it, you must be poor.” She even said to me, “Well, if you can’t get the whole system for financial reasons, then at least get the scalp treatment and vitamins.” She actually said financial reasons! Just because I don’t want to spend $135 on hair products right now doesn’t mean I can’t afford to. I’m all for stylists recommending products, but to be so pushy, it’s like they’re getting a commission, which makes me not trust what they’re telling me. I’ve been to that salon three times now and always love my cut and color and my actual stylist is great, but the owner gets under my skin. Unfortunately, they’re the only salon in my town that does balayage. I do need to invest in a salon brand shampoo/conditioner, but choosing the right ones is daunting, to say the least.

    • Posted June 11, 2015

      they are getting commission. Most salons pay their stylists commission for product sales. Many salons even have competitions or extra incentives to get stylist to sell

  8. Amy says
    Posted June 11, 2015

    With all due respect, I’m going to have to disagree with this post. I do agree that a great haircut goes a long way but I do not agree that the price of the haircut is a factor on if you get a good haircut or a bad haircut. I have been a hairstylist for 12 years. I worked at a high end “expensive” salon, as well as a more affordable salon. In my years of working behind the chair, I have experienced some hairstylists who did not know how to cut hair. That was in the high end salon as well as the more affordable salon that I worked at. I feel like I need to defend stylists, because paying more money for a haircut does not ensure a good haircut and paying less does not ensure a bad haircut. If you don’t know the stylist cutting your hair, you’re taking a gamble at any salon, no matter the price. I just feel like it’s unfair to put that reputation on affordable salons.

    • Posted June 11, 2015

      i agree 110%

    • Kate says
      Posted June 11, 2015

      I completely agree that paying more doesn’t always mean a better haircut. I didn’t suggest a price point to look for since that would be different for each person. It isn’t like a $100 haircut is always better than a $25 one. so when I say invest, I’m referring to investing time in finding the right person, and maybe paying a little more if that does mean you’ll get exactly what you are looking for. A lot of times the reason a stylist is more costly is because of education or experience or something like that–not ALL the time, but some times.

  9. Pauline says
    Posted June 11, 2015

    Thanks for this post, Kate! And for sharing the pretty hair tutorial from your friend’s website. 🙂 Your hair tutorials are my go-to (only!) source of how to style my hair but I appreciate your good taste and sharing other nice blogs to look around in too.

  10. Lisa says
    Posted June 11, 2015

    This post was just what I needed! I’ve been following your blog pretty regularly (umm daily haha) and have been slowly but surely investing in better products/tools. Being a mother of a three year old and an 11 year old step son, it’s important to still feel like a woman! Thank you for all your great tips. Next purchase will definitely be the above mentioned blow dryer 🙂

  11. Posted June 11, 2015

    as a fellow blogger, I have to say it seems kind of rude to use another blogger’s image to use as your title image for your post and put your text over her picture. I hope she’s a friend, because people have been sued over copyright issues like that. just saying. It’s nice that you may have wanted to send people over to her, but that’s not the way to do it.

    The fact that you put your own text about YOUR post over her image is what makes it so wrong.

    • Kate says
      Posted June 11, 2015

      She’s a very dear friend of mine and after having my photos stolen and used illegally many times, I would never use a photo without permission. I loved this photo of her hair and wanted to share the tutorial with my readers, and she told me I could.

      • Alana says
        Posted June 11, 2015

        Love the pic used for this post. It’s one of my pins that I luv. Both in style & color, kind of makes me want to go blonder. I am going to try the KMS brand/products you’ve recommended. I use a lot of it’s a 10 products now. Just want more volume especially now that it’s hot and humid.

    • Kelly says
      Posted June 11, 2015

      I actually think it’s more rude of you to assume that Kate stole the image instead of asking if she obtained permission to use it. I don’t know her personally, but I have read her blog for a couple years, and she seems like a person of strong character. Very classy response Kate!

      • Susan says
        Posted June 12, 2015


      • Cristin says
        Posted June 12, 2015


        If you’re a faithful follower of Kate’s blog her integrity speaks for itself.

      • Brittany says
        Posted June 16, 2015

        I never said she stole it. I just asked if she had permission to add text overlay and use it as a title image for her post.

        and FTR, I have been following Kate for years, since her very early days of blogging.

    • Susan says
      Posted June 12, 2015

      I see alot of negative comments on blogs but your comment really showcased a lack of class more than most.

      • Brittany says
        Posted June 16, 2015

        pointing out something someone may not be aware of is not showing a lack of class.

  12. Jen says
    Posted June 11, 2015

    After washing and drying my hair, I usually put a few curls in and use hairspray. I’m definitely going to check out the Kenra Volume 2. I’ve been searching for a new hairspray for awhile now but just needed a great recommendation as there is so much out there these days!

    Jen from appledapplepancakes.blogspot.com

  13. Erika says
    Posted June 11, 2015

    Yes to the hair dryer! I took Kate’s advice and asked for a Rusk Speed Freak for Christmas. I couldn’t believe the difference that a good hair dryer makes.

    I’ve tried the lowest to the highest range of shampoos, and never really can tell any difference. So now I buy what I think smells good 🙂 🙂

  14. Melissa says
    Posted June 11, 2015

    Do you have a second hairspray recommendation for maximum hold? I had tried the Kenra one you recommend, but it was a little too flexible and didn’t hold my curls very well. So, is this where perhaps using a product before curling my hair would help that? So confusing! Thanks for your post!

  15. Kristi says
    Posted June 11, 2015

    I definitely notice the difference in my hair when I invest in good products. I definitely need to get a new hair dryer though.

    Kristi | Be Loverly

  16. Sully says
    Posted June 11, 2015

    Now all I need is for someone to tell me exactly what haircut to get!

  17. Marah Leinbaugh says
    Posted June 12, 2015

    This is an excellent post! I love hair and make-up but we live on one income, so I definitely can relate to the readers question. I am always interested in budget-friendly products that are good quality. Thanks!

  18. Tamg says
    Posted June 12, 2015


    In my opinion, you can invest in a good hair cut, a good shampoo, a good conditioner and replace hair treatements by coconut oil (or mix coconut oil with castor oil) or homemade leave-in treatements like avocado or eggs with honey.

    Have a nice day 🙂

  19. Posted June 12, 2015

    Thank you for these tips! Really good ideas 🙂


  20. Kris says
    Posted June 12, 2015

    Any recommendations for a stylist in Raleigh, NC a?

  21. Lisa says
    Posted June 12, 2015

    Is the Rusk hair dryer lightweight?

    • Rebecca says
      Posted June 12, 2015

      About the same as other hair dryers…and has a longer cord! I need that! 🙂

  22. Posted June 12, 2015

    I feel like good conditioner is way to go cause it nourishes your hair and it can make such a difference and make hair look silky and a bit healthier


    • Tamg says
      Posted June 12, 2015

      Shampoo opens capillary scales while conditioner closes the hair scales. That’s the difference.

      Have a nice day 🙂

  23. Robin says
    Posted June 12, 2015

    I have always been told by stylists to try to use sulfate free shampoo. Apparently it is better for colored hair. Do you have any thoughts on this? Love your blog btw! I read it everyday!

  24. Rebecca says
    Posted June 12, 2015

    I actually bought the Speed Freak on sale and with a coupon at Ulta! SCORE!! When drying my hair straight, this dryer definitely helps! However, even on low, I can’t style my hair curly, so I had to buy a diffuser to attach to it. No biggie there though.

    My hair was actually breaking in the back of my head because my dryer was too hot and that was the hardest place to dry. 🙁 Now, my problems are solved!

  25. Evelina says
    Posted June 12, 2015

    I love my hot tools curling iron! It’s seriously the best.

  26. Jennifer says
    Posted June 13, 2015

    Hi! Any chance you could give us a video tutorial for this messy-pony-pretzel look? I was reading the directions and think I, personally, need a video to figure it out! And, I don’t mean that in a mean way at all! I am just a visual person when it comes to hair. ;0)

    • Emily L says
      Posted June 14, 2015

      Ditto on that. I would love a video. I just spent the last 10 minutes carefully reading the directions and trying this out, and it’s not happening for me.

    • Valerie says
      Posted June 18, 2015

      I would love a tutorial on her bun in the picture too! I left a comment on her blog as well! It’s so cute but I definitley need a video!

  27. Edie says
    Posted June 13, 2015

    Hi Kate,

    Could you please recommend some products that can be used to tame frizzy hair in the tropics? I literally cannot use dense products as they make my hair sticky and limp, whilst hairspray dries the hair out and makes my head more of a gigantic frizz bomb pyramid catastrophe. Any suggestions?

  28. Amy says
    Posted June 14, 2015

    I think a great product to invest in for hair styling would be Aquage Beyond Body spray! I call it magical spray lol It makes my straightened hair stay straight without the need to touch up AT ALL for days! I’m less than 3 weeks from my due date and already have a toddler entering terrible twos, so I definitely don’t allow time away from precious sleep to redo my hair every day or even every other. This magical potion also seems to keep my hair from getting too flat, which usually happens after I sleep on straightened hair. I love it and other products that do more than one thing all in one.

  29. Posted June 15, 2015

    I love all of your advice! I haven’t found a good hairspray that I love so I’ll have to try Kenra! Xo, Stephanie

  30. Quinn says
    Posted June 22, 2015

    Hi Kate!

    I’ve been following your blog for many years now and you’re the reason I fell in love with doing hair. I did my own hair for my Prom and used one of your tutorials to do it. I’ve been using a new shampoo lately and it’s the Hair Food Strawberry Ginger Root Clarifying Shampoo for a little bit now and was wondering if you had ever tried it or heard anything about it. I just found it at Target one day and really like it for when it’s been a while between washes. I would really know what you think of it or if anyone has tried it and would recommend because I definitely would.

    Anyways, I love your blog and I think it’s absolutely amazing! Keep up the fantastic work!


  31. Posted July 10, 2015

    Thanks for the post, Kate.I’ve been following you for last 6 months, and I must say I’ve been improved a lot. I’ve a healthy hair, so I can save some bucks on shampoo and conditioner and use them in hair cut.Thanks for the advise.

  32. Jenny söderberg says
    Posted March 12, 2017

    What kind of hairpins do you use? Its hard to find the good ones 🙂 Especially when you have the typically nordic, fine hair. Love your hairtutorials, so easy to follow 🙂