Are supermarket own brand cosmetics as good as big name ones?

Does a cosmetic have to have a label to be any good?

Virgin Radio are running a feature at the moment where the presenter has to guess your job from the question you get asked most frequently.  I was mulling over what the most frequent question I get asked as a cosmetic chemist. It occurred to me that years ago I used to get asked a lot if the supermarket own brands were as good as the equivalent big brands.  Nobody has asked me that for a long while but I was asked it a couple of times over the weekend.   Maybe it is the credit crunch?  Or maybe not – you don’t have to take a loan out to buy a bottle of shampoo.

Anyway I saw a post over on Money Saving Expert where someone was trying all the Aldi and Lidl personal care brands and very generously posting their experiences to help others.  I have already reviewed the Aldi anti-wrinkle products, but I thought people might find a bit of inside knowledge on how the supermarket own brands get onto the shelves might be handy.

First off – except for the Co-op in the UK I know of no multiple retailer anywhere in the world that makes it own personal care products.  They all get them from contract manufacturers, and the products are usually developed by the contract manufucturers.  There is a huge variation in how good the products are, but the supermarkets don’t want to source rubbish that won’t sell, and if they do buy a lemon it won’t stick on the shelves for long.  On the other hand, they need to keep their prices down so there is a lot of pressure on costs.

Own brands don’t spend any money on publicity.  This is a good thing.  I don’t like to think about what proportion of a typical sale price of a branded skin care product goes straight up the nose of the celebrity endorser.  But it also means you won’t get a free sample attached to the front of a magazine to give the product a try before you buy it.  And I have said elsewhere that big brands can easily spend 30% of their turnover on advertising, so you won’t see so many glamorous pictures in magazines if you don’t support the big brands.

I am very surprised if I come across a supermarket own brand that is either exceptionally good or exceptionally bad.  If you are looking for a way to save money, buying own brand products is one way to do it.  There is just one caveat: fragrances are the biggest part of the cost of these kinds of products, often amounting to half the total.  Cost consciousness is the key to own brands and cheap fragrances are the order of the day.  The biggest drawback with an own brand is that is quite likely to not smell as nice as the more expensive options.  Best of luck!

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