Drugstore Beauty Best Buys

We don’t think about our hair that much on a regular basis, but lately it’s been consuming our thoughts. Thanks to tax season, we’ve recently gone through our yearly expenditures and realized that we spend an inordinate amount of money on our hair. It’s not just the upkeep costs that come with highlights and trims that drain money from our account each month. Yes it makes us look fab, and goes with anything from relaxed beachy Oakley sunglasses to frameless smart office specs, but sadly, we have a little bit of an unhealthy need to buy ridiculously expensive products on a semi-regular basis (and, to fully confess, an equal appetite for purchasing inexpensive hair products on a very regular basis).

Pattern recognized, we thought we could break the cycle if we knew exactly what products were worth saving on and which ones garnered a splurge. We asked celebrity hairstylist Kristoff Ball to come with us to the drugstore and beauty supply store to discuss the product. He showed us how to get the most for our money without sacrificing quality! Save on…

Hair Dryers

The ball works with a pricey SuperSolano dryer, but he promised that a drugstore version is a sufficient choice for us non-professionals. However, one thing to insist on is a model that comes with an “airflow concentrator” or nozzle tip, like on the Revlon Chrome Travel Hair Dryer ($14.99) shown above. “You should always have that tip on your dryer because it forces the air into a smaller area and makes it hotter,” he explains. “The concentrated heat gives you better control.” If you have curly hair, Ball also recommends getting an additional diffuser attachment, like Vidal Sassoon’s 1875W Professional Full-Size Ionic Dryer ($17.99).


It’s easy to covet a Mason Pearson boar bristle brush but Ball says it’s not worth blowing your budget for one. “It’s much more important to find a brush that’s comfortable in your hand and, in the case of round brushes, one with bristles that have some give,” Ball says. “If the bristles are too hard and don’t bend when you press on them, they’re going to break your hair.” He pointed out the Conair Performers 100% Boar Bristle Round Brush ($9.49) and an Umberto Paddle Brush ($8.99) on our drugstore visit as good options.

Hair Serum

We get very frustrated when our hair frizzes, and, like many women, tend to buy expensive serums thinking they might have better technology or smoothing powers. Ball broke the news that our assessment is way off! “Just check the ingredients list for Cyclomethicone or dimethiconol,” Ball says. “If either one is the first ingredient, the product will work as well as the $35 version.” In addition to the ubiquitous John Frieda Frizz-Ease Hair Serum Original Formula ($9.09), Ball liked Silk Drops Sheer Liquid Silk Hair Serum ($5.99) and Zero Frizz Hair Serum ($7.99).


When it comes to getting clean, Ball swears that drugstore shampoos suds up just as well as pricey versions. “I tell my clients to use a clarifying shampoo once a week, and while I like Bumble and Bumble’s Sunday Shampoo, something like Herbal Essences DeGunkify Tingly Deep Cleansing Shampoo ($3.78) is great too,” Ball says. His other favorites include Garnier Fructis Fortifying Shampoo ($3.19) for everyday use and L’Oreal Vive Pro Color Vive Shampoo ($3.74) for highlighted or colored hair.

Splurge on…

Conditioner and Masks

While there are many excellent drugstore conditioners and deep repair masks, Ball thinks it’s worth upgrading to salon-quality products in this area. “The way Kerastase Paris Masquintense for Fine Hair ($53) or Thick Hair ($53) fills in the hair cuticle is impressive, and it really makes a noticeable difference,” he says. Ball also recommends Bumble and Bumble Seaweed Conditioner ($19.99) for daily use and Davines Love Lovely Smoothing Conditioner ($22.99) as another excellent hair mask.


If you really need to make an updo stay—and don’t need your hair to be touchable—Ball concedes that good old Aqua Net will keep things stationary. In less extreme situations, he prefers the hairstylist favorite, L’Oreal Elnett Satin Supreme Hold Hairspray ($17). “This is what the stylists at fashion shows use, because it works but can be brushed out very easily,” he says. “In the real world, flexibility is great because you’re not forced into one look, but you still have held.” Ball’s other favorite is Kerastase Double Force Hair Spray ($34).

Curling and Flat Irons

It’s okay to splurge on professional quality heated hair appliances like curling irons and flat irons—hooray! “Generally speaking, the professional tools go to higher temperatures than drugstore brands, which means you can achieve the desired style quickly and efficiently,” Ball says. The Hot Tools 1-inch Professional Ceramic and Titanium Spring Curling Iron ($34.95) is an excellent purchase. Ball also swears by the FHI Platform Flat Iron Ceramic Nano Tourmaline Professional Iron ($185.95).


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