Should You Buy Toothpaste and Other Personal Care Products at the Dollar Store?

Toronto, Canada - June 03, 2019: Dollar tree store in Toronto.
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Once upon a time, consumers didn’t have too many options for where to buy personal care items like shampoo and toothpaste. Today, there are giant department stores, drugstores, grocery stores and dollar stores to choose from. Of all these choices, the trove of dollar stores are usually the cheapest option.

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“The merchandise at dollar stores is usually overstock that is bought at inexpensive rates, and since the stores run on narrow margins, they can afford to sell for cheaper,” said Donna Tang, budgeting expert at CreditDonkey. “Thus, consumers can save a lot of money shopping at dollar stores.”

Though you can generally expect to save money by shopping at the dollar store versus Walmart or Target, you’re not always getting the better deal. So what about personal care products — which should be bought at dollar stores, and which should be bought elsewhere? Let’s take a look.

Buy at the Dollar Store

Here are six personal care items that are wise to buy at dollar stores, according to our shopping experts.

Make Your Money Work for You

Toothpaste

“It can be as low as $1 for 2.5oz at dollar stores, while big box stores may charge 99 cents for a 1oz tube,” said Julie Ramhold, Consumer Analyst with DealNews.com. “The dollar store toothpaste works out to about 40 cents per ounce, whereas the big box stores are basically $1 per ounce. Big-box stores will also have packages that are like $2.89 for 6 ounces, but that still works out to be 48 cents per ounce, meaning the dollar store is still a better deal.” 

Body Lotion

“It’ll obviously depend on what brand and quantity you buy, but for something like CeraVe Daily Moisturizing lotion, you’re better off buying from the dollar store,” Ramhold said. “There, you’ll spend roughly $6 for 5oz, which comes out to about $1.20 per ounce. At big-box stores, you’re looking at $5.59 for 3oz — that’s closer to $1.86 per ounce.”

Cotton Swabs

“At the dollar store, you can get a 500 count box of name-brand Q-tips for only $3.50; to get the same product at big-box stores, you’ll pay at least $3.69,” Ramhold said. “It’s easy to see why this is a better value at the dollar store: you’re literally paying less for the same amount and brand.”

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Lip Balm

“At the dollar store, a 3-pack of Chapstick will set you back $3.30 but at big-box stores, you’ll pay $3.39,” Ramhold said. “You may not have the same variety of flavors to choose from at the dollar store vs. a big-box store but if you aren’t picky it’s clear why the dollar store is a better value.”

Baby Wipes

“A pack of Fisher Price 72-count baby wipes will cost you $2 at the Dollar Store while costing [way more] at Walmart,” said Chloe Choe, owner and founder of Off Hour Hustle

Pregnancy Tests

“Pregnancy tests at the dollar store cost around $1 to $8, while the same test would cost more than $20 at other stores and pharmacies,” Tang said. “This is obviously a good buy. You can get the same quality products at half the price.”

DO NOT Buy at the Dollar Store 

Not all personal care items are worth the trip to the dollar store. Some simply aren’t any cheaper than they are at big-box stores, while others are downright dud deals. Here are five products to stay away from at the dollar store.

Make Your Money Work for You

Shampoo 

“It’ll depend on what brand, but in my research I found that some literally cost the exact same amount per ounce at both dollar stores and big box stores,” Ramhold said. 

Cotton balls

“It’s a similar situation with these — they’re about the same price at each type of store, and you may be restricted to store brands in each case as well,” Ramhold said. “You can buy larger amounts at big-box stores, though, so if you have a need for them, you’ll find a better value at big-box stores over dollar stores.”

Tweezers  

“Sure, you can buy a cheap pair at the dollar store, but if you’re looking for a quality pair that’ll last for a long time, you’re better off looking at big-box stores for a better selection,” Ramhold said. 

Collagen Gummies

“You can find them at the dollar store, but a 40-count bottle of Nature’s Bounty Hair, Skin, and Nails will cost about $6, which is about 15 cents per gummy,” Ramhold said. “That isn’t bad, but you can get 120 count bottles at big-box stores for around $14.29 — that comes out to about 11 cents per gummy, which is hands down a better deal.”

Hair Styling Products 

“We recommend purchasing accessories rather than actual hair products from the dollar store, as the ingredients may not be accurate or of high quality, therefore it may damage your curl pattern,” said Sharon Terera, founder and CEO of AfroLovely.

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.
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