Grooming Essentials for Women: Skin and Hair Care Products

There are hair care and skin care products galore for women. Which ones do you need to look your best?

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 21, 2009
5 min read

“How many hair products does one girl need?” my mother once asked after a visit to my more-than-well-stocked bathroom. The secret was out: I was a product junkie. I have shampoos for fine hair and “winter hair,” shampoos to make my hair shiny, shampoos to make my hair smell like pink grapefruit, apple blossoms, oranges, or coconut. And, of course, each of these is paired up with a matching conditioner.

And don’t even get me started on skin care products -- cleansers, soothers, moisturizers – all for sensitive skin – not to mention countless cosmetics.

“We all want to have softer skin, shinier hair, whiter teeth, and to age gracefully,” says Dana Persia, owner of DP Image Consulting in Philadelphia. (My sentiments exactly!)

You don’t need to share my addiction, but if your idea of an adequate supply of hair and skin care products is a bar of supermarket soap and a bottle of drugstore shampoo, it may be time to take another look.

“Most women can look great and keep up appearances with a well-chosen, but limited number of products,” says Nada Manley, author of Secrets of the Beauty Insiders.

You don’t have to break the bank to find skin care and hair care products that work well for you, says Persia. “You’re not going to stock your shelves for $20, but for $100 you can have all the essentials.”

To save time and money, Manley suggests choosing multipurpose products: a creamy shower gel can double as a shaving gel and bubble bath, or a moisturizer with antioxidants and SPF can take the place of a separate skin cream and sunscreen, for example.

A more expensive product isn’t necessarily better, says Persia. She points out that two of her favorite skin care products are the relatively inexpensive cleansers Cetaphil and Ponds Cold Cream, both of which are available in drugstores and grocery stores. “Ponds was good for our mothers,” says Persia, “and it’s still good for us. Just use a generous amount and wipe off with a warm, wet washcloth.”

On the other hand, she adds, companies that produce some of the more expensive skin care and hair care products often invest much more in research and development. They apply science to the products they produce, such as creating skin care products that fight free radicals.

In addition to a good facial cleanser, Persia suggests stocking your bathroom with the following skin care products:

  • Moisturizer with an SPF of at least 15
  • Eye makeup remover
  • Exfoliator, which removes dead skin cells and can leave your skin smoother, softer, and brighter. (For an inexpensive exfoliator, mix 1 tablespoon of sugar with 1 teaspoon of olive oil and lightly scrub your face. Remove with a warm, wet washcloth.)
  • Mask (A mud pack mask, for example, tightens skin and soften lines. A clay mask gives pores a deep cleaning. And a honey mask can moisturize dry skin.)
  • Eye gel
  • Razor and shave gel
  • Body oil (Keep it in the shower and smooth over skin before drying off.)
  • Body scrub
  • Body wash and sponge
  • Tweezer
  • Deodorant

Joyce Carboni, founder and director of Skinsational Spa in San Diego, says that an eye cream is an important skin care essential. “The skin around your eyes is very delicate and thin, which allows for age to show easily,” she tells WebMD. “Ideally, you want to start using an eye cream in your 20s. Choose one with antioxidants (such as vitamin C or Idebenone) to boost collagen production and soothing ingredients (such as calendula) to reduce puffiness.” An eye gel can also reduce morning puffiness. Persia suggests trying Preparation H for this purpose, saying that models swear by it.

Sunscreen is the most important step in your daily skin care routine, says Carboni, explaining that sun exposure can cause both short- and long-term damage, such as dark spots, wrinkles, and skin cancer. Make sure to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go out into the sun and, if you can, avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (when the sun's rays are the strongest). Remember that even if you are indoors all day, your skin is still exposed to the sun during the time that you spend driving in your car.

Manley would add blemish gel, an antiaging nighttime moisturizer, and lip balm to the list of skin care essentials. She also advises not to forget your hands. Stock up on good hand lotion (use one that also has SPF) and a cuticle cream. For a well-groomed look, use nail polish -- even if it’s only a clear color -- and nail polish remover to replace the old polish as soon as it becomes chipped.

For your cosmetics bag, Persia, who is also a licensed aesthetician and make-up artist, recommends:

  • Under-eye concealer
  • Foundation
  • Pressed powder (use transparent for all-day shine control)
  • Blush/bronzer
  • Eyeshadow
  • Eyeliner
  • Eyebrow pencil
  • Mascara
  • Eyelash curler
  • Lipstick/lip gloss/lip liner

When it comes to hair care, Jet Rhys, owner of the Jet Rhys Salon in San Diego, says a clarifying shampoo is an essential for anyone who uses heavy styling products on a regular basis. He recommends using this type of hair care product once a week to get rid of buildup. It also helps to restore softness and shine. A wide-tooth comb is a good choice for getting out knots after the shower. It’s less damaging than a brush on wet hair, which is particularly vulnerable to damage.

Persia also suggest including these hair care products on your shelves:

  • Shampoo for every day and another for deep cleansing
  • Light "detangler" for every day and deep conditioner for a monthly deep conditioning treatment
  • Shower cap if you’re skipping a shampoo
  • Head band or clips to keep hair away from your face during washing
  • Gel, mousse, or leave-in conditioner, depending upon your hair type
  • Brushes, combs, and other styling tools
  • Styling products for after blow drying, such as wax, mud, paste, or hairspray