Brand vs Budget Brand: the Toiletry Test

It’s day two of my Asda Smart Price brand experiment and already I’m feeling slightly off colour after dining on cut price goodies and…well…itchy.

Today I tried out the range of toiletries I’d stocked up on for a mere £1 – 37p toilet roll, 8p shower gel, 14p soap (3 bars), 14p shampoo and the 27p conditioner. I was chuffed with these bargains – normally I might spend £1 on 3 bars of supermarket brand soap, 99p on shower gel, 95p on Asda’s anti-dandruff shampoo, £4.48 on Aussie leave-in conditioner (one of my few luxuries – it’s pricey but lasts much longer than normal conditioner I used to buy) and £1.69 on 4 rolls of toilet tissue – total: £9.11.

I felt a bit anxious about using the shampoo after Tattyhousehastings’ tales yesterday of washing her kids’ hair with a value brand. I have a delicate scalp and am prone to dry skin.

The toilet roll was rough and ready, as you’d expect – like wiping your backside with the roughest kitchen roll on earth. Fine really but you wouldn’t want to blow your nose with it if you had a cold or you’d rub your nostrils off. The rolls are also much smaller and thinner than standard brands, so you’d probably use more.

In the shower I tried the soap first. It smelt of detergent but seemed just like normal soap otherwise, until I washed my face with it and could immediately feel my skin tightening and becoming dry. Next I used the shower gel. It was green and looked suspiciously like washing up liquid but smelt of nondescript shower gel. Despite Christine’s concerns yesterday that it might be runny and you’d have to use more, it was actually quite thick and I didn’t have to use much to get a lather.

The shampoo was bright orange and smelt strongly of chemicals, though. Strangely enough my hair didn’t feel clean after I’d finished washing it and after I used the conditioner – which was thick and white, like a regular conditioner, but smelt of nothing in particular – my hair felt weirdly like it was all sticking together in a clump. I was tempted to reach for my regular shampoo and my Aldi Lacura moisturising shower gel but resisted.

When I got out and dried off, much of my body was itching so I had to smear myself with lots of moisturising cream. Usually I just put it on my face and legs, but I had to put it on my arms and torso too. And I’m still itchy now! I’m unsure whether it’s the soap or the shower gel – although I suspect it’s the gel. My scalp is slightly itchy and my hair is a bit dry, but it’s not as bad as I thought it might be. Maybe if you don’t have sensitive skin you can use the soap and gel without any problems, but I’m not sure I could switch to them for the longer term.

Do you use value brand toiletries? Would you recommend any of them?

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28 Responses to Brand vs Budget Brand: the Toiletry Test

  1. Christine says:

    I always rinse my hair with distilled vinegar (not the stuff you put on your chips!) after I\’ve washed it. This clears out all the shampoo and stuff that you might not have cleaned off properly and it also leaves your hair soft and bouncy. NO YOU DON\’T SMELL OF VINEGAR IF YOU RINSE WELL she says laughing. It\’s an old trick from granny and helps to ensure that you don\’t get a build up of dandruff. It\’s not expensive either. Oh – a word of warning – don\’t pick up the wrong bottle and take home pickling vinegar which can look the same!!!!!!!! Trouble is that changing shampoo often has an effect for the first few washes till your hair gets used to it. But stuff that smells strongly of chemicals is a no no in my book. I\’m gradually weaning my cupboard off chemicals – cleaning and laundry can be a lot cheaper using the methods that granny knew well such as borax, bicarbonate of soda and washing crystals with vinegar for softener and window cleaning (get a 5 litre container from somewhere like Costco and it costs pennies). If you are really given to itchiness with shampoo and soap you might want to cut out the biscuits and go for a natural shampoo such as Faith in Nature products which may help you a lot but which will mean that you need to make some savings elsewhere (which is why I suggested biscuits …).

  2. Unknown says:

    I am a Asda shopper and travel 20 miles to my nearest Asda as I HATE TESCO ( and its plot to take over the world)
    I think you need to be very selective with Smart Price Goods.  I used to buy mostly branded goods before the huge food price hikes. However , I use on a regular basis the following smart price goods, Chopped toms – cant taste the difference in spag bol. Custard creams and bourbons – just dunk em – cant tell the difference. Apple and Orange Fruit Juice  – FANTASTIC – and better for you as there is less sugar and rubbish added to them. Cat Litter – Also Fantastic and less dusty than higher priced brands. Butter – Use it in cooking – no difference can be tasted. Part Baked Baguette Rolls  – Brilliant – just a little skinnier.  I am not brave enough to use things like toiletries and cleaning products. Its always worth trying the cheaper range just to see the difference, just dont try anything VALUE from Tesco !!!!!

  3. Tattyhousehastings says:

    Ooh, love the thought of handbags made out of Barbie\’s…might have to work out a crafty way to make these! So no, bought lots of tiny Barbie accessories that I use for craft ideas, cards, and last one, making lampshades out of!
    Agree – be careful with frugality, no point ruining your skin/health. Not sure if any value type toiletries worthwhile, think will stick to own brand.
    Talking of my poor children, they did have a bath in gelli baff the other day, which must have been the worst amount of chemicals they\’ve ever been exposed to. It actually turned the water to jelly slime, and bright green. And would not rinse off at all! Still Ol loved it, Jem very very afraid.

  4. John says:

    Don\’t go much on Own Brands, would rather spend a few pence more and get the real thing. You get what you pay for.

  5. Nina says:

    I think there is nothing wrong in buying own brand toilet rolls, after all you only wipe with it! But its true what you say it is thinnner than other brands and not as much on the roll. Tried and tested by our house hold!

  6. 두일 says:

    it\’s interesting i\’m looking forward to your next result.

  7. TJ says:

    Regarding living frugally & toiletries – people don\’t need toiletries at all, as water is generally sufficient (except I use mild shampoo after exposure to smoke from bonfires & BBQs, mild soap when my hands\’ve got greasy or v.grubby, & I sometimes use toothpaste if I\’ve eaten garlic etc!) –
    skin naturally harbours good bacteria, in a similar way to we all know the guts do, & naturally has protective oils too  BUT using soap etc. depletes the skin of these, hence B.O. & needing [more] sun-screen etc.
    This may sound radical but try it for a few weeks or preferably 3 months (to give the skin & scalp a chance to recover fully) & then see what you think – warning, scalp will currently be producing more oils to protect it from drying shampoo & so may become greasy at first, but enough warm to hot water should shift it.
    I\’ve been using minimal toiletries (as above) since I was 14 & I\’m now 48 & no-one\’s complained – my boyfriend loves it! 

  8. dinorah says:

    Really this tipe of survey make me laugh. Of course what you can expect!! English people!! want everything \’organic\’ and just a few people can pay!!! (WAITROSE)I live in many countries and ASDA OR WALKMART is one of the best supermarkets. If you read a little bit, you know own brands is the same like made brands, but just with different packet, buy anyway I still laughing with all this british habits.

  9. Alan says:

    I used Head and shoulders anti dandruff for many years but have recently switched to wilkinson own brand and find no difference. When i shower i use it to wash my whole body before rinsing and so do not need to buy shower gel. I have very large hands so using the postage stamp size toilet roll is impossible for me.

  10. Judith says:

    Hi everyone, I\’ve never sent one of these notes before but have been very amused by the current theme, the use of \’cheap\’ hair products.
    I visit my local technical college every week for a wash and blow dry.  At £3 I\’m sure it\’s cheaper than the cost of shampoo, conditioner, hot water and electricity I would use at home, particularly as I have longish, very thick hair which takes them about an hour to dry nevermind how long it would take me!  In between times, I let it dry naturally and put up with looking like \’scary Mary\’ from Phones4U!
    Perhaps visiting your local college is another thing you girlies (and boys) could try to keep your costs down.  My college does beauty treatments at a fraction of the \’real world\’ cost aswell.   

  11. Laura says:

    i dont think u need 2 buy own brand toiletries to shop smarter. i look for reduced items at my local asda.i get deodorants with the cap missing for half price toothpaste with the top of the box taped up.these items are in perfect condition and i always buy the 1\’s on offer that week.there are always crisps cereals etc on offer for half price.with all prices getting higher i hav no choice.

  12. Sean says:

    Asda are a vile company, their ethics are absolutely horrendous!  F*ck that Wal-mart scum, shop in independent shops!

  13. nasir says:

    Asda Smart price nappies.
    They\’re great considering they\’re only there to trap the child\’s excrement. Why pay several times more for a branded nappy

  14. Nick says:

    Interesting read, but you could economise even further by dispensing with toilet rolls.  Any old scrap of paper will do to wipe your a*** on.  I ofter use leaves or grass when I am out and obout.

  15. H says:

    I too have been trying to save money and decided to travel 10 miles to Asda instead of going to Sainsbury\’s.  I must admit that I wasn\’t necessarily after their smart range, but I came out of Asda very disappointed.  They didn\’t have a lot of the stuff I wanted and a lot of the stuff I did get was more expensive.  On line with Sainsbury\’s including the £5.50 delivery charge I would have spent £75.00.  My total shop in Asda was very near £70.00 with stuff still to buy.  I think I have been cured of travelling the 10 miles to save money.

  16. Kat says:

    Hi, i\’ve had a giggle reading the smart price frugal living challange that this VERY brave lady is doing (LOL). I have to agree about the toilet roll its awful specially if you av a cold, on par thou the majority of food is ok from the asda sm price range avoid the frozen chips at all costs they r foul !!!!!!!!!

  17. Rachel says:

    I love these sort of quests!  I am always on the hunt for a bit of a bargain and over the last 10 years of dedicated research I think I have faired quite well.  I think that smart price products be they Asda, Sainsburys or Tesco are much of a muchness.  Used to my the loo roll many moons ago but I found that as it was so thin I used more so no money was saved, now I always spend £4.50 on what ever company is offering 12 rolls for the price of 9!  I always buy Value Plum Tomatoes, Chopped Toms, Sweetcorn, Kidney Beans, Flour.  Rice and Pasta I buy from Lidels along with Pasata, Pesto, Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar, Bottled Water (yes I know it is cheaper from the Tap but my water smells like chlorine and I WILL NOT DRINK IT) Dishwasher Tablets, Salt, Rinse Aid are also bargain buys from Lidels. 
    Toiletries I tend to buy from Wilko\’s as they tend to be good quality and value for money.  I also have sensitive skin, especially my scalp so I do buy expensive shampoo/conditioner from my health food shop at £5 a pop!  However although I wash my hair with water every day I only use Shampoo and Conditioner once a week, I do believe in hair "washing itself" and my hair never feels greasy or limp so my £5 shampoo lasts quite a while.  I am going to try that distilled vinegar trick though as I always notice my scalp is more itchy when I have not washed it with water one day and I am sure it is to do with the build up of product.
    About 5 years ago I was diagnosed as being allergic to all Cow\’s products so have no choice but to buy the goats butter, cheese, yoghurt which is always slightly more expensive.  However I did used to buy Value Butter and Cheese, the cheese I found to be a bit plastic and very mild but what I started to do was buy the cheese, leave it in my fridge for 2 months to mature and I found it was much better!
    By the way as a cooking tip Goats Butter makes excellent pastry if you happen to be a bit of a duffer on the pastry front!

  18. Tony says:

    I just hope you\’re not using Asda in Bexleyheath. I gave up shopping there after returning, on average, one item per week because it was off before its sell by date, or broke as soon as I opened the packaging, etc etc etc. The climax was some Aloe Vera drink that I bought for my mum that was 8 months out of date. Yes you did read that right. 8months out of date. I now shop in Sainsburys and after 14 months have only returned 1 item, and that was because the seal had gone on a jar.I applaud you for doing the thrifty challnege, but I\’d rather pay a liitle more and know it\’s from a trader I trust, and that is Sainsburys.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    One thing that I would advise ASDA if I was a buyer or what ever people who work at ASDA are called who decide on products, is this. It is the design of the packaging that is so important.  It is amazing how much difference it makes if you see a box of something that looks attractive.The bland own brand yellow and green is awful. when I go into a Pharmacy in France I want to buy everything I see , it all looks so good.
    My husband buys everything is ASDA and bores me stiff with it. The peanut butter is digusting.  the loo paper horrible. Still it does safe us money if I don\’t go off and buy cosmetics too often on my own. 

  20. phil says:

    I think you have to be very selective in what you buy and where. It may be worthwhile checking out stores like Aldi and Lidl.

  21. Gwen says:

    I bought some hair conditioner in M&S last week for £1. It contains coconut and smells lovely. My own personal view is that although buying Value brands can save a few pounds in the weekly shop, I would rather stick with the brands I like and just shop around for a special offer on them, because using poorer quality food and general household products depresses me after a while.

  22. Toni says:

    I use Tesco\’s Coconut Shampoo and Conditioner, and they are the best ones I have ever used. I have extremely dry skin and my scalp is frequent to psyriosis (cannot spell), so considering that they still make my hair soft and unirrited I am impressed. As someone has already mentionned M&S does a good bath range all for £1 and it is good stuff. But mostly I keep my eye out in Wilkinson\’s for things on offer and buy then.

  23. Nicholas says:

    I must say that Lidl goods are much better in quality and are competitively priced to Asda Smart Price products.
    I suppose the Smart Price toilet roll is better than council stuff. (tracing paper)

  24. Christine says:

    Everyone\’s tips are worth reading as they do give clues as to places to look for good prices.  The only thing I would say it that it takes time and/or money to go round various shops looking for bargains. You can spend more on travel sometimes that you gain in the savings. Also a lot of the good offers are not on things that are suitable for strict vegetarians. This is where I have found that the Smart/Value ranges fall over – if you have specific dietary requirements they are probably not for you. In the end you can only look at your shopping list and decide whether you actually need to buy all those things or whether you can cook and clean better and save money that way. You can buy soda crystals cheaply in Asda or Tesco and pick up a large distilled vinegar from somewhere like Costco and hey presto that is most of your cleaning needs covered – yes soda crystals are excellent for laundry so long as you use a softener. Likewise food – think different.

  25. denis says:

    I have read the article with a certain amount of interest and all it seems to show is that everyone has different preferences and standards and so the answer is to experiment and find the best balance of price and quality depending what is available in the area they are in.  There is no correct answer when you are dealing with individual tastes and preferences.
    This might seem silly but people are a lot like catsin this respect.
    The better you feed a cat the higher the standard the cat expects to get and it will starve itself in order to get the message over to human being that is feeding it.  You might start off with average priced food for your cat but if the cat gets its own way with things you will end up as its gourmet chef making better meals for it than you are eating yourself.
    The real objective of the article appears to be economising in view of the current financial climate.
    The answer, for those that are able to, is to change your mode of transportation.  If possible you should:
    1.  Walk.  (This appears to be a forgotten art.)
    2.  Ride a bicycle.  (Another forgotten art.)
    3.  Use public transport.
    4.  If you have no choice but to use a motor vehicle then form a transport club with three other vehicle owners.  The idea behind this is that each vehicle should go to a different retail outlet once a month taking it in turns so that four retail outlets are visited each month in order to compare prices and get the best from each one.
    The advantages of the above options are so obvious that I will not insult the readers intelligence by listing them here.
    The above is my own personal view of things and as such the reader can take it or leave it as the case may be.  All I can say is that it works for me.

  26. sue says:

    just be thankful you can afford luxuries like Ausie hair products, I have to live on value stuff all the time! It\’s not easy bringing up 2 kids on your own after your husband has run off with a tart!

  27. nicky says:

    I have, and do, use Asday Smart Price toiletries. I have found the conditioner really good, even on my daughters\’ thick and curly hair which tend to be dry. I discovered it when I was sick of spending a lot of money on conditioner when they brought nits home from school!Also, it has fairly few ingredients compared with many conditioners which throw a lot of other chemicals in.We also use the soap for handwashing, but I must add, that no-one is supposed to wash their faces with normal toilet soap!We tried the shampoo, but it hung around for a couple of years, until I persuaded my eldest son to use it. He complained of a dry scalp and I read it had Formadyhide in it, which then put me off, so I haven\’t re-stocked!You might be itchy because you have used too much product and haven\’t rinsed it off sufficiently. I have psoriasis and sensitive skin and find that I can itch even with some more expensive brands. I am a great afficionado of Asda as I have six children and a small income. I look forward to your taste-testing!

  28. M. says:

    Hallo piper,interesting article.The bottle of shower gel is very nice. After I\’ve seen the photo, I\’m looking for something similar here in germany: a bottle with a hook. But I\’ve not seen it yet. Please help me to get three or four of these shower gel bottles. Can I send you a private message to your Live accoount? Thank you!Greets from germany, Marcel. (

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