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10 things you’re wasting your money on

Do you believe that hair masks heal split ends and that immune boosters keep you healthy? Think again… 

7 August 2016
5 minute read

woman looking at piggy bank

Sometimes, marketers lie. And sometimes, your best friend doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Products are sold to us with promises of results that have no basis in science. When everyone tells you that something works, a product has results or a medicine is effective, it can be hard to question the facts. But that’s just what we should be doing.

These are ten of the products that people buy that actually do nothing at all. How many of them do you buy every month?

1. Anti-wrinkle or anti-ageing cosmetics and serumsCosmetic companies tell you that ageing is bad and wrinkles are ugly and that what you need are these magical anti-wrinkle, anti-ageing potions. Unfortunately, no cosmetic ingredient other than retinol has been proven to reverse the effects of ageing. And retinol has to be used in significant quantities – which simultaneously increases your chances of developing adverse reactions like rashes or sensitivity to the sun. Don’t fork out a fortune on the hollow promise of eternal youth - it ain’t going to happen. 

Added benefit of giving up anti-ageing creams: You’ll reduce the amount of chemicals you put onto your skin every day.

2. Packaged health foodsReady-made health foods are one of the greatest cons of our generation. Whether they are low fat but pumped full of sugar, or contain some nuts and seeds but are smothered in chocolate, health foods really aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. There’s no regulating body that governs the claim of “health” on a label, but that doesn’t stop marketers from charging a premium for this dubious promise. Rather save your money and improve your health by buying fresh ingredients to cook your own healthy meals.

Added benefit of giving up “health” foods: When you prepare your own meals, your health will benefit from the added nutrients and fewer additives.

3. VitaminsVitamins are punted as the silver bullet of wellness. Your eyes will sparkle, your hair will shine, your skin will glow and you’ll never catch a cold if you stay up to date with your daily multivitamin. Unfortunately, no scientific studies show any real difference in health or wellness as a result of dosing up with your As, Bs, Cs, Ds and Es. You get most of the nutrients you need from a healthy – or even not-so-healthy diet – so ditch your vitamin and eat an apple or two.

Added benefit of giving up vitamins: If you stop relying on a multivitamin for your nutrients, you will probably eat more healthy, fresh food.

4. Razors for womenMarketers stumbled upon the brilliant idea of producing razors with rounded edges and pastel shades for women, and charging twice the price for these feminine design elements. Cut the nonsense and buy the cheapest decent blade on the rack. You’ll find it works just as well where it matters – on your skin. The same applies to most “for her” versions of unisex products. And men, how many more than two blades do you really need in your razor?

Added benefit of giving up “for her” razors: Your bathroom won’t be bedazzled with grooming products in all the shades of Jelly Tots.

5. Hair masks or oils to repair split endsThink about it – if a mask or oil could magically glue together a split hair, wouldn’t they glue the rest your hairs together in an unbrushable clump as well? The only cure for split ends is a good trim with a pair of scissors. Save your money on products and let regular haircuts keep your hair in glossy good condition.

Added benefit of giving up hair masks: Frequently trimmed hair is healthier and looks thicker.

6. Cold and flu medicationsColds and flu are caused by viruses. There is no cure. The best thing you can do if you contract one is have lots of fluids and put yourself to bed. While certain medicines may bring symptomatic relief, that’s all they are doing – you are not healing yourself or fighting the virus, no matter what the packaging says. If you need to treat the symptoms, by all means do so, but don’t spend any money on preparations that claim to beat the virus itself.

Added benefit of giving up cold and flu medication: Nasal decongestants can cause anxiety and heart palpitations, and antihistamines can make you drowsy or woolly-headed. If you avoid these medications, you won’t put yourself at risk for any of the side effects

7. Immune boostersIt impossible for a supplement to “boost” the multitude of complex body parts and functions that make up the immune system. However, stress and seriously poor nutrition can deplete your immune system’s function, so if you’re feeling unwell and susceptible to illness, address those issues rather than buying a medication that has no hope of influencing your immunity.

Added benefit of giving up immune boosters: Giving up these preparations will encourage you to focus on the things that actually support your health, like sufficient sleep and a healthy diet.

the best thing to wash your hands with is soap and water

8. Antibacterial hand washWashing your hands regularly – especially in winter – reduces your chances of catching and transmitting colds and flu. And the best thing to wash your hands with is soap and water – not antibacterial soap. In fact, antibacterial soap is responsible for killing off lots of good bacteria. And anyway, colds and flu are caused by viruses. Save your money.

Added benefit of giving up antibacterial hand wash: You won’t be killing off the bacteria that’s actually good for you and contributing to the development of drug-resistant bad bacteria

9. Bottled waterSouth African tap water is among the best quality H2O in the world. If you’re worried about water quality, filter your tap water. Stop paying money for water when obtaining perfectly good hydration is as easy as turning on a tap.

Added benefit of giving up bottled water: You’re saving the planet! You’re not contributing to the staggering 100 million bottles of water used worldwide every day. You will also be missing out on possibly harmful BPAs found in the bottle’s plastic.

10. Coffee podsThis one is a bit of a stretch, because coffee pods do deliver on a certain aspect of their promise: convenience and darn fine coffee. Where the con comes in is that everybody was doing fine without pods before they were invented, they cost up to four times what it would cost to make a cuppa in a French press and, like water bottles, they are filling the world with plastic or aluminium.

Added benefit of giving up coffee pods: You’ll rediscover the fine art of coffee brewing. And you’ll be helping to reduce global landfill.

The bottom lineMarketers and societal norms can convince us of many things that just aren’t true. It is up to us to interrogate and verify every “fact” we are presented with. Being analytical about brand promises or word of mouth can save us a fortune – and bring many other benefits as well.

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