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Three Tips for Every Consumer, from the Editors at Reviews.com

  August 1st, 2017

At Reviews.com, we set out to help you find your best — and along the way we’ve found some pretty unpretty insights about the industries we explore. If you’re a woman, you’re probably paying too much for just about everything a company can slap a flower on. Even if a medicine’s over-the-counter, it doesn’t mean it’s safe. And whatever’s written on a label, from “clinical strength” to “electrolyte water,” may just be marketing fluff.

Here are 3 tips we’ve learned on our quest to find the best:

1. Women pay more for the exact same product as men.

When we reviewed the best hair loss treatments, we discovered that 5 percent minoxidil treatments — aka Rogaine — are clinically proven to slow hair loss and even regrow some hair.

We also discovered that, even though the women’s and men’s formulas are identical, women pay more for their flower-patterned bottles.

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Same product, different prices.

Buy Rogaine one bottle at a time, and you’ll see no price difference: both men’s and women’s formulas come in 2.11 oz cans, and both retail for around $30 a pop. But try to save by buying in bulk, and voila, women suddenly pay $10 more for the same amount of the same product as men. On Rogaine’s website, three cans of women’s formula is $60, while three cans of men’s formula is $50. Likewise, $70 dollars will get you four cans of women’s Rogaine, while men only pay $60.

The only difference between the women’s and men’s products — other than the design on the box — is the directions. Women are instructed to use Rogaine once a day, while men should use it twice.

Editor’s Advice: Buy men’s Rogaine – even if you’re a woman. And if you’re really looking to save some cash, we found generics like Equate and Costco’s Kirkland Signature also have 5 percent minoxidil foam formulas for as little as half the price of Rogaine.

2. Marketing can make products sound a lot more impressive than they actually are.

Take antiperspirants. They use aluminum to reduce perspiration by combining with your sweat to form a jelly-like layer over your sweat glands, preventing moisture from coming out. Antiperspirants that contain more aluminum — 20 percent, for example, as opposed to 11 or 12 percent – are often labeled “clinical strength” and are anywhere from $2 to $15 more expensive than their non-clinical strength counterparts. Sounds great, right?

But more aluminum doesn’t necessarily mean less sweat. It just means more aluminum.

You see, the FDA regulates all antiperspirants, clinical strength or not. In its monograph, the FDA stipulates that to be marketed as an antiperspirant, a product “must reduce sweating by at least 20 percent in tests.” If it reduces sweating by 30 percent, it can be labeled “extra effective.” Everything else — including the phrase “clinical strength” — is just marketing.

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Pay attention to the labels, not the marketing.

In our review of the best deodorant for men, we saw Dove Men+Care Clean Comfort Clinical Protection Antiperspirant has 20 percent aluminum and is labeled “extra effective,” while it’s regular Men+Care line has only 15.2 percent aluminium and no “extra effective” label. Worth the extra $2? Maybe.

On the other hand, Secret Clinical Strength Antiperspirant and Deodorant Invisible Solid, which we looked at in our review of the best deodorant for women, has 20 percent aluminum, but no “extra effective” stamp of proof. According to the FDA’s requirements, it’s no more effective than Secret’s 18 percent aluminum regular formula. It just has $5 of extra aluminum.

Editor’s Advice: If you’re shopping for a more-powerful antiperspirant, take a close look at the Drug Facts on the back label. Under Uses, you’ll want to see a bullet point that says “extra effective” to know you’ve got the good stuff.

3. Companies will sell you one thing when you really need another.

There are enough free, DIY ways to guard and monitor your identity that Consumer Reports actually doesn’t recommend signing up for a paid service. And we agree — to a certain extent. To make an identity theft protection service worth its monthly expense, it has to do more than just monitor and protect. It has to be able to help you get your stolen identity back, too.

For our review on the best identity theft protection services, we spoke with Robert Minniti, a CPA and Forensic Accountant. He told us, “The true cost of identity theft isn’t paying back what’s been stolen, but in clearing your name.” The average ID theft victim spends more than 200 hours across 18 months resolving issues on their credit reports. That’s a lot of life.

And that led us deep into the fine print of identity theft protections services. Behind their ubiquitous $1 million insurance claims was a disparate array of recovery “help.” Identity Guard has a hotline where you can get some advice over the phone. IdentitySecure offers online tips — not so different than the guide on IdentityTheft.gov, which is run by the federal government and anyone can access for free. The best services, like Identity Force, LifeLock, and ID Watchdog, actually adopt temporary power of attorney to do the work of contacting creditors, employers, and law enforcement agencies on your behalf.

Editor’s Advice: Read the fine print and look for a company that’s going to adopt temporary power of attorney. Without it, they legally can’t help you very much — and you’ll be on your own despite your monthly membership.

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