Dollar Store Guide to Health and Wellness: Five You Should Buy, Six You Should Skip

Ahh, the dollar store. In an age where prices are soaring, it’s the beacon of thrifty shopping options for people looking to save a buck. While you can easily score cheap party decorations and glass bowls at the dollar store, it can be tough to know what is and isn’t a good deal when it comes to health and wellness items. Worse yet, it’s hard to know if some cheap items are even safe to use!

Check out this definitive guide on what health items you should buy and which to avoid at the dollar store.

What to buy from the dollar store

Nail tools

In the mood for a DIY pedicure? You’re in luck! The nail tools at the dollar store are decent scores for the price. Find yourself an emery board, nail trimmer, cotton balls, and toe separator for an at-home spa retreat on a budget. You can get several uses out of these items, to boot.

Pregnancy and drug tests

Why pay out the wazoo for these tests at the drugstore? You can score a perfectly accurate pregnancy at the dollar store. Heck, you can stock up and have them in your pantry, which are great to have around particularly if you’re thinking about starting a family. If you’re in need of several marijuana tests (I’m not here to judge, y’all), then this is the place to score them on the cheap.


Many dollar stores carry travel-size name brand tissues, like Kleenex. These are perfect for storing in your car of purse. You can also snag boxes of off-brand tissues, although keep in mind that they won’t be as easy on your nose as higher quality brands. Even then, it’s still a good deal.

Hair accessories

If you’re like me, you go through a pack of hair ties every month. Dollar stores often sell name-brand hair accessories, like scunci, in smaller packaging. Score high quality hair ties, headbands, and combs for $1. They do sell brushes, although scoring one from a drugstore for $2 may get more bang for your buck.

Reading glasses

Why pay out the wazoo for reading glasses? Dollar stores carry multiple styles and strengths of reading glasses. Don’t pay $5 – $10 at the drugstore for the same $1 item at the dollar store. This is also a great option if you like having multiple pairs of reading glasses in your purse, at home, or at work.

What to skip at the dollar store

While there are a lot of things at the dollar store that are a good deal, others are downright highway robbery. Worst of all, some dollar store personal care items can actually be more harmful than their name brand counterparts.

Shampoo and conditioner

I’ve personally tried the giant $1 bottles of shampoo and conditioner at the dollar store. While it technically does clean your hair, it’s harsh and unforgiving. It also separates slightly and doesn’t foam well.

If you’re looking to save money on haircare, I suggest switching to diluted Dr. Bronner’s.


Lotion is all about the luxurious experience of soft skin. Dollar store lotions often claim to soften skin, but lack truly moisturizing ingredients. More often than not, they’re thin and watery. They also smell like old people, but that’s just my personal opinion.

Occasionally you might find on-brand lotions like travel-sized St. Ives. These are the same price at the Walmart $1 bins, so you’re not saving money by making an extra trip to the dollar store for its lotion.

A frugal alternative to lotion is opting for organic coconut oil instead. It’s highly moisturizing and cheap – you can even use it as a facial moisturizer.

Pads and tampons

I’ve actually tried dollar store feminine hygiene products. Guess what, ladies? This is something that you don’t want to play around with. Aside from not providing good coverage and ruining some of my clothes, these products just weren’t comfortable.

Pay the extra money for reputable products instead of scratchy discount boxes of tampons. If you’d like to save money on feminine hygiene, I’ve been using Diva Cup for years and have saved hundreds of dollars.

Electric face scrubbers

I’ve seen $1 battery-operated face scrubbers at the dollar store. I haven’t tried these personally, but it’s a good rule of thumb to avoid electronics at the dollar store. These are cheaply made and low quality. Spend the extra money and snag a face scrubber with rotating heads that’s water-resistant.


On occasion you can find Elf or OPI brands at the dollar store. Too often these are actually unauthorized knockoffs of name brand cosmetics. Think about it: why would OPI sell its high-end nail polishes at the dollar store? They wouldn’t!

There have been reports of people experiencing hives, pain, and irritation after using dollar store cosmetics. These are cheaply made and often contain harmful ingredients.

Care for your body and spend your money on high quality cosmetics elsewhere.

Nail polish

Looking to save a few bucks on your manicure? If you’re a DIYer, your best bet is to score nail polish from the drugstore. These polishes tend to be thinner than higher quality polishes, meaning you need to use more polish for proper coverage. Save yourself some time and snag nail polish for $2.50 at Target instead.

The bottom line

The dollar store is a haven for frugal-minded folks looking to save a buck. There are some great steals there for personal care products, but there are also several items you’d best avoid for financial or health reasons. Smart shop at the dollar store for maximum savings.

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About Makenzi Wood

Makenzi Wood is a full-stack marketer turned blogger who aspires to retire early. She writes about living the good life while paying off $250,000 of debt.

She has a B.A. in Communication and Media Studies from Trinity University.

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  1. Money Beagle says

    I’ve purchased medicine at the dollar store at significant savings. I can get 8 caplets of NyQuil equivalent medicine for $1 where that’s $5 or more at the drugstore. Medicine is FDA regulated so they have to adhere to the same standards as medicine you purchase anywhere else. Things like vitamins and such that are NOT FDA regulated should be avoided, but with medicine the biggest thing to worry about from the Dollar Store is probably the expiration date.

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