How To Navigate The Beauty Section At T.J. Maxx

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I’ve been shopping at T.J. Maxx since I was old enough to buckle my own seat belt. My mom and I used to hit up the one in a strip mall in Houston, next to a glamour shots studio and the potpourri graveyard that is Kirkland’s. The general myth I grew up believing is that T.J. Maxx and Marshalls get cast-offs and surplus from department stores—and there are certainly plenty of “slightly irregular” socks in my drawer—but in reality, a lot of the stock they purchase wholesale like any other retailer. And they’re constantly introducing new brands and products so it always seems like a treasure hunt (it also seems somewhat impossible to find the same thing twice). It’s genius.

Over in the beauty aisles, depending on your locale, it can be a shitshow of soap-drip-covered, sticky bottles from unknown British-sounding brands, or it can be an overwhelming, color-coded dreamscape. Or both. It’s so alluring and yet illogical. Lotion next to bubble bath next to Costco-size bottles of hand soap, all of them either vanilla or birthday cake or gardenia or other “white” scents. I thrive in the chaos.

Here’s my strategy for tackling it:

Open your heart up to the unknown.

Fine, within reason. If you’re not a trusting person, the beauty aisle at T.J. Maxx is a challenge. I stay away from actual cosmetics and skincare, because I require a ton of research before I commit to a mascara. That’s just me. Where I will experiment is with body wash, hand soap, bath stuff, and face wipes. There were SO MANY shelves of face wipes at my TJX, it took an hour to browse them completely. AN HOUR. My life passed before my eyes and it was all on clearance.

I grabbed some Dead Sea Origins Wipes because they sounded neutral, but when I got home they were pretty floral, not super wet (sorry), and I wasn’t psyched. Will I try others? Most definitely. There were a million coconut and kale wipes that sound...delicious. And sheet masks, oh man. I’d think of TJX beauty shopping as more about the fun of the chase rather than an investment purchase. Plus, I go through wipes like a bottle of Beefeater—daily usage—and almost all of the packages had 60, instead of the typical drugstore 30, for the same price. Why the hell not?

Keep your eyeballs peeled for the known.

There’s some secret stashes of famous, familiar brands at the X-factor. Philosophy, Fekkai shampoo (in little trial sizes tho), Jāsön Organics, Alba Botanica, Bliss, all those giant red bottles of “sexy” hairspray. Cool! #Deals. Speaking of:

Is this really a great deal?

Don’t get fooled by the “Compare at” price. This also goes for the crossed-out prices on Amazon, which are messing with your brain. I got Jāsön Organics Dandruff Shampoo and Conditioner (which is the best-scented dandruff shampoo I’ve ever found) for $7.99. It said compare at $10. So I saved 2 bucks, woo hoo! Actual compare at: It’s $13 on Amazon, $7.95 at Thrive Market, and $12 at Target. You have to think to yourself: Would I normally spend $8 on shampoo? Yes. Then okay! Adds to rolly red cart full of misshapen socks

Let’s talk about the hand soaps.

OMG they are so huge. Why are they so tall? That’s a lot of soap to commit to, in a questionably opulent package. I sniff all the soaps and then pick a winner, keeping in mind how much I usually spend on hand soap at Trader Joe’s ($3.50). I ended up buying a gigantic bottle of citrus basil soap from something called “Home & Body Co,” which I’d never heard of, but some research reveals that they sell a lot of soaps to the Maxxfactor. The original bottle was covered with a tasteful eggplant motif, so I transferred the contents to a less-phallic Muji soap dispenser instead. 21.5 ounces for $5.99 wasn’t bad! But thanks to the calculator app, I found out that ounce-by-ounce, TJ’s is still cheaper. I’m a sucker.

And the bath stuff.

I wasn’t in the market for body wash, but I use a lot of Epsom salts and the TJX-games has so many flavors. And because you end up using a lot, it's usually not too much product to commit to. I went with San Francisco Salt Co's Detox Salt. It screamed BAY AREA CHILLNESS, without the opulence. ($5.99!) Usually I pay around $3 for reg salts, so this was a treat yo’self situation. In the actual bath, they were a little stinky for me, but nothing a little bath oil can’t fix.

And the essential oils

They carry ‘em now, and that’s awesome. Stop by your local Maxx, get lost a little, and tell me what you found. I’m curious.

—Alex Beggs

Photographed by the author.

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