Expensive skincare: love it or leave it?

SkinQ-Bubbles

We all want miracle products that give us clear, soft, and supple skin when it comes to skincare. We look for formulations that promise results and find ingredients that work best for our skin types. The search for good skincare takes you on a journey online and in retail stores - navigating various prices, messages, and packages that are all equally attention-grabbing. 

In the beauty world, products usually get segmented into the drugstore and high-end categories. The common belief is that expensive skincare is better than drugstore beauty lines. In searching for the best skincare for ourselves, how to decide whether an expensive product is really worth its price? 

What makes “expensive” skincare expensive?

A lot of beauty products are really cheap to make unless they incorporate rare-to-find ingredients, are created in small batches, or include unique fragrances. While purchasing an expensive skincare product, you pay for proprietary ingredients, patented formulations, and expensive marketing. Proprietary ingredients refer to unique formulations that include active ingredients , flavours, fragrances, or the lack thereof. These formulations are patented, thus adding a huge weight to the price tag.

You’ll also find that expensive skin care looks and feels more premium than regular skincare. The packaging is more beautiful and sometimes more sustainable, than budget-friendly beauty products. The price tag reflects a lifestyle. Expensive skincare is marketed in a way that makes you feel special for using it. These products promise a whole range of benefits, which they sometimes deliver. 

Many beauty bloggers and dermatologists will tell you that there are dupes for these expensive high-functioning products in the market. The truth is, you don’t need to shell out the big bucks every time you want to buy a good skincare product. The choice between an expensive product and a cheaper alternative comes down to what you are willing to spend on your skincare. 

To explain this concept more clearly, suppose you purchase an expensive face wash with certain natural skin actives. The base formula with active ingredients that work to cleanse your skin is the same as the base formula for a drugstore face wash. However, the expensive product might smell better, have a couple of moisturising natural ingredients, and might have a heavier consistency that you find desirable. You are effectively paying for a more premium experience, but not necessarily for the more effective face wash. Both the products would do the same functions, which is to cleanse your face. 

What makes skincare effective?

The efficacy of products mostly depends on ingredients and formulation. The percentage of active ingredients in a product determines whether a product is going to deliver results or not. Skincare ingredients like Vitamin-C often require stabilisers to be highly functional, so formulations matter. You should always place your money on a brand that pays attention to optimising ingredients and formulation of their products. 

Expensive skincare products tend to have a higher concentration of skin actives. However, you will find products in the lower category that have the same base formulation with adequate and effective skin actives. While choosing skincare brands to include in your beauty routine, it's always better to stick by science. If the brand invests time and money in research and ingredients, then the brand is definitely worth spending money on. 

If you value your money, it’s wiser to spend more on products that are going to stay on your face longer. So, splurging on serums, foundations, and skin treatments make sense. Sticking to the drugstore or less-premium options for face washes, toners moisturisers is perfectly justifiable because you are not looking for specific skin actives that are result-driven. These skincare products have more generic formulations and require less expensive ingredients to be considered effective. Finding the right product is all about understanding your skin type and your budget. 


In consumer interest, here’s a guide to which products are worth splurging on and which to skip:


Cleansers

The first step of an effective skincare routine is cleansing. The most obvious factor that determines the type of facial cleanser you choose is your skin type. People with a dry skin type usually opt for foaming or mousse-like cleansers, while people with oily or combination skin types usually choose gel-based cleansers. 

The job of a cleanser is to rid your face of impurities without drying it out completely. Most cleansers have a similar set of base ingredients like salicylic acid, glycol acid, Vitamin C, and pH balancing ingredients, so it’s not really necessary to splurge on a cleanser. You can find a really effective cleanser that works for your skin type within a limited budget. Save your money for other products. 

Verdict: Skip the splurge

Toners

A good toner restores the pH balance of your skin. For all those who follow the good old skincare routine of cleanse, tone and moisturise, toners are a part of the beauty arsenal. So, is splurging on a toner going to make a difference to your skin? No. 

Toners that are generally free of alcohol and astringent ingredients can be obtained at a lower cost. Further, the skin can naturally restore its own ph balance within 15 to 30 minutes after cleansing. You don’t need to shell out the big bucks to do something that your skin can achieve on its own. 

Verdict: Skip the splurge

Moisturiser

One of the most common beauty buys is the life-saving moisturiser. If you’re looking for the more basic benefits of using a moisturiser, like say moisturising your skin and preventing dryness, you would choose a more economical option. 

According to cosmetic chemists, expensive moisturisers can be better than regular drugstore products because they contain a little more of the good stuff. Premium products contain a larger quantity of natural ingredients like vitamin c, vitamin e, aloe or other extracts in their formulation. Less expensive products do contain the same ingredients, but their potency is largely reduced. 

So, while a drugstore moisturiser does perform the actions of a moisturiser, it doesn't have the same goodness that an expensive one does. 

Verdict: You could afford to splurge

Serums

Serums are mostly water-based and contain skin actives in varying quantities that work miracles to improve your skin. They are often used for hydration or exfoliation, and are included as mini skin treatments. Here, expensive serums can work better than less expensive ones. This is mainly because of the high percentage of active ingredients and the quality of the extracts. More expensive skin serums do contain more potent formulations and this is worth the splurge. 

Verdict: You could afford to splurge

Masks

Face masks contain a high concentration of active ingredients that help in improving the quality of your complexion. Expensive skin masks either contain higher quantities of the good ingredients or contain rare ingredients that are quite difficult to obtain. Taking a look at the ingredients helps to decide if the expensive one is worth the price. Truth is, you’ll find masks on the lower end of the price spectrum doing their jobs just as well. 

Verdict: You could afford to splurge

Makeup remover

There are many replacements for a makeup remover, including organic and natural oils. So, spending a lot on a makeup remover exclusively is not sensible. You could argue that makeup removers can be gentle on your skin. But, the number of alternatives to this product just makes this not worth the splurge. 

Verdict: Skip the splurge

Sunscreen

Purchasing sunscreen can be overwhelming. You could be put off by the stickiness, smell or residue left by the product. But irrespective of whether you are buying an expensive sunscreen or a cheaper one, your sunscreen should block the sun, primarily. The SPF and your skin type are two of the most important factors that play a role in deciding which sunscreen to buy. Sunscreens often tend to leave a white cast which does not appeal to people with skin of color. However, there are formulations that suit such skin and leave little or no white-cast.

Verdict: You could afford to splurge

Eye creams

The right time to include eye creams into your skincare routine is debatable. Eye creams are worth splurging on because the area around the eyes is sensitive and you need to be really careful about the types of ingredients you introduce to that area. Eye creams hydrate and moisturise the areas around the eyes, so picking a product with a high percentage of skin actives is better. 

Verdict: You could afford to splurge


If you follow this guide, you most certainly will end up making smarter skincare purchases. Choosing the best skincare products for you comes down to understanding your skin type and knowing the ingredients that work for you. The amount of money you spend on your skincare depends solely on your budget. It’s worth splurging on certain products because of better ingredients and formulation. It’s better to stick to lower-priced products when they can do the job just as well as expensive ones. The takeaway here is that different regimens work for different people, there is no one size fits all when it comes to skincare. So, choose skincare that understands your skin type, formulated by dermatologists or talk to the experts. 

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