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Skin Care FAQ: Are Expensive Products Worth It?

As people who are really passionate about skin care, it’s natural that the more we learn about it, the more questions we have! In Skin Care FAQ, our new ongoing series, we’ll be taking every week one of the top-searched skin care questions and bringing it to top dermatologists, aestheticians, and skin care specialists to give you the most complete and accurate answer. This week’s theme is: Are expensive products worth it?

It’s the classic devil/angel shoulder situation: You absolutely love your AmorePacific Moisture Bound Rejuvenating Cream and you swear it’s the reason why those fine lines on your forehead have suddenly disappeared. But then, you see an ad for the Missha Time Revolution Immortal Youth Cream. Could it really be just as good as the AmorePacific cream and be literally less than half of the price? Instead of having you conduct this pricey experiment, we reached out to two top derms to get the final answer on this perplexing situation.
Here’s the deal: Sometimes expensive products are better and sometimes they’re not, but it all depends on the ingredient list, the amount of a certain ingredient a product has, and how the brand formulates an ingredient. Basically, it’s complicated. But we can break it down for you.
“The price tag on a product doesn’t always equate with effectiveness,” says Joshua Zeichner, the director of clinical and cosmetic dermatology at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City. “While some expensive product do use costly ingredients, sometimes the price also depends on packaging. There are many drugstore brands that have a much lower price point yet proven effectiveness.”
Zeichner uses retinol as an example. “The retinol technology used in the Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Night Moisturizer has been evaluated in clinical trials and seen to be effective in improving the look of wrinkles. But not all retinol is created equal, so you must be careful and which product you choose,” he says. “Generic brands may have the same ingredient list as an expensive one, but when you turn the bottle over, the quality of the ingredients and the formulation technology may be quite different.”
When To Splurge?
Kavita Mariwalla, a dermatologist in West Islip, New York, says that when it comes to certain concerns, you’ll want to splurge. “I think when it comes to basic moisturizers for the face and body, more money doesn’t mean better quality,” she says. “But for anti-aging and targeting specific things like brown spots, drugstore or less expensive creams often don’t deliver.”

For example, Mariwalla believes that ideal combination is “a mix of high and low,” and to be wary of some over the counter expensive products. “A lot of the expense comes from the need to market and brand,” she says. Mariwalla thinks Dove soap and Eucerin Advanced Repair lotion is great for the body, but when it comes to sunscreen, she says it’s best to shell out some cash. “For the face, I do believe the more expensive sunscreen is far superior,” she says. She recommends the La-Roche Posay Anthelios Sunscreen. “The compounds in it are more photostable than other sunscreens and the formulation is very elegant,” says Mariwalla.
Luckily, a lot of Korean skin care products are easy on the wallet and provide impressive results. Take the Neogen Day-Light Protection Sun Screen. Not only does it offer SPF 50, but it’s also infused with rose, honey, and raspberry extracts for an extra boost of hydration. You’re basically getting a lightweight moisturizer and a solid sunscreen in one for $30. When it comes to anti-aging serums, the Missha Time Revolution Night Repair New Science Activator Ampoule has been touted as the less expensive Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair, plus it contains Bifida Ferment Lysate, a unique ingredient to Missha that reduces the appearance of fine lines and improves skin’s elasticity.
The Bottom Line
Mariwalla says that when it comes to washing your body and hydrating it, drugstore options are a fine choice. You should use the money you save on purchasing those items to spend a bit more on products like sunscreen and anti-aging serums and creams. And Zeichner says that you should do some due diligence and check the ingredient list of the bargain drugstore anti-aging cream. If it matches you expensive cream and seems to be formulated the same way, it should be just as effective.

Also keep in mind that Mariwalla says that if you’re trying to combat a specific anti-aging problem, the expensive product will probably do the trick better. So if you’re really looking to balance your skin tone, spending close to $200 on the AmorePacific Time Response Skin Renewal Toner might just be worth it.

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