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How to Tell if a Skincare Product Is Worth the Money

How to Tell if a Skincare Product Is Worth the Money

In general, why are skincare lines so expensive?

Skin care lines are businesses, and, by the numbers, skin care is big business and somewhere in the order of $160 Billion a year global industry. A healthy diet and skin care go together. Buy the right skin care product for you! One survey suggests American women spend an average of $8 per day on facial care products averaging 16 products in number. Women living in some parts of the U.S. will spend up to $300,000 in a lifetime on facial care. Consumers, you need to be aware that skin care companies are all vying aggressively for your dollars.

Is price an indicator of quality in skin care?

Absolutely not. When you read the ingredients in some of the most expensive products, they tell a fanciful story based in creative prose written on pleasurable packaging – imagination and packaging is not sound science or a smart personal skin care choice. Your skin care routine should be pleasant; you should feel good about your products and they should feel good on your skin. They should also help you reach your complexion goals AND they should “do no harm,” meaning they should not cause allergic or irritant rashes. For example, is your skin really going to absorb and benefit from silk and pearls or 24 karat gold? What about the uber-scientific sounding ingredients with benefit statements that you can’t find substantiated by in vivo scientific studies (studies done on living beings)? When I read the ingredient list on the labels of these expensive products, I see fragrance ingredients and other allergens that will land someone with sensitive skin in my office with a rash. I prefer to take the complete opposite approach to helping someone choose skin care products. I look at what ingredients are proven to work for specific, complexion goals. I then look to find products or skin care lines made without a lot of allergens and irritants. These include meaningful amounts of the active ingredients in bases that feel good and match a person’s specific complexion type. How do you do this? Understand first that complete skin care involves four key steps: Cleanse, Correct, Hydrate, and Protect. In your complete skin care routine, the key active ingredients will be in the Correct and Protect steps. Cleansers need to clean your skin without overly drying it. Moisturizers need to adequately hydrate skin without blocking pores. “Magic/active” ingredients in these steps are not worth investing in. Save your investment for correcting and protecting products.

How do you tell if a skincare company (or specific product) is worth investing in?

Are they using active ingredients with in vivo scientific studies that prove results for correcting complexion issues?  Learn what works for your complexion problems or goals and then search for products that have those ingredients. For example:
    • Proven acne treatment ingredients include: salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid, retinol, and zinc pyrithione.
    • Ingredients that help fight skin aging include: retinol, glycolic acid, green tea antioxidants and vitamin C, and broad spectrum sunscreens.
    • Ingredients that work for hyperpigmentation include: broad spectrum sunscreens, retinol, vitamin C, glycolic acid, hydroquinone, and some botanical lighteners such as kojic acid.
Product production and storage are also important factors.
  • Are the products made in a production laboratory that is pharmaceutical-grade and capable of creating a formulation that preserves active ingredient efficacy?
  • Are there so many “actives” in a product that they are diluted and possibly inactivated by each other, or is the product formulation specifically focused to maximize a single or small combination of actives?

Beware of skin care lines or products made with a long list of trending “actives” for market appeal. It’s the “all but the kitchen sink” approach to marketing – the label reads “like magic,” but I find that each of those ingredients lessens the others in terms of concentration, stability and efficacy. I am an oil painter and it is similar to adding so many paint colors together that you eventually end up with a non-descript brown/gray mess that’s of no use on your canvas.

  • Is the product dispensed in a container that protects it from light and air if necessary? For example, is your fragile and expensive vitamin C product protected from oxidation by both formulation and packaging?
Understand that the act of mixing an active ingredient into a skin care formulation does not mean the active stays active or is present in meaningful amounts. Learn some of the science behind the skin care for your complexion goals. Read product labels and then use your best judgement. When you buy a product, look for results. The beautiful thing about dermatology and skin care is that results are right there in the mirror – or not. Don’t just focus on how a product feels when you apply it. Look for promised results in a week or month. Results may include softening of wrinkles, brightening of skin texture, lightening of age spots, clearing of acne, lessening or redness from rosacea, etc.

doctor's advice for complete skin care for rosaceaAgain, complete skin care includes the 4 steps of Cleanse, Correct, Hydrate, and Protect. Products are usually applied in that order, too.

  Step 1. Cleansers don’t need to be expensive because “active” ingredients are washed down the drain. Best foaming pyrithione zinc cleanser for acne, pityrosporum folliculitis and dandruffThe exceptions are acne care cleansers because salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and zinc pyrithione can remain on the skin if a product is formulated well. (examples are Neutrogena or Clean and Clear PanOxyl, Dr. Bailey Skin Care Calming Zinc or Foaming Zinc Cleanser) Step 2. Correcting products are where you should invest. best retinol cream for wrinkles and skin rejuvenation Learn about your skin problems or complexion goals and scrutinize products based on my advice above. Examples include Retinol Creams such as Roc Retinol Correxion Cream, SkinMedica Retinol Complex or Dr. Bailey Skin Care Retinol Anti-wrinkle Night Cream. Green tea antioxidant polyphenols are some of the best skin care antioxidant ingredients.  best skin care product with green tea antioxidants to help tretinoin retin aThe single best patented technology for green tea is in Dr. Bailey Skin Care's Green Tea Antioxidant Therapy. Almost every complexion benefits from this single product. Step 3. Hydrating products need to match your skin’s needs.  best natural moisturizer for sensitive skinChose lighter texture products for oily skin and heavier cream bases for drier skin. Booster oils (such as my Omega Enriched or Sensitive Skin Face Booster Oils) can be added to moisturizers to boost hydrating results. Again, like cleansers, you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get a good moisturizer.best natural facial booster oil to help heal sensitive skin Look for ingredients that are oils or non-oil water binders like glycerin or hyaluronic acid. Ceramids are also excellent moisturizing ingredients. I like to keep moisturizing products simple. Examples include Daily Face Cream for Normal to Oily Skin or Natural Face and Body Lotion. Step 4. Protecting products are your sunscreens. You need one every day 365 days a year because sun damages skin and triggers many skin problems such as rosacea. best matte tinted mineral zinc oxide sunscreen for oily skin Look for broad spectrum sunscreens that are mineral-zinc-oxide based. One of my personal favorite sunscreen for my 60 year old face is Suntegrity's BB Cream. I use the tinted and unscented BB cream daily. It’s also my daytime moisturizer, which simplifies my morning skin care routine. Sheer Strength Matte Tinted Sunscreen and Spray Sunscreen are ideal for oily complexions. The other sunscreen active that I trust is Mexoryl, which is present in La Roche-Posay Anthelios SX.  Steer clear of other sunscreen “actives” because they are unstable, can be allergens and have other dubious concerns such as hormone disruption. You need to love your sunscreen so that you will wear it daily. It also needs to be made by a reputable pharmaceutical laboratory. This means you may need to invest in just the right product for your complexion. When it comes to skin care products and lines, there are a lot to choose from. Look at the ingredients, watch for results and avoid the "hype." You'll save time and money, and your skin will thank you! Want more of the latest skin care tips like this from Dr. Bailey? Sign up here to get her most recent insights delivered to your in box.