Facial skin care has gotten so complicated of late. Spend enough time on social media or browsing beauty sites and you just might start thinking that unless you’re dropping half a paycheck on your routine, you’re not doing enough. First, this sets up the notion that only those who can afford top shelf will have spectacular skin. (This is, of course, not true! There are solid options at every single price point. There are also overrated products at every price point.)
But second, it also may have you believing that every product category is worth investing in in the same price range. Not so, says board-certified dermatologist Kavita Mariwalla, M.D., who says that not all products are worth bloated budgets.
Now typically when I get this advice, experts note that face wash is an easy product to save on. Their reasoning? It’s a wash-off and typically gets the job done with cheap ingredients. So when Mariwalla shared her overrated item, I was a bit taken aback: She wants you to save money on the oft-expensive face cream.
Why this derm wants you to stop spending so much money on face cream.
“I think face moisturizer is a totally overrated expense in the skin care category. Expensive moisturizers do not hydrate your skin more—the act of moisturizing your skin is accomplished by certain ingredients,” she says, noting that those raw materials are more or less comparably priced across the board. So it’s more important that you find an option that suits your specific skin type and texture preference, regardless of budget.
So next time you’re at the department or beauty store, skip right over those three-digit price tag creams. The double- or single-digit prices will do the same amount of work.
Now with all that money you just saved on moisturizer, you can go ahead and splurge where it counts: actives and serums. “If you want an active, well, that’s a different story—that you want to spend money on as bioavailability and formulations matter. So your vitamin C, retinol, niacinamide, and things like that—go ahead and find the more expensive options within your budget,” she notes.
Here’s the big caveat: Some people don’t want a serum and a face cream, so instead they look for moisturizers with active ingredients added. While serums will always offer more potency (they are designed to penetrate deeper layers of the epidermis), an active ingredient laced cream can certainly improve skin quality, too. And in those instances, a reasonable price hike is justified.
If you enjoy skin care and you have the means, by all accounts do your thing. You won’t find any judgment over here. However, I will always be the first to say that good skin care doesn’t have to break the bank: There are solid options at every price point and level. Just find something that works for you within your budget, and ignore the rest.
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