Is Expensive Skin Care Really Worth It, Or Are Drugstore Products Just As Effective?

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Along with the growing popularity of social media platforms like TikTok has come an emphasis on skin care products like moisturizers, serums, and chemical peels. In fact, according to a report by Statista, skin care revenue is expected to increase even more in the coming years, totaling approximately $24 billion by 2027. Celebrity brands and Instagram-sponsored content have played an important role in popularizing the skin care industry. On top of everyday products, increasingly-niche treatments like the so-called "vampire facial" and the bee sting facial have gotten their 15 minutes of fame (and then some).

If you have hundreds of millions of Instagram followers and a contract with the MCU, spending $100 on eye cream and another few hundred on leech therapy is downright manageable. Kim Kardashian's La Mer morning skincare routine is famously worth over $1,000, according to Byrdie. Gwenyth Paltrow's daily wellness regimen isn't much more affordable, coming in at approximately $900, per Us Magazine. However, considering that most people in the United States live paycheck to paycheck, it's not always realistic to sacrifice hundreds on skin care... So, are you really worse off with drugstore products? Or, are they just as effective as celebrity-preferred brands like La Mer, La Prairie, and Dior?

Drugstore skincare cotains nearly identical ingredients

On TikTok, #skincaredupes has well over 77 million views. For pretty much every luxury product on the market, there's a dupe that's worth only a fraction of the price. But how do these drugstore spin-offs compare in potency? "We have no problem taking an amazing formula and taking out the most expensive parts, like the proprietary ingredients or signature scent, then repackaging it for a cheaper product," Joyce de Lemos, a former lead formulation chemist at Function of Beauty, explains to Byrdie, adding "Giant brands will often take a formula from one brand that's doing really well, and they'll just decorate it and repackage it for another brand." Ultimately, the ingredients are more or less the same, meaning that the benefits are too.

For instance, trade Tatcha's $70 water cream moisturizer for Neutrogena's hydro boost water gel — it's under $20. If you look at the ingredient list, both products contain core components like water, dimethicone for a smooth finish, and sodium hyaluronate for hydration. Similarly, there's no shortage of La Prairie-inspired eye creams that won't break the bank — although they might not be on the cutting edge of caviar science like the celebrity-reviewed brand, they do contain effective brightening ingredients like caffeine. More often than not, you're paying for the prestige, not the product. Before investing in any form of skincare, do a little digging to see if the brand's claims are backed up by scientific research.

Certain skin care treatments are worth a splurge

When it comes to microneedling at home or experimenting with dermaplaning razors, opt for a professional treatment rather than buying tools at your local Target. For instance, although you can order three facial razors for under $6 on Amazon, improper shaving techniques can result in breakouts or even infections. As certified-dermatologist Dr. Joyce Park warns Marie Claire, "... if you have inflamed cystic or pustular acne lesion, wounds, or openings in the skin, do not dermaplane over them because the bacteria can get spread by the blade." Certified facialists or estheticians will be able to determine what strategies are best (and safest) for your specific skin concerns. Ultimately, if done properly, dermaplaning can leave you with smooth skin and a brighter complexion. At the very least, getting a facial can be worth it if only for the half-hour of relaxation it affords. 

Finally, it's more affordable to invest in your overall health rather than splurging on temporary topical fixes. Getting the proper nutrition, drinking plenty of water, and taking time to work on your mental health can do wonders when it comes to clearing up your skin. On top of that, dermatologist-recommended prescription medications will likely have more benefits than a $200 La Mer cream, even if Kim Kardashian swears by it.