Skincare products that aren't worth the money

When using skincare products in elaborate ten-step routines, it's hard enough to know just how many items you should be using. Yes, it's all too easy to become overwhelmed with options. Nevertheless, taking care of your skin is important. Thankfully, though, Emily Newsom, a board-certified dermatologist at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, told Self that skincare doesn't have to be as intense as many think. According to the expert, all you really need in a daily skincare routine are the basics: a cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen.

Of course, even when you scale down your routine to just a few products, you still have the daunting task of figuring out which brands to use. From $8 drugstore moisturizers to luxury creams costing upwards of $2,000, there seems to be no bottom — and no top — line when it comes to skincare. Before you shell out any amount money on skincare products, though, you should know which items to avoid. According to beauty gurus, estheticians, and dermatologists, here are the products that aren't worth your money or your time.

BioEffect Volcanic Exfoliator

Luxury products can definitely be worth their higher cost — but not all. When comparing skincare products, Joyce de Lemos, a cosmetic chemist at a major beauty label, told Byrdie that consumers should "note the main ingredients in the product they're buying, do the research, and look for proof that it works." Obviously, if a product doesn't work, it's worth neither a lot nor a little of your money.

That's why makeup artist and YouTube personality Tati Westbrook, or simply Tati as she is known, doesn't recommend buying the Volcanic Exfoliator from BioEffect, which retails for $50 as of this writing. According to the product's description on the brand's site, this exfoliator contains "microcrystalline lava and ground apricot seeds that remove dead skin and impurities." That sounds great, but Westbrook revealed that it's "the most weak exfoliator" and a waste of time. She continued, "This is just not worth the money. This is a very expensive exfoliator. Hard pass."

Kylie Skin Walnut Face Scrub

The BioEffect Volcanic Exfoliator may not be worth it, but does that mean you should avoid all exfoliators? While it's true that exfoliation should not be a part of your everyday skincare routine (unlike cleanser, moisturizer, and sunscreen), you should consider using an exfoliator two to three times per week. When speaking with Byrdie, celebrity esthetician René Rouleau explained some of the various benefits of exfoliation, including reducing bacteria, "cleaning clogged pores," and even "tricking the skin into acting young again."

That said, you do have to be careful with ingredients. When Kylie Jenner announced the launch of her new skincare line, Kylie Skin, many people took issue with the $22 Walnut Face Scrub. Beauty guru and YouTube personality Kathleen Lights professed that she's not a dermatologist, but she wondered if the exfoliator would be "too abrasive for the skin."

Refinery29 asked skin experts and, sure enough, the YouTuber's assumption was correct. According to dermatologist Hadley King, a walnut exfoliator can "create micro-tears in the skin" leading to "irritation, inflammation, and possibly even infection." Additionally, Jenner claimed the product is "gentle enough to use everyday" — which conflicts with many dermatologists' advice.

Lancome Absolue L'Extrait Rose Pearl Mask

While cleansing, moisturizing, and applying sunscreen are pretty much non-negotiable, you can add more steps to your routine. While a serum is not technically a necessity, it can be beneficial. Dermatologist Joshua Zeichner told Refinery29 that a serum is essentially "a delivery system for highly concentrated active ingredients." Whereas moisturizers hydrate the skin, Zeichner said that serums can do different things in accordance to how their formulas are made. He shared, "Some help lighten dark spots, some improve the appearance of wrinkles, some offer antioxidant benefits — a serum complements your other skin-care products and can be layered underneath them."

Some serums have even been made into mask form. YouTube personality and makeup artist Jackie Aina tried one such product by Lancôme: the Absolue L'Extrait Rose Pearl Mask. The product retails for £300 (about $380) on the brand's UK site. While Aina recognized that the product is a "good mask," she revealed that she believed she had "other masks in [her] arsenal that give [her] the same results for like a fraction of the price." She noted, "And this is coming from somebody who does not mind dropping racks on some skincare."

La Mer The Eye Balm Intense and other eye creams

While La Mer is a ridiculously expensive label, most of their products are actually worth it. However, The Eye Balm Intense, which retails for $215, is the exception. The product description on Sephora's site claims that it's "a soothing, fast-penetrating eye balm that smooths, visibly reduces puffiness, and instantly de-stresses for the ultimate well-rested look."

The problem? It doesn't work as "instantly" as promised. Renée Rouleau, a renowned esthetician, explained to Byrdie that many of us are "under the impression that eye creams will remove all lines and wrinkles and make the skin under the eyes smooth and youthful again." According to the expert, Botox is the only thing that can do all of those things in a short timeframe.

As such, this issue isn't just specific to La Mer's eye cream, but all eye creams. Fayne L. Frey, a dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon revealed to Reader's Digest that "there are no special ingredients in eye creams that are specific to the skin around the eyes." Rather it's simply how the products are marketed. The expert said "well-formulated facial moisturizers" will work just as well "for a fraction of the cost."

Phytomer Body Blur Contouring Lotion

Even if you're diligent about moisturizing your face, you may neglect the rest of your body. According to dermatologists, though, your body — from your head, including your hair, to your toes — needs regular moisturizing. Thankfully, body lotion can kill two birds with one stone.

If you've been thinking about shelling out 122 clams for the Body Blur Ultra-Smoothing Contouring Lotion by Phytomer, though, you might want to reconsider. "It's really hard for me to say a bad thing about a brand where I love so much from them," beauty guru Tati Westbrook prefaced when discussing the product in a vlog on her YouTube channel, noting, "The problem with this is not the texture but that it actually starts pilling up quite a bit." 

This is a problem you'd expect from a cheap lotion — not a moisturizer that retails for over a hundred bucks. "If you go to a supermarket and buy a moisturizer that's dimethicone-free," cosmetic chemist Joyce de Lemos explained to Byrdie, "you'll notice it's super tacky, super draggy, and might pill." You can see why Westbrook chose to retire this pricey product.

Luxury sunscreen: from Clinique to Sisley-Paris

Because sunscreen protects your skin from sun damage and skin cancer, it's a vital step in every skincare routine. But, just like choosing a moisturizer can cause you to develop a thousand-yard stare in the aisles of Ulta, choosing sunscreen is a process. Not only do you have to consider SPF, but you also have to compare ingredients and consider a multitude of different brands. Fun times. For many, cost is also a factor. The price tags of some luxury sunscreens, like Clinique's SPF 50 Body Cream, more closely resemble drugstore brands' prices while other luxury labels are almost unfathomably expensive, such as Sisley-Paris' Sunleÿa Age Minimizing Sun Care, which retails for — wait for it — $300.

As it turns out, though, luxury sunscreens — whether über expensive or more affordable — aren't worth the price. "Expensive packaging doesn't mean more protection," Mona Gohara, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, told Reader's Digest.

BeautyCounter Nourishing Cream Exfoliator

For $35, you can pick up a 4-ounce bottle of Nourishing Cream Exfoliator by BeautyCounter — but you probably shouldn't. "I used this one time and I was so freaked out by it smelling off that I didn't use it again," makeup artist and YouTuber Tati Westbrook said of the product in a vlog. She continued, saying, "It has nothing to stabilize the product in here. You know, this is such a natural product, but, whatever they put in here, I mean, it smells like Elmer's glue gone bad." Yikes. Additionally, Westbrook said there isn't much grit to it, which means you're not going to get the necessary exfoliation, which, you know, does not exactly make for a glowing review for an exfoliator. You had one job, Nourishing Cream! One job! 

While the product has received positive feedback from many consumers, others had complaints similar to Westbrook's. "I would objectively say it works more as a cleanser," wrote one consumer. Another added, "This stuff does NOT exfoliate."

Hannes Dottir Mineral Mist and other toners

"Patients love toner because of its cool, refreshing sensation," Hedy Setyadi, a Florida-based dermatologist, told Insider, "but toners do not provide any benefits and may even dry out or irritate the face." No! Say it isn't so! "You'd be better off spending that money and effort on products that work," the dermatologist continued.

The expert further suggested alternative products based on popular reasons people use toners in the first place. If you've been attempting to even out your skin tone, Setyadi recommended switching to a gylcolic acid face wash. If anti-aging is what you're after, an antioxidant serum is a sure bet. Or, if you're struggling with breakouts, try a benzoyl peroxide face wash in the morning and a retinoid product before bed.

Although it is the dermatologist's expert opinion that all toners are a waste of money, you can at least waste fewer dollars by buying a non-luxury toner. In a review of multiple toners, Forbes contributor Emily Siegel said Hannes Döttir's $45 Mineral Mist was one of the most expensive kinds she tried — only for it to leave her skin feeling "sticky and in need of a rewash." No thanks.

24-karat gold skincare products

There may be nothing more luxe than smearing literal gold into your face. And, as it happens, this indulgence is actually not outrageously expensive. For $15.99, you can buy Physician's Formula 24-Karat Gold Collagen Serum. Gold — yes, real gold — is the sixth ingredient in this product, which may be higher up on the ingredient list than you'd expect. However, it's actually the concentration of gold in this product that's part of the problem.

"There's all these gold flakes and you see them on your skin," beauty expert and YouTuber Jessica Braun revealed in a vlog. "At least with the stupid expensive Guerlain L'or [24K Gold Radiance] Primer, it has these gold flakes, but you don't see them on your face because they're really small." According to Braun, the flakes in Physician's Formula's serum are just "way too big" and can't be blended into the skin.

In general, gold-infused skincare — no matter the brand — isn't exactly worth its weight in gold. "Just because something has gold in it, doesn't mean it is valuable," Tabasum Mir, a cosmetic dermatological physician, told HuffPost. There's also no scientific research that suggests it's a superior antioxidant, said the expert.

Origins A Perfect World Antioxidant Cleanser with White Tea

All the best — and even the most bare-bones — skincare routines start with a good cleanser or face wash. Of course, not all cleansers are created equally. After trying Origins' $26 A Perfect World Antioxidant Cleanser with White Tea, beauty YouTuber Tati Westbrook admitted on her channel that the cleanser wasn't able to fully remove her makeup and it even "dried [her] skin out." Although the internet personality admitted that she has "finicky skin," the brand markets the product for people with both dry and combination skin, according to their site.

Because the third ingredient in Origins' face wash is sodium laureth sulfate (aka SLS or SLES), people with these skin types may be sensitive to the product. SLS is a compound that's often "added to products to create a lather or bubbles [and] remove dirt and oils from skin and hair," Paul Pestano, a senior database analyst at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), explained to Teen Vogue. According to the expert though, "SLS can often dry out the skin, and some people find they may lead to more acne when their skin is in frequent contact with SLS."

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Foaming Scrub

At just under $10, Neutrogena's Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Foaming Scrub might appear to be a steal. However, consumers say the product isn't even worth its nominal cost. Lori Elizabeth Ens told BuzzFeed News of her terrible reaction to the product. "Not until the following day, I woke up in [the] middle of night and my whole face was swollen and my eyes were swollen shut," she revealed. "I couldn't recognize my face in the mirror." Ens was far from the first — or last — person to have a reaction. As BuzzFeed News reported, many consumers have come forward with claims of severe irritation and allergic reactions.

Jonathan Silverberg, an associate professor of dermatology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, told the publication that it's difficult to know exactly what's causing the reactions without an in-person examination, but he revealed that many of the ingredients used in the product, including grapefruit extract, are known irritants. People might also be allergic to the cocaimopropyl betaine, propylene glycol, and benzalkonium chloride found in the scrub, according to the dermatologist. "Even if patients aren't allergic to them," he explained, "it can be downright irritating to their skin."

Giorgio Armani Crema Nera Extrema Supreme Reviving Cream

As far as luxury beauty products that are worth your hard-earned cash, Giorgio Armani is usually high up on the list. But how does the brand stack up when it comes to skincare? Like their makeup, the brand certainly sells their skincare products at a premium. The Crema Nera Extrema line is especially spendy: A 1.7-ounce jar of the Supreme Reviving Cream, for example, will set you back $390.

According to the brand, the cream contains a near-magical ingredient. "Prized for its healing and medicinal powers," the product description reads, "an extract from the Reviscentalis plant is able to uncover radiant skin and a more youthful appearance." But is this cream really as wonderful as it sounds? Not according to L.A. Burdette, a celebrity makeup artist and skincare expert from Robbinsville, N.J. In fact, she recommends forgoing all of Giorgio Armani's skincare products. "Their makeup is good, but not their skin care," she put it bluntly while speaking with USA Today

Rodial Ultimate Bee Venom Kit and other venomous skincare products

If you purchase Rodial's Ultimate Bee Venom Kit — which comes with a moisturizer, serum, and eye cream — for $348, you'll save over $200 than if you purchased each item separately. Of course, you could save $348 by, you know, not buying this kit at all.

Rodial's Bee Venom products contain exactly what you think: bee venom. As such, the company cautions: "Do not use if you have an allergy to bee stings. A patch test prior to use is recommended. If signs of irritation occur discontinue use immediately." But, even if you don't have an allergy, dermatologist Erin Gilbert says the products are a waste of money. "They don't work. There's not really any evidence that these products actually work," she said of all venomous skincare products in a video for Business Insider. "And so, I would say, avoid these. These are always high price tag. You don't want to go there."

Kopari Coconut Mini Melt

Kopari's Coconut Mini Melt is not a bad skincare product. Not at all. The 2.5-ounce pot, which retails for $18, is consistently well-reviewed. So, what's the big deal? Makeup artist and YouTuber Tati Westbrook explained on her channel. "Do you know what this is? It's something you can find in your kitchen," she revealed. "You can buy a big tub of it from Trader Joe's for a lot less money. … It is coconut oil. That's all it is." She continued, saying,  "But you're going to pay a premium for it being this, like, skincare-esque type of a line."

Kopari is upfront about its products. According to the brand, the Coconut Mini Melt is sulfate-, paragon-, GMO-, and silicone-free. It's one ingredient is organic coconut oil. But therein lies the problem. "My issue with this is it is just raw coconut and you don't have to pay so much money for it," Westbrook summarized. Because it is coconut oil, it is going to have all of the benefits of — you guessed it — coconut oil. According to Byrdie, the Trader Joe's variety will only cost you five bucks. Why spend more if you don't have to, right?