Buying new skincare products is all fun and games until you’re hit with the price. As products become more expensive it’s hard to prioritize which products to try out, especially when you’re unsure if they will even be compatible with your skin type. These days, the amount of skincare products widely available is overwhelming and can be confusing to anyone who’s not a beauty expert or a cosmetic chemist. Do products only work when they cost a fortune? Are affordable options just as effective? The answers to these questions depend on the type of product or brand. However, one reassuring conclusion is that a higher price does not always correlate with a better product.

Tons of reasons exist as to why the prices of skincare products may vary. A product’s cost can be affected by its packaging and marketing- factors that have nothing to do with the actual formulation of the product itself. A brand has to decide whether to pay for sustainable packaging and a sanitary pump or package its product into a plastic container. The cost of a product is also affected by the ingredients used to produce it. When skincare companies use proprietary ingredients, prices can grow significantly. A proprietary ingredient is a formulation of different ingredients (usually some fragrance) and is infrequently found in general skincare products. These ingredients are more difficult to acquire and pricier to produce, accounting for a higher sales price. Regardless of whether or not a product includes proprietary ingredients, it’s important to note that some of a product’s cost will always be for the company’s branding.

But what about the concentration of active ingredients? Is expensive skincare more potent than affordable skincare? This varies as well.

According to Dr. Debra Jailman, a board-certified NYC dermatologist, a highly-priced product usually has a higher concentration of an active ingredient (which delivers what the product claims to do). Compared to drugstore products, expensive skincare products might also be safer for all skin types. Affordable skincare will still have the active ingredient, but it might be listed lower on the ingredients list. As a general rule, it’s crucial to check to see where active ingredients are listed. The higher on the list an ingredient is placed, the more concentrated it is within the product. Checking the ingredients lists will also ensure that the product is effective. Some skincare brands might opt for lower-quality ingredients that are cost-effective but can actually be harmful to one’s skin. In this case, the cheaper option might not be worth the expense of a bad reaction.

Overall, a skincare product is worth purchasing when you know you’re going to use it consistently. As college students, it’s usually not our utmost priority to invest in “high-end” skincare, especially when we are unsure if the product will work. It’s most important to find a skincare routine that fits your personal budget and lifestyle. So yes, an expensive skincare product might technically be “better,” but sometimes you are better off with a more affordable option that can achieve a similar outcome.

Companies like The Ordinary and The Inky List are my go-to’s for affordable and high-quality products. They both offer simplistic yet effective skincare, which is rare to find at a reasonable cost. My personal favorites include The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid serum (a necessity for winter weather) and The Inky List Caffeine eye cream. The Caffeine depuffs my eyes while the serum helps with overall dryness. Every active ingredient aids different skin concerns, which is why it’s important to read into what would be best suited for you.

An excellent tool for information on a particular ingredient: Paula’s Choice Ingredient Directory

Cover photo: Neuvo Skincare

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