Nowhere is the adage “you get what you pay for” less true than in the world of skincare. Unless, of course, you’re happy to pay for the packaging and the chance to smell a little like Gwyneth Paltrow.
Dermatologist Dr. Katherine Armor sees patients who have spent up to $1,400 on just one moisturizer.
“It makes you want to bleed from your nose,” she says. “I saw one the other day that said ‘contains carbon particles that may have come from outer space’. What? It’s just to sit there in your bathroom saying ‘I can afford $1400 face cream.”
And while $1,400 might be on the extreme end of the scale, some celebrity brands still charge a premium for their name and packaging as opposed to the effectiveness of their ingredients, Dr. Armor says.
Forget the beauty counter, consult your pharmacist
“Gwyneth Paltrow’s range is very expensive. It’s $150 for a moisturizer and you could walk into a drugstore and get something for $15 that will do the same,” says Dr. Armor.
Pharmacies are full of products that are cheaper and more clinically tested than luxury brands. These workhorses of the skincare world do the job just as well, and in many cases better.
So which ones deserve your attention?
“My philosophy is to keep it simple,” says Dr. Armor. And that goes for his own Tailored skin care line, and the other products, ingredients and brands she recommends.
Priceline pharmacist Nancy El-Miski agrees that more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better.
“A lot of young girls get caught up in the hype of a certain brand and they soap their face to it and have a reaction. There are active ingredients in these products and all of them can react with people’s skin if they haven’t been patch tested,” she says.
“A lot of people tend to use washes that have a lot of fragrance and are really drying and we see the side effects. The doctor can prescribe cortisone and we follow up and ask “what wash solution are you using?” and it may be quite expensive, but expensive doesn’t mean it’s effective and good for your skin.
Doctors prescribe cortisone for allergies and conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and contact dermatitis.
What you don’t want is a skincare product that aggravates these conditions.
So where to start ? According to Dr. Armour, first on the skincare list should be sunscreen.
“A really good 50+ broad-spectrum sunscreen that they like to use every day on their face and neck. It’s non-negotiable,” she says.
Dr. Armor and Dr. El-Miski both love La Roche-Posey.
“La Roche-Posey is a luxury French product but tested by dermatologists and they have this evidence base. It’s a great product for sensitive skin,” says Dr. El-Misky. “It’s about $20 to $50 or $60 for a product. This would be my number one day and night cream and sunscreen.
Which “active ingredients” are at the height of fashion?
And no anti-aging or anti-wrinkle treatment would be complete without retinol.
Retinol is a type of retinoid made from vitamin A. Where many products for mature skin slough off dead skin cells, retinol is made up of small molecules that penetrate deep below the outer layer of the skin to your dermis where it helps neutralize free radicals. .
This has the effect of stimulating the production of elastin and collagen, which creates the “plumping” effect that reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and large pores.
Dr. El-Miski loves UK cult brand’s retinol treatment No7which sells for between $30 and $40.
Read the label
Products containing alpha hydroxy acidor for sensitive skin, polyhydroxy acids, are also on Dr. Armour’s list of ingredients to look for, for their moisturizing and softening properties.
But the trick is to find a product that contains the active ingredients in useful amounts.
“More and more now, I find that the more premium the brand, the more smoke and mirrors. For many of them, you can’t even find an ingredient list on their website,” says Dr. Armor.
His rule of thumb is to note where the ingredient appears on the side of the product.
“If it’s in the first half of the ingredient list, it’s a reasonable concentration. Further down, it’s a bit of a Hail Mary,” she says.
Both Dr. El-Miski and Dr. Armor cite the ordinary as an upfront brand about its ingredients and at a good price.
“The Ordinary is a very, very cheap but very effective product,” says Dr. El-Miski.
“They are just fantastic, they are great products,” agrees Dr. Armour. “They tend to list their concentrations. They have a serum that I really like. They are unusual and I think they are very intelligent.
Other drugstore brands that Dr Armor likes are Neostrata and australian brand Propairaa brand developed by a Melbourne dermatologist while Dr El-Miski loves Antipodes brand, for when she wants to give her skin a break and use something natural.
Dr. El-Miski says there is no reason to slavishly stick to any particular brand.
“We’re in a generation where people tend to do their research and we’re not stuck in the days where if you were a Lancôme girl, you’re a Lancôme girl. We now tend to choose.