Save vs. Splurge: Which Skin-Care Products are Worth the Big Bucks

Splurge Or Save: The Skincare Products You Should Be Investing In

Save vs. Splurge: Which Skin-Care Products are Worth the Big Bucks

As die-hard beauty junkies, we understand the cost of having great skin. And sometimes, that cost is extremely expensive. While there’s no better feeling than buying, unwrapping and applying expensive skincare products, it’s impossible not to ask the question: Is the high price tag really worth it?

In an effort to banish buyer’s remorse forever, we turn to Los Angeles-based esthetician and owner of Gregory Dylan Beauty to find out (once and for all) what products we should splurge on and which products to save on. With 20 years of experience in the skincare and beauty business, it’s safe to say Dylan is an expert when it comes to skincare.

Keep reading to find out which steps of your skincare regimen are worth the splurge.

PHOTO: Walking CanucksVerdict: Save.

“If you love it, buy it,” Dylan says. “If it works, regardless of the price, go ahead and get it if it’s doing the right job for your skin.” But, he also advises that you don’t have to break the bank on your facial cleanser to see results.

“It has a pretty basic job and it doesn’t stay on your skin, so if you’re on a budget, I would move that $50 balance to another part of your skincare routine,” he says. “The most important thing with a cleanser is that it cleanses without leaving your skin too tight and dry.

” Dylan recommends Clarins Gentle Foaming Cleanser ($24) as a great budget-friendly option. “It’s effective and not too harsh,” he says. “I love to use it with my Clarisonic and get a little extra exfoliation.”

Verdict: Splurge… a little bit.

Dylan recommends straying away from drugstore toners, which are often loaded with alcohol and are extremely drying on the skin. However, he also doesn’t advise spending more than $30 on this skincare step. “Unless it has a specific ingredient your skin needs, don’t overspend in this area,” he cautions.

“The ingredients evaporate and aren’t going to sink in, so just a cleanser that you rinse off, toners aren’t super heavy-hitting products. There are better places to invest your money.” He suggests Clinique’s Clarifying Lotion ($23).

“I only use it once a day as needed for a bump of salicylic acid, which helps prevent congestion on the skin.”

Verdict: Splurge.

“This is where you want to put a lot of your money,” Dylan says. “Serums are going to perform above and beyond a lot of your regular skincare because they are developed with a higher concentration of active ingredients and you get better penetration of those ingredients as well.” 

Serums also allow you to pinpoint and target your treatments to your skin’s specific needs, which makes it a great place to invest with your beauty budget. “If you’re looking for something that’s going to help with congestion and texture, an AHA or salicylic acid serum is fantastic.

Or, if you’re battling pigmentation, try a serum with licorice root or kojic acid,” Dylan recommends. “Serums are the ideal way to tweak your regimen and they pack a lot of punch.” One of Dylan’s favorites to splurge on is Trish McEvoy’s Beauty Booster Serum($128).

“It plumps and binds moisture to the skin, so you’re going to notice firming and bounce in any areas with fine lines,” he says.

Verdict: Splurge.

“Eye cream and serum are two places I would definitely invest my money,” Dylan says. “The sensitive eye area is the first place you’ll see signs of aging, so you want to bump it up.

” Dylan’s holy-grail choice is Chanel’s Sublimage La Crème Yeux Ultimate Skin Regeneration Eye Cream ($225). “It performs un any other eye cream I’ve ever tried, and it’s perfect for someone who has anti-aging concerns,” he says.

For less expensive options, Dylan also recommends Clarins’ Super Restorative Total Eye Concentrate ($83) and Kiehl’s Powerful Wrinkly Reducing Cream ($47).

Verdict: Both.

“You don’t want to use your miracle products during the day,” Dylan says. “When you’re exposed to sunlight a lot of ingredients start to lose their efficacy, so I prefer to use my action ingredients at night when I want to repair.”

In the daytime, Dylan recommends focusing solely on antioxidant protection. He suggests to use Soveral Formula 1 Skin Life Support Moisturizer, 15ml, ($39) or Neutrogena’s Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream ($15). On the flip side, he loves Dr.

Brandt’s Glwow Overnight Resurfacing Serum ($85), Peter Thomas Roth’s Un-Wrinkle Night and Sunday Riley Artemis Hydroactive Cellular Face O il, 30ml, ($75) to give the skin a little nightly TLC. But, you can also find cheaper alternatives at the drugstore.

“A really nice steal is Burt’s Bees Vitamin E Oil ,” says Dylan. “It’s a great AHA cream with nice results.”

Verdict: Both.

Just daytime moisturizers and creams, you don’t want to max out on sun protection either. “Sunscreen and sunblock all have the same standard ingredients, so it’s not a great place to invest your money,” Dylan says. “I wouldn’t spend above $30.” 

“The most important thing about sunscreen is that you it and it feels comfortable enough on the skin so you wear it every day,” he continues. “It should be light and it shouldn’t leave a white tint on your face.” Dylan loves L’Oreal’s Advanced Suncare Silky Sheer BB Face Lotion SPF 50+ and La Roche-Posay’s Anthelios SPF 60 Milk  ($36).

Verdict: Splurge.

“If you’re going to spend the money, you want something with extra value,” says Dylan. Masks (especially evening masks) are often overlooked but masks are key to getting the most flawless skin. 

GlamGlow’s SuperMud Clearing Treatment ($69) and Glamglow Youthmud Tinglexfoliate treatment ($69) are two perfect examples because they do a lot more than a just drugstore mud mask.

“A mask should give you a result almost instantly,” says Dylan. “You should be able to wake up or take the mask off and see a nice difference, tighter pores, smoothness or a glow.

With your moisturizers, serums and eye creams, you need to be more patient and give them a couple weeks to work.”


A cosmetic chemist says these are the skin-care ingredients to buy on the cheap

Save vs. Splurge: Which Skin-Care Products are Worth the Big Bucks

For me, skin-care products are Pokemon. I gotta catch ’em all. And if I don’t have every single buzzworthy active ingredient stocked in my beauty cabinet, I’m just not winning the game.

Of course, as with buying up all of the Pokemon cards, collecting every skin-care ingredient can rack up the dollars and cents. You always want to make sure you’re grabbing up quality beauty products so that your skin can truly benefit from the skin-boosting ingredient, but… without breaking the bank.

To decipher the shelves and see which you can be fine with buying on the cheap—and which you should splurge a little more on—I consulted cosmetic chemists for insight from the insiders. Prepare yourself, because you’re about to be surprised at the good ingredients you can find at a reasonable price.


Sunscreen: We’ve been raving about drugstore beauty finds for, , ever, but even cosmetic chemists rave about drugstore sunscreens (and other affordable options).

“There are lots of good face sunscreens at an affordable price such as Australian Gold ($15), Elta MD ($25), Biore ($32), and La Roche Posay ($30),” says Victoria Fu, cosmetic chemist and co-founder of Chemist Confessions.

“We prefer an SPF 50 because it gives a solid amount of UV protection without too much of a tradeoff in texture. Just make sure you find a broad spectrum label so you’re getting protection from both UVA and UVB rays.”

Niacinamide: Niacinamide, aka vitamin B3, is an amazing skin-care ingredient for soothing redness and fighting inflammation, and ya don’t have to dole out too many dollars to get a good one.

“Niacinamide is another solid ingredient that you can now find at the right levels for cheap,” says Fu.

“We typically recommend looking for percentages between two and four percent, but there are lots of booster serums Deciem ($6) and Paula’s Choice ($44) that offer niacinamide at up to 10 percent.” Jackpot.

Benzoyl peroxide: The popular acne-fighting ingredient has been around for ages to fight zits, and chemists say it’s fine to save your money on it. “It’s a relatively easy and inexpensive ingredient to manufacture,” says Ursula Diaz, cosmetic chemist and founder of Honor MD. “You can find great products containing benzoyl peroxide anywhere.”

Salicylic acid: Another acne-buster chemical exfoliant salicylic acid is also one you can save your bucks when buying.

“This is a great ingredient that helps exfoliate skin, prevents acne, and treats breakouts,” says Diaz.

“You can find really effective products containing salicylic acid in a wide range of prices—fortunately, you don’t have to invest to get a really great formulation that works.” Praise be.

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Retinol: Retinol is probably the most recommended skin-care ingredient by dermatologists.

But you shouldn’t just grab the cheapest one, because cosmetic chemists say you want to make sure to get the most effective formulation possible.

“If you want to splurge, buy retinol-containing products from a doctor’s office, since medical grade retinol contains higher percentages of this ingredient and will be more effective,” says Diaz.

Vitamin C: The superstar antioxidant is important for nourishing and brightening your skin, but it’s easy to oxidize and hard to stabilize, making it an ingredient that’s worth investing in.

“The percentage of vitamin C a product contains and the way it’s formulated are important factors that will determine efficacy, and this may be reflected in the price,” she explains.

One thing she says to look out for: the percentage of vitamin C that a product contains, which directly corresponds to its efficacy.

Hyaluronic acid: The moisturizing MVP is great for hydrating all skin types, but HA serums aren’t all created equally. “You want one that is rich in hyaluronic acid and low in preservatives and other additives,” says Diaz.

“Many of the products on drugstore or department store shelves claiming to contain hyaluronic acid actually have trace amounts of it, so they will not be as effective as other more powerful formulations.

” That said, she notes that it’s important to read the ingredient list carefully and look for a product that contains at least .5 percent hyaluronic acid and not much else.

Oh, and here are the beauty scams of the world that you don’t need to buy at all. And dermatologists say your skin-care routine really only needs “The Big Four,” the most important skin-care products of all. 


Which Beauty Products Should You Splurge On?

Save vs. Splurge: Which Skin-Care Products are Worth the Big Bucks

These are obvious questions for frugal makeup lovers: Do I really need to spend $20 on a lipstick? Can I actually get a good enough foundation from the makeup aisle at my supermarket? My hairstylist says the shampoo at her salon is superior to the $5 shampoo I've been using for years—is she right?

Admittedly, all luxury beauty brands have their benefits. But if you need to streamline your spending, some might not be worth the sacrifices you're making. The answers largely vary from product-to-product, and even from brand to brand.

So decide for yourself which beauty products are worth the splurge, and which ones you can get at your local drugstore. From makeup, to hair care to skin care, it's important to know what's really worth the money.

And keep in mind that a “splurge” will always be relative—there are plenty of mid-range brands that are well worth the buy.

Here are our suggestions on when to splurge and when to save.

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Most pencil eyeliners are made of wax, which is not worth $18 when you can get a great pencil eyeliner for $3 from any drugstore. But if you don't the way wax won't glide on easily? Try a gel or a liquid eyeliner. Here's where you want to spend your money.

While a wax eyeliner will smudge, if you're looking for something that glides on easy, odds are you're not going for a messy look, so opt for liners that are known for their staying power. Pat McGrath's Perma Precision ($32) is one that won't budge.

When it comes to eyeshadows, quality is paramount.

A great eyeshadow, the beauty editor favorite, Dior 5-Coleurs Shadow Palette ($62) will stay on your eyes all day long, while a cheap, $4 palette will ly have faded by the time you finish your mid-morning coffee (especially without the help of a primer). What's more, quality eyeshadows are almost always more pigmented, so they provide more bang for your buck.

If you don't feel a palette is really your style, or want to save a few bucks by buying less, find a few single shades you really love (we suggest one for your lid, one for your crease, and one to darken the outer corner of the eye).

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Save on: cleanser; splurge on: moisturizer.

This might come as a surprise, but there are very few reasons to open your wallet wide for a quality cleanser. In fact, even the fanciest dermatologists and skin care specialists often recommend basic drugstore cleansers to clients.

 Basic drugstore cleansers do an excellent job of removing excess oils and dirt. Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser ($10) is a staple for a reason. That said, if you have a preferred brand, don't dump it unless you actually want to.

Some people, particularly those with bad acne, or sensitive skin may take a while to find the right cleanser—and it might be one on the pricier end.

When considering moisturizers, understand it stays on your face all day, and soaks into your skin. There are great moisturizers out there for cheap, but they're not always filled with the best ingredients for you to be absorbing.

You'll want separate options for your body and face.

Consider your skin type when shopping for moisturizer: Do you have ultra-dry skin that needs major hydration, or are you looking for a light moisturizer that will soak in fast? Either way, check the ingredients first.

Grown AlchemistBody Cream with Mandarin and Rosemary Leaf$26


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While you can get a decent foundation at your average drugstore, the chances of you finding the perfect shade for your skin color can be hit or miss—particularly given the fact that drugstores don't usually have testers available for swatching.

Too much money is wasted annually on the wrong shades of foundations and concealers, which is the main reason you should get yourself to the department store or Sephora if you can afford it.

Nothing beats the discerning eye of a makeup expert (or just testing the product on your own skin) when it comes to finding the right shade and formulation.

They'll be able to make recommendations and tell you if a foundation or a tinted moisturizer best suits you, or if you need a lighter or darker shade of concealer.

A department store Sephora is a better idea to go to for foundations and concealer, instead of a specialized counter such as Clinique or M.A.C. Why? Sephora beauty experts have a wide variety of brands to choose from, whereas a Laura Mercier makeup artist only has Laura Mercier makeup to try out.

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Taisiia Shestopal/Unsplash

Save on: hair brushes; splurge on: makeup brushes.

Cheap drugstore hairbrushes made of plastic bristles can pull and break hair. We all know that. But thankfully, gentler boar-bristle brushes are becoming more popular and popping up at the drugstores.

You can now get a great brush for less than $20. (A great one is the Marilyn Brush Downtown New Yorker, $13.

) Boar bristles might cost you more than the plastic brushes, but there's no need to go for a Mason Pearson ($146).

Makeup brushes are a good example of when synthetic bristles can simplify your life. Synthetic brushes are easier to clean, and easier to use with wet makeup than their much more expensive natural bristle cousins. That said, really inexpensive makeup brushes won't last nearly as long.

For this reason alone, investing in affordable but not dirt-cheap brushes from brands Sigma, M.A.C. or Sonia Kashuk (available at Target stores) is ultimately the best idea.

Just as a gourmet needs only three types of kitchen knives to cook a chef, you need only three or four makeup brushes to get flawless makeup.

Only keep around the tiny brushes that come with department store makeup for touch-ups on the go. You'll get a much smoother, flawless finish with a professional makeup brush.

05of 09

Save on: shampoo and conditioner: splurge on: blow-dryers.

Sorry to all you hairstylists out there with a fancy brand to push—the truth is, nine times ten, drugstore brand shampoos and conditioners get the job done.

Depending on your hair type, there's probably no need to spend $75 on a bottle of shampoo (unless me, you're super attached to the way it makes your hair smell or you truly believe in the bottle's claims that the special formula can pump up your volume to Beyonce- proportions).

One reason products from mass brands Pantene and L'Oreal are so great is that the companies have billions of dollars to put into cutting-edge research.

As for blow-dryers, the new ionic dryers—DryBar's Buttercup dryers, for example—not only save you time every morning, but cut down on heat exposure due to speedy styling. Less drying time means less damage.

DryBarButtercup Blow Dryer$195


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Splurge on: lipstick; save on: lip gloss.

The fact is, lip glosses rarely last, so why spend big bucks on them? Both Revlon and L'Oreal make great basic lip gloss options. That said, you'll find more color options and less stickiness if you splurge on Fenty, Glossier, or even Chanel, so assess your priorities. If clear gloss is your thing, go cheap.

As for lipsticks, the formulations from brands Chanel, M.A.C., KVD Vegan Beauty, Dior, and Pat McGrath can't be beaten. If longevity is the only thing that's important to you, you can find a long-wearing lipstick in your local drugstore. But given how much lipstick people accidentally eat over the course of a lifetime, it's good to have a formulation you trust.

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Mascaras are one of those beauty products people become very loyal towards, but not everybody needs to be spending big money on it. Maybelline New York Great Lash ($7) has gone down in history as pretty much the best drugstore buy of all time. L'Oreal and Max Factor also make great affordable mascaras.

Every celebrity touts the Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler ($23) as the must have in their makeup drawer, but plenty of people prefer the less pricey Tweezerman Great Grip Eyelash Curler ($13) for $10 less.

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It might seem weird because these items can be extraneous, but if you use them frequently, you have good reason to splurge on anything in powder form.

While you will consistently find drugstore mascaras, cleansers, and moisturizers on your average “Best Beauty Products” lists, you won't find many drugstore blush, bronzers, ​and powders.

Why? Luxury powders tend to be softer and more finely-milled, so they blend seamlessly and never look cakey.

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Let me give it to you straight: the tweezers you can get at the grocery store are useless. Trust me, I am a tweezer addict; I've tried them all, and Tweezerman makes the best. Cheaper brands just don't have the same grip. And just one pair from Tweezerman should last a lifetime—when they wear down, you can mail them in and the company will sharpen the edges for free.

On the other hand, ceramic flatirons, which can run more than $50 at a beauty supply store, are worth the money if you straighten your hair on a regular basis. Not only will a quality flatiron last longer, it will get hotter faster, smooth the hair shaft better, and be overall less damaging to your hair.

TweezermanSlant Tweezers$14



4 Beauty Products You Should Never Spend More Than $10 On—and 5 Worth the Splurge

Save vs. Splurge: Which Skin-Care Products are Worth the Big Bucks
Africa Studio/shutterstock

Any fellow cosmetics zealot can concur that stepping into a makeup aisle instigates the same giddy emotions as a child stepping into a candy store (except the receipt is probably going to rack up a lot more digits).

The rows of lustrous lipstick tubes and metallic eyeshadow pigments are enough to have us frantically whipping out our wallets and sprinting to the registers.

But although anyone can indulge in online swatch-stalking and makeup-daydreaming, sometimes our bank accounts just can’t justify high-end beauty spending.

Do we really need to drop $50 on a lipstick tube? Does that foundation jar from the dollar store really work? Fortunately, not all your makeup items are fated to cost an arm and a leg. To figure out whether you should save or splurge on your next beauty product, we asked experts to give us the scoop on what's really worth the money.


If there is one item that every makeup artist deemed as splurge-worthy, it was foundation with a resounding yes. Because your skin is the biggest (and pickiest) part of your face, you really want to pinpoint a formulation that works best for your skin type.

According to Rick DiCecca, Global Makeup Artist for Artistry, “Foundation is an area you want to spend the money—for two reasons: the options and the technology. High quality foundations make your skin look smoother, cover dark spots better, and diminish wrinkles and fines line, while also incorporating the skin-care benefits you desire.

” This process is also essential to ensuring your skin maintains all that good stuff it soaked up from your skin-care routine. “With product technology advancing, foundation is no longer your first step in makeup, but your last step in skin care.

Also, luxury foundation lines tend to have more shades and finishes to choose from, most definitely splurge! One of my product recommendations is the Artistry YouthXtend Lifting Smoothing Foundation, which comes in 20 different shades.”

Africa Studio/Shutterstock

While we all loved those Minnie Mouse makeup palettes growing up, it may be time to upgrade to something a bit more premium for your vanity. Assuming you want the color in the pan to be what actually shows up on your lid, a higher price tag may be required to make sure the desired color is deposited.

Because pricier shadows tend to be made with better pigments, they will last longer and blend better. “If you choose to wear eyeshadow, you need a product which is highly pigmented to ensure it stays on all day,” says Murat Evin, Creative Director at The London School of Make-Up.

“It is best to invest in eyeshadow which offers staying power against tears, sweat, and rain; otherwise you run the risk of panda eyes.”


There are plenty of drugstore options that produce bombshell mascara formulas—and for half the price. Because bacteria multiples easily inside those moist tubes, you should trash it after three months; if you aren’t sure, here’s how to tell your makeup is expired. Since its shelf life is so brief, it’s probably smarter to cut corners on this one.

“Expensive or cheap, all mascaras tend to dry out quickly either way (usually within 3 months), so spending big bucks on mascara just isn't practical. Plus, drugstore brand mascaras work great, just make sure you layer a few coats on.

With mascara, it's less about the formula and more about the proper brush,” says Cassie Durkin, Brand Educator & Salon Manager at Cherry Blow Dry Bar.

I am Kulz/Shutterstock

Most makeup experts say that pretty much the only difference of a glossy lipstick tube marked as $50 and a drugstore one is that the former looks prettier on your nightstand. While more expensive lip products can have great colors and pigments, it might not be worth it if you want to experiment with a variety of shades.

Many drugstore formulas also have nourishing and moisturizing elements added to ensure your pout gets just the sheen it needs. According to Lori Leib, Creative Director at Bodyography, “Lip products are so trend-based I would rather have many options and play with color as opposed to a collection of lipsticks that break the bank.

These products too have a shelf life so buy the less expensive ones and embrace color and seasonal trends.” Of course, if you want to indulge yourself in MAC lipstick every once in a while (for that signature shade), go right ahead.

But if you’re grappling with extra costs, take comfort in knowing that the Maybelline tube will work just fine.

Svetlana Lukienko/Shutterstock

Getting freebie brushes in your makeup kits and glam bags may seem viable enough, but if your makeup brushes are feeling you’re rubbing a scratchy rug all over your face, it may be wise to switch it out. Cheap makeup brushes will often shed its bristles on your face, leaving stray hairs that you have to try and pick off without ruining the foundation you just perfectly applied.

“Having the right tools is everything. Investing in good brushes will ensure the best makeup application. With proper care, they can last years!” advises Celebrity Makeup Artist Lori Hamlin Penske. “I use brushes by Trish McEvoy, Shu Uemura, and for those who are interested in making conscious choices, Inika Organic.

” Just make sure to clean your brushes—this is what could happen if you don't. 

Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Bronzers and blushes are less about the price tag and more about the formula quality. Expensive packs can easily end up making you look as ruddy as a cheaper one can; the key is finding the one that works best with your skin type. Minimalism is imperative when applying; even the greatest bronzers and blushes can make you look dirty or clownish if applied excessively.

According to Murat Evin, Creative Director at The London School of Make-Up, “One blusher will do the same job as another, it's just a question of which shade you are looking for as to how much you should spend. Most people will only require a small amount of blush on a daily basis, meaning a lot of it comes down to quantity.

Don't splurge a large amount of money on a small amount of blusher.”

Africa Studio/Shutterstock

While cheap eyeliners can look the same as pricier ones when first applied, experts warn that time will differentiate the price intervals. Cheaper options tend to rub or break apart during the day, or prove so “waterproof” that you have to scrub your eyes until they’re practically raw when trying to take it off.

Do your eyes a favor and opt for a gently gliding pen or pencil liner that beats the clock.

“I really want my eyeliner to stay all day long and the one I have found to work the best are on tend to run pricier and are higher end, such as Smashbox Limitless Liquid Liner,” says beauty content creator and digital influencer, Mariale Marrero.

Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Opulent shampoos might feel you’re watching your money go down the drain (literally), so we don’t blame you if you want to find a good drugstore option. However, if you’ve spent a small fortune coloring your hair, it might be wise to invest in a stylist-recommended hair-care product that ensures your locks keeps its color and texture.

Whether you end up opting for high or low end, just make sure to do enough research to confirm it doesn’t contain any parabens and sulfates. “Go for the good stuff and the safe stuff when it comes to hair care. Be wary of the word natural as it doesn't always mean what it says. Performance is also important.

When we shampoo, we are letting this product run down our body's largest organ, and it covers most our skin’s surface so this is my splurge,” says Corrie Gallant of The Beauty Barn Spa. “One tip is to look for the word “fragrances” on the ingredients list if it's there avoid it as it may refer to hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals.

Hair-care manufacturers are not required to divulge the contents of their scents.” This is how to get gorgeous hair without expensive products.

NIKITA TV/Shutterstock

Cheap perfumes are often made with harsh chemicals that can give you (and your neighbor) a hefty headache. Keep your scents delicate and subtle; while having a signature scent is great, you don’t want to give off the impression that you bathe in the stuff.

Only spritz to your pulse points such as behind your ear, on your wrists, inside your elbow, and behind your knee. The whole “spray-and-walk-through-it” is not only ineffective, but can easily get you a mouthful of alcohol.

According to Ashli Carnicelli, makeup artist and esthetician at Bella Santé Spa, “There is nothing better to finish off your outfit and your makeup than a gorgeous scent. It makes you feel luxurious and put together and can even lift your mood. Skip the drugstore brands and pay for the good stuff.

Drugstore brand perfumes are typically filled with synthetics and alcohol, so not only are they more ly to give you and others around a headache, they don't last. Eau du parfum is the best option for a long-lasting olfactory impression.” Here’s what your perfume says about your personality.


5 Skincare Products You Should Never Buy From the Drugstore (and 3 You Should)

Save vs. Splurge: Which Skin-Care Products are Worth the Big Bucks

Dermatologists agree: If you don't want to spend $200 on every last step of your skincare routine, you don't have to. There are plenty of drugstore skincare products that celebrities, beauty editors, and skincare professionals love.

However, there are certain skincare products that simply aren't going to be effective in drugstore form, according to the people who know ingredients best.

“In general, skincare products with higher price tags have more efficacious ingredients,” explains board-certified dermatologist and RealSelf contributor Joel Schlessinger, MD.

This is especially relevant when you're dealing with active ingredients geared toward anti-aging.

“For example, when you buy a retinol product from your dermatologist, you know you're getting a physician-strength product with a doctor-recommended formula,” he says.

“If you were to buy a retinol product in a drugstore at a much lower price point, you might be getting the ingredient you want but at a much lower strength, so you won't achieve the same results.

” In other words, if you're looking to make serious changes to your skin, the drugstore might not be able to get you there.

So what are the other types of drugstore products to avoid? We consulted a handful of top dermatologists to find out. (Our experts also spelled out the products that are perfectly fine to buy from the drugstore.) Keep scrolling to learn how best to spend your skincare budget!

“Drugstore lightening and brightening creams are often not worth wasting your time and money on,” says board-certified dermatologist Jessie Cheung, MD, director of the DuPage Dermatology & Laser Center in Illinois. “They tend to be less effective, inefficient, and even irritating when compared with the more expensive products.”

Get your money's worth with a Byrdie-approved pick Eve Lom's Brightening Cream ($110) or Alchimie's Pigment Lightening Serum ($95), which uses European blueberry, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin E to minimize the appearance of dark spots.

Any good derm will tell you that drugstore retinols don't hold a candle to the prescription stuff. “Drugstore retinoids are simply not the same as prescription Retin-A,” Cheung says. “The efficacy of some drugstore retinols is a big unknown.” If you're serious about addressing concerns fine lines and laxity, “it's time to invest in the real deal,” Cheung says.

These include products with active ingredients resveratrol, green tea, vitamins C, E, and B3, and other skin-protecting goodies. Dove dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, calls them the “LBD of derm care—everyone should have a good quality one.”

Why? “Antioxidants are tricky,” Cheung explains. “By their very nature, they are unstable. You never know how long the product has been sitting on the drugstore shelf, if it's been shipped in a temperature-controlled environment, and if the formulation is stable.”

Instead, do your skin a favor and save up for a tried-and-true serum Gohara's favorite, SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic ($166), or Vintner's Daughter's Active Botanical Serum ($185).

This is another ingredient that Cheung says is “worth the splurge.” Research-backed peptides work to penetrate the top layer of skin and encourage collagen production. “The nourishing benefits are worth the price,” Cheung says. “These products are expensive to formulate and the results are backed up with clinical research.”

Drugstore face scrubs are another product to avoid, says Nancy Samolitis, MD, founder of Facile Dermatology and Boutique.

“Many of these drugstore products contain scrubbing particles made from ground seeds, which can actually damage skin and exacerbate breakouts because they don't have smooth surfaces,” she says.

 What's worse is that a lot of the smoother drugstore exfoliators are made with microbeads, which are nonbiodegradable and damaging to the environment.

“Higher-end scrubs contain safer scrubbing particles such as jojoba beads,” says Samolitis.

“I also personally prefer a scrub that also contains gentle acid exfoliants such as lactic acid or salicylic acid instead of just mechanical exfoliation.

” We recommend Kate Somerville's cult classic ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment ($85), which combines chemical and physical exfoliation. 

In terms of effectiveness, drugstore sunscreens do get the job done. “Drugstore sunscreens are all effective, but they are not created equal,” Cheung says.

“It's hard to find sheer, elegant formulations at drugstore prices.” That being said, our derms agree that the most important part of your skincare routine is sun protection.

“It's great that you can find that at the drugstore,” Cheung adds.

There's no need to spend $50 on a simple everyday cleanser. “If you are looking for a multitasking cleanser, you may want to splurge, but there are plenty of effective, gentle cleansers available at the drugstore,” Cheung says.

In fact, the gentler and simpler, the better. “Avoid products with unnatural appearing colors and long lists of ingredients that you can't pronounce,” Samolitis advises. “It's guaranteed that a lot of those chemicals can cause irritation and allergic reactions.”

A gentle moisturizer is another category that the drugstore does well. “People spend way too much money on fancy creams when you just need something that is going to keep the skin barrier healthy,” says Gohara. This moisturizer by Neutrogena offers hydrating hyaluronic acid and olive extract.