Are Expensive Skincare Products Worth the Money?

One of the common general questions that dermatologists often get asked about is whether expensive products are worth the cost. This article delves into the big question: are the expensive products worth their weight?

Why is there so much variation in prices for skincare products?

It's certainly true that skincare products vary greatly in price range-from ten dollar tubs to products that go up to the thousands but why? The simple answer is that skincare products target a variety of consumer types: Those who will make do with any product or no product, to those who want only the most expensive products touching their skin. Demand for a particular skincare product, income levels of consumers, and the level of a person's brand commitment are all factors that vary widely from individual to individual.

This isn't something that we like to think about often, but when we buy a product as a consumer, we pay for all the costs associated with the product-which includes production, but also packaging, distribution, human resources, infrastructure, legal fees, and so on. When you tally up all the costs, there's a big difference in cost between strategies that try to reduce costs (mass production to reduce production cost, minimal marketing, simple packaging) and strategies that try to be discriminating (high marketing, packaging costs, as well as distinctive ingredients). When you buy a mass product, you are getting a discount at all levels from production, marketing, and distribution, while with high end products, you pay more for each of these, resulting in wide gaps.

What makes a product expensive?

Ingredients: The most important is what are called the active ingredients. Active ingredients are the ingredients that act on the skin to produce the desired effect-for example Benzoyl peroxide is a common active ingredient for acne cleansers. There are many other ingredients which play a supporting role, such as helping the active penetrate the skin, or helping preserve the product. Some ingredients are more expensive than others, either because they are rare, or because they are expensive to synthesize in the laboratory. The total cost of the ingredient is one of the key factors that contribute to the price tag of the final product.

Packaging: Packaging is another area in which there can be significant differences in pricing. These can vary from simple minimalistic packaging to fancy packaging, some of which include specialized tools to apply the product. It's important to note that packaging can be more than fluff and hot air--although they can be just that too. Exposure to light and oxygen degrades many ingredients quickly, so proper airless or air-reducing packaging and pumps can definitely make a difference in how long the product is effective.

Advertising: Advertising is the big elephant in the room as far as the costs that are added to the total cost of the product. Skincare is a multi-billion dollar industry, and adverting is a necessity. Some marketing strategies are more expensive than others, but all products require some marketing effort. As is common in large markets, a relatively high percentage of a product's sales are used in marketing efforts, and this is especially true of high end products.

So in the final analysis, are expensive products worth it?

Value and affordability are deeply subjective matters so it's impossible to make any definitive statements about whether a product is "worth it." Most dermatologists will tell you that price and effectiveness do not correlate when it comes to skincare products. There are both good and bad products in all spectrums of the price range.

  • Use a product that fits your skin type. Many cosmetic manufacturers produce with skin types like dry, oily, and sensitive skin in mind.
  • The skin is individual. A product that works for one person doesn't necessarily work for another person.
  • Experiment by all means, but once you find a product that works for you, it's a good idea to stick with that product. This is especially true for people with sensitive skin.

Related Videos

Dr. Stuart Maddin (Clinical Professor Emeritus, Department of Dermatology, University of British Columbia) is a well-known Canadian dermatologist who has been educating, practicing and researching in the field of dermatology for the past 65 years.

Ask DermLetter