The average woman spends more than $78 per month on skin care, and the average man spends about $51, according to a 2017 survey by Groupon. And while the less pricey store-brand versions can be a good way to save money on certain products, like lotion and sunscreen, you'd be smart to spend more for name brands on a few items that have higher quality ingredients, experts say.
Here are three products they recommend you buy name brand, even if they cost a bit more money:
Toner is meant to clean skin and reduce the appearance of pores. Often, however, it can contain harmful ingredients. Esthetician Renée Rouleau cites denatured alcohol and SD alcohol 40 as among those to avoid. "These ingredients will cause dead skin cell buildup, which can trap oil and contribute to breakouts," she says. "They also strip water out of the skin, deleting the moisture essential for anti-aging."
Walmart's Equate Deep Cleaning Astringent contains denatured alcohol. So, even though it seems like a bargain at $2.67 for a 10-ounce bottle, she says, the better investment for your skin would be to spring for a brand-name product like The Ordinary's Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution, which is $8.70 for an 8-ounce bottle and doesn't contain that particular ingredient, she says.
Rouleau warns against using products with sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, or ammonium laureth sulfate. "Often used in foaming and gel cleansers, these ingredients are extremely drying and irritating, and encourage dead skin cell buildup," she says.
The Walgreens-brand foaming facial cleanser is $0.83 per ounce but contains sodium laureth sulfate. Instead, Union Square Laser Dermatology Aesthetics Director Rhea Souhleris Grous suggests, try something like the Toleriane Purifying Foaming Facial Wash from La Roche-Posay. You could pay $1.10 per ounce, but you'll get hydrating ingredients like glycerin.
Grous adds that, if you have oily skin, some store-brand cleansers will make you look "matte" but actually dry your skin out, which triggers the creation of more oil. "I would go with a more professional product," she says, "rather than a dehydrating product with an alcohol that is tricking you into thinking you've done something."
The ingredient that makes anti-wrinkle cream effective is retinol. Many name-brand product labels indicate the potency of the formula, which is useful since "we want to know what strength it is and what it's doing," Grous says. "When it's store-bought, the retinol is mixed with other ingredients and we don't have a proper barometer on it. So, therefore, it's not working at its best."
Many store-brand products are also meant for daytime use, but the sun negates the effects of retinol. For example, Equate Anti-Wrinkle Cream with SPF ($5.63 per ounce) from Walmart says to apply before sun exposure. But "real retinol you don't use during the day because it's photo-sensitive and UV rays break down the retinol," Grous says. Even with SPF, retinol will be less effective.
That store-brand version also doesn't list its retinol percentage, she adds, which can be a warning that there isn't much.
For best results, she suggests you try an anti-wrinkle night cream that does list a retinol percentage, though these can be pricey. Obagi Retinol (1% retinol) retails at $67 per ounce.
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