High-Priced Skincare: Is It Worth It?

Everyone's more economically conscious these days. But just because Wall Street has a bad image doesn't mean yours should suffer, too. You can still take care of your skin without a stimulus package because the best products don't automatically come with inflated price tags.

With so much riding on the moisturizers, serums, creams and potions we use to protect our skin, the instinct to spare no expense is well-intentioned. But my patients usually need some convincing that drugstore brands can actually be just as effective as expensive options when they ask me for advice. Even Consumer Reports famously discovered that there's no need to empty your wallet in order to care for your complexion: The magazine evaluated wrinkle creams and Olay Regenerist beat out the more expensive department store brand La Prairie, in terms of performance.

So why do some moisturizers have price tags with three and four digits?

Exposure: A big portion of the cost is due to advertising and marketing. Celebrities who appear in ads can earn million-dollar paychecks to be the face of a product -- Courtney Cox and Cate Blanchett don't pose for photo shoots or film commercials for free. Then, these companies shell out six and seven figure sums to place the ads in national magazines or on prime time TV. All of these expenses increase the bottom line without doing a thing to plump up your fine lines.

Ingredients: You're also paying for ingredients that are touted as exotic, rare, and allegedly difficult to harvest (think platinum, caviar, Arctic berries, and water from Mt. Fiji). While these items may feel luxurious and have some benefits, they are largely unproven in independent research. These ingredients may have some efficacy in their pricey products but usually aren't more effective than budget brands with proven science to back up their cheaper formulas.

I've done research testing many brands across a range of price points, so I have first-hand evidence that the mass market brands (such as Dove and Aveeno) spend hundreds of hours, and usually thousands if not millions of dollars, on science to support their product's claims. This is one instance where you don't get what you pay for. Instead, you usually get more than you bargained for when you opt for the cheaper creams.

If you are thinking, "She has stock in CVS or one of these drugstore brands," think again. Rather, I am a salaried Professor of Dermatology at the University of Miami who adores skincare products, so I spend my working hours studying them because I enjoy it. In addition, I like a bargain as much as the next person!

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Dr. Baumann is author of the best-selling book, " The Skin Type Solution." To learn more about her revolutionary skin typing system, visit her Web site, SkinTypeSolutions.com.

All of Dr. Baumann's recommended skin care products are available online, and a portion of proceeds goes to The Dermatology Foundation.

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