From The Straits Times    |

As we stand in front of the dazzling array of creams and serums at Sephora or hover over the “buy now” button of our online cart, we often wonder if hefty price tags are justified and if we should shell out the money for a chance at the skincare miracles they tout.

Instead of reading online reviews that leave you with more questions, we turned to Kelly Dobos, who is a cosmetic chemist and adjunct professor of cosmetic science at the University of Cincinnati, to get the lowdown on pricey potions versus wallet-friendly skincare options.

Kelly dives right into it by pointing out that price doesn’t always equal effectiveness. “One of the biggest drivers of product cost is packaging,” she explains. “While elaborate packaging may look luxurious, it can add a surprising amount to the cost without necessarily improving the product inside.” However, one kind of packaging she does approve of is protective packaging, like airless pumps. “This can significantly increase the cost of a product,” she adds.

Here are other factors to consider about pricey skincare.

Ingredients matter

“Proprietary ingredients can drive up the cost of a skincare product,” says Kelly. “For example, argan oil, sourced only from Morocco, is labour-intensive to prepare, leading to higher costs.” However, not all proprietary ingredients are created equal, and some may not significantly contribute to a product’s performance.

To gauge efficacy, consumers should look for products with claims backed by independent testing or clinical trials. A skincare product that truly delivers on its promises and meets high standards would likely have undergone rigorous testing beyond the manufacturer’s own research and development efforts.

Concentration and potency

While prestige products may boast higher levels of active ingredients, Kelly advises that more isn’t always better. “For example, retinol can be effective at levels as low as 0.1%, and using too much can lead to irritation.”

To ensure you’re getting the right ingredient potency for your skin, look for products with clear information on the concentration of active ingredients and always do a patch test before applying potentially irritating ingredients like acids and retinols. Additionally, consider consulting with a dermatologist to determine the most suitable concentration for your skin type and concerns.

Formulation significance

According to Kelly, the formulation process is crucial for a product’s performance. “We carefully design products to maximise ingredient efficacy and stability throughout their shelf life,” she explains.

Go for reputable brands that prioritise research and development. Additionally, check for products that undergo third-party testing or clinical trials to validate their claims. This can help you make an informed decision about the quality and effectiveness of the skincare products you choose.

Texture and consistency

While expensive products may offer luxurious textures, Kelly assures us that affordable products can achieve a similar feel. “Cosmetic chemists have a wide array of ingredients to work with and can manipulate textures with more affordable materials,” she says.

Everyone’s preferences can differ greatly when it comes to a skincare product’s texture and consistency, so when choosing a product, consider testing a sample first to ensure it meets your expectations. Pay attention to how the product feels on your skin and how well it absorbs, as these factors can impact your overall satisfaction with the product.

Brand reputation vs efficacy

Brand reputation can play a significant role in perceived effectiveness, but Kelly emphasises the importance of experience and commitment to quality. “A brand with a good reputation and history in the industry can be very valuable,” she notes.

To determine a brand’s credibility, look for information on their history, commitment to quality, and any independent certifications, awards or reviews the company or product may have received.

With so much information available online, Kelly advises consumers to seek out reliable sources for skincare information. “It’s easy to get caught up in viral hype, but there are scientific sources that offer unbiased information,” she says, recommending as a reliable resource.

Affordable alternatives

Affordable skincare options can be just as effective as their more expensive counterparts. “Some large companies have multiple brands across the cost spectrum, all sharing a commitment to quality and efficacy,” she says. These include brands under big beauty companies like Shiseido and L’Oreal.

So, while expensive skincare products may offer some unique benefits (and bragging rights), it’s essential to weigh the cost against the actual benefits they provide. With a bit of research and knowledge, and a discerning eye, you can find affordable alternatives that deliver similar results without breaking the bank.

Of course, some pricy products can definitely be worth the splurge too, if they tick all the right boxes as suggested above. Look beyond the price tag and hype, and focus on the ingredients and formulation to find the best product for your skin.

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