With Some Skin-Care Products, It Doesn’t Matter If You Spend $7 or $700—Here’s When To Save and When To Splurge

Photo: Getty Images / svetikd
From the drugstore to the department store, the cost of beauty products runs the gamut. When crafting a less-is-more skin-care routine, it can be hard to tell what's actually worth your money and what you can snag for cheap. During our 2021 Wellness Trends launch event, Chaneve Jeanniton, MD, a board-certified oculofacial plastic surgeon, and Janelle Vega, MD, a board-certified dermatologist, shared their takes on how much to spend on skin care.

"[How much you spend] depends on the step and on the ingredient," says Dr. Jeanniton, who is also the founder of skin-care line epi-logic. "In formulating a skin-care regimen, you really can parse out the areas where you're going to splurge a little bit and the other areas where you can go a little bit more basic, a little bit more low cost."

For an effective yet paired down skin-care routine, you need four staples: a cleanser that doesn't irritate your skin; a moisturizer with ceramides and other hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acids or squalane; a sunscreen that you love; and treatments like antioxidants, retinol, and-or peptides. Keep scrolling to learn exactly how much to spend on skin care.

Experts In This Article

Save on cleansers

"A cleanser is not the place where you necessarily need to splurge," says Dr. Jeanniton. "By all means, there are amazing drug store cleansers, so you can save your coins there."

Krave Beauty Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser, $16

"Krave Beauty Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser

"Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser is a solid pick because it checks all the boxes for a great cleanser," says Dr. Jeanniton. "It won’t disrupt the skin’s barrier but still provides a thorough cleanse while keeping skin balanced and hydrated."

Shop now: Krave Beauty Matcha Hemp Hydrating Cleanser, $16

Dove Beauty Bar, $7

Dove Beauty Bar, how much to spend on skin care

A common dermatologist favorite face cleanser is the Dove beauty bar. "It's great because it's a non-soap cleanser, it deposits moisture in your skin as it cleanses, and it keeps your skin barrier super healthy," says dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD.

Shop now: Dove Beauty Bar, $7

For more of Dr. Gohara's drugstore favorites, watch this video below:

Splurge on antioxidants

Antioxidants, like vitamin C,  fend off free radicals that can damage healthy skin cells and create oxidative stress. "A good quality antioxidant, unfortunately, is a little pricey," says Dr. Jeanniton.

epi.logic Daily Dose, $110

epi.logic Daily Dose

Dr. Jeanniton loves this serum from her skin-care line that mixes vitamin C with ferulic acid, hyaluronic acid, and more. It defends against free radical damage, improves the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, brightens the complexion, and enhances the skin’s moisture barriers.

Shop now: epi.logic Daily Dose, $110

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, $166

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, how much to spend on skin care

This is Dr. Vega's favorite vitamin C—it's been a staple in her routine for years. It combines ferulic acid with pure vitamin C and E to enhance your skin's protection against environmental damage caused by free radicals, improve signs of aging and photodamage, while firming and brightening your complexion.

Shop now: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic, $166

Save on sunscreens

"Everyone should be using a daily sunscreen," says Dr. Jeanniton. Yes, even if you spend all day inside—sun damage can find you through window panes. Luckily, there are tons of affordable yet elegant sunscreens out there.

Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Facial Moisturizer with Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen, $13

Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Facial Moisturizer with Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen

For chemical sunscreens,  Dr. Vega likes Aveeno's Positively Radiant sunscreen because it contains soy and goes on clear. "So it's really nice for a patient's skin of color as well, or anyone who's just looking for something easy that they can get at the drug store," she says.

Shop now: Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Facial Moisturizer with Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen, $13

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, $36

EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, how much to spend on skin care

This sunscreen combines a physical blocker (zinc oxide) with a chemical blocker (octinoxate) to protect against UVA and UVB damage. It also contains hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, making it great for those who have acne.

Shop now: EltaMD UV Clear Broad-Spectrum SPF 46, $36

Splurge or save on retinols

Retinol, a form of vitamin A, is the powerhouse skin-care ingredient Dr. Jeanniton recommends to all of her patients. When it comes to retinols, Dr. Vega says the cost really depends on what you find that works for you. "There are some good ones on the market that are less expensive," says Dr. Vega, who is also the co-founder of Bia Life, a site that offers dermatologist-customized skin-care routines.

Differin Acne Treatment Adapalene Gel 0.1%, $13

Differin Acne Treatment Adapalene Gel 0.1%

Differin Gel, which used to be prescription-only but is now available over-the-counter, contains the retinoid adapalene. It's less irritating than other retinoids, but you should still introduce it into your routine slowly, starting every other night. Dr. Gohara loves Differin because it increases collagen production while decreasing collagen breakdown. "If your face can tolerate it this is definitely something I suggest you check out on your next drugstore trip," says Dr. Gohara.

Shop now: Differin Acne Treatment Adapalene Gel 0.1%, $13

epi-logic Double Feature, $140

epi-logic Double Feature, how much to spend on skin care

"My favorite retinol is actually the retinol from my epi.logic line," says Dr. Jeanniton. "It's a 0.5 percent retinol, so very gentle and it's actually time-released, which helps with some of those issues with irritation. And it's coupled with a little bit of lactic acid and some squalane that makes it really lovely."

Shop now: epi.logic Double Feature, $140

Save on moisturizer

When it comes to moisturizer, Dr. Vega says you can save your money. Just be sure to get one that has more than one humectant, moisturizers that absorb water and draw moisture into the skin. "You don't want to have only one type of humectant in your moisturizer, you want to look for multiple things," says Dr. Vega. Look out for ingredients like hyaluronic acid, squalane, and ceramides.

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion, $16

CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion

This night lotion contains three different types of ceramides to help restore and protect the skin barrier, niacinamide to help calm skin, and hyaluronic acid to helps retain skin's moisture.

Shop now: CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion, $16

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration, $14

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration, how much to spend on skin care

Packed with colloidal oatmeal, ceramides, shea butter, and squalene, this moisturizer provides deep hydration, making it great for those with dry skin, psoriasis, eczema,  and keratosis pilaris.

Shop now: First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream Intense Hydration,  $14

Splurge on peptides

"Peptides are basically the building blocks of certain types of molecules that are very important that maintain the structure and texture of your skin," says Dr. Vega. "They build collagen, they build elastin, and they build all those important words that we hear about on a daily basis."

epi.logic Master Plan, $210

epi.logic Master Plan

This epi.logic serum combines growth factors, hyaluronic acid, and peptides to encourage cell turnover and repair skin. "It's a little thicker of a serum, so you get a really nice pumping effect to your skin," says Dr. Jeanniton.

Shop now: epi.logic Master Plan, $210

Elemis Peptide4 Night Recovery Cream-Oil, $59

Elemis Peptide4 Night Recovery Cream-Oil, how much to spend on skin care

Dr. Gohara loves this cream-oil peptide from Elemis. It's a hydrating night treatment that combines the hydration of a moisturizing cream with the protection of oil to help your skin appear rested when you wake up.

Shop now: Elemis Peptide4 Night Recovery Cream-Oil, $59

Learn more about peptides with Dr. Gohara:

Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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