In five years as a beauty editor, I've picked up some pretty important skin-care tips from dermatologists, such as "don't pop your pimples" and "use retinol every day if you want to look young forever." But no lesson has been more helpful on the old pocket book as this: "More expensive" does not necessarily mean "more effective."
While there are certain serums that are worth their exponential price tags, there are plenty of products dotting the drugstore aisles that dermatologists say work just as well (or maybe even better) as those that cost a bunch of money. Keep scrolling for five under-$35 skin-care dupes that pros agree consistently outperform their luxury counterparts.
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Board-certified dermatologist Shereene Idris, MD, loves this particular micellar water “because it’s gentle yet effective enough to remove even the most stubborn makeup without leaving your face feeling inflamed or irritated.” It’s great to use as a first step in your cleansing routine, and will gently whisk away any dirt and debris before you go in with your usual face wash.
Differin was the first brand to make prescription-strength retinoid available to the masses. Mona Gohara, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in Connecticut, calls the product “the most effective over-the-counter vitamin A derivative,” and its lauded for its ability to help you ditch both acne and fine lines and wrinkles. Because adapalene is a stronger grade than other OTC retinols, it’ll give you a whole lot more bang for your buck than its $100-plus competitors.
This stuff is basically an at-home chemical peel in a bottle. Derms love it not only because it’s strong—it offers a 10 percent concentration of pure glycolic acid—but also because it has hydrating elements that help to reduce irritation. With that in mind, it’s no wonder that a bottle sells every minute.
This $16 lotion has everything your skin needs to reach its potential. “The ceramides and hyaluronic acid help make skin stronger and help it maintain more water and hydration with continued use,” says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology. She—along with a number of other derms—is a major fan of this particular cream, which is great for nourishing dry complexions at a fraction of the price of other moisturizers.
Derms agree that the best sunscreen is the one you’ll use every day, but if you want a stellar UVA, UVB protectant for under $35, look no further than this pick from La Roche-Posay. “This is a great option for sunscreen at the drugstore—it’s broad-spectrum SPF 50,” says Dr. Gohara. “I personally like it as a woman of color, because it doesn’t leave my skin looking white or chalky, so I think it’s a good option for a lot of skin types and skin tones.” Plus, you can use it on your face and body, which means you’ll only have to toss one tube into your beach bag this summer.
To find out which drugstore products board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, uses in her own routine, press play on the video below. Spoiler alert: Not a single one costs more than $25.
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