My mother taught me to squeeze a silver dollar until the eagle screams. For all of the thriftsters, this question often comes up: is it worth paying more for that name brand product or is the generic version just as good, and available for less money?
Value-conscious people understand that sometimes paying more for a better quality item is well worth the extra cost. Recently, I bought tires for my car. I found out that tires are rated by their expected mileage: 40k, 50k, 60k, etc. Tires that will hold up to road wear longer, due to their construction, cost more. I decided that, since I plan to drive my car into the ground (that is, keep it until it dies from exhaustion), I would pay more for better quality, longer-lasting Michelins.
But what about shopping for cosmetics and skin beauty treatments? Isn’t there a lot of smoke and mirrors surrounding the entire industry, including controversy over animal testing? Can we trust the claims made about these pricey products, claims made by the very people who make and sell them to us?
I remember the first time I stared down at a tiny jar of skin cream meant to dab under the eyes before going to bed in order to reduce under-eye bags and puffiness. The 1/2 ounce container cost over $100. Forget some dark circles under my eyes, I nearly had a heart attack from sticker shock.
“Is that little container of high-priced facial cream worth the massive money it costs?” I wondered. My answer came in the form of a free sample which I somehow wangled.
After trying the deliciously smooth and soothing sensitive skin care treatment, I became a bit of a believer and indulged a small jar. However, after it was used it, I didn’t buy any more.
A similar conclusion was reached by a writer for Skincare.com who tried out a $365 Lancôme Absolue L’Extrait Day Cream and extolled its virtues:
“The creamy formula smells elegantly of roses (makes sense), and it’s super easy to glide onto the skin. It’s delicate, it’s silky, it’s…magical. My skin felt immediately smooth and hydrated after use. Nothing against my $10 moisturizer, this just feels different, in a really good way.”
According to the Lancôme website, this product is “an exceptional elixir” which “contains up to 2 million Lancôme Rose native cells.”
What are Lancôme Rose native cells, you ask? According to the maker:
“Extracted from the heart of the rare and resilient Lancôme Rose using an exclusive, state-of-the-art biotechnological process, these native cells are proven to extend their own exceptional properties to enhance skin’s appearance.”
So why should I care about these rose native cells in the skin cream?
“Each jar of Absolue L’Extrait contains up to 2 million of these precious native cells. Absolue L’Extrait helps reveal firmer, more elastic, more radiant skin for fascinating beauty.”
Lancôme claims this product line offers “rejuvenation” through a proprietary and exclusive, state-of-the-art, biotechnological extraction process called Fermogenesis™ After 11 weeks of use, product evaluators noted “a significant improvement” in each of the following “age-defining parameters:”
- Forehead wrinkles
- Frown lines
- Crow’s feet
- Under eye wrinkles
- Nasolabial fold
- Wrinkles around the mouth
But would the satisfied Lancôme customer who said such sterling things about the Absolue L’Extrait Day Cream make a second purchase? “Probably not,” she admitted.
The truth is, not all skin creams and lotions are created equally – some have better ingredients – but a higher price tag does not guarantee a better product.
On the one hand, as one skin care maven put it, “not all expensive moisturizers are good (or even halfway decent), and some cheap moisturizers are pretty good.” On the other hand, “the honest to God truth is, the best moisturizers tend to be at the more expensive end of the spectrum.”
Pretty much every manufacturer of skin moisturizing products for sale today makes the same promises about their effectiveness as Olay does, saying the Regenerist line “renews from within, plumping surface cells for a dramatic transformation without the need for fillers.”
If you want to spend part of your tax refund on some well-deserved self-indulgence, but find the array of fine products a bit overwhelming, consider these nine moisturizers that cost more than $100:
- Tammy Fender Spontaneous Recovery Crème, $165 (for dry skin)
- M Picaut Calming Cocoon Cream, $110 (for sensitive skin)
- Odacite Night Time Antioxidants Repair Serum, $120 (for normal skin)
- Tata Harper Rebuilding Moisturizer, $105 (for oily or acne-prone skin)
- May Lindstrom The Blue Cocoon, $160 (for irritated skin)
- Immunocologie Day Protection Crème, $225 (for fine lines)
- Naturopathica Bio-Energy Lift Contouring Cream, $114 (for extra firming)
- Goop by Juice Beauty Replenishing Night Cream, $140 (for brightening)
- In Fiore’s Crème de Fleur, $150 (also for brightening)
Joyce de Lemos is a cosmetic chemist at a major beauty brand and knows what she is talking about when she says, “For me, as a consumer, I look for evidence that a product works.”
That makes a lot of sense. Why pay big bucks for something that doesn’t work well? Just what sort of evidence are we talking about here?
“If I look at a brand like Murad, Perricone MD, or SkinMedica that actually puts forth the effort to create clinical tests, and shows me evidence that their product actually works, then at least I know I’m buying something that the company put money into proving.”
But what product offerings from smaller companies that can’t afford to do extensive and expensive product testing?
“Look for tried-and-true ingredients that work,” advised de Lemos. “Retinol is one of them—so much science has been done on the value of it. Vitamin C, vitamin E, and ferulic acid have all been proven by science to work.”
The expert cosmetic chemist added this tip when shopping for a face cream, but this wisdom holds true for other lotions, too: list the three skin conditions you want to remedy or prevent and then look for products which have ingredients that are proven to help the things you are trying to fix.