Cosmeceuticals are a multi-billion dollar industry. So many choices exist, both in the types of products available and the price tag each one carries. Does a higher price mean the product will work better? Sometimes, although I can tell you that there is no product ever worth spending $300/oz. on! What about organic or all natural vs. common drug store brands? Unfortunately these terms are not highly regulated and do not mean the product is safer or more effective. We have unfortunately become very adverse to anything considered "chemical" but it is important to realize that EVERYTHING is technically a chemical. Many of the unpronounceable ingredients in your common products are there to keep the product stable and free of bacteria from growing inside of it while it patiently awaits your purchase;)
Here I've created a *basic* skin care routine with tips on where you can save, and where you might consider splurging for the best results. When in doubt, purchase high end or medical grade products only from an authorized retailer such as Dermstore.com, or a medical professional’s office or spa. Fake and expired products abound on Amazon, and you might not be getting what you paid for.
Face wash: Lots of nice options exist at your local pharmacy. The most important choice for you to make is to pick a formula that suits your skin needs. Acne prone? Choose one with salicylic acid. Dry skin? Cleansing creams are best; gels and foams help with oily skin. Cetaphil and CeraVe are great brands.
Exfoliation: Whether acid-based (alpha or beta-hydroxy) or physical (scrubs, polishes, etc), there is some benefit to using a high end product. The formulations are better pH balanced and/or more refined, which translates into a superior result for you. Two products I love are SkinMedica AHA/BHA Cream and ZO Exfoliating Polish. Aim to use only 2-3 times per week to optimize the effects without causing excessive irritation.
Moisturizer/Sunscreen: Outside of summer, I use a moisturizer with sunscreen in it that is oil free, such as Aveeno. That way I know my skin is always protected. During the warmer months I recommend using a separate sunscreen with at least SPF 50. Neutrogena, La Roche-Posay, and Avène are my go-to brands for face coverage in the summer.
Retinol: Tretinoin is the prescription version and gold standard for anti-aging skin care; it softens fine lines, and improves texture and skin tone. Price is dictated by your insurance coverage. Common drug store products usually do not contain a strong enough version to treat your skin meaningfully. Most medical grade skincare lines do, and sometimes more gently and with fewer side effects than the prescription version. My favorite non-prescription product is Revision Retinol Complete.
Night cream: Young healthy skin just requires good hydration. Pick a product that you know you will use nightly and stick with it! Mature skin however will benefit from one with an anti-aging property such as hyaluronic acid, and this is a good place to invest in a higher quality product. Highly stable and super moisturizing (and also my favorite cream to use post-procedure) is SkinMedica HA5.
This is a great primer to start you on your way to brighter skin, without breaking the bank. You may wonder about all the other products out there, such as eye creams, toner, Vitamin C serums, peptides etc. Many of these are great adjuncts, and I recommend them to patients on a case by case basis, depending on what their specific skincare needs are. But it is so important to get your basic routine down first.
Also worth mentioning: for some of us, skin care is a luxury and an act of self-care. If you are hooked on a product that works for you and it makes you happy, keep using it!