Skimp or splash out? The skincare ingredients worth splurging on

April 15, 2024

There’s no shortage of skincare products on the market and navigating them can be overwhelming. From fancy serums that promise a youthful complexion to moisturizers that hydrate and plump the skin, it’s especially easy to get swept up by luxury skincare.  

However, not all skincare ingredients are created equal, so it’s important to know which ones are worth splurging on and which ones you can save on and still achieve the desired results.  

In other words, investing in an effective skincare routine doesn’t mean you have to break the bank. Below, we share which ingredients you should splash out on and which ones you can save on.  

Splash out: Retinol 

Retinol is known for helping regulate skin cell turnover, boosting collagen production, and improving skin tone and texture. However, finding a retinol formulation that works for your skin may be tricky, which is why board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, says it’s a good place to invest in your skincare routine.  

Dr. Garshick recommends looking for a formula that also contains hydrating ingredients to minimize dryness and irritation. And if it’s your first time dipping your toes (er, skin) into using retinol, it’s best to start with a low concentration and slowly increase the frequency as your skin can tolerate it.  

Skimp: Ceramides 

Ceramides help to support and strengthen the natural skin barrier,” Dr. Garshick says. Hence, why the moisture-replenishing ingredient is a must-have in a skincare routine. Thankfully, ceramides, which are typically found in cleansers and moisturizers, are a skincare ingredient you can skimp on. Dr. Garshick says the affordable option will do the trick.  

Splash out: Hyaluronic acid 

Hyaluronic acid helps the skin retain moisture so it’s vital for a healthy complexion. While there are many affordable skincare products that contain the skincare ingredient, Dr. Garshick says it’s an ingredient that’s worthy of a splurge to ensure you get the best results. The reason, she explains, is because hyaluronic acid is a large molecule and it’s important to find a high quality product that takes that into consideration and formulates it in a way that ensures proper penetration.  

Skimp: Niacinamide 

Niacinamide calms and soothes the skin and helps reduce inflammation, Dr. Garshick says. Other touted benefits of the powerhouse skincare ingredient include helping minimize the appearance of pores, fine lines, and wrinkles, and combating hyperpigmentation. It does a lot to say the least. However, Dr. Garshick says you don’t have to spend big on niacinamide to reap the benefits. So if you’re in the market for a new niacinamide-rich serum, for example, consider this your sign to go for the affordable option.  

Splash out: Vitamin C 

It’s no wonder vitamin C is a highly sought after skincare ingredient. “It works as an antioxidant that helps to protect the skin against free radical damage, and can also help to improve the appearance of discoloration and brighten the skin,” Dr. Garshick says.  

However, vitamin C is an unstable ingredient so it may not be as effective in certain formulations. For this reason, Dr. Garshick advises investing in high-quality vitamin C skincare products. Particularly, she recommends products with pure vitamin C (also known as L-ascorbic acid) paired with other antioxidants like vitamin E and ferulic acid which help stabilize it and make it more effective.  

Skimp: Cleansers and moisturizers 

In general, Dr. Garshick says cleansers are a great place to save money in your skincare routine as there are many affordable and effective cleansers on the market. The most important thing, she says, is looking for one that is gentle and won’t strip the skin of its natural oils and will help nourish and moisturize the skin.  

The same goes for moisturizers. An affordable option will still give your skin the hydration it needs. The key, Dr. Garshick says, is to choose a moisturizer that will work for your skin type. For example, if you have dry skin, you’ll benefit from using a thicker cream-based moisturizer while those with oily skin will prefer a lightweight lotion. 

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Murad, and are for informational purposes only, even if the advice of physicians and medical practitioners are included. This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, and should not looked be considered specific medical advice.  

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Jessica Estrada is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and editor covering a wide range of lifestyle topics including beauty, skincare, wellness and mental health. Her work has been featured in Well + Good, Refinery29, Bustle, Elite Daily, Byrdie, The Zoe Report, Cosmopolitan, The Cut and more.