5 Skincare Items You Should Never Spend Money On

Margarita Chi

It's easy to think that the efficacy of a product is in direct correlation with its market value, like, it must work well in order to warrant a three-figure price tag. But how do you know if you're investing your hard-earned money in a truly amazing product or if you're actually being duped? And in addition to those skincare products with steep price tags, there are those that just shouldn't take up residency in your skincare collection, because they're either ineffective or potentially harmful. So because we hate wasting our money (who doesn't?), we reached out to a few dermatologists to have them give it to us straight: Which skincare products should we avoid spending our money on?

Below, take a look at what the doctors believe we should bypass in the skincare aisle. Some answers induce a bit of a facepalm while others are a bit shocking. However, in the end, each of these tips will save you money and save your skin. Take a look at what they had to say below!

Products With No Clinical Evidence

This one seems like a no-brainer, but there are definitely some ingredients that claim to work wonders while, in reality, they may actually be a bunch of fluff. You might be tempted to snatch up that serum that boasts crushed diamonds as a star ingredient, but think twice: if there aren't any studies or stats to substantiate their claims, it might all just be clever marketing. That said, not every product line can afford clinical studies. Your best bet is to seek out key (and/or active) ingredients with clinical evidence. It is helpful to know your skin's current needs and know (research) key beneficial ingredients for you.

What to Use Instead

skinceuticals-retinol-1.0
SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0 $72
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Depending on what your skincare concern is, clinically proven ingredients for treating issues such as acne, aging, and sun damage are retinol and acids like glycolic acid. Your skin type and issues (at the time) will dictate what strengths are right for you.

Not sure which other ingredients are proven effective? You can always google the brand to research its efficacy and science-backed evidence, or head to a site like Paula's Choice which advocates for quality products—just typing in "clinically proven products" in the search bar will yield numerous results. Joyce de Lemos also told us to study up and become a bit of an ingredient dictionary so you can be abreast of which ingredients are safe and proven effective without having to perform a search each time you shop.

Products With Pore-Clogging Ingredients

Petrolatum and lanolin are not always favorable in skincare because they can cause irritation or allergic reactions—but, it's complicated. Depending on its source, petrolatum can be contaminated with toxic ingredients, but can also be completely fine (helpful even) for your skin.

Both these ingredients are occlusive and can be pore clogging, however, pore-clogging ingredients (like oils) used in cleansers can be very beneficial as they are excellent in breaking down oils (sebum), dirt, makeup, and SFP. It is important to remove them with a washcloth so everything is removed and no longer a pore-clogging threat. Instead, making these occlusive ingredients a vehicle to prevent pore clogging.

What to Use Instead

skin-inc-hyaluronic-acid-serum
Skin Inc Hyaluronic Acid Serum $45
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Instead of heavy moisturizers, try this hydrating serum fortified with hyaluronic acid, a skin-plumping ingredient wherein one gram can hold up to six liters of water.

Products With Fragrance

While we're suckers for a good-smelling product, Dr. Patricia Ceballos of Schweiger Dermatology Group says that fragrance is a no-no. It's an irritant that you may not be able to notice on the surface of the skin, but deep down, your skin could be showing signs of aggravation that could have damaging long-term effects. 

What to Use Instead

aveeno-skin-relief-body-wash
Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash $6
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In addition to being fragrance-free, this body wash is soap-free, dye-free, and hypoallergenic.

Products With Chemical Sunscreen

Chemical sunscreen is different from physical sunscreen in that it changes UV rays into heat, which then radiates off the skin, whereas physical sunscreen sits on top of the skin and deflects UV rays (think zinc oxide). Therefore, Dr. Ceballos cautions against turning to chemical sunscreen as your first or only option. Since it's made with compounds that are actually absorbed into the skin, those with acne-prone or sensitive skin might want to stick with a physical sunscreen instead to avoid potential irritation.

What to Use Instead

dcl-antioxidant-mineral-sunscreen
DCL Antioxidant Mineral Sunscreen $48
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This lightweight antioxidant-rich physical sunscreen by DCL is ideal for those who may have a negative reaction to the chemical variation.

Prestige Basics

Don't get us wrong: Sometimes we love us some department store luxe skincare, but Dr. Hadley King, a dermatologist at Skinney Medspa, says there are cheaper products that can perform just as well. Seek the advise of a skincare professional to ensure your efforts, budget, and time is well invested and you achieve your skincare goals.

What to Use Instead

neutrogena-hydro-boost-water-gel
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel $18
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Want a high-performing moisturizer for half the cost of an expensive cream? This gel is the top-prescribed hydrator for this editor and delivers soft, smooth, and plump skin.

Were you surprised to see anything on this list? Sound off below!

This article was published at an earlier date. 

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Kong R, Cui Y, Fisher GJ, et al. A comparative study of the effects of retinol and retinoic acid on histological, molecular, and clinical properties of human skin. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2016;15(1):49-57. doi:10.1111/jocd.12193

  2. Latha MS, Martis J, Shobha V, et al. Sunscreening agents: a review. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2013;6(1):16-26.

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