How to spot quality skincare products that are worth the price

I went to my local Plastic and Cosmetic Surgery office to get a consult on my aging skin. My main problem being the deep frown lines and overall fine lines and dull skin. The nurse I saw suggested I start with a good skin regimen and suggested $400 worth of products from their line of products. She told me that all their products are pharmacuetical grade products. How can I be sure that their products are good? There are so many products out there. I actually made a list of the products you suggested to start with. Price wise, they'll be around the same prices but what is the difference between the office products and other name brand products? Thank you for any suggestions you have on quality skincare. MGorman

That’s an interesting way for her to describe it: “pharmaceutical grade products”. In a sense, she’s right, because the products sold in doctors’ offices tend to have a percentage of active ingredient listed on the product or box. Or, they can at least call the company and find out the percentage. For department store products, this is NOT often easy to get. Drugstore products sometimes list the percentages of active ingredients, but 1% zinc is so low it’s laughable! So you have to know what percentages you’re looking for (We’ll get into this soon). But we’ve all been there. Wanting to try a new product, but not being familiar with the brand, or worrying we’ll pay a lot for just clever marketing and no substance. Here are some tips to help you spot great quality skincare products, no matter the brand.

Good skincare products can help:

  • with progression of aging
  • prevent more sun damage
  • and with fine lines and dull skin.

Even the best quality skincare products can’t treat:

  • frown lines
  • deeper wrinkles
  • sagging
  • or moderate to severe sun damage.

For these, no topical product will do the trick. You’ll need to consider injectibles, lasers, and radiofrequency (sounds waves) to help here.

How to spot quality anti-aging skincare products: active ingredients

These are some skin care product essentials for preventing further signs of aging, and helping with fine lines, and dull skin. Whether it’s your dermatologist’s brand or a more recognizable store brand, you can check for quality by looking at the percentages of active ingredients.

  • A sunscreen with zinc 7-10% in winter, cloudy or indoor climates.   Zinc 10-20% for outdoor, sunny or active adventures
  • A good quality antioxidant under your sunscreen. The less expensive ones are not as good. If going for the good quality ones, look for 10-20%.
  • A retinoid cream at night like tretinoin (the generic), Renova, etc. or OTC Retinol at 0.25 to 1.0%.  If you’ve not used before start with the OTC Retinol, and use OVER your moisturizer to start.  Then work up to the stronger prescription forms over 6-12 months.

Picking quality basic skin care products:

  • Cleansers. A gentle drugstore cleanser like CeraVe or Cetaphil is fine and a good place to save money.
  • Moisturizers.   Sure we all love the more “elegant” moisturizers, but again CeraVe or Cetaphil cream is a good place to save money. If you’re willing to invest a little more, look for something more fine tuned to your specific skin type. Here are some I personally like and use: Eminence Blueberry Soy Night Recovery Cream and SkinCeuticals Hydrating B5 Gel.
  • Treatment masques.  Again, for hydration, anti acne, or anti-inflammatory, decent ones can often be found in the drug or department store.
  • Acne products.  Often good in drugstores or companies like Clinique aimed at teens to 20s.

Skin care and extras to splurge on:

  • Spend $75-150 for a great facial or microderm from a trusted aesthetician
  • Consider adding a cell growth product like TNS recovery
  • Buy a great hat that you’ll actually wear to really prevent sun exposure!  🙂

Hope this helps, Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

Ask me your skincare question!

Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skincare advocate.

  • All our content is written and researched by myself.
  • My medical office in Seattle has treated thousands of patients for 15+ years.
  • This site is not affiliated or financially tied to any product, treatment or device.
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SkinTour Skincare
One of the best investments in your skin is your daily skincare. Why? Because you can prevent many problems with blotchy skin color, lack of glow, texture, some types of acne, and fine lines with good skincare products. You can also correct some of these problems with effective skincare products. Great skincare is often more expensive because quality ingredients are expensive. Some companies spend on research/development which benefits all of us and adds to the cost. Are they worth it? In general - yes! I have handpicked some of what I consider to be the best skin care products, and offer them for sale on SkinTour's shop. This is based on my team and I's testing and research at our clinic. Many of the products are in my own regimen. What could be better than using skin care products a dermatologist uses?!