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Spending on Skincare

by Louisa Crook

How much should your skincare routine cost?

It’s a common conundrum within the skincare community. Does throwing more money at your face give you better results when it comes to skincare products? Do the super-expensive products have better and more effective ingredients or formulas? Are the affordable products a waste of your time and indeed, your money?

The answer is…not simple. Let’s get into it.

Cost factors in skincare – the company’s perspective

There are myriad factors to consider when looking at the cost of a skincare product. On the company side, you’ve got two major contributors to cost – research and development (R&D) and packaging. Basically, the inside and the outside.

Research & Development

Research & development is a vast subject in skincare. The quality of a product depends not only on the ingredients that go into it, but on the way that product is put together. It’s no good sourcing the highest quality ingredients if the formula is ineffective at delivering it into your skin. But more crucial than this is the stability of the product. There’s no point in paying money for a product that oxidises or destabilises within a week of opening it. Formulation can be (very necessarily) an incredibly time-consuming and expensive part of production for exactly this reason. It’s a very contentious issue for skincare products and no product is more talked about in this regard than vitamin C. No doubt you’ll have heard of the “holy grail” of all vitamin C products on the market as being the Skinceuticals C E Ferulic. It comes with an extremely hefty price tag of $166 (QAR604) and despite this, is continually hailed as a must-have product in anyone’s skincare routine. So why can Skinceuticals charge so much for a product other companies sell for less than a third of that price? You’ve got it. The formula. The boffins over at the L’Oreal lab (they own Skinceuticals) have managed to do the almost impossible and create a very stable and effective vitamin C formula. And then they patented it, so only they can sell it. The silly billies at Drunk Elephant allegedly attempted to copy the product and found themselves at the centre of a very expensive lawsuit, proving just how valuable a great formula is.


Let’s face it. Packaging matters. It’s always something that “skinfluencers” comment on when reviewing the latest beauty products. We like nice packaging. It makes a product feel that extra bit luxurious. It invokes confidence in a product. So, many companies spend ample time and money on this area of production. However, it is worth noting that some companies have managed to reduce this particular cost factor in the production process. A notable example is The Ordinary, who use the same dropper bottles and squeezy tubes throughout most of their line. Some might have called it a gamble, but it seems to have paid off. The simplicity and uniformity of their packaging supports the “clean” feel of the brand and that is a valuable impression when it comes to skincare.

You get what you pay for, right?

Continuing on with the two companies mentioned above, when we compare price tags, The Ordinary products are super-affordable compared to Skinceuticals, so they’re not great, right? Well, here’s an example of things not being so straightforward. While there is definitely a lot of validity in the “you get what you pay for” stance on skincare, there are factors to take into consideration that can skew this sentiment somewhat. The Ordinary is a good example of this. Not only do they save a huge whack of production cost by being very pared back with their packaging, but they also reap cost-effectiveness benefits with their R&D. You may or may not be aware that The Ordinary is owned by Estée Lauder. This means they get to use an already well-established R&D facility. While other smaller brands have to pour money into their own R&D set-up – an extremely costly process, The Ordinary has it there ready with the support of the superpower that is Estée Lauder behind them. So, they get to pass those savings onto you, the customer, making them one of the more affordable and popular skincare brands out there.

Of course, this is one example of one company. Other companies will have very different set-ups and resources. It’s worth doing a little research and reading around before you part with your hard-earned cash.

Cost factors in skincare – the customer’s perspective

For us as customers, there are a few things to consider when deciding where to spend money when it comes to skincare products. We’ve got some advice that can help you make your mind up.

Do your research

We always say this, but it’s only because it is so worth it. There are umpteen brands and products to choose from and knowing where best to spend your money requires some reading around. And it’s not just your money. It’s your time, too. Skincare is a long game. To know exactly how well a product works for you can take up to 12 weeks, so doing your research increases the odds that after that 12 week period, you find the product has done great things for you. Who wants to have wasted three months of their life on products that didn’t do a thing for them?

Start with one product

We get it. Sometimes a brand has so many appealing products with so many enchanting promises that it can be all too easy to click that “add to basket” button. But try to resist, especially when it comes to brands you don’t know. Try one product first. By doing this, you will more easily deduce if the product a) suits your skin and b) works! If you use too many products at once and get great results, how are you to know which one of those products is the one really working and which you can do away with and reduce your skincare spend? Conversely, what if your skin suffers? How will you know which product is the culprit?

How long does it last?

We’re getting kinda mathematical here. This essentially requires working out the “price per pump” of a product. Sounds more complicated than it is. All you really have to do is note down how long a product lasts you. So just jot down the first day and last day of use in your notes app to refer to and compare with other products. This way, you can see if that super expensive product you splashed out on actually works out to be cheaper per use than the similar, more affordable, but perhaps not quite as good, product.

Making sense of skincare can be overwhelming. Our best advice is just to take it slow. The products you want to try aren’t going anywhere – they’ll be there for you when you’re ready for them, so don’t be hasty with your purchases. Research and patience go a long way in the world of skincare!

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