1. Style
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Do Expensive Skin Care Products Work Better than Inexpensive Ones?


Do Expensive Skin Care Products Work Better than Inexpensive Ones?
poba/E+/Getty Images

I'm desperate to stop the signs of aging on my face. When I went to Sephora, the sales girl was trying to sell me on the expensive lines, but they were far out of my budget and I couldn't help but feel she was working on commission. Do the expensive lines really work better? Is there anything that works at a lower price point that would work just as well? -- Lisa, NJ

When it comes to shopping for skin care, take the price point and the brand out of the decision making process and head straight to the ingredient list. Just like clothing brands, there are high-end and budget-priced products, but we all know that some of the clothes you can buy at Target are made better than their high-end competitors. It's about the label.

No one knows what label you're wearing on your skin -- what matters is what your skin looks like each day. Spend the big bucks on a line that gives good results when you can spend less on a brand that gives the same results is just plain silly. But what should you look for? Ingredients. Let's look at the ingredients of one high-end product and one budget-product, both anti-aging night creams, both containing "lift" in their names, but an $84 price differences.

Let's Compare

Skin care ingredients are listed in order of percentage in product unless the ingredient is 2% or less. Then they can go in any order. In both products, the first two ingredients are water and glycerin. Glycerin is naturally found in the skin and is a moisture booster. It is readily found in skin care products. Let's go deeper in both products and see what else is in them. These lists start from ingredient number three.

Lancome: Rénergie Lift Multi-Action Night - $112 (compare prices)

  • Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride: Emollient
  • Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate: Emollient
  • Cetyl Alcohol: Emollient/Thickener
  • Zea Mays Starch: Absorbent
  • Butyrospermum Parkii Butter / Shea Butter: Moisturizer
  • Alcohol Denat.: Decreases thickness of moisturizer
  • Petrolatum: Heals damaged skin, Vaseline is pure petrolatum.
  • Pentylene Glycol: Solvent/skin conditioner
  • Glyceryl Stearate: Emollient/Thickener
  • Dimethicone: Emollient/Silicone
  • Peg-40 Stearate: Solubilizer
  • Cera Alba / Beeswax / Cire Dabeille: Thickening Agent
  • Hydroxyethylpiperazine Ethane Sulfonic Acid: Maintains PH level
  • Ci 14700 / Red 4, Ci 19140 / Yellow 5: Adds color
  • Saccharomyces/Xylinum/ Black Tea Ferment: Antioxidant. Also helps with skin elasticity.
  • Hydrolyzed Linseed Extract: Antioxidant
  • Hydrolyzed Soy Protein: Anti-aging ingredient, moisturizer
  • Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid: Moisturizing ingredient that is able to penetrate deep into the skin's layers. Also boosts skin's elasticity.
  • Sodium Hydroxide: Controls PH level
  • Sodium Benzoate: Preservative
  • Phenoxyethanol: Preservative
  • Adenosine: Promotes cell rejuvenation and anti-inflammatory
  • Stearyl Alcohol: Emollient
  • Acetyl Tetrapeptide-9: Boosts collagen production, firming agent
  • Poloxamer 338: Emulsifier
  • Dimethiconol: Emollient
  • Limonene: Citrus oil/used for fragrance
  • Xanthan Gum: Thickener
  • Pentaerythrityl Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate: Antioxidant
  • Benzyl Alcohol: Preservative or fragrance binder
  • Caprylyl Glycol: Skin Conditioner
  • Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone: Fragrance
  • Sorbitan Tristearate: Dispersing agent, emulsifier, and stabilizer
  • Myristyl Alcohol: Emulsifier
  • Geraniol: Fragrance
  • Hexyl Cinnamal: Fragrance
  • Fragrance: Fragrance

RoC: Multi Correxion Lift Anti-Gravity Night Cream - $28 (Buy direct)

  • Dimethicone: Emollient/Silicone
  • Tetrahydroxypropyl Ethylenediamine: Chelating agent
  • Cetyl Alcohol: Emollient/Thickener
  • Butylene Glycol: Slip agent
  • PPG 2 Myristyl Ether Propionate: Emollient/Thickener
  • Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate: Emulsifier/Thickener
  • Squalane: Moisturizer/Promotes faster cell renewal
  • Cyclohexasiloxane: Emollient
  • Stearyl Heptanoate: Emollient
  • Glyceryl Stearate: Emulsifier/Thickener
  • Glycolic Acid: Exfoliant
  • Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) Extract (Shea Butter): Moisturizer
  • Methyl Methacrylate Crosspolymer: Film-former and absorbs excess of sebum
  • PEG 75 Stearate: Surfactant
  • Stearyl Caprylate: Emollient
  • Phenoxyethanol: Preservative
  • Polyacrylamide: Film-forming agent
  • Ammonium Acrylyl Dimethyltaurate / VP Copolymer: Thickener
  • Aluminum Starch Octenylsuccinate: Thickener
  • C13 14 Isoparaffin: Thickener
  • Fragrance: Fragrance
  • Methylparaben: Preservative
  • Tocopheryl Acetate: Antioxidant
  • Ceteth 20: Emollient and emulsifier
  • Steareth 20: Emulsifier
  • Propylparaben: Preservative
  • Ethylparaben: Preservative
  • Cyclopentasiloxane: Emollient
  • Allantoin (Comfrey Root): Skin Soother
  • Laureth 7: Thickener
  • Magnesium Aspartate: Skin conditioner
  • Zinc Gluconate: Aids in skin cell regeneration
  • Hydorlyzed Soy Flour: Moisturizer and skin firming
  • Copper Gluconate: Antioxidant, collagen re-builder


Looking at this breakdown it's easy to get rid of the ingredients that don't really make a difference in your buying consideration. The thickeners, emulsifiers, and emollients are there to make the product work better and appeal to you. Moisturizers are there to hydrate your skin. Preservatives are there for shelf-life and safety. But because this is an anti-aging cream, let's look at the anti-aging ingredients.

Lancome: The ingredients to take note of in this product are:

  • Saccharomyces/Xylinum/ Black Tea Ferment: Commonly known as Kombucha. Boosts skin immune function and assists in restoring volume to deficient zones in the skin. (Dermalinstitute.com)
  • Hydrolyzed Linseed Extract: Hydrolyzed linseed extract has antioxidant properties. (nvwah.com)
  • Hydrolyzed Soy Protein: Soy is an awesome source of Isoflavones. The role of isoflavones is widely appreciated and is currently the subject of intense research. Isoflavones appear to protect the skin against hormone-related aging, such as in menopause. As we age, our hormone levels drop and our skin, the biggest organ, shows the results. Hydrolyzed Soy Protein helps bring back a youthful radiance in skin care. (Ingredientstodiefor.com)
  • Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid: Hyaluronic Acid is also a major component of skin, where it is involved in tissue repair. Topically applied, hyaluronic acid forms an air permeable layer and penetrates into the dermis, thus boosting the elasticity and hydration of the skin. (Organicbeautyandskin.com)
  • Adenosine: is present in our cells and functions as a cell-communicating ingredient because it is a source of energy that supports healthy cellular activity. (paulaschoice.com)
  • Acetyl Tetrapeptide-9: is a powerful active that firms, plumps and stimulates new collagen fiber synthesis. (ncnskincare.com)

We have antioxidants, collagen boosters and cell rejuvinators. All good stuff.

RoC: The key ingredients in this product are:

  • Squalane: Squalane is an absolutely essential oil for the skin, especially when a regenerative effect is desired. The skin has sufficient levels when it's young but as we age the levels drop considerably. Squalane can help to replenish the natural levels lost through the normal aging process, contributing regenerative activity to restore a more youthful appearance, and resistance to inflammatory conditions.(Ingredientstodiefor.com)
  • Glycolic Acid: Glycolic Acid is an exfoliator. It safely removes the outer layer of dead skin cells on the surface your skin, bring fresh new skin to the surface. This is beneficial for those who are looking for ingredients that help with anti-aging. Glycolic acid can also help lighten discoloration of the skin, such as sun spots or age spots and help those with acne-prone and blackhead-prone skin. (About.com - Skin Care)
  • Tocopheryl Acetate: Its substantiated benefits include enhancing the efficacy of active sunscreen ingredients, reducing the formation of free radicals from exposure to UV rays, promoting the healing process, strengthening the skin's barrier function, protecting the skin barrier's lipid balance, and reducing transepidermal water loss. (TruthinAging.com)
  • Zinc Gluconate: Zinc in the form of zinc gluconate or zinc sulfate is thought to help heal acne blemishes, reduce inflammation caused by acne, and reduce androgenic hormonal effects on skin that contribute to acne breakouts or in other words help regulate the skin’s oil gland activity. (Healthyskincare.com)
  • Copper Gluconate:There is research showing that copper is effective for wound healing and for antiaging due to its inhibitory effect on matrix metalloproteinases and stimulation of fibroblasts that build healthy collagen. (PaulasChoice.com)

We have minerals, vitamin E an exfoliator and again, antioxidants. All great when it comes to anti-aging.

The Bottom Line

It's easy to see that both skin care products offer anti-aging benefits. There is no doubt about it when you break down the ingredients. I wish that Lancome's product had glycolic acid and I wish that RoC's product had Hyaluronic Acid, but standing alone, they are both great choices for an anti-aging night cream. Could you pocket the $80 and go with RoC and see results? Absolutely. Does that mean that the Lancome isn't worth it? Only if your budget says it is. Both products get great reviews from users.

But most importantly, I hope that this article shows you that brand names can stay out of your buying decision. The only thing that counts is ingredients. I took a look at the ingredients that I knew and then scoured the internet ingredient by ingredient until I got a good grasp on what I didn't know. You can easily do the same. Slowly the ingredients you do know will grow and grow and you will be able to rely on your own knowledge. Do not let advertisements get in the way of your research. You'd be surprised at what you can discover about a product once you dig deep into what's in it.

More Skin Care Questions

  1. About.com
  2. Style
  3. Skin Care
  4. Skin Care Q&A
  5. Skin Care Products: Are Expensive Brands Worth the Price?

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.