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Are drugstore skincare products just as good as pricier brands?

Dr. Ellen Marmur, MD
Dermatology
Marketing and perception are very powerful forces. A fascinating Duke University study published in 2008 in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that people believed that a more expensive placebo pill actually worked better just because it cost more. Spending more money somehow convinces many people that something (in this case a drug) works better. If that belief combined with the enjoyment of applying an expensive, more luxurious lotion or sunscreen makes you more inclined to use it with consistency, the placebo effect works wonders.

Logically, however, consider that your three fundamental products all include similar common ingredients (perhaps in slightly varying concentrations). It just doesn't make rational sense to spend more money on them. Cleansers, sunscreens, and basic moisturizers contain about the same kinds of surfactants, humectants, and moisturizing emollients. These products all coat the top of the skin and affect it superficially. And many of the big cosmetics manufacturers (the names you see all over the drugstore aisles) are the same ones that make the prestige beauty lines. All the scientific bells and whistles that increase the cost of a product -- tiny nanoparticles that might be able to penetrate further than the surface, a truly stabilized form of an antioxidant such as vitamin C or green tea, or retinoids that would actually break through to the dermis -- don't matter so much (from a medical standpoint) for a cleanser, sunscreen, or simple moisturizer. But the fact is that the most effective antiaging product on the market is a good sunblock, and that doesn't have to be expensive at all. Honestly, the best, strongest sun protection products can be purchased at the drugstore. The bottom line: it's all a matter of personal preference. If you want to splurge on basics, go ahead, but it's simply not necessary.
Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

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Simple Skin Beauty: Every Woman's Guide to a Lifetime of Healthy, Gorgeous Skin

What if a leading dermatologist just happened to be your best friend and you could ask her anything? DR. ELLEN MARMUR, a world-renowned New York City dermatologist, answers all your questions with...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.