You know the drill. You go to Macy’s, Nordstrom, Sephora, etc., and are invited to have a little beauty consultation by one of the well-made-up cosmetic counter employees. Brand names like Dior, Clinique, Bobby Brown, Shiseido, Lancome and other well known company marquees peer down at you as you place your shopping bags on the floor beside you and plop down on a bar stool. First you are asked what might interest you. A new eyeliner? A good everyday lip gloss? A foundation that doesn’t settle into your “laugh lines?” How about a little makeover?
Then the salesperson asks you about your skin care routine. After all it’s important, they say, explaining how well-maintained skin is the secret to all the rest of your makeup looking good. And they’re right. The cleanser comes first, followed by their patented moisturizer and then their age-defying “serum.” By the time they’re done, you have the dewiest-feeling skin you’ve had since infancy and are eager to invest. My advice? Don’t.
Your skin is not just window dressing — it’s your body’s largest organ. Even though it’s fun to sit down and let a department store salesperson try out their line on you, don’t fall for the skin care stuff. The FDA divides skincare products into two categories: cosmetics and drugs. Cosmetics make people more attractive — like a concealer that is intended to reduce the appearance of wrinkles around the eyes. The law doesn’t require cosmetics to be FDA-approved before going on the market.
Drugs, on the other hand, are formulated to affect the structure or function of the skin.They can affect its appearance, too. For example, if a serum is intended to increase the skin’s production of collagen, it’s a drug. Drugs must have FDA approval for safety and effectiveness before they go on the market. Speaking in general terms, medical-grade and spa-grade skincare products are often considered to be drugs, distributed by licensed professionals, while department and drugstore skincare products are considered cosmetics. Are you getting the drift here? Would you trust any of your body’s other organs to a salesperson? Then why your skin?
Drug store skin care products, of course, are easily accessible. The concentration of active ingredients in these products is limited due to cost and consumer safety, since it is sold en masse and no one wants to get sued. Product research? Not a lot of that going on for a $25 night cream. There is the occasional brand that started out as prescription grade and then made its way to drug store shelves, but those are few and far between. I can certainly tell you about those if my own spa products are not within your budget. What you are investing in, however, contains formulas that are stronger and are customized to treat different skin conditions, such as sun damage, hyperpigmentation, rosacea and wrinkles. Spa-grade products are also referred to as “cosmeceuticals” and correct problems that go deeper into your dermis, such as Rentinol, vitamins C and E, glycolic acid and lactic acid. While it’s true these products and their ingredients are more expensive than the Walgreen’s brands, they have also been researched and tested. Less product is needed to deliver results, so they tend to be a better bargain in the long run.
Psychology says that purchasing a mass-marketed luxury product can be driven by perceptions about self-identity, social comparison, and motivation. The magnet is the promise of younger-looking skin with long-term use. Within any given department store skin care line, its skin care products are among its highest-priced products. For instance, the ultra-exclusive La Prairie night cream runs more than $500. Other department store brands can run anywhere from $200 – $450. I had one client tell me about how she invested in a big name skin care system she bought at her favorite department store followed by a break out into cystic rosacea. She hadn’t had bumpy skin most of her adult life, and now she was a mess. Her med spa doc and I determined the ingredients in these products were not compatible with her skin type. In fact, it may only have worked on women in their 20s and 30s. Fortunately, the department store gave her a refund. They would not want their expensive brand to be known for making anyone’s skin worse.
My advice? For beauty items like foundations, eye makeup, bronzers, etc. have a ball at the department store makeup counter. For anything having to do with the health and aging of your skin, talk to your aesthetician or med spa doctor.