Hannah Frye

mbg Assistant Beauty Editor

By Hannah Frye

mbg Assistant Beauty Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.

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June 15, 2023

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Every beauty professional has their nonnegotiable steps. In our series Like a Pro, we tap experts for the top three techniques they absolutely swear by. Here, you’ll hear from a variety of industry insiders on the fail-safe tricks they always keep in their back pockets. We’re all about simplifying your beauty regimen wherever you can, and sometimes the best routines are as easy as 1, 2, 3.


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Spending your hard-earned money on skin care products isn’t as surface-level as it seems. While the result may also make your skin look better, that goes hand-in-hand with tending to your body’s largest organ. 

Nevertheless, some of those luxury items aren’t always worth their steep price tag. To come, a dermatologist explains how to tell if a pricey skin care product is worth the investment: 


It’s a treatment product

Look, if you have the funds and desire to splurge on every step in your skin care routine, do your thing. However, those trying to save a few bucks should know this: The most important products to invest in are those that contain treatment actives. 

What does this mean? We’ll let board-certified dermatologist and founder of Hudson Dermatology and Laser Surgery Dhaval G. Bhanusali, M.D., FAAD, explain: “When it comes to serums or products with ‘actives’ that help treat a condition (like hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, etc), it may be worth the splurge, depending on the product.” 

This is especially important when it comes to ingredients like vitamin C and retinol, as they’re more complex to formulate and keep stable. But do you really need a $100 hydrating cleanser? Probably not.

This isn’t to say that those pricey and luxurious moisturizers have zero benefits—but if you’d like to reserve funds for one or two products, Bhanusali recommends investing in your treatments first. 


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It contains a blend of helpful ingredients

One way to get the most bang for your buck is to look for multiuse and multi-benefit products. 

One prime example that Bhanusali formulated himself: the Rhode Glazing Milk. “The formula has beta-glucan, which serves as an antioxidant-rich humectant, which helps with the barrier function and helps with redness,” he says. 

“It is also loaded with ceramides and a carefully crafted magnesium + zinc + copper gluconate blend, which helps with protection against free radicals,” he adds, providing hydration, skin conditioning, barrier support, and antioxidant protection all in one product. 

This will not only help you find effective products but also streamline your routine. The more multiuse products you have, the fewer steps you’ll need from start to finish, and thus, the more money you can allocate to pricier products. 


It’s better than the dupe

One huge misconception in the beauty space is that any affordable product with similar ingredients to a more expensive option (aka, a “dupe”) provides all the same benefits at half the price. 

However, it’s far more complex than simply glancing at the back of your bottle. “I really do think formulation matters, and sometimes ‘dupes’ may have similar ingredients but nowhere near the same quality,” Bhanusali says. 

He adds, “Ingredient quality can range from supplier to supplier, as do the percentages used in a formulation.” So even if a pricey serum contains many of the same ingredients as an affordable serum, that doesn’t automatically mean the quality is just as comparable. 

All of this to say: If a dupe provides the same benefits as a pricier option, then why not save money? But if you’re not loving the cheaper version, it might be due to the quality inside the bottle and how your skin reacts to the different formulations. 

So if you’ve tried the dupe alternative of your favorite moisturizer and find that it’s not nearly as effective, you may want to stick with the higher-quality formula.


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The takeaway

There’s nothing wrong with investing in your skin care, given that skin care is self-care. However, you’ll want to do so strategically. Make sure you invest in your treatment products first, choose formulas with versatile, multi-beneficial ingredients, and stick with higher-quality products if they prove to be more effective. With all of this in mind, you’ll want to make sure you apply these products in the right order as well—here’s how


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