7 Types of Skincare Products That Are a Waste of Money

woman with lemon and face mask

It seems like every other day there’s a new “step” to add to your skincare routine — one that tacks on even more money to what’s probably already an expensive endeavor.

It’s true that skincare is costly, and with new products constantly being introduced, it can all become a little overwhelming. In fact, the global skincare market itself is estimated to be worth $145.82 billion by the year 2028, per data published by Fortune Business Insights.

This begs the question: Why is skincare such a money-making business, and are these products we’re shelling out dozens of dollars for really worth this much?

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The Surge In Skincare Costs

The main culprit for this surge in skincare costs is social media and the rise of “skinfluencers,” says Deanne Mraz Robinson, MD, founder of Modern Dermatology and Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Yale New Haven Hospital.

She continues, “skincare products, procedures, and treatments are being talked about more and more, and people are becoming invested in their skincare at an earlier age than ever before,” she says. “Furthermore, skincare has become part of the conversation in other niches of the wellness industry, from nutrition to fitness, so there’s more chatter, more education, more inspiration, and therefore, more demand.”

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The Essentials Of Skincare Matter

When it comes to skincare, however, dermatologists agree that some of the most basic (and inexpensive) tenants matter most — i.e. applying sunscreen daily, washing your face twice daily, moisturizing, not picking at pimples, etc.

For this reason, Marisa Garshick, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Medical Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery (MDCS) in NY, suggests sticking to a few steps every day rather than overwhelming yourself with a laundry list of products and steps in your routine that you wind up forgetting.

“Simply making sure you get rid of the dirt, buildup, and makeup at the end of the day and remembering to wear sunscreen daily to protect the skin from UV damage can make a big difference in how the skin looks and feels,” Dr. Garshick says. “Similarly, it is important to not underestimate the value of moisturizing the skin to help keep the skin healthy and hydrated.”

Of course, including some treatments targeted to your skin’s needs can also prove beneficial, but you do not need 12 steps to achieve a clear and radiant complexion.

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Skincare Without Breaking The Bank

It’s totally possible to have an amazing skincare routine that works for you without breaking the bank. It’s all about finding the right products for your skin, utilizing proper application order, and purchasing based on quality and concentration of ingredients — not hype, notes Dr. Robinson.

That said, there are plenty of skincare products you can pass up. To save you some time, effort, and cash, we asked dermatologists to share the skincare products that are a waste of money in their opinion.

1. Expensive cleansers

At the end of the day, cleansers are tasked with one simple thing: eliminating dirt, excess oil, and makeup — and you don’t need a hefty price tag to pull this off. However, while it isn’t necessary to invest in pricier cleansing products, you do want to make sure that the face wash you choose won’t strip your skin of its essential moisture. “Many cleansers are now made with gentle surfactants that don’t strip the skin the way traditional soaps did, as well as moisturizing ingredients that help to nourish and prevent dryness,” says Dr. Garshick. “For this reason, unless you tend to prefer a very expensive cleanser, this is often a great place to save your money as there are great drugstore cleansing options that get the job done.”

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2. Products that claim to shrink pores

Word to the wise: Any product that promises to decrease the size of your pores is misleading. While products exist to help unclog the pores and improve the overall appearance of skin texture, there is no topical solution to actually shrink the size of pores, says Dr. Garshick. “When pores are clogged they are more prominent, which is why when you unclog the pores, it helps to make them appear smaller,” she says. “Some key ways to improve the overall appearance of pores is to use products that are non-comedogenic, as well as ingredients such as retinoids and exfoliants to help regulate skin cell turnover, prevent pores from becoming clogged, and clear them of buildup.”

3. Makeup remover

Good news: If you use a good cleanser, Dr. Robinson says you can skip this step. “Your cleanser should be effective at removing both makeup and impurities from the skin,” she says. What’s more, some makeup removers can cause adverse effects; for example, alcohol-based cleansers can be irritating while certain types of oils can clog pores. If you regularly wear a full face of makeup that requires a little extra effort, consider using a cleansing balm. These effective formulas gently break down and remove all traces of makeup.

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4. Collagen supplements

These products have gained a ton of buzz over the last few years for being a quick way to score a beautiful glow from the inside out. However, Erum Ilyas, MD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology in King of Prussia, PA, doubts their efficacy. “The collagen is, of course, ingested, spends time in the acidic environment of the stomach, and theoretically needs to be absorbed and transferred to the skin to boost the skin’s support,” she says. “Whether or not this process actually happens and to the extent that we would like it to occur is very difficult to say for certain.” Bottom line: Collagen supplements at this point are a marketing tactic. Dr. Ilyas’s advice for patients is that it’s not likely that collagen supplements will help your skin, but probably won’t hurt it either — just your wallet.

5. Pricey sunscreens

While in no way should sunscreen ever be considered a waste of money, Dr. Garshick points out that it doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. “The caveat to this is remembering that the best sunscreen is the one you will use, so it is not necessarily a waste of money if you find the sunscreen you really like costs a little more,” she says. “It is also important to emphasize that there are quality sunscreens that are available that are also affordable.” The same active ingredients that protect your skin from UVA/UVB rays are found in both drugstore and prestige brands. Dr. Garshick recommends looking for broad-spectrum and SPF 30 or higher.

6. Skin tag removal creams

“Generally speaking skincare products that are designed to remove skin tags are not effective and can actually lead to skin irritation and potentially worsen the issue,” warns Dr. Garshick. The best way to get rid of those pesky skin tags is with a visit to a board-certified dermatologist who can perform a quick, simple, and painless procedure that removes them once and for all.

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7. Cellulite and stretch mark creams

When it comes to skincare products that are a waste of money, cellulite and stretch mark creams top the list. While it’s true that some topical skincare products can help camouflage the appearance of cellulite and ward off stretch marks, according to Dr. Robinson, there is no such thing as a topical “fix.” “You’re better off saving your money and investing in clinically proven, in-office treatment plans, such as laser, subcision or vacuum-assisted precise tissue release,” she says.

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