The ROI of Skincare: Why Drug Store Brands are Breaking the Bank

The ROI of Skincare: Why Drug Store Brands are Breaking the Bank

If you’re anything like most people, your bathroom drawers are stuffed with skincare products from the drugstore. Lotions, potions, toners, moisturizers, and serums–we’ll buy just about anything that promises us a better complexion. But after years of spending money on products that all too often deliver disappointing results, if any, it’s time to find out what our return on investment really is. The skin and face specialists at 8 West Clinic, which includes board Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon Dr. Thomas Buonasissi, have prepared some info to help you figure out how to pick products that work.



price of drug store skincare versus medical grade

Although drugstore skincare brands often tout bold-sounding claims, they are consumer perception statements with no evidence to support them. A wrinkle cream that claims “60% of women saw a reduction of fine lines and wrinkles” doesn’t actually mean there was a 60% reduction, but simply that this is what was perceived.

On the other hand, if a medical-grade skincare product says it’s “Clinically proven to reduce appearance of brown spots by 50%,” you know this was actually demonstrated in peer-reviewed scientific medical journals and the claim is based on factual evidence. In this way, both the product as well as those who stand behind it promise measurable results for and accountability to the consumer.


Choosing a drugstore product forces us to self-diagnosis and then self-prescribe. Compared to the expertise of a medical aesthetician or other professional like a Facial Plastic Surgeon who specializes in the skin, this puts us at a distinct disadvantage. A professional has treated hundreds, maybe even thousands of people over their career, and knows which products work and which products don’t.

Drugstore staff, however well-intentioned, just cannot compete with this level of knowledge in assessing your skin’s condition and helping you choose what products are right for you. If you’re suffering from a more complicated condition like cystic acne, rosacea or severe hyperpigmentation, a medical professional can also measure your results and keep an eye out for possible side effects.


skincare ingredients drug store vs. medical grade

By default, drugstore products can only work on the outermost layer of our skin (the epidermis), and do not penetrate the deeper layers of skin where collagen and elastin are contained. But it’s in these deeper layers that real change and transformation of the skin occurs.

To taOssential-Advanced-Radical-Night-Repair-1ke retinoids as an example, some of the most popular brands available over the counter today are around 0.4% retinol, and lose efficacy due to being watered down.

Compare that to a medical-grade product line like ZO® Skin Health, which features a highly effective anti-aging product called Ossential® Advanced Radical Night Repair, which is a 1% retinol in a water-free emulsion with oleosome delivery system that ensures a slow time release and deliver deep into the service. That 0.6% may not sound like a big number, but the 1% retinol is crucial in producing dramatic, long-lasting results for skin showing signs of sun damage, brown spots and photoaging. Also, in medical grade products that use oleosomes, the medication is dropped deep into the dermis rather than sitting on the outside of the skin which can simply cause irritation.



Most of us know by now that cutting corners never pays off. In my case, I’m thinking specifically about a purse I bought some time ago. A knock-off of a famous (and famously expensive) brand, I was convinced that, while not top-of-the-line quality, it was still well-made; that is until the strap broke one day as I was running for the subway, sending the contents hailing onto the ground in a rainstorm of cosmetics and personal belongings. In this case my point is simple: you get what you pay for.

Many drugstore skincare brands are heavy on fillers and thickeners; necessary to some extent to keep costs down so they can pass savings onto us, the customer. But are we really saving when not only is the product we’re buying not doing the job we bought it to do, but we continue buying more in hopes that it will? I’ve seen a number of moisturizing creams packed with glycerin, which creates a sheath over the skin to lock in moisture. In the short-term this does work, but once the product is washed off your skin the results are gone with it.


How much money have you spent over the years on drugstore brands; dare you even ask? Let’s try out a hypothetical example to get an idea.

Let’s say you have acneic skin with hyperpigmentation. By doing some online research you’ve self-diagnosed and chosen a reasonably-priced retinol at $29.99 that will last you about a month. Assuming you’re diligent about daily application, a year alone of using this one product will clock in around $360.00. But here’s the real catch: you still haven’t solved your problem.

The truth is that only medical-grade retinoids, laser and light treatments can bid farewell to the those stubborn splotches. Had you opted for the latter, you could have purchased the best medical-grade retinol on the market, or even invested in a laser-based treatment that would have produced substantial results while reducing your dependence on other products to boot.  


Skincare tips and roi on drug store products

A final question to ask yourself is how many products you actually need? Are those countless tubes of gels, lotions, and moisturizers really necessary? We posed this matter to our team of skincare specialists here at Fioré Skin Clinic, who came up with “Skincare in 6” — a 6-step checklist of skincare musts’.

  1. Cleanse properly: This is an absolute must as cleansing is the foundation of your routine, although the type of cleanser will depend on your skin type.
  2. Exfoliate: Whether it’s done manually, with a simple cloth, chemically, or through a laser-based procedure, exfoliation is key to results.
  3. Hydrate: The type of cream you use will also depend on your skin type, but it’s essential to keep skin plump and nourished.
  4. Condition Specific Products: Whether it’s acne (acids) or brown spots (hydroquinones), these products affect real change in your complexion.
  5. Sun Protection: Protecting your skin against sun damage is the single easiest and most important step in maintaining a beautiful complexion.
  6. Add-It-On: If your budget can afford a high-quality eye cream or antioxidant serum, these are terrific boosts to a good skincare routine.


To measure our skincare ROI, we must ask ourselves what kind of results we’re after? Are you looking simply to hydrate dry winter skin; improve tone, texture and enlarged pores; or do you need to address a real dermatological condition such as rosacea or brown spots? The truth of the matter is that if you’re not seeing tangible results, no amount of money is worth spending on a product. And if your true goal is measurable improvement in your skin, you are highly unlikely to achieve it with a drugstore brand. It’s that simple.

If you are looking to speak with a professional about your skin or have an issue you’re ready to tackle, we would love to offer your a free consultation. Just click here for more information.


Photos: StockSnapkerdkanno, Unsplash, miapowterr,

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