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NOW READING Product Price Tags: What Are You Willing to Splurge (& Skimp) On in Your Skincare Routine?
November 5, 2018

Product Price Tags: What Are You Willing to Splurge (& Skimp) On in Your Skincare Routine?

When it comes to skincare, we’d love to buy the best and most expensive of everything — but that’s not always realistic. Turns out, you don’t really need to splurge on every step of your routine to get the results you want. Here, how one beauty writer finds her wallet’s comfort zone while still indulging in a skincare splurge (or three).


While researching recently, I stumbled across an interesting statistic regarding skincare and spending. According to a 2018 Statista survey, “1.6 million U.S. consumers spent more than $500 on skincare products” in a 90-day period. There was a time when that number would have shocked me since it averages out to $167 per month. Turns out, it’s a lot easier to do than I would have realized. Even if you’re not doing a full multi-step routine on a daily basis, skincare products add up. Take a look at mine:


1. Oil cleanser: $6-$40

2. Foaming cleanser: $6-$25

3. Actives: $30

4. Toner: $24-$45

5. Essence: $17-$47

6. Eye products: $100+

7. Mist: $16-$70

8. Serums and ampoules: $80+

9. Sheet masks: $2-$10

10. Lotion, emulsion, and cream: $38-$100+

11. Sleeping pack: $85

12. Sunscreen: $10


skincare splurge


After crunching the numbers, I kinda wish I hadn’t. Some of those prices are pretty steep, but what they reveal is pure enlightenment because a clear pattern emerged.


Inexpensive Staples


The least expensive items on my list include cleansers, sunscreen, and sheet masks. These items get used up frequently since I cleanse both morning and night, so I have a hard time justifying pricier offerings. The citrusy scent of Innisfree’s Blueberry Rebalancing 5.5 Cleanser always makes me smile, which is important because an off-putting smell first thing in the morning fouls my mood. I also have an intense desire for things that smell like cereal, so SRB’s Enzyme Powder Wash never leaves the sink. It smells like Rice Chex.


Since I’m rarely makeup-free, oil cleansing, aka meditatively massaging for moments on end, is a rather involved sensory process. Kose Softymo Deep Cleansing Oil is cheap, cheap, cheap, so I never feel guilty for overusing it.


skincare splurge


While I enjoy sheet masks, I just can’t make myself buy the expensive ones. These hydrators keep my skin happy when using actives, but they don’t necessarily do much more than that. Since I rarely enjoy one while relaxing (I’m usually at my desk with one on), all they really need to do is cling well and provide moisture. Like Jude Chao, I use them to force my serums into my skin, so I consider them a tool and not a true skincare product.


Mid-Level Must-Haves


Daily or twice-daily go-to items, like toner, essences, and mist, fall in my must-have category. These workhorse products make my skin more comfortable, but I don’t demand a lot from them, so I try to choose moderately priced products. Cezanne’s High Moist Skin comes in an obscenely large bottle for around $25, and SanDaWha’s Liposome Skin Softener delivers on the citrusy-mint scent front.


I adore the $17 price tag for Secret Key’s Starting Treatment Essence (which reminds me of Missha’s FTE back in the day), but I use Atrue’s Real Black Tea True Essence when the air in our mountains becomes colder than crisp. At $47, it’s at the top end of my tolerance level for an essence.


sulwhasoo first care activating mask skincare splurge


If you have drier skin, then a mist is probably one of your must-haves as well. For refreshing over makeup, I go cheap and save the fancy Sulwhasoo FCAS Mist for direct application onto clean skin or in between skincare layers to get the most for my money.


High-End Hope


My “expensive but worth it” category consists of eye products, serums, ampoules, and a really good cream and sleeping pack. Targeted products deliver key ingredients deep into the skin and are supposed to give equally targeted results. This is where the bulk of my skincare budget goes, but it’s still not easy to buy a single ounce when the price is pushing the $100 mark. That being said, I have a serum with epidermal growth factors (EGF) and fibroblast growth factors (FGF) in it, which has made my cheeks a bit plumper, as well as a peptide ampoule that goes on dead last, which I only use twice a week.


skincare splurge


High priced items come with high anxiety and even higher expectations, so these are the things I research most and try to snag on sale. Alas, my HGs — Shangpree’s Bitgoa Hue Rich Cream and Sulwhasoo’s Radiance Energy Mask — run $85 per jar. Together, they brighten and even out my skin without fail, so I’ve made peace with those price tags and restock when there’s a Dailytap deal whether I need to or not.


Ultimately, every choice is a personal one, and deciding whether or not to spend or scrimp comes down to your own needs, desires, and budget. The one thing I can say for certain is that my own “pain point” concerning price tags has shifted with time. Skincaretainment absolutely plays a role, and I’ll plunk down extra money for products that give me that buzz.


So how do you decide what’s worth the money? Are you a sucker for packaging or fun textures, do you buy on a whim, or do you really do your research before committing to anything? Let us know what your skincare splurge is (and what’s a skimp) in the comments below!



Tracy Ann Teel is a full-time freelance writer and the owner of Finesse Writing and Editing LLC. She’s a tutorial writer for San Francisco Globe’s beauty platform,, covering everything from skin and hair care to makeup and nail art. She writes for skincare companies, dermatologists, and cosmetic surgeons, and proudly taught at her MFA alma mater, the University of California Irvine, as a member of their adjunct faculty in English. She’s been a textbook reviewer for Prentice Hall, been recognized three consecutive years in the Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and has written professionally for 30+ years. Her poetry chapbook Such Dust was published by Finishing Line Press, and her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Rattle, Pearl, Kaleidoscope, and Lake Arrowhead Life.




This is such a great concept to think about! I've mostly taken the scattershot approach (typical newbie?) and bought all of everything that I could afford. Now I'm going through my products more systematically and figuring out what I actually need.

So far I'm unwilling to spend a ton on toners (I actually prefer simple, inexpensive ones for layering). Once I run out of my fancy oil cleanser I'll probably go cheap on cleansers too. I love my CosRX Snail96 and see no reason to buy anything more expensive for that part of my routine. I'm going to end up spending... Read more


I could never bring myself to buy an expensive product.. I always gasp out loud when I see the price tag! But, I always get oooone expensive product as a "treat yoself" and "it's your birthday"!


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I completely understand, and I'm glad that you allow yourself one splurge on special occasions. You're worth it! It took a while for me to work up to premium skincare products, but they're clearly working because my dermatologist always comments on how beautiful my skin is (her words, not mine). She says, "Keep doing what you're doing because it's working." All hail, Sulwhasoo!


I generally do a lot of research and comparison before buying, although a really good sale sometimes makes me more impulsive, lol. But I haven't bought any really expensive products like Sulwhasoo yet. I'm still trying to see how much my skin can improve with affordable options (COSRX, Purito, etc.), and there are so many interesting products in that price range! Like many of you, I do try to save on cleansers, sunscreen, and basic moisturizers, so that I can spend a little more on serums and stuff like that. I also haven't been buying sheet masks, because I don't... Read more


I still hesitate before buying Sulwhasoo. I have tried some of their products and I do really love the Ginseng Emulsion (I've grown to love that ginseng scent), but since I'm not an emulsion user generally, it's hard to justify getting it. And honestly, I find that affordable products are so plentiful and so effective that it's hard to justify splurging on just one pricey item!

I agree, I feel like San da whoo is an effective brand but really fancy : High prices, especially with korean products, is more about experience, packaging... than efficiency !
I think my routine cost around 200$ a year 🤔
As a student I have a small budget so I can't afford 500$/ year of skincare anyway 😂


'Kose Softymo Deep Cleansing Oil' yeeeessss this is my favorite cleansing oil! And it comes in a nice big bottle too, bless.

I'm also on the cheap cleanser train: CeraVe Foaming Cleanser is the right pH and the right price. I just got me a value size at my local supermarket for 25% off mwahahaha!

Being a broke college grad, I don't have a lot of leeway to splurge, so I always do a lot of research before buying anything. My skin is super sensitive and prone to breakouts, so honestly any skincare product I buy is considered an investment. Read more


And the Kose cleanser also smells nice! I like that they sell refills without the excess packaging, too.


I'm also on team citrus so I agree with you!

But dang I just made myself a liar since I bought the Sulwhasoo overnight mask....but a little birthday splurge never hurt anybody, right? The La Muse gift along with the sale made it extra appealing.


I'm with you @tracyannteel on most of your priorities. I definitely won't skimp on actives, serums, and eye serums — the stuff I rely on to actually make a difference in my skin long-term. I'm less willing to spend on occlusives like face creams though — I guess I'm not that picky and just want something that'll seal in all my hard work every morning and night.

I'm just grateful that K-beauty has REALLY good products in every category and at every price point so I don't go broke with my myriad steps. Especially cleansers, toners, serums/ampoules, sheet masks, and... Read more


I completely agree, Anna. Trying to balance priorities is much easier with K-beauty because there's so much information available. I never feel like I'm buying blind. And the more price-friendly brands (like PURITO) make it easier to try new things.

I agree at 100% with you : k beauty can be so budget friendly, even when it comes about actives and eye cream, contrary to France for example ^.^ Good quality toner are more common and I feel like information about skincare is really easy to access too


I think that's one of the big bonuses of K-beauty: the community. Good skincare has always been around, but I feel like K-beauty kicked off this skincare obsession around the world because of the people who found it and fell in love and became interested in really educating themselves about it. AND a lot of it was affordable! Then when they found that their skin actually improved, it just took off. I mean, look at all the American beauty brands now — they all talk about skincare first being the basis of good makeup. Before it used to be all... Read more

Yeah exactly ! In my country we always have been in skin care before make up but in the wrong way : contrary to koreans, we have not been used to respect our skin lol. So we had three choices in skincare : harsh products against acne, anti wrinkles products and organic products (which were terrible 5 years ago) 😂