What Outrageously Expensive Skincare Products Are REALLY Worth Their Price Tags?

by Gio
best luxury skincare products

Usually, I get asked what are the best cheapest skincare products you can find at the drugstore.

Usually.

Because, sometimes, someone actually wants to know what high-end products are worth splurging on. And, why not?

These days, you can find plenty of awesome, effective products at the drugstore. But, often, there’s a trade-off. They cost less, but their textures don’t feel as luxurious. Or the packaging ain’t as pretty.

Sometimes, you just want the whole package. When you feel like that, where do you turn? What makes an outrageously expensive product worth the splurge?

My Criteria

  • Essential staples: This list only contains serums, moisturizers, leave-in exfoliants and oils. Because, if you’re gonna splurge, splurge on the workhorses of skincare. The stuff that really makes a difference. Toners and masks are nice to have, but your skin can live without them. Cleansers and scrubs end up down the drain. No point splurging on something that stays on your face for less than a minute.
  • Price: Everyone has their definition of what’s outrageously expensive (if you ask my mum, she’ll say anything over $10.00). But, I had to pick a pricing point most people would agree on. Everything in here is between $100 and $250. I refused to pick anything over $250 because, even if they worked, that really is asking too much. There’s charging a premium and there’s being a thief. Just saying…

Related: 5 Unnecessary Skincare Products You Can Stop Wasting Your Money On

So, what expensive skincare products are really worth their price tags? Here are my picks (in no particular order):

1. Skinceuticals CE Ferulic ($166.00)

Skinceuticals CE Ferulic is one of the most duped skincare products ever. For a reason. It was the first to come up with CEF (vitamin C + vitamin E + ferulic acid), one of the best antioxidant combos ever. What does CEF do?

  • Brightens the complexion and helps fade away dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
  • Fights the free radicals that cause premature aging.
  • Increases collagen production, keeping your skin firm.
  • Boosts sun protection (but, it’s not a sunscreen, so don’t use it that way!).

If you’re looking for a serum that can really slow down premature aging and make your complexion glow, this is it. The real deal. Plus, it’s fragrance-free, so may be suitable even for sensitive skin (as long as it can tolerate the 15% concentration of vitamin C).

Available at: Blue Mercury and Dermstore

Related: Are They Dupes?: Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Vs Timeless 20% Vitamin C + Ferulic Acid Serum


Want to skimp on skincare without compromising on results ? Subscribe to the newsletter below and receive the “Skincare Dupes” cheatsheet with all my fave dupes:


2. Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment ($122.00)

If you have sensitive skin, lactic acid is probably one of the few exfoliants you can tolerate well. But, where to find it? So few products have it… The US version of Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment comes to the rescue. That’s why I recommend it even though it costs an arm and a leg. Sometimes, you just gotta suck it up and give your skin what it wants. Or, you can use a washcloth instead. That’ll do the exfoliating trick, too. But I prefer lactic acid because it goes the extra mile and hydrates skin, too. Your choice.

P.S. There’s a smaller 30ml version that costs “only” $85.00. Just in case you want to try that first.

Available at: Sephora and SpaceNK

Related: 3 Ways To Exfoliate Sensitive Skin

sunday riley good genes glycolic acid treatment

3. 111Skin Celestial Black Diamond Retinol Oil ($230.00)

I totally put 111Skin Celestial Black Diamond Retinol Oil in the list because of the diamonds. I mean, at this price point, shouldn’t they ALL contain diamonds?! I don’t think the diamond powder does anything. Well, it makes you look cool. Tell your friends you’re using diamonds on your face and they’ll die with envy. Luckily, there’s a more serious reason to use this oil. Retinol. It’s the gold standard of anti-aging. It boosts collagen production, fights free radicals, accelerates cellular turnover… All things that keep wrinkles away from your face. It’s also chockfull of moisturising oils, like coconut and sweet almond, that keep your skin soft and smooth all night along. But, it’s only for dry skin, ladies. If you’re oily, you’ll have to find another way to make your friends die with envy, sorry!

Available at: Cult Beauty, Dermstore, Nordstrom, and SpaceNK

Related: The Complete Guide To Retinol: What It Is, What It Does & How To Use It

4. PCA Skin Retinol Treatment For Sensitive Skin ($110.00)

Pairing retinol (the gold standard for anti-aging) with diamonds is cool and all, but you know what’s even better? Pairing it with niacinamide. While diamonds have no benefits for skin, Niacinamide is a multitasker that does everything you ask it to: it fights wrinkles, fades away dark spots, hydrates skin, treats acne, and even soothes irritation. Together with bisabolol (the soothing active in chamomile) and oats, it helps your skin better tolerate retinol (it can be irritating for sensitive skin). Still, don’t use PCA Skin Retinol Treatment for Sensitive Skin more than 2/3 nights a week. Using too much retinol irritates skin, no matter how many skin-soothers are in the formula.

Available at: Dermstore

Related: 8 Science-Backed Tricks To Make The Most Of Retinol (Even If You Have Sensitive Skin)

medik8 r-retinoate intense review 02

5. Medik8 r-Retinoate Intense (£210.00)

You’re sensing a theme here. Retinoids (all forms of Vitamin A, like retinol) are the only thing proven to reduce wrinkles – not just their appearance. If you’re gonna spend an arm and a leg on your skincare products, makes sense to invest in them. But, Medik8 r-Retinoate Intense doesn’t include retinol. Instead, the brand opted for Retinaldehyde and Retinyl Retinoate, two retinoids who are more powerful, yet gentler, than retinol. Together, they fight free radicals, boost collagen, and fade away dark spots. The serum also has ceramides to strengthen your skin’s protective barrier and keep your skin softer and hydrated for hours. I’ve been gifted a bottle when it launched and I can vouch for its effectiveness. This baby made my skin smoother, my pores invisible and my wrinkles less obvious. Oh, the bottle lasted me for months, too.

Available at: Adore Beauty and Medik8

Related: Is Retinaldehyde An Effective Alternative To Retinol?

6. Skinceuticals C + AHA ($136.00)

If you’re a regular here, you know I don’t like to use Vitamin C together with AHAs. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that brightens skin and slows down premature aging, while AHAs are exfoliants that smoothen out skin and even out its tone. Together, they help you fade dark spots faster and age slowly. But, they can be irritating, especially if you have sensitive skin. Another reason not to use them together? AHAs (like all exfoliants) are best used at night, while Vitamin C helps you boost sun protection when layered under sunscreen. But if you’re the lazy type and want to use them both at the same time, Skinceuticals C + AHA is your best option.

Available at: Blue Mercury and Dermstore

Related: AHAs VS BHA: Which One Should You Use?

7. SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 ($154.00)

SkinMedica Lytera 2.0 contains an interesting mix of old and emergency skin-lighteners to fade away dark spots and discolourations. Niacinamide, phenethyl resorcinol, and tranexmic acid can inhibit the production of melanin, the pigment that gives skin its beautiful, natural colour. By stopping its production in its track, discolourations stop receiving the extra pigment and slowly go back to their original colour. The catch? Hyperpigmentation is so hard to treat because not everyone responds to it in the same way. For some people, this serum is enough to reduce discolourations almost completely. Other people won’t see any difference at all and need to go down the prescription route. You’ve guessed it, there’s no way of knowing in advance which camp you’re in. But if you’ve already tried everything, and you’ve got a spare $154.00 lying around, it may be worth a go.

Available at: Dermstore

Related: Battle Of The Skin-Lighteners: Which Is The Best Alternative To Hydroquinone?

The Bottom Line

You can totally find cheaper dupes for these, but if you decide to go ahead and splurge, they won’t disappoint. And we all deserve a treat every now and then, don’t we?

Do you use high-end products or do you prefer to hunt down their dupes? Let me know in the comments below.

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17 comments

Barbara January 25, 2017 - 1:37 pm

Hi Gio! Great to meet you!!! 🙂

So are there any expensive brands good for oily skin. The above looks like it´s more for dry skin. Thanks!

Reply
Gio January 27, 2017 - 8:47 pm

Barbara, hi! Great to meet you too!! 🙂

I hadn’t noticed that! lol But I noticed that most of the really expensive products focus more on anti-aging than oil control or pore reduction, so that may be why the list is skewed towards dry skin. I honestly haven’t found one specifically aimed at targeting the concerns of oily skin that’s more than $100. Interesting, isn’ it?

Reply
Barbara January 30, 2017 - 1:53 pm

Wow! that IS interesting! But then again, it makes sense. People generally produce less oil as thei get older and have dryer skin. So… as long as my skin is still oily I´m still young!!! YAY! 😀

Reply
Gio February 12, 2017 - 8:13 pm

Oily skin has its perks too, hasn’t it? And you’re still very very young. 🙂

Reply
Shiela January 29, 2017 - 6:31 am

This is awesome. Thank you 🙂

Reply
Gio February 12, 2017 - 9:11 pm

Shiela, my pleasure!

Reply
Shiela February 4, 2017 - 8:27 pm

Hi Gio! I have a question. I already use the skincuetcals CE Ferulic. Does this mean I can’t add the skinmedica skin brightening to my daily routine? I am wondering if that would be vitamin c overload? I am missing niacinamide from my daily routine and I would love to invest in a good product for that. Could I use both daily? Or is there a different product I could use without vitamin c?

Reply
Gio March 17, 2017 - 7:43 pm

Shiela, that depends. If your skin can take it, you can use both. The best thing, though, would be to alternate them. As for niacinamide,you can use it in the morning so it won’t interfere with the rest of your skincare routine.

Reply
Shiela March 17, 2017 - 7:51 pm

Hey Gio, I am really dying to know… does this product actually have any useful ingredients in it? The price is outrageous. Do the ingredients actually do anything special?

http://www.cremedelamer.com/product/9924/37490/shop/genaissance-de-la-mer-the-serum-essence/transforms-age-into-agelessness

Reply
Gio March 19, 2017 - 8:27 pm

Shiela, do you have the ingredient list? I can’t find it anywhere. But nope, even if it contained the best ingredients (retinol, vitamin C etc), it still wouldn’t be worth that much.

Reply
Zaeobi October 6, 2017 - 3:25 am

Lol just to let you know that you wrote the Skinceuticals cost $1632.00 (in the paragraph below the title). I almost keeled over when I read that, considering you mentioned you wouldn’t go over $250 just in the paragraph before, lol!

Reply
Gio October 6, 2017 - 9:05 pm

Zaeobi, thanks for letting me know. Oops! It obviously doesn’t cost that much. I’ve just fixed it.

Reply
Apple August 18, 2018 - 8:24 am

Can I still use skinmedica if im using a .1% retinol cream? Will it be a good combination to skinceutical serum of vitamin c,e and ferulic? or only choose one? I’m not using any niacinamide

Reply
Sanjana December 12, 2018 - 10:20 pm

I honestly don’t know what would I do without your blog. Thank you so much ?

Reply
Gio December 13, 2018 - 4:47 pm

Sanjana, that’s so sweet! Thank you for your support.

Reply
Dawn August 28, 2019 - 4:44 pm

I’ve been using Good Genes for awhile and love it. I recently added in the C E Ferulic. Can you recommend any other retinols that aren’t so expensive and aren’t terribly irritating?

Reply
Gio September 14, 2019 - 5:41 pm

Dawn, try The Ordinary 0.2% retinol in squalane.

Reply

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