Why are some beauty products more expensive than others?

Are more expensive beauty products better than the cheaper options? You ask this question a lot, mainly combined with the request to feature more low-budget products in my content. Truth is: I do believe in the cost of beauty. Not that I would ever buy a 300 euro night cream (o-m-g). But I am willing to invest in some steps of my skin care routine if it means that the product is giving me something that a cheaper dupe can’t.

If you too are wondering about the true cost of beauty products and what forms the price of your serum, cream or foundation – then here’s a full list of information. And an easy guide on where to save and where to spend in your skin care routine.

You’re paying for texture

My review on The Ordinary Niacinamide + Zinc and Salicylic Acid duo is still one of my most read ones. I get it, because the super low price of these potent products makes them really attractive for many of us. If you ask me what I think of The Ordinary products, I’ll always answer the same: they work wonders, but you really notice their low price in their texture. Where higher priced products mostly feel luxurious and sink into the skin really well, cheaper ones often have not-so-pleasant textures because the budget to get them to feel nice wasn’t there. And to me, a comfortable formula that feels soft and silky on the skin is something I’m willing to pay for, as it’s part of the overall skin care experience.

You’re paying for packaging

There’s a lot to be said about skin care packaging. I used to think that some products that came in glass packaging were more expensive because glass is more luxurious than plastic. But actually, it’s really easy and cheap for brands to throw their product into a clear glass jar. There’s more effort and investment put into products that are bottled in airless, light-free packaging – meaning that no light or air can disturb the effectiveness of your product. Airless packaging requires a pump and light-free means that the packaging is either fully opaque or made out of special light-blocking glass. The Oskia moisturiser is a good example of airless, light-free packaging. This is especially important with certain actives like vitamin C and vitamin A to keep them working well. But it’s also just good for the conservation and longevity of your product.

You’re paying for active ingredients

Yes, there are cheaper products out there that focus on one active ingredient like vitamin C, retinol, hyaluronic acid, AHA’s or BHA’s. But there are many beautiful, higher-priced products that have carefully combined the right active ingredients into a powerful blend that gives your skin so much more than just one thing. And isn’t that a lot more economical than needing five different serums for different concerns? Obviously the ingredients themselves have to be payed for. But the cost of a product with many actives also has to do with the research that goes behind the unique formula of this potent blend.

However, remember this. The more active ingredients in a product, the higher the cost of it will be. But a high-priced product doesn’t necessarily contain a lot of active ingredients! Check the description and ingredient list to find out what is really inside of the product you want to buy.

You’re paying for quality sourcing

Next to the ingredients themselves, what also defines the price of the product is how the brand sources them. If you find it important that the ingredients inside of your skin care product are sourced ethically and with respect for nature, you have to look at organic ingredients. And naturally, as there has been put more effort into those, they’ll make your product more expensive. Some higher-quality ingredients – that are better for your skin – are also harder to get. And that will have its effect on the price tag. It’s for instance quite hard to get your hands on organic, quality, cold pressed argan oil. So naturally it will be more expensive than regular sunflower oil which is available abundantly.

You’re paying for the business

Obviously, apart from making product, brands have a whole business to run on the revenue of their sales. The type of business your brand runs will also have its effect on the price of their products. What can be of influence:

  • How big the brand is. Niche, independent brands will need to put their prices higher than brands that are owned by large groups.
  • What the brand’s sales strategy is. Do they only sell on their own website directly to the consumer? That’ll be the cheapest. If they have their own retail stores to fund, they’ll have to up their prices. And when there are agents or retail stores like Sephora in between you and the brand, that will also be reflected in the price.
  • How international the brand’s activities are.
  • The brand’s marketing. Global brands that are paying, for instance, Julia Roberts for a big commercial will calculate that into their prices.

Where to spend and where to save

Although I tend to push the limits of my wallet to be able to try all kinds of different products and brands, I do have certain rules in my head on where to spend and where to save in my routine. If you’re going to put your money somewhere, let it be in serums and other dedicated treatments. The best ones have technology behind them and are full of high performing ingredients. And yes, those require some budget – think anything over 40 euros. Also consider investing in your moisturisers – day cream, night cream, oils. They’re made to protect your face and that’s better to be done well. Plus, you’re going to want a nice texture here and that’s mostly found in the higher price ranges.

So where can you definitely save? Cleansers are in the mid-range for me, as I wouldn’t break the bank on them. However, I also wouldn’t opt for the cheapest option here as they’re doing quite an important job. Think Caudalie/Kiehl’s price point – anything from 20 to 40 euros will do. For toners, mists, and face masks you can definitely stay under 30 euros. Or you could even rely on a DIY with some clay and floral water. Oh, and definitely save on body care. My favourite bath products and body moisturizers are all under 20 or even under 10 euros!

Favourites in all price ranges