So you just heard about this incredible new age-defying skincare cream, and you can’t wait to try it. It comes from a leading luxury skincare brand and costs a pretty penny. But then you notice another seemingly similar cream from a drugstore skincare brand; it makes a lot of the same promises as the luxury product, and it only costs $30.

With such a stark difference in price, it can make a gal wonder: What exactly is the difference between high-end skincare vs drugstore brands?

High-End Skincare vs. Drugstore Skincare: More Expensive Doesn’t Always Mean Better

There’s a big difference between an expensive skincare product and a luxury skincare product. An expensive skincare product costs more despite offering limited value. This may be due to brand recognition, effective marketing, or just an unscrupulous business model. A luxury skincare product costs more because it was expensive to develop, produce, and manufacture—and it typically offers superior value because it works.

If you’re not sure whether an essential skincare product is luxury-quality or just expensive, look at the ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order of prominence, so the first few ingredients will tell you if you’re dealing with a truly high-end product. But what constitutes a high-end ingredient? Great question!

A small brush dipped into a clear container of pink

The Best Luxury Skincare Brands Use Superior Ingredients

Drugstore skincare brands often use highly effective ingredients like vitamin C, retinol, and even hyaluronic acid. But to remain competitive and keep their prices down, these brands typically use premium ingredients in lower concentrations, which is why you’ll often see them lower on the ingredient lists (another reason to examine the ingredient list carefully!)

Luxury skincare brands often use higher concentrations of active ingredients to ensure greater effectiveness and longer-lasting results. So even if your drugstore skincare brand offers similar ingredients, a luxury brand will usually give you more bang for your buck. In addition, drugstore skincare brands often rely more heavily on cheaper synthetic ingredients whereas luxury brands use natural, plant-derived extracts that work more effectively but also cost more due to their scarcity and often complex extraction requirements.

Take, for instance, a luxury brand like Biologique Recherché. Their natural face creams and skin serums are made from all-natural plant botanicals that are proven to soothe and nourish the skin. Their Sérum de Teint contains butterfly bush flower extract (which has been shown to build and repair damaged skin tissue) and prickly pear seed oil (which has been shown to soften wrinkles and stimulate new cell growth). The difference is in the ingredients!

The Best Luxury Skincare Brands Are Developed by Medical Professionals

Biologique Recherché is a great example of the difference between high-end skincare vs. drugstore products. This trailblazing luxury brand was founded by a biologist, a physiotherapist, and a doctor, all of whom combined their considerable medical and scientific expertise to develop proprietary blends that are simply unlike anything else on the market.

Often, a luxury brand will spend millions on research, development, and clinical testing, working tirelessly to test every ingredient and combination to find the best result. For the luxury brand, this is a costly investment that can lead to considerable debt. The costs are recouped as the product hits the market and is sold at a premium. Part of that cost is intended to account for all of the research and labor that went into the product’s development.

Drugstore skincare brands will often benefit from a luxury brand’s research by copying their formula and replacing some of the costlier ingredients with cheaper, artificial alternatives. This allows them to sell at a much cheaper cost because they don’t have to develop the formulas themselves, and they don’t have to spend as much on costly botanicals. Also, because drugstore skincare brands produce very high volumes, they can save by manufacturing in bulk. So while you may be getting a similar product, the altered and cheaper ingredients in the drugstore brand may inevitably work against the product’s effectiveness on your skin.

A woman’s bare shoulders.

The Best Luxury Skincare Brands Are Selling an Experience

Luxury is always about more than just the product. If you stay at a luxury hotel, you’re not just paying for a room. You’re paying for a high-end experience. If you buy a luxury car, you know that comfort and aesthetics will be just as impressive as what’s under the hood. The same is true with skincare products — you invest in high-end skincare because you’re looking to get flawless skin.

When you buy a luxury skincare product, you know that tremendous care was put into every detail, from the packaging to the product’s unique scent. While drugstore skincare brands are usually content with fulfilling the product’s intended purpose, luxury brands go the extra mile to offer something more—even if the added value is strictly cosmetic.

 A collection of the best luxury skincare brands next to a bottle of nice wine.

High-End Skincare vs. Drugstore: The Verdict

The bottom line is this: If you’re looking for the best in high-end skincare, it is absolutely worth it to pay a little more for products from the best luxury skincare brands. But you have to do your homework. Just because a product is more expensive doesn’t mean it’s a luxury product. If you want to know whether you’re truly dealing with a luxury product, ask the following questions:

  • Was the product developed and/or tested by industry professionals?
  • Is the product made from natural, plant-based botanicals?
  • Is the brand a trusted name?
  • What do reviews say about the product or the brand?
  • Have the ingredients been proven in clinical trials to promote the intended benefits?
  • What are other users saying about the product or brand?

Drugstore skincare brands can provide excellent value when you want to save money, but if you’re willing to invest in the best luxury skincare products, you will notice a difference!