What I Learned from Using Expensive Beauty Products

The beauty cabinet of the author

I’ve always been the type of person whose idea of luxury beauty is whatever is sold at Sephora. A splurge for me was shelling out close to $40 for my beloved Fresh mattifying serum. When I dropped $80 on the Glossier Phase 1 Set, I almost went into shock. But luckily, since my college days when I started interning at fashion magazines, I’ve occasionally been blessed…by the beauty closet. Into my hands have fallen multiple products I’d never even dream of blowing my paycheck on (because my paycheck would be completely and totally blown). Through the years, I’ve cultivated the ultimate high/low mix in my bathroom cabinet. From CVS buys that cost less than a Chipotle burrito bowl to eye cream that costs more than the Loeffler Randall sandals I’ve coveted for seasons, I’ve had a chance to try a wide range of products. I can’t claim to be an expert, but here’s what I’ve learned from taking my skincare game to the next (price) level.

The thing about a $300 moisturizer is that you expect it to immediately turn your face into a perfect, shining gem. Even though I knew there was no “miracle drug” for skin, I still thought maybe the first day after using my La Prairie Cellular Swiss Ice Crystal eye cream ($225) and moisturizer ($300) that I would see some marked difference. Like I’d go from zero to Beyoncé overnight. Spoiler alert: That didn’t happen. But I have noted some changes. For one thing, I’m just…brighter. More luminous. There are days I look in the mirror and actually marvel at how good my skin looks. My oily forehead and cheeks, which usually come creeping back in around midday after being subdued in the morning, are almost completely held at bay now. As much as I wanted to think that my previous under-$50 moisturizers could match up, they just can’t.

Switching over to higher-end products also affected how I treat my beauty routine. I’m way more consistent now than I have ever been. Even though I had a serum, moisturizer and eye cream before, the frequency at which I used those items was highly variable. Moisturizer always made it onto my face, but eye cream was maybe a few days a week. Now, I’m using all three twice a day without fail. Suddenly, instead of just slathering my moisturizer all over my face with no real technique, I was using beauty editor-approved upward strokes and patting my eye cream in with the slightest touch of my ring finger. Knowing my skincare cost more made me value it more and actually take my routine seriously. Of course, that made me question: Would my less costly alternatives work just as well for me if I used them as diligently? 

Some luxury products just won’t be worth it, and that’s OK. As much as I’d love to gush over my Chantecaille Bamboo and Hibiscus Exfoliating Cream ($85), I would choose the Julep Konjac Cleansing Sponge ($12) every day. Is the Chantecaille the most amazing exfoliant I’ve ever used? With its teeny-tiny exfoliating particles that don’t hurt my skin as I grind them into my face (er, “massage with light circular motions”), it’s undoubtedly miles beyond the drugstore exfoliants I’ve bought in the past. For me, though, a scrub is never going to beat a sponge, so I’m all set at under $20.


The most important thing I’ve learned from using more expensive products is that a few great ones will go a long way. For me, my daytime moisturizer is my number one splurge-worthy item. After all, I still use the under-$6 facial cleanser I pick up at CVS, and the $11 bottle of almond oil I buy on Amazon is still my favorite nighttime and body moisturizer. But the product that, despite not being marketed specifically for oily complexions or dry skin, has kept both my T-zone matte and chin unchapped? That’s worth the money to me. Turns out, just like in your wardrobe, a statement piece can really up your whole game.