Comparing skincare products is actually a lot less straightforward than it should be. Different sizes and product packaging make price cross-comparisons difficult, while there remains a significant lack of transparency over what and particularly how much goes into them…
The Future of Skincare
For most millennials, gone are the days of buying skincare from Boots or the supermarket. Millennials are now
However, choosing between the 100s of different brands on offer can be a little daunting. It’s almost impossible to know exactly which brands are best for our skin, which is the most effective or the best value. And as a result, we’re constantly on the lookout for new serums and creams in a costly cycle of trial and error.
But as our needs continue to change, so have our demands from the industry. We’re increasingly demanding greater transparency and accountability – from chemical disclosures to sustainable practices – than ever before. This is the age of information, and no industry should be exempt. If
We have a right to know what’s inside the lotions and potions we spread over our faces and how much they really cost. Not only between brands but also on a per ml value and better yet, active ingredient basis. Although the latter is currently guarded under ‘trade secrets,’ it’s only a matter of time before greater disclosures become mandatory.
The Problem with Comparing Prices
Due to the lack of information,
However, skincare companies are very clever when it comes to their pricing. By using their own product sizing and misleading packaging, for example, a 15ml product suspended in a 50ml sized bottle, you have to read the fine print and do some maths in order to fairly compare value.
And since most of us aren’t pulling out our calculators while shopping for skincare, these tricks of the trade often mislead us into thinking a brand is more or less expensive than another when actually it’s not. We’re supposed to believe that more expensive means
To help understand how much our skincare costs, I picked out 5 essential skincare products from 8 leading brands* and ran 2 different price comparisons: relative prices between products and brands and actual prices per ml. Of all the skincare brands I’ve tried so far, these are also my personal
*Details of the brands and which products I selected from each are in the section that follows.
Comparing the Price of Products by Brand
The table above shows a snapshot of prices for a representative sample of products for each brand without taking product sizes into account. These prices are normally the first thing we look at when comparing the cost of products and brands and we base a lot of our purchasing decisions on this information alone.
To give an example, we can see that a face serum by Elemis costs £51 compared to £54 for Sarah Chapman. So if you’re looking to pick up a face serum, you might think you’re saving £3 with Elemis. Wrong.
Product prices are only half the picture. You also have to look at the quantity of the product, which brings us to the next chart below. When also accounting for product size, the Elemis serum is half the size of Sarah Chapman’s, which means that the Elemis serum is actually double the price.
While it may sound obvious, it’s not so obvious when you’re out shopping for multiple products that may appear to be the same size due to clever packaging. You’d need at least a pen and notepad to tally up the prices across all products, which of course, you wouldn’t normally do.
Comparing Product Prices per 100ml
But that’s exactly what I did. In the table above, I calculated the price per 100 ml for each product, revealing a very different pricing picture. One thing that immediately stands out is that the price difference between the cheapest and most expensive products and brands is a lot bigger than in the first chart.
Aesop’s Parsley Seed Eye Cream, for
Malin & Goetz, on the other hand, have the cheapest moisturizer but a relatively expensive face oil. While Elemis have the most expensive face serum, but a relatively cheaper face oil.
From this perspective, price-conscious consumers should mix-and-match rather than shop from one brand. As it appears that brands balance out prices between their products, impacting the total price you pay when buying several products from one brand, as we’re encouraged to do.
If shopping products from one brand, different target markets emerge.
Brand and Product Details
Kiehl’s – Total £146.00
- Ultra Facial Cleanser 150ml £16.50
- Creamy Eye Treatment With Avocado 14ml £26
- Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturising Serum Concentrate 50ml £41
- Ultra Facial Cream 50ml £24.50
- Midnight Recovery Concentrate 30ml £38
Kiehl’s is a cult classic that began as a pharmacy in New York 165 years ago. Their first skincare products were developed in the 1960s, later introducing dermatological solutions for sensitive skin types and specific skin issues in 2005. Using natural ingredients and founded in science, Kiehl’s formulas are so effective they became a top choice for extreme cold weather conditions.
Ultra Facial Cream and Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado are two of their best-selling products. However, it’s the Midnight Recovery Concentrate that is their number-one bestseller. Although the products are unisex, their Facial Fuel range remains highly popular with men.
Origins – Total £159.50
- Clean Energy Gentle Cleansing Oil 200ml £25
- Ginzing Refreshing Eye Cream 15 ml £22
- A Perfect World Age-Defence Skin Guardian with White Tea 50ml £36
- Make A Difference Plus Rejuvenating Moisturiser 50ml £36.50
- Plantscription Youth-Renewing Face Oil 30ml £40
I first discovered Origins through their bestselling Ginzing eye cream, after appearing on almost every top 10 eye creams list, and soon fell in love with their natural and minimalistic product ranges.
Today, brands are all about sourcing natural ingredients sustainably, however, back in 1990 when Origins first launched, this was their USP. In the same year, Origins launched their Active Charcoal mask, which remains the #1 best-selling mask in America today.
The brand is constantly innovating its products as our understanding of skin sciences improve, and their relatively lower price point makes them one of the best value brands on the market.
Dr Jackson’s – Total £195
- 07 Face Wash 200ml £25.00
- 05 Face and Eye Essence 50mL £60.00
- 01 Day Skin Cream 50ml £80
- 03 Everyday Oil 25mL £30
This is my most recent skincare discovery and another gender-neutral, minimalist brand with a focus on sustainable science-led cosmetics and skincare products. It’s a British brand that only launched in 2012, but has already made a name for itself within top skincare and beauty circles.
What defines Dr Jackson’s brand is the use of African-sourced ingredients namely Kigelia, known as the sausage tree, with medicinal purposes. As well as being ethically sourced, all formulations are free from parabens, sulphates, artificial fragrances and synthetic ingredients that aren’t kind to skin.
The brand doesn’t do an eye cream but offers a combined Face and Eye Essence product, which works wonders under my make-up, particularly under my concealer.
Sarah Chapman – Total £227
- Rapid Radiance Cleanse 100ml £33
- Skinesis Eye Recovery 15ml £44
- Age-repair Serum 30ml £52
- Dynamic Defence Anti-Ageing Day Cream SPF 15 40ml £49
- Overnight Facial 15ml £49
The first ever skincare range I tried from Space NK was Skinesis by Sarah Chapman in my mid-20s. Sarah is one of the UK’s leading beauty experts with at least a 12-week waiting list at her Chelsea clinic.
Her award-winning high-tech Skinesis range launched in 2008, becoming one of the first brands to combine high-potency active ingredients with refined botanical oils.
Now synonymous with the brand, her Overnight Facial became an instant cult classic. Packed full of powerhouse ingredients such as antioxidants, Vitamins A and C, anti-inflammatory Omega oils and firming and plumping peptides. It also smells incredible thanks to essential oils of tuberose, rose, jasmine
Malin & Goetz – Total £231.00
- Grapefruit Face Cleanser 236ml £29
RevitalisingEye Gel 15ml £38
- Replenishing Face Serum 30ml £58
- Vitamin E 118ml £40
- Recovery Treatment Oil 30ml £66
My Malin and Goetz obsession was born the moment I walked into Barry’s Bootcamp in London. The bathrooms in Barry’s are stocked with M&G products while the reception is scented with their gorgeous candles.
Wanting to replicate my Barry’s experience at home, I looked into the brand and discovered that it’s actually formulated for people with sensitive skin (like me). Launched in New York in 2004, their philosophy is simple
Their best-selling Grapefruit Cleanser is made with amino acid technology that purifies and hydrates without stripping or drying, and their affordable Vitamin E moisturizer is formulated with botanical-based fatty acid technology that intensely hydrates without over-moisturizing.
Elemis – Total £266.50
- Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm 105g £43.00
- Peptide⁴ Eye Recovery Cream 15ml £38.00
- Pro-Collagen Super Serum Elixir 15ml £51.50
- Pro-Collagen Marine Cream 50ml £85.00
- Peptide⁴ Night Recovery Cream-Oil 30ml £49.00
I recently bought all five products in the Black Friday sale and have to say, the smell and feel of Elemis will send you straight up to skincare heaven. This British cult favourite is popularly used in high-end spas and one of the first to remove parabens from its products.
Elemis claims to be the UK’s number-one selling luxury skincare brand, with one pot of their £85 Pro-Collagen Marine Cream selling every nine seconds globally.
Last year, Elemis launched their latest product Peptide⁴ Night Recovery Cream-Oil with an impressive 100% success rate in user trials. Calling it “beauty sleep in a bottle,” it’s one of my
Aesop – Total £273
- Fabulous Face Cleanser 200ml £33
- Parsley Seed Anti-oxidant Eye Cream 10ml £59
- Parsley Seed Anti-oxidant Serum 100ml £49
- Perfect Facial Hydrating Cream 60ml £81
- Damascan Rose Facial Treatment 25ml £51
The only Australian brand on this list, Aesop was first established in 1987 in Melbourne. The brand focuses on skin, hair and body care products of the finest quality using plant-based and laboratory-made ingredients.
Aesop products are also a lifestyle, a nod to the most cultured, well-traveled, and design-literate among us. You may have come across the brand’s hand soaps and lotions in high-end restaurants and hotels.
Despite the paired-back packaging, it’s what’s inside Aesop products that really counts. Their Parsley Seed range packed with antioxidants is a bestseller, while I particularly like their Damascan Rose Facial Oil as a night treatment for dry skin.
Sunday Riley – Total £300
- C.E.O. C + E Micro-Dissolve Cleansing Oil 100ml £35
- Autocorrect Brightening and Depuffing Eye Contour Cream 15ml £60
- C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum 30ml £70
- C.E.O. C + E antiOXIDANT Protect + Repair Moisturiser 50ml £60
- Luna Sleeping Night Oil 35ml £85
Last but not least, my most expensive skincare pick is from Sunday Riley, famous for its bright blue Luna retinoid oil and Good Genes treatment.
Sunday Riley is among a new wave of botanical-based cult classics such as Glossier, Drunk Elephant and Herbivore, whose appeal is in powerful targeted skin treatments, non-irritating ingredients