Shopping for skincare is fun and exciting, but it can also be disorienting and expensive. There are so many brands, products, routines, and hot ingredients with functions quite confusing and influencers pushing products that are not for everyone.
Are you able to evaluate if the price tag of a skincare product is worth the investment, or are you just buying the 'brand'?
We want to help you understand the differences between expensive and affordable skincare and to help you shop with honest price tags and ingredients.
In this article, you will learn:
- what is the general concentration of ingredients by category
- what is the average price level of some plant-based skincare ingredients groups
- what makes a skincare product expensive
What makes a skincare product expensive?
Retail pricing of skincare can be quite arbitrary and, at times, quite confusing. You can easily shop online and find similar products at extreme prices. Why is this happening?
Skincare products are formulated based on the following:
- selection and concentration of ingredients
- target cost/market
- plant-based and organic certifications
Products that are rinse-off (like cleansers, rinse-off masks ...) are usually cheaper as the ingredients used will not stay on the skin. Leave-on products used daily (like toners, moisturizers) tend to have a high price tag, while weekly treatments (sleeping masks, ampoules …) have the highest price point.
SELECTION AND CONCENTRATION OF INGREDIENTS
Some ingredients are costly but are used in minimal concentrations (like actives and antioxidants), while others, like solvents (water), can make up the bulk of the product you buy.
Active ingredients and antioxidants are notoriously expensive because they power up a skincare product; they are usually used in low concentrations (from 0.5% to 2-3%). If you see more than 3/4 active ingredients within the same product, you know already that the final price tag will be on the high side.
Some antioxidants, cold-pressed oils, CO2 extracts, and essential oils can also be expensive. Tip: buying a water-free product like a face oil or a balm is excellent value for your money/
At Native Essentials, we don't use water for our products but hydrosols, water distillate from Rose, Bamboo, and Cucumber...
TARGET COST / MARKET
Let's take a hot skincare ingredient - Hyaluronic acid. It can be sourced as synthetic (cheapest), animal-derived (medium price) or plant-derived via microbial fermentation (most expensive). No matter the origin, all three ingredients will be listed on the label as sodium hyaluronate.
The final target price influences the choice of ingredients and their quality. In some markets/distribution channels, there is a good demand for high-quality and result-driven skincare, especially anti-ageing skincare, and the final consumer appreciates high-quality ingredients. In some other markets/distribution channels, where the spending power is lower, cheaper ingredients are used or in lower concentration to satisfy the demand for effective skincare.
HARD PACKAGING: Plastic packaging is the cheapest (and sadly the most pollutant), while aluminium and glass are more eco-friendly but expensive. Affordable skincare tends to be packaged in plastic, while more expensive products choose either plastic airless pumps (expensive) or glass/aluminium.
SOFT PACKAGING: labels and boxes can determine the premiumness of a skincare product. Use fully compostable packaging with a medium to high price tag, from essential labels and boxes to Zero Waste brands.
Some brands opt for FSC® certified paper (harvested responsibly) and soy ink; all are sustainable choices but not cheap.
PLANT-BASED AND ORGANIC CERTIFICATIONS
Formulating 100% natural and organic skincare is possible, although with some ingredient limitations. Some key functional ingredients like emulsifiers and preservatives are now available as plant-based and accepted as natural ingredients. However, they tend to be very expensive (up to 250%) compared to their synthetic counterparts.
Certified organic ingredients are between 20% and 50% more expensive than similar conventional ingredients. A certified organic brand by an international certification body must pass the yearly certification costs to the final product.