Ni’Kita Wilson has been developing skin, sun, hair and body products for over a decade. When not in the lab, you can find her in the aisles of her local pharmacy, supermarket or department store counter talking to the shoppers about which claims are based on science or science fiction; what’s worth the money and what isn’t; and which ingredients are effective or just for show. She now brings this insight to the pages of YouBeauty to help you make the most informed beauty choices.

Have you ever wondered if store brand skincare products are just as good as the name brands? The products often look and feel the same, so do you really need to spend more if there isn’t any difference? The answer is yes and no! Let me explain: Choose store brands—and save—when it comes to certain beauty staples like cleansers, and spend the bigger bucks on more potent treatment products such as serums.

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Here’s why: While companies may tout having the latest and greatest technology, cleansers rarely provide true beauty benefits like restoring your skin to its former glory. Extracts can be waved over the beakers in the lab to create a fantastic marketing story, but trust me, most chemists don’t waste money adding expensive extracts at effective levels just to be washed down the drain. Thanks to reverse engineering (chemist lingo for “knocking off” another product), most cleansers can be easily duplicated by a cosmetic chemist with enough experience. And it’s not likely you’ll notice a difference between the store brand and the name brand cleanser.

Basic moisturizers (for face, hands and body, including sunscreens) are another category to save a buck or two by picking the store brand. These products tend to have soft claims, meaning they aren’t promising to make you look 10 years younger in two weeks. Aesthetics (how the product looks, feels and smells) drive these products more than results so that makes knocking them off far less complicated.

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On the other side of the aisle, however, are skincare treatments, such as serums. Unlike cleansers and basic moisturizers, they are not all created equal. The appearance, smell and feel of the store brand can match the name brand product, but the same efficacy cannot be guaranteed. I find the difference usually comes down to the quality of the ingredients being used such as standardized extracts versus what I call whiffle dust (aka an ingredient that just sounds good). Standardized extracts are analyzed to prove that they contain a bioactive element while whiffle dust ingredients serve no purpose other than to look good on the ingredient label.

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How much of the active ingredients are used in a skincare product is also important (ingredients are listed in order, with the highest amount first). So do the name brands have the highest concentration of the bioactive ingredients, while the store brand use the lowest level in order to cut costs? It depends. My take: Since most treatment products take at least four weeks before you can see an improvement in your skin, I suggest saving yourself some time and spending the money up front when it comes to treatment products.