How do you determine what skincare products to use or try?

I look for only a few key claims (I don’t want a lot of claims, and the more over-the-top claims I see, the less interested I am), a moderate price tag, and something with little to no scent.

— Christine


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Pearl Avatar

In no particular order, esthetician recommendations, brand reputation, ingredient list. Also any scent has to be naturally occurring or it is a no-go for me – I don’t mind a light fragrance or fragrance that wears off in my makeup, but I don’t like it for skin care.

Nancy T Avatar

Because skincare companies claims tend to exaggerate their product’s abilities, I focus far more keenly on the ingredients, and how close to the top the most beneficial ingredients place. Also, I check reviews to read of other people’s experiences with the product I have in mind. I definitely don’t go for products with ADDED scent or perfume! But some natural ingredients DO have a natural scent on their own, which doesn’t usually phase me. Case in point: Ole Henriksen’s Truth line of skincare, rose hip oil is really going to smell strongly of citrus, or whatever it is that rose hips smell of!

Lulle Avatar

Yay, my question’s been picked! 🙂

So to answer my own question: I used to base my choices on claims, but the more experience I get from trying multiple brands and types of products, the less I believe that the claims are a reliable source of information in most cases.
In the past year or so I’ve started to look into ingredients lists a lot more and look for things that I know are beneficial (like antioxidants), specific ingredients that I think can help with some of my concerns (like AHA/BHA, retinol, vitamin C, hyaluronic acid) and trying to avoid ingredients that can be problematic (like too much fragrance or essential oils, alcohol, certain types of silicones that I’ve recently discovered break me out). I’ve often relied on Beautypedia to separate the wheat from the chaff, although I don’t agree 100% with their opinions and positions.
I keep a short list of what I think should work for me by type of skincare product (serums, moisturizers…), and I generally wait for some kind of sale to buy anything – so which product within my wish list ends up getting picked in each category depends on opportunity more than anything else.

Other than that, I’m quite demanding in terms of texture (I can’t stand anything that feels too heavy or leaves my skin greasy) and of course I adapt my routine to the seasons and how my skin is feeling.

Fran Avatar

Lulle, I’m with you on focusing on ingredients and wanting textures that feel good on my skin. I learn a few things reading The Beauty Brains, Colin’s Beauty Pages, Cosmetic Chemists Corner, and Lab Muffin — it doesn’t seem like there are a lot of good sources of information about cosmetic ingredients out there!

Blush Canvas Avatar

I have my list of bloggers/yters I trust for reviews but I also take beautypedia reviews into account. That’s usually how I get recommendations for new products as well.

Fitz Avatar

I look for packaging that will help keep the product stable. I also look for claims that aren’t bonkers. Yes, I’m sure I can purchase a cream which will ‘take 15 years off my face’ in the aisle between the scented candles and the travel shampoo section.

Ray Avatar

I look for products without silicones. You’d be surprised how many seemingly good brands use them – even CeraVe and Paula’s Choice! I also look for lots of antioxidants and a focus on soothing over rich moisture, since my skin is already on the oily side. My anti-silicones stance (they break me out) has pushed me in the direction of ~natural products.

jade Avatar

well i usually buy ALL of my beauty and skincare products based on the reviews i read/watch, but i also look for very few claims, a decently low (or realistically affordable) price tag, and i try to lean more on the organic side of the spectrum because i don’t like microbeads or harsh chemicals on my face.

Fran Avatar

I start with thinking about my skin’s needs. Then I look for products that will address as many of them as possible while being non-irritating (no fragrance, chemical sunscreens, or alcohol for starters) and at a reasonable price. I choose proven active ingredients with a decent track record (BHA and AHA exfoliants, retinoids, antioxidants like stabilized vitamin C, vitamin E, and niacinamide) before newer, less-proven ingredients, even though some of those are probably really good. The more ingredients something has, the more likely it is to provoke some kind of irritated reaction from my skin, so I have to balance wanting to use as few steps as possible in my routine with wanting to be able to sort out what’s causing a reaction. So things like antioxidant boosters can be useful — when my skin barrier is strong, I can add them to serums or moisturizers — but, when something has irritated my skin, I can easily scale back to just using a gentle moisturizer for a few days.

Since my skin is so sensitive (rosacea), I end up using a lot of products from CeraVe and Paula’s Choice, with a few from First Aid Beauty, Josie Maran, and Clinique, plus I’ve got sunscreens from Radical Skincare and Drunk Elephant I’ll be test-driving this summer. There’s a couple from MD SolarSciences that I want to try, too. When I get samples from Boscia or Bobbi Brown I can usually use them without incident. But anything that smells good is likely to make my skin turn red. The one thing with a scent that I can use without difficulty is Hourglass No. 28 serum primer, which works well for me in the winter when my skin gets dehydrated. Why that one doesn’t upset my skin, I don’t know. Their Veil Mineral Primer, which I use the rest of the year, is an outstanding product for sensitive skin.

Over-the-top claims and steep prices to pay for advertising budgets seriously annoy me. Jar packaging when antioxidants or other sensitive ingredients are involved also puts me off a product.

Brands that use scent in their skin care tend not to get my business for their color cosmetics, either. I guess I feel like they’re not interested in having me as a customer, so why should I be interested in them? My big exception is Make Up For Ever. Even though they put fragrance in their base products, I love many of their color cosmetics. I really, really, really wish they would stop putting fragrance in their bases and lipsticks…

Another reason why I don’t pull the trigger on quite a few products is because I can’t figure out if they contain an effective concentration of their active ingredients. The problem is that, with a lot of active ingredients, you have to use them for weeks or months before you can tell if they’re working. Most of us don’t have the patience for that. If it feels good and either cuts the oil or ups the hydration, we feel like it must be working. And balancing hydration is probably the biggest factor in skin care, so we’re not actually wrong about that, but it doesn’t cost much to do that. If we’re going to spend more than a few dollars, we should get more than that for our money. And most brands are so mysterious about their formulas that I can’t figure out if they’re really likely to do anything for my skin or not.

Claire L Avatar

I have quite sensitive, reactive skin so I look for products suitable for such skin. I can do acid toners and retinols if they’re not too strong, they do help with breakouts. I avoid silicone-based products, the worst for me are serums, they always seem to make me break out. Also a lot of moisturisers, if they’re rich, have the same effect. I’m fine with oils though, in fact, my skin loves oils, it drinks them up. I don’t do very well with drugstore skincare, I prefer to spend a bit more for better ingredients. I do adore the scent of natural skincare but if the ingredients are very active, again, I react. So they have to be gentle and not too ‘active’. It’s a complicated balance with my skin!

Ginny Avatar

The ingredients. There are a lot of things I consider irritants, and if I see an ingredient list with a lot of mumbo jumbo, but nothing that I consider actually beneficial to skin, I’ll pass. And there are a few ingredients I actively look for. I also try not to spend too much, although there are a few pricey (40$ish) products that I buy regularly because after a long search they just happened to be what worked for me.

Alycia Avatar

Do you ever use the Beautypedia website to look for reviews on skincare? I feel they are fair and balanced, especially since they split from Paula’s Choice to avoid bias (or at least give that impression!) I’ve been using that to guide my recent skin care purchases and look for the best (5 star) products with the best bang-for-buck.

Christine Avatar

I don’t personally – if I want to know about an ingredient, I use my beauty encyclopedias (hard copies) or look up an ingredient online or try to read a study on efficacy of the ingredient. If I want a review, I want it to be from someone who has tried the product for several weeks so they can comment on texture, feel, etc.

Nicole Avatar

By now I have learned to look at the ingredients first. I think about my goals. I used to use a lot of serums and switch around frequently. But, finally learned to give something time and keep it to simple.

Emma Avatar

I’m kind of a freak about skin care, because I have really sensitive and reactive skin.

Generally, I go for things with unique ingredients (rather than unique claims) and simple formulations. The cost must also be decent, I’m not going to spend more than, say, $20 on a face cream of any kind. Recommendations also help when they come from people with similar skin types. And to be entirely honest, I’m a total sucker for sleek packaging!

Lacey Avatar

My skin is really fickle, so I tend to sample or read lots of reviews before I buy! I look for reviews from people who have similar skin concerns, and then I gravitate toward lines that use more naturally derived ingredients than things I can’t recognize in the ingredients list.

WARPAINTandUnicorns Avatar

I mostly look for chemical sunblock free frist. I get give with them. Fragrance-free in that they don’t load it up with perfumes and only natural ingredient scents are fine by me.

Again a lot of the PERFUME ingredients are not listed and I’ve had issues with soaps in the past irritating my skin with their “perfumes”.

I also find vitamin c burns my skin….

Claims can be overblown so, I look for reviews on products that makes sense for my skin.
I also don’t expect the night cream to do the work of a serum.

Pteetsa Avatar

I rely mostly on Beautypedia reviews. I have a couple of issues with them, but I generally trust their product recommendations. I also look for positive reviews from people who seem to have a similar skin type to mine. And if someone compliments my complexion, I will remember what product I was using and keep going back to that (Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti Wrinkle Anti Blemish Cream, now sadly discontinued!).

Sarah Avatar

I go for products oriented towards sensitive skin and recommendations based on my skin concerns. My mom, for example, recommended I try an intense oil control regimen with 8% alpha hydroxy acid. It worked for her skin but because my skin reacts more extremely than hers, it dried me out so bad and increased my acne more than ever. Now I use gentle cleansers and calmer acid-based formulas to treat my skin. I basically go off of “is this close to what I use? okay cool” and go from there.

Alice Avatar

Ingredients! I have super sensitive skin! NOTHING I use can have lavender, and anything for my face can’t have sea salt, citrus, peppermint, or cinnamon. Also I prefer products that don’t have mineral oil/petrolatum and artificial fragrances.

Also it’s gotta be ok for sensitive, dry skin and be a reasonable price.

(and tbh I kind of avoid anti-aging stuff just on principal, it’s gross that we act like women aging naturally is a sin to be avoided at all costs)

Erin Avatar

I usually look for Cruelty free more natural formulations for the bulk of my skincare. I look for known ingredients as well as newer cutting edge stuff. I’m not wooed by outlandish claims but I do like a good study or test if the product is supposed to help with serious skin issues past moisturizing. I also tend to go for brands that have impressed me before when they come up with something new. I really like Fresh, Sunday Riley, Nude, Ren, Caudalie, and Tatcha. I also occasionally try things from Perricone, PTR, Kate Sommerville and Clinique as I’ve had some good steady products from them in the past. For drugstore I love Pixi, Nuetrogena, Burt’s Bees, Sonia Kashuk, Weleda, LRP, Lavera, and Pacifica.

Jane Avatar

I get all of my skincare items from subscription boxes so I guess you could call it recommendations? As far as choosing the one I’ll try next goes, I’ll usually start with brands I’ve actually heard of and products that have had enough positive buzz to be on my radar.

WildDove Avatar

I favor Clinique since I’ve used them for a long time and they’re unscented and reasonably priced, more than drugstore but less than fancier brands. There are a couple of EL products I like. A Dermalogica product. A couple of Laneige products (at Target). All these give me results I want and may be unique products in the marketplace, tried and true for me. I try masks from all kinds of brands though, for fun and pampering, just to have the experience.

Stacy Avatar

I look for a lack of gimmicks, fragrance, certain known irritants, and super-high price tags. Beautypedia has become my go-to resource for information before I make purchases now, and it hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

Glenda Avatar

First I look at ingredients in the skincare. If the ingredients work for me and are what I’m looking for, we’re off to a good start. Secondly, because I’m dealing with aging skin, and leftover acne scars, all my skincare must be gentle, gentle and gentle.
I will skimp on make-up products, but generally be willing to spend higher amounts for skincare, since I think that’s where the rubber meets the road. If your skin is in great shape, drugstore make-up will do just fine (even though it may not be your favorite).
I don’t care for scents in my make-up, but really do not like it all in my skincare. There are some products I use (eg: Elmis ProCollagen Cleansing Balm) that are scented but not overly perfumed and the scent doesn’t stick around.
I’ll experiment with serums, but I think I’ve found my cleansing balms for a good long time.

Susan Dowman Nevling Avatar

I talk to my dermatologist, read professional dermatologist medical articles, try samples. Use very gentle cleansers. I don’t use anything with beads, crushed walnuts and other similar negotiators. They scratch my face and clog the drainage systems, very bad for the environment.
I read ingredient lists also.
I usually have two sets of products bc my skin’s dryness varies with the weather and I always use sunscreen.

Elizabeth Avatar

I always check the reviewers comments first. I realize that everyone is not going to like everything all of the time, so taking that into account, as well as the manufacturer’s reputation and especially the store return policy, I will go ahead with my purchase. I use a lot of Guerlain products, and overall, I’ve been extremely happy. Naturally, there will be duds in every line. I also have rosacea, so I am careful about irritating ingredients.

Kay Avatar

I stick with lines geared to sensitive skin that through the years have proven to work for me – La Roche Posay, Neutrogena, and Paula’s Choice. I may venture to Peter Thomas Roth for certain treatments. I’m finding success with a product from the newer line Drunk Elephant. But I prefer an economical price point in the long run.

Reviews from Beautypedia, Makeup Alley, a handful of Beauty Bloggers/YouTubers, and the occasional magazine article also influence my skincare product decisions. Absolutely no fragrance or alcohol. Try to keep to a short ingredient list to minimize any reaction. I also stay away from citrus, menthol, rosemary, calendula, marigold, lavender, rosewater and other floral ingredients.

Bon Bon Avatar

I try products based on reviews and/or word of mouth. I usually try them out at an Ulta or Sephora store first. I do go for high priced brands as I’ve found I do get my monies worth.


If the price is reasonable, the brand is trusted by many, the products have good reviews and if its for oily skin, I’m buying it.

Elizabeth Avatar

I look for products that address my skin type, oily, acne prone, and aging. I then try to get a few samples to see how my skin reacts. I also read labels so I know what ingredients comprise the product. I know what works for me and what breaks me out. I know better than to believe all the claims most products make. I also know that a topical isn’t going to give me magical results. I look for more realistic claims, like keeping oil at bay, sun blocking properties, antioxidants, and stabilized retinols. I am just trying to protect my skin at this point, as well as not use things that I know sensitizes my skin or breaks it out.


I’m quite fortunate in that I have normal skin with oily t zone. It’s not at all sensitive. I do have my day regime down to a fine art now though. I use Elemis Lime Blossom Balancing cleanser (keeps the oiliness at bay) Pixi Glo tonic and Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic plus Elemis Pro Collagen Marine Cream. In the evening I use a more robust cleanser to remove make up. Am currently using Soap and Glory Peaches and Clean, same toners and Liz Earle Skin Repair. I do have a tonne of moisturisers stashed so will be using these as night creams.

Maggie Avatar

I have sensitive skin with mild-moderate acne. So here are my conditions:
1. Skincare made in North America, Europe, or Japan (quality control codes as far as the manufacturing plant itself are usually ok).
2. Ingredients check: allergens, potential irritants, comedogenic?
3. Good brand reputation in skincare?
I usually go for well-known skincare brands with decent budgets for research and product development or whatever dermatologists point to (like an actual one–not merely a product that has “dermatologist recommended” on the label.)

I will try nearly anything Cerave or Paula’s Choice puts out for my skin type and I really like Olay products that don’t have fragrance. The Japanese have great SPF products. I typically avoid cosmetics brands that are venturing into skincare– they have to have the reputation already.

Anne Avatar

– I generally start with reviews, and look for brands or products that do whatever it is I’m looking for, (ie when deciding to switch from my Lush calamine-based cleanser I looked around for cleansers that were for sensitive skin and were soothing, and stumbled upon FAB during the Sephora Black Friday deals)

– I tend to ignore a lot of the marketing around it as they tend to be BS anyway in favor of inspecting the ingredients and sites like Paula’s Choice Beautipedia

– Affordability, though for different products I give different budgets, such as being willing to pay more for a serum than a face wash.

– Either no or very minimal scent or no added fragrance (I have a serum that has sulfur in it but the scent goes away quickly and doesn’t cause a reaction for me as it’s not and additive)

– Sometimes it’s also just happenstance, as it was with First Aid Beauty due to their Black Friday Sephora deals, Peter Thomas Roth masks as they have mini’s in the Aisle of Doom, and Origins masks as they have holiday sets every year that are great to try out first time, as well as selling smaller versions of their products in the AoD.

Laura Haslam Avatar

I have dry skin so I look for products formulated for dry skin, or ingredients good for hydrating, nourishing, moisturising, etc. I love products with snail mucin, milk, hyaluronic acid, squalene, shea butter, Vitamin E or rice ingredients in it. If I see something that totes collagen, I usually steer clear as collagen applied topically cannot be absorbed into the skin so it’s just a bogus claim. I do use Etude House Moistfull Collagen Cream at the moment though, but not because it says it has ‘super small collagen water particles’ in it, but because it has other nice ingredients in and generally keeps moisture inside the skin. I also look for a reasonable price when buying skincare too!

jessica Avatar

Since I work at a dept. store I can get samples (anyone can get samples) but the estee lauder and lancome girls have oily skin like me and they honestly tell me which ones that work for them and which they think will work gor me. I found my foundation that way, but elizabeth arden I read reviews. Those 3 brands is basically all I wear. I sample then if it works and I like it I buy it.

RMW (Rose) Avatar

Good Friday Morning Temptalia!!!

I always do my homework before I go out and purchase anything, especially when it comes down to skin care products! Between what I have learned in Cosmetology school eyons ago and “Googling” new information from the internet about what is the latest craze or active ingredients that have been proven to work.
A key component of skincare products are the active ingredients, the components that help to restore the skin’s optimal wellness and appearance. Active ingredients help to boost your skin’s ability to combat and reverse the damages of environmental and internal damages, and are an important part of your daily care routine..or at least they should be. There are literally thousands of skincare brands on the market, with many more being launched every day. Expensive skincare brands are often advertised heavily, with endorsements by beautiful celebrities and models, but do big advertising budgets guarantee great products? Not nessesarily. Other brands are less advertised but they appeal to different niche markets, whether it be the close-to-nature, hypo-allergenic or chic-but-cheap sectors. they all have different ingredients and claims that make the right choice very hard to make. The first question that you should keep asking yourself is,
“which products have proven efficacy”?
Dermatologist-tested products, or those who have been proven through clinical trials and tests, are your best option for products that actually give you your money’s worth.

Anti-wrinkle creams are among those that are the most popular in the market. Everyone dreams of creams that can erase lines and wrinkles overnight, but unfortunately there are few products that actually live up to their exorbitant claims. One active ingredient that is proven is tretinoin, a Vitamin-A derivative which has been shown in trials to improve skin exfoliation and stimulate collagen production. It has also been shown to reduce pigmentation, improve skin tone and texture, and give a ‘rosy glow’ due to increased blood circulation. Tretinoin must be applied daily for a minimum of 6 months for noticeable results. It has been tested in many short and long term clinical studies, and has been proven to work even on severely aged and wrinkled skin. Tretinoin can be highly irritating to the skin and can cause acne and skin peeling in the initial stages, so it should be prescribed and administered carefully under a doctor’s care. A high SPF sunscreen is a must to prevent the skin from continuing sun damage during the treatment process. Pregnant or lactating women should not use tretinoin, and it should also be avoided if you have rosacea (skin redness). Also commonly prescribed for the treatment of acne, tretinoin is also now available in micronized form to help with some of the side effects such as skin dryness and irritation. Over-the-counter products with Vitamin A in the form of retinol do not have the same efficacy as prescription products as retinol is not as easily absorbed and used by the skin. Retinol can be more helpful as a preventative measure to help younger skin prevent the signs of aging. Other forms of Vitamin A such as tazarotene and adapalene are also available, but most patients find tazarotene highly irritating, and adapalene too gentle and non-effective.
Products containing hydroquinone are also effective for lightening of pigmentation problems such as freckles, melasma, liver spots and age spots. Hydroquinone works by inhibiting enzyme reactions within the skin, thus preventing pigmentation. Hydroquinone creams are available at 2% strength in OTC products, but your doctor can prescribe a cream up to 4% strength for better results. The use of a sunblock is essential during treatment with hydroquinone creams. Some doctors use a hydroquinone and tretinoin combination for stubborn melasma or hyperpigmentation cases. Alpha-hydroxy acids such as glycolic acid or lactic acid work by exfoliating dead skin cells to allow for growth of new skin. They also help to unclog pores, improve skin texture and have an added benefit of skin lightening and depigmentation. The pore cleansing action of AHA also means it can be helpful in controlling mild to moderate acne. AHA creams are very commonly available, but the low acid content of most OTC products means they have limited effectiveness; for AHAs to really make any difference, they must have at least a 10% acid content or more, and have a low pH of around 2. 15% glycolic acid lotions are a useful additional treatment for melasma, when used in conjunction with treatment creams such as Tri-Luma. A doctor-administered glycolic acid peel can be useful to restore the skin by exfoliation to reveal the younger, smoother, lighter skin beneath. Research has also shown that glycolic acid peels used in combination with topical active ingredients such as tretinoin, can increase the effectiveness of the anti-wrinkle or skin lightening process. Beta-hydroxy acids or salicylic acid, is more suitable for younger, oily skin, as it is soluble in oil. It helps to soften keratin and promotes clearance of blocked pores. BHAs are also useful in promoting skin moisture levels and is an effective anti-inflammatory agent as well. Salicylic acid is also prized for it’s ability to improve cell turnover and promote depigmentation, and is therefore a great alternative for those who are sensitive to AHA creams. Antioxidants are active ingredients that help to fight the free radical activity that damages skin cells, and therefore should be an important ingredient in your daily fight against skin degeneration. The good news is that there are many antioxidants that have been shown to have great efficacy. Green tea or olive extracts, for example, contain polyphenols, which have been featured in numerous clinical studies that show their ability to retain moisture, fight oxidative stress and prevent formation of skin damage. Alpha -lipoic acid is another potent antioxidant that can inhibit cellular aging, help soothe inflammation and promote detoxification of a variety of chemicals. Vitamin C, CoEnzyme Q-10 and caffeine are also antioxidative substances that show promise in the battle against premature aging. The single most effective skin care product that you can use to prevent premature aging and protect your skin against sun damage is proper sun protection and sunblock. If your skin is being attacked and damaged by the sun on a daily basis, then it can’t look its best and absorb any of the goodness from your active ingredients, and you are essentially wasting your efforts and your money. It basically all boils down to how you protect your skin, starting at an early age. Flushing out the impurities in your skin by drinking lots of water. Moisturize your skin, NO matter what type of skin you have. Combination and oily skin needs to be moisturized, just like dry skin. Never leave your makeup on overnight! It will clog your pores and cause more harm than good. While it is personal preference to what kind of skin care line you use, you have to be consistent with your skin care routine! Once the damage is done to your skin, reversing the damage just doesn’t happen. Sure you can put a band-aid on wrinkles using fillers ect. But you can’t reverse time or fix the problem. You get one skin, one life..if you take the time out to take care of your skin, from the inside out, it will take care of you! 🙂

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