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Spending a fortune on skin care? Read this

More than ever, expensive, high-end cleansers and creams are cutting into women's wallets. Lots of these products come with a heaping of hype — promising to rid your skin of blemishes, wrinkles and make you look "radiant." But does pricey always mean better? Real Simple magazine's Suzanne Rust tells us where we can save on our daily skin care regimen — and where it is actually worth it to splurge.

General saving tip:
The first step to saving on skin products? Use less. If your method is to begin with a big dollop of face cream and then smear it between your hands, that is where most of the cream will stay. Instead, dab a dot on your forehead, cheeks and nose, then spread it and rub in.

Cleansers
A cleanser should do just that — cleanse. Any expensive active ingredients in a cleanser are only on your face for a few seconds. Added fragrances or other extras, like pearlescent properties, can increase the price and even irritate the skin. The best cleansers, especially for women with acne-prone or sensitive skin, are gentle and noncomedogenic. To get the most out of your cleanser, wash your hands before you use it. Otherwise you'll transfer grime on your hands to your face.

Exceptions: If you are following an anti-aging skin-care regimen, you should consider spending more on every step of your routine. A pricier cleanser with ingredients like green tea and other antioxidants may optimize the outcome.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleaner, $4.99 at drugstores: Perfect for an all-around cleanse, this facewash removes dirt, oil and makeup while working down to the pores to clean skin.
  • Dove Deep Moisture Creamy Facial Cleanser, $6 at drugstores: A gentle, soap-free face wash.
  • Bioré Blemish Fighting Ice Cleanser, $6 at drugstores: Good for oily skin, this rich, foaming wash creates a moisture-rich lather that leaves skin feeling soft and clean. It rinses away easily, leaving skin refreshed and free of soapy residue.
  • Eucerin Gentle Hydrating Cleanser, $6 at drugstores: Good for dry skin, this cleanser's microencapsulated moisturizers, along with aloe and chamomile extracts, keep skin soft. Plus, the skin-sloughing beads exfoliate without irritating.
  • Weleda Wild Rose Cleansing Lotion, $20, Whole Foods/Walgreens: Perfect for anti-aging (that's what the line is created for, aging skin!). It helps to strengthen and balance the skin. It features rosehip seed oil, which is a major antioxidant (one of the best) because it is so rich in vitamins.

Day creams
Dermatologists agree that the single most important skin-care product for day is sunscreen. And plenty of inexpensive moisturizers provide good sun protection and hydration.

Exceptions: Skin that is already damaged or has a specific problem, like rosacea, eczema or hyperpigmentation. If your goal is simply to avoid having dry skin, many less expensive moisturizers can accomplish this. Skin that has sun damage or special needs will require certain products and ingredients like antioxidants and retinoids.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Olay Complete Defense Daily UV Moisturizer SPF 30, $12.99 at drugstores: This moisturizer is oil- and fragrance-free and good for all skin types. The lightweight formula won't clog pores and provides skin with essential moisture while helping to protect skin from premature aging and dangerous UV rays. The non-greasy moisturizer contains vitamin E and aloe and protects the skin from 97% of the sun's most harmful rays with SPF 30.
  • Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer SPF 15, $10.50, drugstores: This moisturizer is lightweight, silky-smooth, fragrance-free and suitable for use under makeup or after shaving. Provides gentle moisturization for all skin types.
  • Patricia Wexler M.D. Oil-Free Hydrator SPF 30, $39.50 at Bath and Body Works: Includes high-end ingredients (like niacin, an essential vitamin that may help improve aging skin), without the $200 price tag of many anti-aging day creams.

Night creams
If you have a limited budget, your splurging should be done on your treatment cream. What do you get for your money? More sophisticated research and development, and a higher quality and concentration of active ingredients.

Exceptions: Anti-aging creams with alpha hydroxy acids, which help increase skin-cell turnover, as their main active ingredient. Concentrations of AHAs in drugstore brands often don't differ a lot from department-store brands. So finding an effective formulation doesn't require a lot of cash.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Crème de la Mer Moisturizing Cream, $195, lamer.com: This cream nourishes skin with fermented sea kelp, which contains iron and vitamins B12 and C.
  • Dermalogica Super Rich Repair, $75, bluemercury.com or salons: Super-concentrated, heavyweight cream that combats chronically dry, dehydrated and prematurely-aging skin conditions while it repairs and protects. As the richest Dermalogica moisturizer, it soothes, hydrates and replenishes even the thirstiest skin while acting as a protective salve to fight extreme cold and dry environmental conditions
  • Neutrogena Healthy Skin Night Lotion, $12.99, drugstores: This dermatologist-tested formula contains alpha-hydroxy acid. It eases away the appearance of fine lines, blotches and discolorations for a more vibrant, even-toned complexion. Antioxidant vitamins C and E help fight environmental damage. Pro-Vitamin B5 moisturizes, softens and smoothes skin.
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