Is Cheaper Better When It Comes to Sunscreen?

A new Consumer Reports study shows that cheap store-brand sunscreens are among the best sunscreens available.

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If a sunscreen costs more money, it must be better, right? Wrong.

I’ve been telling my patients for years that it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money on sunscreens (or facial cleansers) because most brands have similar active ingredients. Now, I’ve got back up: A new Consumer Reports study of sunscreens shows that inexpensive store brand options were among the best.

Consumer Reports examined 12 sunscreens for their effectiveness at protecting against UVA and UVB rays — both of which cause skin cancer. Top honors went to Target’s Up & Up Continuous Spray Sport SPF 50 and Wal-Mart’s Equate Ultra Protection Lotion SPF 50 which were also among the least expensive. Other high-scoring sunscreens included: Coppertone Water Babies SPF 50 Lotion and Walgreens Sport Continuous Spray SPF 50.

So you don’t have to buy expensive department-store facial cleansers to have clean, healthy skin. But if you’re using an expensive facial cleanser and love it, then keep using it.

Photo credit: stockmonkeys.com

Best Budget Facial Cleansers For Different Skin Types

Here are my recommendations for choosing a good budget facial cleanser for under $15. I also share my product recommendations.

sudso b & w

Is a $46 facial cleanser better than a $6 one? That usually depends more on the user than on the products. The truth is most facial cleansers, no matter the price, have similar active ingredients. So you don’t have to buy expensive department-store facial cleansers to have clean, healthy skin. But if you’re using an expensive facial cleanser and love it, then by all means continue to do so.

Every day in my office, I have at least a couple of patients ask me what I recommend for affordable facial cleansers, which I consider to be under $15. Here’s what I tell them to look for in a facial cleanser:

1. Avoid harsh bar soaps which strip natural oils off your skin, leaving your face dry and tight. See all those suds on the woman’s face above? They’re stripping oils off her skin, like dish washing detergent strips oils off of dirty dishes. It may feel good while it’s lathering, but your skin will end up feeling tight and dry.

2. Use gentle non-soap liquid or foaming cleansers designed specifically for the face. They’ll clean the skin, removing dirt and makeup, without removing the skin’s natural oils.

3. Use lukewarm water when washing your face, as hot water can strips off natural oils. And always gently pat dry; never rub.

4. Wash your face with cleanser once a day before you go to bed. For most people simple rinsing with water in the morning is sufficient.

5. I know you want my product recommendations now, and I’m happy to share them. Just remember, that there are many more quality products available, but the ones listed here are ones I have either personally used or have been highly recommended by patients for years.

Normal Skin:

Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser: A low-foaming, creamy, gentle liquid cleanser. (About $6 at drugstores.) It’s in my medicine cabinet right now.

Normal to Oily Skin: 

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash: A low-foaming salicylic acid wash that helps prevent breakouts yet is gentle, not drying, on your skin. (About $8 at drugstores and online.)

Neutrogena Deep Clean Gentle Scrub: Unlike other scrubs, this one is gentle on your skin, and with beta hydroxy acid, it helps keep skin feeling soft. (About $7 in drugstores and online.)

Normal to Dry Skin: 

Purpose: This non-soap cleanser is gentle, not drying, on the skin. (About $6 at drugstores and online.)

Dry Skin:
Cera Ve Hydrating Cleanser: This moisturizing cleanser with glycerin helps cleanse dirt and oil without drying out skin. It’s good for people with sensitive skin as well. (About $15 in drugstores and online.)

Sensitive Skin, Combination Skin, and People with Skin Conditions:

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser: A creamy, gentle liquid cleanser that is non-irritating and non-comedogenic. (About $9 at drugstores and online.)

Oil of Olay Foaming Face Wash for Sensitive Skin: A lightweight foaming cleanser that’s both oil and fragrance- free, making it ideal for sensitive skin. (About $5 at drugstores and online.)

How about you? Which facial cleansers do you like? Please share with us in the comment section below. 

Photo credit: FCC, shannonkringen

How to Moisturize Properly (and Save Money)

Should I use different moisturizers for different body parts?

Yes. You wouldn’t use shampoo to wash your hands, so don’t use the same moisturizer on your face that you use on your feet.

  • For dry, cracked feet, use a moisturizer that contains a mild acid, such as lactic acid which softens thick, scaly skin. My patients like AmLactin Cream.

What is the best way to moisturize?

  • Shower or bathe in comfortably warm, not hot water.
  • Use a mild cleanser such as Dove instead of soap. I can’t tell you how often patients’ dry skin is caused by some “natural” or “organic” soap. Unless these soaps are specifically designated as moisturizing, they are often too drying for your skin in the winter.
  • Pat dry with a towel, leaving your skin damp.
  • Apply cream to your damp skin, locking in moisture. Doing this everyday will significantly relieve your dry, itchy skin in just a week’s time.

What is the best way to moisturize during an economic recession?

OK. So maybe we aren’t in a recession just yet, but skin care products can be prohibitively expensive. If you are moisturizing properly, then you could easily use 5 ounces each week. That means you could use up one Aveeno Skin Relief Moisturizing Cream every two weeks!

Simple petroleum jelly (Vaseline Ointment) — it might be old-school, but it works.

Use a thin coat right after the shower. You can blot excess with your towel. Some patients like to use it only at bedtime since it can mark your clothing.