Cover Photo Courtesy: Houang Stephane

Amidst the oily-combination-dry-acne-prone-hormonal skin that haunts most of us, it is easy to be enticed by the wonders promised by the products dotting the aisles of Ulta, Sephora, and even Nordstrom. As a result, it is commonplace to walk away from such stores with your wallet much lighter but your skin not appreciably better. Here are three tips to make you a more informed skincare shopper.

Look to a product’s ingredients not its cover:

Avoid being swayed by miracle ingredients or extravagant claims on the front of any product. The ingredient lists at the back are often much more telling. For example, alcohols are scattered throughout moisturizers and toners and do nothing but dry out already parched skin. Silicon-based products hidden amongst serums, moisturizers, and other hydrating products create an artificially smooth surface, deceiving individuals into believing their skin is being hydrated. Menthols are omnipresent, particularly in hydrating lip products, but are in fact irritants that further damage already troubled areas.

Before clicking purchase or dropping a product into your shopping bag, skim through the ingredients. Check out suspect substances on Wikipedia or the product itself on Paula’s Choice Beautypedia, a service that rates skincare products on their actual merits rather than claims to fame.

Know where to spend your money:

Photo Courtesy: Kate Somerville

Splurge on high quality moisturizers that stay on your skin all night or day like the First Aid Beauty Eye Duty Triple Remedy ($36 at and the Kate Somerville Goat Milk Cream ($65 at Cut back and choose drugstore cleansers and makeup removers like the Cetaphil Daily Cleanser and Simple Micellar Cleansing Water that are on your face for seconds and can be as effective as their much more expensive counterparts.

Photo Courtesy: Sephora

Keep your makeup routine simple:

A cleanser that doubles as an everyday makeup remover, a specific makeup remover for the eyes, a high quality eye cream, night moisturizer, day cream with SPF, any appropriate spot treatments, and occasional masks can often suffice for most skin types. Burdening your skin with too many toners, serums, and oils can just as easily harm as help, and over-exfoliation, scrubbing, and peeling of your skin can cause tears and damage.

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Before you buy a product, consider a few things. Will you use the product as you should? Is it really necessary to your skin? Will it actually help you or merely exacerbate the problem? Posing and answering these questions will help you unravel the long threads that comprise the puzzle of skincare and help you on your way to clearer, healthier skin.