Beauty products you might not need

You work hard for your money, and you deserve products that work hard to keep your skin and hair looking great. But, alas, that’s not always what you get. We discovered eight that don’t live up to their promises (and often have a high price tag), and got the scoop on what to use instead for beautiful results.

Costly cleansers

Cleansers are only on your skin for a short time, so they rarely have much “action” beyond removing makeup, oil, and dirt – something any cleanser should do, says dermatologist Christine Choi Kim, MD.

Trendy anti-ageing products

Snake venom and stem cells sound sexy, and they may even have some skin benefits. But nothing has the proven scientific track record of retinoids and alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), says Dr Kim. Both can gradually build collagen, minimise the appearance of fine lines and unwanted pigmentation, and keep pores clear to help alleviate acne. “These, combined with sunscreen, are the simple foundation of most dermatologists’ personal skin-care regimens,” says Dr Kim.

Pricey sunscreens

The best sunscreen is one you’ll use. So if you’re more likely to apply a $35 sunscreen because you love the way it feels or smells, slather away. Just be aware that there’s no need to shell out big bucks to effectively shield your skin from the sun. “Expensive packaging doesn’t mean more protection,” says Mona Gohara, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine.

Just be sure to use it correctly. To receive the promised SPF, you need to apply a golfball-sized amount) all over your body. Reapplication is also a must, so remember to slather on more sunscreen every two hours or after swimming, perspiring heavily, or towelling off.

Cellulite-reducing creams

If the arrival of swimsuit season has you heading for the miracle potion section of the beauty aisle, experts implore you to save your money. “Cellulite is a complex biologic process that no cream can currently correct,” says dermatologist David Bank, MD. At most, he reports, some creams may temporarily smooth the appearance of cellulite by hydrating the skin or – in the case of those that contain caffeine – by slightly improving drainage of the sluggish lymphatic system, which is one of the underlying causes of cellulite.

A more surefire way to disguise the dimpling is with self-tanner; according to Dr Bank, the darker colour diminishes the “shadowing” created by the alternating high and low areas of skin.

Stretch mark creams

Skip ‘em, advises Dr Gohara. “If they really worked, stretch marks wouldn’t exist!” The one exception is prescription retinoids, which studies show can improve the appearance of new stretch marks after six months of daily use. (Note: Retinoids can’t be used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.)

For more significant improvement (at a far more significant cost), ask your dermatologist about laser treatments. Some lasers can stimulate collagen growth and zap away the redness of fresh stretch marks, while others can repigment older marks that have turned white. If camouflaging them is more your style, a little body makeup can help even out your skin.

Pore-shrinking products

Many manufacturers are honest about what they can do for your pores – that is, temporarily minimise their appearance, usually by filling them in with silicone-based products. But some go overboard and promise to actually shrink their size. Don’t buy it, advises Dr Kim. “The size of your pores is determined by genetics, and nothing can permanently change that.”

What about when pores become enlarged due to acne or sun damage? Since boosting cell turnover can help unclog pores, you’ll get the most benefit from retinoids or AHAs. But manage your expectations. “They can theoretically decrease pore size, just not back to the day you were born,” says Dr Gohara.

Salon hair brands

“There’s no fundamental aspect of the technology used in these products that would make them better than regular brands,” says cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller, founder of the Beauty Brains website and former senior director of hair and skin care R&D for Alberto Culver. While any brand – salon, pharmacy or supermarket – will use a proprietary ingredient from time to time, he notes that they both use the same basic ingredients.

Be sceptical when stylists advise you about what products to use as well. “They learn about products from the marketing department of salon brands and also make a commission on products you buy from them,” says Schueller. “When they bash drugstore brands, they do so without any real evidence to back up their claims.”

Removers for all sorts of skin woes

Want to erase a tattoo or remove a skin tag without seeing a doctor? Yep, there’s a product for that. But experts caution that these DIY offerings don’t live up to their claims. They include OTC lasers and creams to take the ink out of skin (the best they’ll do is fade the tattoo slightly, says Schueller, who advises saving up for laser treatments instead) and liquid nitrogen solutions that mimic the freezing effect of cryotherapy, a treatment derms use to get rid of skin tags.

“It’s just not as reliable as the in-office procedure, and since it has the potential to harm your skin if used incorrectly, it’s best to use it under the direction of your doctor,” says Dr Gohara.