Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

or
clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Expensive Beauty Products That Are Actually Worth the Money

New, 1 comment

Racked has affiliate partnerships, which do not influence editorial content, though we may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. We also occasionally accept products for research and reviewing purposes. See our ethics policy here.

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

How many times have you shelled out several $20 bills at Sephora or Ulta on a really expensive beauty product — swayed by positive reviews and influencer Instagrams — only to find out that, hey, maybe you don’t actually need a mascara that costs upwards of $60? It’s happened to me enough to make me dubious of any price tag where the first digit is above the number 3.

But the silver lining of spending a lot of money on beauty products that aren’t always worth it? Eventually, you also find the ones that really, truly are. And even though it hurts — deep down inside, and in your wallet — to spend more than $9 on a bottle of shampoo, discovering a miracle product that actually deserves the money you spent on it feels oddly fulfilling. Here, a bunch of Racked editors sound off on the things they’ll consistently shell out the big bucks for.

A bottle of SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic
SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic ($165)

I have purchased SkinCeuticals CE Ferulic ($165) with my own hard-earned money for many years now. It’s a stinky-smelling, semi-burn-y antioxidant serum recommended by pretty much every dermatologist on the planet. It was one of the first vitamin C products to hit the market. There may be better ones out there now for all I know (vitamin C is super popular at the moment), but I’ll never find out because I refuse to give this one up.

When I don’t use it for a week or two because I’m testing other products, I notice my skin looks duller. Plus, I always imagine this eating up free radicals on my skin, so when I don’t wear it I’m certain that my skin is becoming totally toxic. I’m hooked. Cheryl Wischhover, senior beauty reporter


Diorskin Airflash Spray Foundation
Diorskin Airflash Spray Foundation ($62)

I’ve been self-conscious about my skin for as long as I can remember. My pores are big, the texture of my T-zone is kind of bumpy, and I have mild rosacea. Most medium- to full-coverage foundations either don’t do enough for me, or they wear off by the time I get to work.

Diorskin Airflash Spray Foundation is absolutely worth $62. I first bought it because I had heard it was a good tattoo cover-up (it is), so that right there says something about its staying power. I spray it directly onto a Beautyblender and then just dab it on my face. I never thought I would be someone who spends more than $25 on foundation, or someone who would insist it be Dior, but here we are.

And while we’re on the topic of uneven skin texture, an honorable mention goes to Caudalie’s Glycolic Peel ($39), which I’ve started using once a week, and I’ve seen a noticeable difference. Tiffany Yannetta, shopping director


Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum
Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum ($80)

I was sent the full Drunk Elephant line for a story I was writing earlier this year about whether the brand actually lived up to all of its beauty-world hype. TL;DR, it really is as good as everyone says it is, and I became particularly obsessed with the C-Firma Day Serum, the hero of the line.

It’s formulated with a really high concentration (15 percent) of l-ascorbic acid, the gold-standard vitamin C, and that really shows on my skin — it’s never been as bright or as smooth. It totally evened out my texture and reduced dark spots I had around my eyes and neck. At $80, I was obviously stoked to have gotten it for free, but I knew it was one product I wouldn’t be able to live without once I ran out. I re-upped after a little over three months of daily use, and even though it definitely struck my flinch point, it’s a purchase I’ll continue to make gladly. Tanisha Pina, market editor


Brilliant Glossing Shampoo and Conditioner
Frederic Fekkai Brilliant Glossing Shampoo and Conditioner ($45)

I first tried Frederic Fekkai’s olive oil-infused Brilliant Glossing Shampoo and Conditioner in 2014, when the brand sent a free batch to my office at the time. The results were immediate and astounding: My editor said my hair looked “almost too shiny.” When my supply ran out I stopped using it, because together the shampoo and conditioner retail for about $45. I reverted to Herbal Essences, or whatever else at the drugstore looked fun, and that’s how things were for three years.

Last week I had a bad day, and my hair was also looking bad. So on an impulse, I went out and bought the Fekkai set, which first felt good in the feverish way that spending money on a luxurious and unnecessary beauty product does, and then felt good because after a wash and an air-dry, I looked like I’d just gotten a blowout. Eliza Brooke, senior reporter


Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen
Tom Ford Eye Defining Pen ($57)

There will probably come a day when I stop evangelizing for this preposterously priced Tom Ford liquid eyeliner ($57!), but today is not that day. It’s just literally the best: It goes on smooth, its dual-endedness makes drawing simple or dramatic wings easy, it stays on my super oily eyelids all day, and it comes off with micellar water.

What’s more, this shit lasts. I buy roughly one per year and it takes about that long to fray or dry out. (Although I did once leave the cap off overnight and ruined the thin tip, SAD.) So even though it’s insanely expensive up front, I genuinely think it saves me money in the long run because I’m not constantly nipping into Sephora or CVS to buy other, shittier eyeliners that only last a few months. Alanna Okun, senior editor


Tom Ford Patchouli Absolu perfume
Tom Ford Patchouli Absolu ($230)

I have very strong feelings about spending money on a good fragrance, particularly Tom Ford. I’ve written passionately about my feelings for the Oud Wood perfume, and I’m now onto the brand’s Patchouli Absolu. The cologne is pricey — $230! — but the scent (and all of Tom Ford’s fragrances in general) is really sophisticated and not your run-of-the-mill perfume smell. It lasts for hours, and I get tons of compliments when I wear it.

It’s still a lot of money (a lot!), so honestly what I’ve done in the past is buy the bottle and just be stingy about it, but I also go to Bloomingdale’s or Bergdorfs and get little samples, which go a long way. —Chavie Lieber, senior reporter


Aveda Dry Remedy Shampoo and Conditioner
Aveda Dry Remedy Shampoo ($95) and Conditioner ($95)

I spend close to $200 about twice a year on the liter-sized bottles of Aveda’s Dry Remedy shampoo and conditioner. People can roll their eyes all they want, but I went through a phase when my hair was getting super dry and brittle from the summer heat and daily post-workout washes. Aveda products were directly responsible for getting it back to its original shine. It feels really worth it because the composition of the products is super rich, so I only need a little bit to get my hair clean and hydrated. This is huge considering how thick my hair is. (I used to go through $15 worth of cheap products about once a week, and as a consequence my hair felt dull and awful.)

Even though I feel like a total psycho every time I hand over $200 to the Aveda cashier, I know that I’m saving money in the long run and that my hair looks amazing every day. Plus the brand has a stellar loyalty program, so I end up earning a ton of full-size product “samples.” Irina Dvalidze, producer/editor


Shangpree Gold Black Pearl Hydrogel Eye Masks
Shangpree Gold Black Pearl Hydrogel Eye Masks ($60)

Shortly after I wrote about these $60 rubbery under-eye patches that obliterate dark circles, I learned that there are a bunch of dupes on Amazon for, like, one-fifth of the price. But is it weird of me that I still want to buy the expensive ones from Shangpree? I know that these are so unnecessary in the grand scheme of life, let alone a personal hygiene routine, but I am willing to pay for the assurance that they will actually work. Laura Gurfein, deputy managing editor


Silver shampoo and conditioner
Sachajuan Silver Shampoo ($31) and Conditioner ($33)

Something I’m not that ashamed to splurge on is this Silver Shampoo, $31, and Conditioner, $33, from Swedish haircare brand Sachajuan. I spend a ridiculous amount of money getting my hair bleached, toned, and trimmed every few months, so the last thing I want to do is ruin the color with a cheap shampoo that’s going to strip out any moisture I have left or turn it brassy. The nice thing is you only have to use this once a week to refresh the color, so one bottle lasts for, like, a year. Cory Baldwin, shopping editor