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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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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