Why you’re spending too much, according to Dr Michele Squire

Dr Michele Squire explains why you don’t need to spend big to get good skin. She also shares the five steps she follows when prescribing a new skincare routine to her clients.

Too often we fall into the trap of if something has a hefty price tag it must be worth it – and it must be good, and unfortunately skincare isn’t immune (remember when I tried that $450 face cream so you didn’t have to?).

Sure, there have to be some innovations and technology out there that warrant a higher price point, (like maybe this Botox in a bottle?) but as consumers it’s hard to decipher what’s worth splurging on. Especially with so many new skincare brands, bloggers and trends infiltrating our screens all at once. I was reminded of this when my friend told me she spent more than $100 on a cult skincare brand’s new cleanser.

Thankfully we have access to skin scientists like Dr Michelle Wong (AKA Lab Muffin) and Dr Michele Squire to share skin truths and myth-bust the fact from fiction.

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“Great skincare doesn’t need to be expensive – you can get just as much functionality from a supermarket brand of moisturiser or cleanser as an expensive one for example,” says Dr Michele Squire, she’s a PhD-qualified scientist and the founder of Qr8.

“I personally prefer to save money on these kind of products and save my clients’ money for specialist treatments like laser, a visit to a dermatologist, and prescription skincare that will actually make a difference to how their skin functions, not just a temporary improvement in appearance.”

Bearing that in mind, there’s two specific skincare steps that everyone should have in their routines, but don’t need to spend big on – cleanser and sunscreen.


“All cleansers need to do is remove excess sebum, makeup, and cosmetics from the skin as well as the dead skin cells, bacteria and pollution that get stuck. They aren’t designed to penetrate the skin, which also has its own inbuilt pretty impenetrable barrier (the stratum corneum, or skin barrier). So when you put something that is designed to remove debris from the surface of the skin, on top of a pre-existing anatomical barrier, and only leave it there for less than a minute, it’s unrealistic to expect anything in that cleanser will do anything magical in terms of skin function,” explains Dr Squire.

Makes sense, right? “That’s why an expensive cleanser full of fancy ingredients isn’t necessary. Of course, if you absolutely love the feel and function of a cleanser that happens to be exxy, and you have spare cash to splash, then go for it! But many people have FOMO when it comes to buying skincare – they believe that expensive somehow means better and they are missing out on something because they can’t afford it. But this definitely isn’t the case for most cosmetic (over the counter) skincare products.”

Try: Bioderma Sensibio Gel Moussant Mild Cleansing Gel ($29.99, at Priceline) and Skin by Ecostore Purifying Cleanser ($20, at Nourished Life)


“Is another product that shouldn’t cost a fortune, because you need to use a LOT of it for it to be effective (not a few drops in your skincare either!). I’m talking a teaspoon for your face, neck (front and back), chest and ears in order for you to get the same SPF that is advertised on the bottle. And you need to reapply it several times throughout the day,” says Dr Squire.

“The danger in buying expensive sunscreen is that you won’t use enough of it – most people only use ¼-½ as much sunscreen per application as they should, dramatically decreasing the sun protection it offers.”

Try: La Roche-Posay Anthelios XL Ultra-Light Fluid SPF 50+ ($29.95, at Adore Beauty) and Mecca Cosmetica To Save Face SPF50+ Superscreen ($40, at Mecca)

Dr Squire’s 5 steps to choosing the right skincare for you:

1. Do you even need it at all? For example, if you are using a prescription retinoid for anti-ageing, then a peptide or growth factor serum won’t really get you any marginal gain in collagen production.

2. What skin goal are you trying to achieve, and is there is a product that can even help with that (there are limits to what you can achieve with topical skincare, even the prescription variety).

3. Is the scientific evidence behind the ingredient and formulation credible?

4. How much do you want to spend/can afford?

5. How does a particular skincare product fit with your lifestyle and skincare philosophy – are you going to commit to multiple layering or are you a ‘one cream and dash out the door’ kind of person? And will you protect yourself from the sun diligently?⠀

One more thing to note:

“The other thing I often hear is that when you buy an expensive product you are paying for all the R&D that went into that product (which equates to it being ‘better’). I know many brands (like La Roche-Posay for example) that have extensive clinical data behind their products, and they don’t cost more than your handbag. Likewise, there are a lot of expensive brands with very little credible science behind their products,” she says.

All products featured in this article are selected by our editors, who don’t play favourites. If you buy something, we may get a cut of the sale.