Are Celebrity Skin Care Lines Actually Any Good?

Even if you don’t follow celebrity news, it’s impossible to ignore the onslaught of celebrity beauty lines in the past few years, from skin care to makeup and everything in between. In the skin care realm alone, there are lines from Pharrell Williams, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Lopez, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Pitt and even… Travis Barker?

It’s already hard to choose among all the skin care products and brands that are out there, even before you add the celeb factor into the mix. What should you look for? The packaging? The brand’s eco credentials? The active ingredients? The famous founder?

Whether you have more of a Hailey Bieber less-is-more approach to skin care, or a long, luxurious routine like Kim Kardashian, there’s something for everyone when it comes to a celeb collection. (These two famous trendsetters created a buzz earlier this year when they launched their skin care lines within a few weeks of each other.) Different brands target different audiences: Bieber’s Rhode, for example, is an affordable three-product range with prices running from $16 to $29. On the other end, we have Kardashian’s Skkn by Kim, an 11-product line inspired by her own essentials, which costs between $37 and $95.

“In my opinion, no celebrity skin care line has released truly innovative formulas that differentiate themselves from products currently on the market.”

– Esther Olu, cosmetic chemist

Celebrity skin care isn’t new, but there has been a big surge in recent years, with brands like Williams’ Humanrace, Paltrow’s Goop and Lopez’s JLo Beauty, as well as Honest Beauty by Jessica Alba, Kora Organics by Miranda Kerr, Fenty Skin by Rihanna, Keys Soulcare by Alicia Keys and more. Recently, singer Ciara announced the imminent launch of her skin care line On a Mission, while Johansson came out with the minimalist Outset last spring. The skin care world may be female-dominated, but perhaps not for long: Pitt and Barker have each launched their own skin care lines ― Le Domaine and Barker Wellness, respectively. (Barker’s brand is already facing backlash, with critics saying its products are costly and don’t feel “authentic” to who he is.)

Cosmetic chemist Esther Olu told HuffPost that the rise in celeb skin care is partly a marketing move, especially after COVID-19 hit and people started taking better care of their skin.

“Skin care became the most profitable market [in 2020] and I believe celebrities and their overseeing agencies noticed this and wanted a stake in the sales,” Olu said.

The beauty industry has grown exponentially in the past few years, so it makes sense for investors (and celebrities) to focus on that space, said Krupa Koestline, a clean cosmetic chemist and the founder of KKT Consultants.

If you are to invest in celeb skin care ― as with any skin care ― you’ll want to know you’re getting your money’s worth. Are the active ingredients there? Are the formulations good? Has the founder worked with a reputable dermatologist and chemist when creating the products? In theory, celebrity lines can be amazing, since they can invest in quality ingredients and test their products thoroughly for the best possible outcome. So, is there a fail-safe way of finding out what to pick? We spoke to experts to find out.

“It all comes down to ingredients and formulations,” said Dr. Dendy Engelman, a board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at the Shafer Clinic in New York. “Some celebrity lines are more thoughtfully created than others. I always look for high-quality, science-backed ingredients before recommending products.”

Looking into the ingredients and seeing how they align with your own needs is important, experts say. “You want to make sure the products have great active ingredients like antioxidants and vitamins that are tried and true,” Engelman told HuffPost. “I also like when brands invest in clinical studies, so you know that what you’re buying will do what it says it will do.”

“Lately, skin care marketing revolves around building buzz on specific active ingredients and their concentrations; think retinoids, AHAs, niacinamide and others,” Koestline said. “This has led to consumers thinking they need to build an elaborate skin care routine with maximum concentrations of every active, but every skin is different.” Focusing on your skin’s specific needs is vital to prevent you from overdoing it.

San Francisco Chronicle/Hearst Newspapers via Getty Images via Getty Images

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop line of luxury skin care has been adding more and more products over the past few years.

Often, these skin care lines cost more than comparable products, just like high-end clothing brands are more expensive. Deciding whether to purchase celeb beauty products, instead of more affordable options, is up to you, and will ultimately depend at least in part on how much affinity you have for a particular celebrity.

Makeup can be wiped off if it doesn’t work for you, but the wrong skin care product can damage your barrier and wreak havoc on your skin. Celebrities are often seen as role models, and have a responsibility to do their due diligence when launching skin care offerings. Olu explained that launching with a sunscreen product is a great start, even though they are the most rigorous formulas to develop.

“I feel that there is a sense of responsibility placed upon brand founders and developers when formulating products,” Olu said. “Some celebrity skin care lines have released sunscreens upon or shortly after launch, which indicates to me that the celebrity and their team is doing their due diligence with research on skin care essentials, while others release products with [only] exfoliating ingredients, enzymes and more, which can cause the skin to feel sensitized upon sun exposure.”

Skin care is a billion-dollar business. In 2020, according to Statista, the market generated about $136.4 billion, with the most revenue being in the U.S. It makes sense from a marketing perspective that celebrities are tapping into that industry. Some brands look great on your vanity, and others focus on ingredients and formulas. It can be assumed that others are mostly interested in making money.

“As the space becomes more crowded, true innovation and credibility will be required for these brands to succeed long-term,” Engelman said. Consumers can often see through claims made just for marketing, and understand when a celebrity unveils a product and declares “This is what I’ve been using for the past three years” without mentioning their dermatologist visits. Of course, there’s no shame in cosmetic enhancements, but for certain celebrities to promote skin care and pretend they haven’t availed themselves of anything else is deceptive to their followers and fans.

“In my opinion, no celebrity skin care line has released truly innovative formulas that differentiate themselves from products currently on the market,” Olu told HuffPost. “If a consumer loves a particular celebrity and wants to try new products, then a celebrity skin care line wouldn’t be out of the question for purchasing.”

So, are celebrity skin care lines worth it? They can be, if they cover your specific skin care needs. However, keep in mind that similar products may be available at a lower price from a non-celebrity brand. If you choose the former, make sure the ingredients are suitable for your skin before you purchase, like you would with any other product.