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5 New Drugstore Products to Avoid (and Alternatives You Should Check Out Instead)

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April 30, 2015 Reviewed by Marta 5 Comments

Looking for the right anti-aging product at the drugstore can be a challenge. The big beauty brands know how to market their products, slapping "retinol" and "hyaluronic acid" all over their packages to entice buyers. But if you actually look at the ingredients listed, they might surprise you. Synthetics, silicones, preservatives—all are filler ingredients used to cut cost while providing very little of the actual nutrients needed for healthy skin.

Before you head to the drugstore to buy these new anti-aging products, here are some reasons why you should avoid them and consider checking out our alternatives instead.


Garnier Ultra-Lift Miracle Sleeping Cream ($16.99)

The newest product in Garnier's anti-aging line promises to reduce the signs of age caused by fatigue, stress, and lack of sleep. With hyaluronic acid and adenosine, the cream works to improve elasticity and make skin look younger and more refreshed. However, the good stops there. Typical of most Garnier products, this cream is packed with the usual bad boys—silicones, parabens and fragrances that are known irritants, including, linalool, a carcinogenic component of lavender or clove oils. And despite its flaunting of hyaluronic acid, it's one of the last ingredients listed.


The "rare plant extract" that Garnier boasts is silk tree, otherwise known as mimosa. To get a mimosa fix, without all the synthetics that are part of Garnier's baggage, you could look at Red Flower Kinmoxei Wild Lime Silk Oil ($48), packed with antioxidants, fatty acids and vitamin E. And as far as rare plants go, Red Flower is a stand out, blending the petals of the Japanese kinmoxei tree with rice bran and monoi oils to be super moisturizing. 

With a good price to quality ratio is Tilvee's Argan & Sea Buckthorn Age Defying Creme ($35). Mostly organic, the ingredients feature two that are brimming with fatty acids, argan oil and sea buckthorn. A rich night cream that is especially suitable for sensitive, redness prone skin.  


Olay Pro X Nightly Purifying Micro-Peel ($39.99-$49.99)

This triple-acid micro-peel says it works in just five days. Part of Olay's Pro X line, this product is designed to be an economical competitor against professional chemical peels. Rich in vitamin b5 and glycolic acid, citric acid and lactic acid, this serum says it will renew the skin's surface, but you'll have to deal with Olay's troubling use of synthetics, like benzyl alcohol.


If this is an acid trip you are not sure about taking, there are alternatives that feature these standard AHAs (glycolic, lactic and citric acids). A particularly good option is Mad Hippie Exfoliating Serum ($29.99) as it has a standout antioxidant in the form of Matrixyl Synthe'6, a plant stem cell that boosts the skin brightening action of the AHAs with an active called Gigawhite. And like Olay, it features vitamin B5

Another wonderful AHA product is Sevani Ageless Radiance Refining AHA Cleanser ($39 in the shop). It can be used as a cleanser or twice-weekly mask. The glycolic acid is from sugar maple and sugar cane extracts and plant derived brighteners such as bilberry and exfoliating willow bark. Antioxidants from pomegranate, goji and other fruits justify this as more than just a peel or cleanser. 


CeraVe Skin Renewing Cream Serum ($16.99)

CeraVe has recently expanded its line, getting into the anti-aging action with this new serum. CeraVe is known for producing products that are gentle enough to use on sensitive skin and is often recommended by dermatologists. But this anti-aging serum looks a lot less gentle. With retinol and ceramide complex, the serum promises to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. But the presence of PEGs and silicones make us wary.


You have to get past a lot of fillers to get to the effective ingredients in CeraVe, namely the retinol and ceramide. And it can be safely said that both are in relatively low doses. For a more impactful formula, seek out Skinfinite Platinum PM Cream 1% Retinol ($79 in the shop), which has encapsulated the retinol in a time-released delivery system, while ceramides and sodium hyaluronate ensure the skin is kept hydrated. 


Nature's Gate Face Block Sunscreen SPF 25 ($9.99)

Nature's Gate boasts being organic, with products that are usually free of fragrances, parabens and phthalates. However, whether they're truly organic or not has been frequently called into question. This sunscreen has almond extract and is free of oxybenzone, but with silicones and octinoxate as one of its active ingredients, there are reasons to be concerned of its all-organic label.


Prana Natural Defense SPF 25 ($39 in the shop) combines antioxidant and sun protection. The sunscreen active is micronized titanium dioxide and the plant-based formula includes wild pansy,comfrey, green tea and plaintain. Hyaluronic acid ensures that this sunscreen can double up as your moisturizer. 


Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel-Cream Eye ($18.99)

This gel eye cream has hyaluronic acid to keep skin looking smooth and hydrated while locking in moisture. However, there is very little of the hyaluronic acid it brags about. What you're really smearing into your face? Mostly silicones, glycerin and water.


With so little to commend this eye cream other than a dab of hyaluronic acid, it isn't difficult to find superior alternatives. Mad Hippie Eye Cream ($24.99) is packed with active ingredients including eyeliss, Matrixyl 3000, Haloxyl, vitamin C and ceramide. Sweetsation I*Light Organic Advanced Brightening & Line Smoothing Eye Treatment ($27) has a long (and I mean long) list of botanical extracts chosen to combat fine lines, hydrate and reduce puffiness and under eye shadows. What I like about these eye creams is that they are the polar opposite to Neutrogena: just about every ingredient counts. 


  • March 12, 2018

    by Michelle

    Dr. Andrea Suarez, Houston Dermatologist & YouTuber (Dr Dray), regularly recommends all CeraVe products. She explains what are allergens, what are harmful fillers versus unharmful ones used to buffer the active ingredients. She is an excellent source of medically accurate information about skin care ingredients.

  • May 3, 2015

    by Marta

    Hi Era
    I have no expertise in this, but would say that the reason physician's examine nails is because they can be indicators of other issues. I would not consult a dermatologist in this case, but a general practitioner that is part of a clinic or network that conduct various tests to the get to the bottom of this. Here is a link that will give you some idea of the indicators implied by nail conditions:

  • May 3, 2015

    by Era

    Hi, I am writing to you in case you can help me.

    I understand this is irrelevant to your post but i am just hoping from your experience you may have come across something similar and its answer. There are many people who report the same problem (nails growing in layers) but no solutions or answers anywhere!!
    I am 23 female, otherwise healthy and 2 years ago it started with my left foot. The big toenail stopped growing due to fungus infection, went to dermatologist, treated it and then a new nail emerged at the base although the old one was still firmly attached. almost 9 months later this happened again with no fungus as i went to various dermatologists and pathologists who diagnosed it healthy and could not understand why. no trauma, no pain nothing. this happened to my right foot also and then again to my left foot. a cycle of nine months with a new nail emerging after growth arrest and the lunula enlarging and becoming hazy. Now, for a third time my left big toenail has stopped growing, there is a piece of the older nail still attached to the free end, and i suspect a new one will emerge as the lunula is enlarged and hazy. please help me. i have never had health problems. i worry is this a symptom of something, a defficiency or too much of something? its frustrating i must find the treatment. please help!!! thank you in advance

    Regards, Rea

  • May 1, 2015

    by Karen

    This info was concise, to the point and helpful!

  • April 30, 2015

    by Kimberly

    Those are some great alternatives to all the drugstore brands and their "nasties". I have always loved Mad Hippie products for their natural ingredients and their products' efficacy. What do you think about Kiss My Face Face Factor (ultra moisturizing), SPF30 for my day cream over my serums? It's my fave sunscreen, and seems to be very natural. I think it even has a peptide in it.

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