For products that you rinse off after just a few minutes such as cleansers and exfoliants, Francesca Fusco, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City, suggests going with the inexpensive store brand -- usually found right next to the name-brand version. "Compare the ingredients between the two," she says. "If the first five listed are identical, you have a hit." One to try: CVS 7-in-1 Complete Revitalizing Foaming Cleanser ($8; cvs.com).
Sometimes having "anti-aging" in the product name makes it more expensive, explains Fusco. "I have seen plenty of creams labeled as anti-aging and all they contain are moisturizers and sunscreen," she says. If that's what you're after, then choose a basic, inexpensive moisturizer with SPF such as Cetaphil Daily Facial Moisturizer with Sunscreen SPF 50 ($14.50; walgreens.com).
If you want anti-aging bang for your buck, go with a big, tried-and-trusted brand, says Doris Day, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City, who cites Neutrogena, Olay, Aveeno, and L'Oreal as a few examples. "They put a lot of money into research and development -- and less into packaging, so they're able to mass produce it at a low price," Day says. What's more: Many drugstore and department store brands are owned by the same parent company -- and share similar technologies. For example, L'Oreal Paris and Lancome; Olay and SK-II.
"Label readers always win," says Ava Shamban, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. She explains that you want to ensure you're paying for quality ingredients -- not a fancy jar. Anti-aging ingredients should be within the first ten on the list, adds Fusco. So what exactly are you looking for? Here are the ingredients top skin docs say are the most effective anti-agers money can buy at your local drugstore: