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Anti-aging cream
Credit: Stocksy

Here’s a task for you: Go to Sephora.com and type in the term “anti-aging.” Over 670 shopping options pop up — and that’s at Sephora alone. Anti-aging products are everywhere, and they all claim to be the next best thing for erasing (or preventing) fine lines, wrinkles, and age spots.

By the year 2021, the anti-aging beauty category is estimated to gross over $330 billion globally, with a vast range of products in the category, including serums, tools, masks, and oils.

Of course, the hero is the anti-aging face cream, ubiquitous in medicine cabinets and on dresser tops everywhere — but at a cost. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you scooped it up at Walgreens or went to Bergdorfs; anti-aging cream is almost always more expensive than your standard facial moisturizer.

Really, though. Peter Thomas Roth’s Mega Rich Intensive Anti-Aging Cellular Creme, for example costs $85, while the brand’s daily Ultra-Lite Oil-Free Moisturizer is only $42. Clinique’s Repairwear Uplifting Firming Cream rings in at $66, while its Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion retails for $28.

According to New York-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the upcharge on anti-aging products, specifically, isn’t totally unfounded.

“Moisturizers are designed to protect, smooth, and hydrate the skin, while anti-aging products are designed to do more,” he says. “Many contain specialized ingredients and specific packaging that add to the cost of the product.”

Dr. Zeichner says that certain ingredients that require special formations for stability or are generally more exotic, like growth factors, vitamin C, and botanical extracts, increase the price of the product. Additionally, sometimes anti-aging products require specialized packaging technology, like airless pumps, to deliver the product without compromising the efficacy of the formula. Naturally, these are more expensive to manufacture.

The cost is cringeworthy enough to consider when you get to the bottom of the tub and need to restock, but when you think about the total cost of these creams over a lifetime — we did the math, and let’s just say it’s not pretty.

So, just how many anti-aging creams do you go through in a lifetime — and, more importantly, how much are you spending on them?

Anti Aging Products Infographic - Embed

Here are the factors we took into consideration to figure it out:

  • We chose three popular anti-aging face creams from three separate price-point categories: drugstores (like Walgreens), specialty stores (like Sephora or Ulta) and upscale department stores (like Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom).
  • We began our calculation at age 30 (the year Dr. Zeichner recommends beginning an anti-aging formula). According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average American woman lives to age 81. In other words, that’s 51 years of using anti-aging cream.
  • To figure out how many jars you’d theoretically go through in a year, we asked Dr. Zeichner how much cream he recommends using on a daily basis. He says that one application should be roughly 1 gram of product, or a blueberry-sized amount. If you buy a jar that is 1.7 oz., that jar should last you about 48 days, or roughly a month and a half. That means you’d be purchasing eight jars of cream a year.
  • To figure out the final sum of buying anti-aging cream over a lifetime, we multiplied eight jars of cream by the cost per jar. That number gives you how much you spend per year. Then, we took that number and multiplied it by 51 years.

Here a breakdown of each of the anti-aging creams we considered.

Anti-Aging Olay - Embed
Credit: Uyen Cao

Drugstore: Olay’s Regenerist Whips Facial Moisturizer, $29 per 1.7 oz jar.

For our drugstore example, we chose Olay’s Regenerist Whips Facial Moisturizer, which happens to be the most popular skincare launch of 2018, if that tells you anything about how much people dig anti-aging products. Each 1.7 oz. tub costs $29. If you committed to buying that over a lifetime, starting at age 30 when anti-aging cream is generally recommended and stopping at age 81, you’d end up spending a $11,832.

Anti-Aging Somerville - Embed
Credit: Uyen Cao

Beauty Specialty Store: Kate Somerville Age Arrest Anti-Wrinkle Cream, $90 per 1.7 oz jar.

But say you have a little more cash to spend when it comes to anti-aging cream: If that were the case, you’d probably head to a beauty specialty store like Ulta, where you'd pick up the store’s current best-seller, Kate Somerville Age Arrest Anti-Wrinkle Cream, a 1.7 oz. tub that costs $90. After a lifetime of being a Somerville stan, you’d spend a whopping $36,720, which is more than most starting salaries as a journalist, FYI.

Anti-Aging La Prairie - Embed
Credit: Uyen Cao

Luxury Department Store: La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream, $485 per 1.7 oz. jar

Finally, if you’re a beauty big-spender, you might head over to Saks Fifth Avenue and pick up the store’s current best-seller, La Prairie Skin Caviar Luxe Cream, which costs a staggering $485 per 1.7 oz tub. Over a lifetime of being Caviar Luxe, you’d spend $197,880. That’s more than the median price of homes currently listed in Kansas City, Missouri, by the way.

Clearly, the quest for youthful-looking skin is expensive as hell, and this is without all the hundreds of other serums, eye creams, lasers, and injectables on the market.

Based on millennial product loyalty reports, the average woman probably isn’t going to use the same anti-aging cream for 51 years. Budgets change. Products become discontinued. Unless you weigh out your moisturizer before putting it on your face, you definitely won’t be using exactly one gram of cream per day. And because we’re all human, there’s a great chance you’re not going to remember to apply it every single night.

If you are one of those people who never, ever skips out on your skincare routine, though, our info above will definitely help you budget. It may even be a sobering dose of reality — especially if you're loyal to La Prairie.