I've been writing about beauty for years, and I would never recommend these 5 products

Plus, what to buy instead

Close up of woman's hands holding skincare products
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The beauty market is quite saturated. New products, gadgets and entire brands launch every single week. In other words, consumers have more to choose from than ever before. Something beauty editors are often asked is, “Is [insert product name here] worth the money?” I wouldn't throw the term 'overrated skincare products' around lightly, but there are some things I can’t completely get behind – and others I will outright discourage. 

As part of my job as a beauty editor I speak to doctors, dermatologists, aestheticians and facialists quite regularly, and while I’d never put myself in the same category, I have learned a lot about what should and shouldn't be recommended. Plus, I've tried a lot of products for myself. Here I’ve explained five products that I just wouldn’t be able to wholeheartedly recommend, along with some suggestions for what I think your money could go on instead. 

1. Pore vacuums

They’re a nice idea in theory. I know the idea of getting all of the debris out of your skin sounds super satisfying, but at best they aren't completely necessary and, at worst, you'll probably remove some stuff that your skin needs and may even do harm. (Pore strips fall into the same category as they can be harsh on the skin barrier.) I don't know of many, if any, experts that would advocate at-home use. 

What I'd recommend instead

Look for products with salicylic acid, which works to break down debris inside your pores, making it great for congestion and blackheads. (As goes for any active skincare ingredient in this guide that you're new to, introduce it to your skin gradually. It's always worth doing a patch test, particularly if you know your skin is sensitive.) Alternatively, save up and invest in a facial that involves extraction, for example a Hydrafacial, if you your goal is to give your skin some kind of deep clean.

2. Harsh physical facial scrubs

Physical scrubs with big, scratchy, harsh particles are another no, especially on your face. This comes back to the point about harming your skin as they can be really rough. Physical exfoliation should be gentle, especially if you have sensitive skin. 

What I'd recommend instead

Gentle physical scrubs are available, as are exfoliating toners that’ll whisk off dead skin cells. Look for AHAs or PHAs, which tend to be a bit gentler – though take care not to over-use these kinds of acids. More is not more when it comes to exfoliation and, if you're new to these ingredients, introduce them gradually to your routine. Applying SPF daily is a must anyway, but it's even more important if you use acids in your routine as they can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. 

3. Very, very expensive cleansers

I have no problem with people spending a lot of money on their cleanser if they want to and can afford it. There are some lovely, luxurious options on the market. But spending in the vicinity of £100 on a cleanser – which won’t be on your skin for that long – isn’t a must. If you’re working with a limited budget (which most people are), most skin experts will tell you to invest more of that budget into other areas of your skincare routine, such as targeted serums. 

What I'd recommend instead

I love washing my face and, while I do have some favourites that cost more than this, I know that there are lots of brilliant cleansers on the market that cost less than £30. Below, I've chosen two that I personally like using and I'm confident that most people would get on with at last one of them.

4. Cleansing brushes

In the same way I don’t think you need an expensive cleanser, I really don’t think you need an expensive cleansing brush. They’re a nice idea in theory and I'm sure there are people out there who enjoy using them with no issues. I’ve tried a couple before for work and, for me, they would fall into the 'nice extra' category at best. 

What I'd recommend instead

Your best cleansers and a microfibre cloth (my preference), or a flannel or muslin cloth, will work just fine. Double cleanse if you have been out and about or are wearing make-up, or both. Adding some white vinegar to your wash helps to keep them soft. 

5. DIY peels 

To be clear, the word ‘peel’ is often used in product descriptions. I’m not talking about products from big skincare brands that are designed to be used by consumers at home. I’m talking about buying a professional-strength peel on the internet that hasn’t been recommended by a doctor, aesthetician or facialist (who should always be the ones applying and supervising these). If you are not one of these professionals, don’t try to order yourself a 'proper' peel. You will not do yourself any favours and could seriously damage your skin. 

What I'd recommend instead

Leave the application of professional products to the professionals and stick to a brightening or exfoliating mask that you know your skin will be able to handle. As above, don't be tempted to over-use exfoliants, particularly if you're new to using them—the Kate Somerville treatment below is quite punchy, so do bear that in mind if you have sensitive skin. 

Lucy Abbersteen
Beauty Contributor

Lucy is a freelance beauty editor and contributor at Marie Claire, and has written for titles including Glamour, Refinery29, Popsugar, woman&home and more. She was previously Marie Claire’s junior beauty editor. During her career, she’s covered everything from backstage beauty at fashion week to interviews with famous faces like Drag Race royalty and Little Mix. As for her beauty ethos, she’s a big advocate for not having to spend a fortune on beauty products to get good results, and when she’s not got beauty on the brain you’ll find her reading or hanging out with dogs.