This is the last in a four-part “Beauty Saving” series. We’ve discussed how to save on beauty products, makeup and salon services. This week, we discuss pricey procedures such as microdermabrasions and chemical peels, as well as the budget-friendly options that doctors recommend.


Skin-care procedures — such as chemical peels or intense facials — are notoriously expensive, and with so many options, it’s difficult to know what you should spend on.

“Every adult over age 18 should go in to the doctor for an annual [skin cancer prevention] checkup — they’ll help you get in a good skin-care routine,” said Elizabeth Hale, a doctor and clinical professor of dermatology at New York University. “As far as exfoliation and facials, money can always be saved by using products at home.”

Medical procedures are costly, but there are ways to avoid what you don’t need and invest in products that will save money over decades. This week, the doctors weigh in on when to save and when to splurge.

Healthy habits

Invest in the basics

The easiest way to save money on procedures is to develop a skin-care routine at home. Two weeks ago, we discussed the products to have at home: sunscreen, cleanser, moisturizer, etc. Doctors agree that professionals can’t help much if you’re ignoring your skin on a daily basis. “Using sunscreen prevents premature aging, and about 90 percent of skin cancer and premature aging is caused by overexposure to the sun,” Hale said. Before you run to get wrinkles removed, make sure you’re trying to prevent them with healthy habits.

Start young, avoid the doctor

Most cosmetic procedures are purchased to reverse the effects of aging. Doctors agree that starting a skin-care routine early is the best way to avoid those signs. “The goal is to start in your late 20s or early 30s, when you see the first sign of aging,” said Neil Sadick, a doctor and the author of “The New Natural: Your Ultimate Guide to Cutting-Edge Age Reversal.” “That means finding an excellent sunscreen and products that contain retinol.”

Office or home?

Do it yourself

Natural treatments for home use are becoming popular, and doctors know the science of finding beauty on a budget. Sadick recommends using olive oil to alleviate dry skin. Hale tells her patients that lemon juice is a great addition to a beauty routine: “Lemons naturally lighten dark spots or reduce hyperpigmentation; they also have the highest concentration of vitamin C.” As we said previously in this series, Aquaphor and Vaseline are great, less expensive moisturizers, too.

Fire the laser

Laser procedures at a dermatologist’s office treat a variety of skin issues, including aging and acne. Now, similar hand-held lasers are sold in stores, but they’re not a true alternative. “They can act as compliment to procedures, but alone they won’t do the job,” Hale warns. It would be too risky to sell powerful lasers in stores, so if you’re buying one to avoid a treatment, think again.

Exfoliating brushes

You need to exfoliate, but do you need that designer miracle exfoliating brush sold in high-end stores? “That’s a good place to save. Exfoliating brushes are just about the mechanical motion,” Hale said. Sadick agrees: “There haven’t been any comparative studies, and anything is better than nothing. . . . Buy the one you can afford.” Prices range from $10 to $200, with Neutrogena’s Microderm System Kit selling for about $14 in drugstores.

Visit a pro

Forgo the Groupon

Many dermatologists advertise on Groupon and similar sites to gain exposure. Should you skimp on procedure? “We’ve seen some big problems,” Hale said. “It’s a way for people to build practice, but we’ve seen burns from lasers and a lot of complications. Save and invest in a reputable doctor. Some might be using the site to make fast money.”

Treatments to avoid

Fat-melting and cellulite devices that claim to be miracle products rarely yield desired results. “Cellulite is hard to treat,” Hale said, “and while these devices might have temporary or modest results, they’re not for people trying to lose weight.” She recommends skipping these treatments. Likewise, creams that claim to dissolve cellulite offer limited, if any, visible results.

Teeth whitening

Dentists and dermatologists get similar questions, and the same tips apply. Before you invest in whitening strips or a whitening procedure, get a regular checkup. According to a 2012 Consumer Reports study, 43 percent of people who delay dental care do so because of cost. Like dermatology appointments, regular checkups are highly recommended and can be pricey, but it’s the best time to ask about cosmetic procedures.

THE BOTTOM LINE:Visiting a dermatologist for cosmetic procedures is expensive and often unnecessary. But if you choose to invest in a cosmetic procedure, don’t skimp. Use Groupons for restaurants, not your health.