5 Big-Box Stores That Sell the Best Quality Skincare Products
Retail experts and dermatologists share their top places to shop.
You might think you have to spend hundreds of dollars on eye creams, moisturizers, and serums, but the truth is that some of the best quality skincare products are affordable and can be found at your favorite big-box store.
"I recommend nationally and internationally known brands," says Fayne L. Frey, MD, FAAD, consumer advocate, dermatologist, and author of The Skincare Hoax. "In my opinion, and through my testing, I have decided that these companies have the best resources to make effective products for the best price point." She adds that larger brands usually hire chemists and environmentalists and put their products through testing (which is not required by the FDA).
With that in mind, we spoke to fellow dermatologists and retail experts about where you can easily find some of the best quality skincare products. Read on to learn where they recommend you shop.
READ THIS NEXT: 7 Clothing Chains That Sell the Best Quality Denim.
You're probably assuming that Walmart made this list because of the big-box store's low prices. And while this is true, Jeanel Alvarado, retail expert at RETAILBOSS, actually recommends shopping here for the latest, trend-driven skincare products.
"COSRX is a newer skincare brand that went viral on TikTok because of its 'slimy' texture and appearance, due to the gel moisturizer containing Snail Secretion Filtrate," shares Alvarado. "Although most of the buzz has been around what the product looks like, they have received rave reviews from customers, with the product selling out in minutes."
The Ordinary is another popular brand you can buy at Walmart. "They are the most affordable on the market, with hundreds of thousands of five-star reviews," Alvarado says. "Hyaluronic Acid is one of their most popular serums, as it is safe to use for any skin type and adds a boost of hydration after washing your face."
Other skincare brands Alvarado suggests picking up at Walmart are St.Tropez, "one of the best self-tanning brands on the market [and] the go-to for many influencers and celebrities," Bioderma Sensibio H2O, "the go-to micellar water on the market," and Avene Thermal Spray and Soap, which she says are "top quality for people with highly emotional or sensitive skin."
Target received the most votes from the experts we consulted. Erum Ilyas, board-certified dermatologist and founder of AmberNoon, says she recommends this store to her patients because they have all the standard brands that doctors typically recommend, and they're sold at reasonable prices. These include CeraVe, Oil of Olay, La Roche Posay, Neutrogena, Aveeno, Cetaphil, and Eucerin.
"I like Target for skincare products as they tend to focus on the major brand names without confusing consumers with numerous celebrity-driven lines that are hard to navigate," Ilyas adds.
Alvarado points out that Target carries the Black Girl Sunscreen line. "[It's] a vegan skincare brand that's formulation is made specifically for darker-tone skin, without making the skin look chalky and helping to prevent sun damage, premature aging, fine lines, hyperpigmentation, and dark spots," she explains.
In 2021, Target announced a partnership with Ulta Beauty, bringing mini versions of the store into Targets across the country. Though the prices won't be cheaper than shopping at a regular Ulta, you can save five percent on items purchased with a RedCard, Target's debit card, explains Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com.
Another way to save on skincare at Target is by signing up for the Target Circle app, where you can find rotating promotions and earn points that get you dollar-amount discounts when you shop.
READ THIS NEXT: 7 Home Stores That Sell the Best Quality Couches.
Though you won't get a huge selection of skincare products at Costco, if you're savvy, you can find top brands like Tatcha, La Mer, SK-II, Shiseido, and Kiehl's at great prices, says Ramhold.
"The great thing about shopping for these items at Costco is that you're purchasing in bulk or at a wholesale cost compared to shopping at stores devoted to beauty products," explains Ramhold. "Because of that, you typically get a much better price than what you'll find elsewhere, and since Costco also has a generous return policy, it makes it easier to try something more expensive knowing you can return it if it doesn't work out for you."
As Ilyas points out, though, one thing to consider with Costco is the size and quantity of what you might be buying. "I worry about patients that purchase huge value sizes of containers only to find themselves still using the same moisturizer two years later without realizing there may be bacterial overgrowth in the product."
For more shopping advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
If you're hoping to save money on high-end skincare brands like Lancome, Estée Lauder, Clinique, and Clarins, Macy's might be your best bet, according to consumer savings and smart shopping expert Andrea Woroch.
"You can often find many deals such as 'free gift with purchase,' bundle set savings, and seasonal sales events," shares Woroch. "Sign up for the free Macy's Star Rewards loyalty program to earn rewards back for each purchase (one point for every $1 spent plus bonus reward earning opportunities), a free birthday surprise, and free shipping on orders of $25 or more. For example, you can earn 1,000 points for every $40 purchase of Clarins products."
If you think you'll be a repeat customer, you can save even more by opening a Macy's credit card. "You will get 20 percent off your first purchase and other perks beyond what the free loyalty program offers such as special savings events for cardholders and two points for every $1 spent."
Yes, Sephora might be an obvious choice for this list, but as Woroch points out, many of the ways to save at the beauty store (on popular brands like Lancome, Olehenriksen, Kiehl's, and Josie Maran) are not so obvious.
The best-known tip is to sign up for the free Beauty Insider loyalty program, where you'll earn one point for every $1 spent, "which you can redeem towards deluxe-sized samples of popular beauty products, a free birthday gift, and access to seasonal savings events that offer an additional 10 percent off," explains Woroch.
She also suggests checking out Sephora's value sets, "where you can get a bundle of skincare products for less than what each cost separately," and looking at the website's Rewards Bazaar page "for new limited rewards every Tuesday and Thursday at 9 am PT."
And, if you shop in-store, you can sample products and "get a free consult from a beauty expert who can make recommendations on products based on your skin type and goals," Woroch adds.