Is it possible to use an effective moisturizer without spending too much money?

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A small, silver spatula rests on a velvet tray next to a diminutive pot of thick, silky face cream. At $475 an ounce, the cream, which promises to replenish moisture and rebuild elasticity, is applied sparingly using the spatula. For some women hoping to achieve supple skin and defy age, they willingly pay hundreds of dollars per ounce for serums and creams, each of which has exotic and basic ingredients that promise youthful-looking skin.

Among the most expensive moisturizers available at the cosmetic counters in high-end stores is a serum containing a growth factor that claims to plump trouble areas like frown lines and crow's feet for $600 an ounce. A lower priced option, at $100 an ounce, is made with the powder of crushed South Sea pearls, and 53 other ingredients from around the world. [source: Gisquet].

When it comes to buying moisturizers at warehouse stores known for big sizes and low costs, shoppers will find a range of prices from $18.49 for a 20-ounce tub to $279.99 for a 1.7-ounce pot.

Moisturizers are a necessity for anyone with dry skin, as they hold moisture in the outermost layer of skin and prevent it from drying out. An effective product increases water content, reduces water loss and restores the skin's ability to retain moisture. While some moisturizers protect sensitive skin and improve tone and texture, moisturizing does not eliminate wrinkles.

Moisturizers are considered a cosmetic, and although they're regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), testing is not as rigorous as with prescription medication. Hence, many manufacturers' claims of effectiveness tend to be unsubstantiated.

What's the price of beauty? Is the answer dependent upon where you buy or what you buy? Moisturizing products are as varied as the people who use them. But does more expensive mean more effective?