I thought now would be a good time to share a post about budget skincare. I know a lot of people, including myself, are being extra careful with spending right now, so I compiled a list of popular budget/drugstore products that get a lot of good reviews. I also included some of my personal favorites and reviewed them, in case you might be interested in reading more about how they worked for me if you have similar skin type (my skin is combination, sensitive, acne-prone).
I decided to set the budget for each product under $20 and there are many that are well under that. However, I will say that a couple of the products are over $20, but I included them anyway because I think they have a lot of product in the tube/jar and will last you quite a long time, so you will get your money’s worth (in my opinion).
I know that what I consider a budget skincare product may not be what you consider a budget product, but hopefully you can find some things in this list that work for you. I think the hardest product for me to find under $20 was a good sunscreen. I will be doing a whole post about sunscreen soon, but feel free to drop any budget friendly sunscreen suggestions in the comments, along with any other products I might have missed.
Criteria for a product:
My criteria when buying any skincare product, price aside, is that it is a well-formulated product. There are a lot of cheaper products that are nearly the same formula as a more expensive product, and a lot of the time end up being superior. I also like to look for products that are fragrance free, which is just my preference. I talked more in depth about skin care ingredients and formulation in this post.
What products are worth the splurge:
I think this is really up to personal preference. I actually think there are really great, basic cleansers and moisturizers out there, which I mention down below. For me, I like to spend a bit more on treatment products, like serums, as well as sunscreens (although there are some great budget acne treatment products that I like). But again, it just comes down to which product has the best formula and whichever one works best for your skin.
Budget Skincare Brands (and/or brands that carry some budget priced products):
Popular Budget Products (most I haven’t personally tried, but get a lot of hype)
Simple Micellar Cleansing Water 6.7oz for $4.99
The Body Shop Chamomile Sumptuous Cleanser 2.7oz for $16
Simple Kind To Skin Moisturizing Facial Wash 5oz for $4.89
Simple Water Boost Micellar Facial Gel Wash 5oz for $8.69
COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser 5.07oz for $14 (currently on sale for $12! Not sure when the sale ends)
Cerave Hydrating Facial Cleanser 16oz for $14.99
La Roche Posay Hydrating Gentle Cleanser 13.52oz for $14.99: My mom uses this and really likes it!
The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution 8oz for $8.70
The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution 1oz for $7.20
Krave Beauty Kale-lalu-yAHA 6.76oz for $25 (over the $20 budget, but I absolutely love the Krave Beauty brand! Plus, an exfoliating product is not something you really need to use everyday, so it will last a while)
Naturium Vitamin C Complex Serum 22% 1oz for $20
The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Hyperpigmentation Serum 1oz for $14.99 (Shout out to James Welsh for the inkey list recommendations!)
The Inkey List 15% Vitamin C and EGF Brightening Serum 1oz for $14.99
The Inkey List Niacinamide Oil Control Serum 1oz for $6.99
COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner 5.07oz for $19 (currently on sale for $17)
Neutrogena Unscented Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Gel 1.7oz for $16.49
The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA 3.3oz for $7.70
CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion 3oz for $12.39
The Inkey List Ceramide Hydrating Night Treatment 1oz for $14.99
Naturium Plant Squalane Face Oil 1oz for $16 (I love squalane oil and in my experience, I only need 2 or 3 drops for my whole face and neck)
Versed Skin Rich Moisture Cream 1.5oz for $17.99
Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Cream 2.5oz for $18.99
La Roche Posay Toleriane Double Repair Moisture 2.5oz for $19.99
PURITO Centella Green Level Unscented Sun 2.02oz for $12.76 on sale as of when I am writing this on may 14th (usually $31.90)
COSRX Aloe Soothing Sun Cream 1.69oz for $16
Sun Bum Mineral Sunscreen Face Tint 1.7oz for $17.99
Inkey List Caffeine Eye Cream 0.5oz for $5.99
Aquaphor Immediate Relief Lip Repair Balm .35oz for $3.99
Kopari Coconut Lip Glossy 0.35oz for $13
Skin Healing Balms/Ointments:
Aquaphor Healing Ointment 1.75oz for $4.59
La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 Multi Purpose Cream 1.35oz for $14.99
A+D Diaper Rash Ointment 4oz for $4.59
Vaseline Petroleum Jelly Tube 2.89oz for $3.99 ( I like to use this as lip balm!)
CeraVe Moisturizing Cream 16oz for $14.49
My Favorite Budget Products:
DHC Deep Cleansing Oil 6.7oz for $28:
This is one of those products that is over the 20 dollar mark, but I have purchased the travel size of this product (2.3oz for $14) twice now and it lasts me well over a month. It does a great job at removing makeup and sunscreen and leaves my skin feeling clean and refreshed before going in with my second cleanser. I also think it smells really nice because of the rosemary leaf oil.
Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Hydrating Cleanser Creamy Formula 12oz for $8.29:
I used this cleanser when my skin was reacting badly to everything. It was actually the first second cleanser I was able to use without any irritation and really helped me build a basic skincare routine after damaging my skin barrier. It is a good no frills kind of cleanser.
Pixi By Petra Glow Tonic 3.4oz for $15:
I love this product! I don’t use it regularly anymore because I have been trying out some new active ingredients and I don’t like using too many actives at once (as in at the same time/same routine), but there was a time I was able to use this everyday for several months and it really helped my skin texture and tone. Just a note: I wouldn’t recommend anyone start using any active on a daily basis unless/if your skin gets used to it and can tolerate it.
Differin Gel (acne treatment) $12.99:
I bought this when it first became available over the counter. It worked decently for me, but my “purging” period got quite bad so it wasn’t something I ended up using long term. It did really help my overall skin texture though, as well as even out my skin tone. I do know that so many people have had great results with this in treating acne and uneven skin texture and it’s such a bonus that you don’t need a prescription to buy it. I could write a whole post just about retinol and retinoids so I will put a link here to a Dr Dray video talking more in depth about Differin, if you are interested in learning more.
ZAPZYT Acne Treatment Gel 1oz for $4.49:
I use this as a spot treat and it works well for me! My skin seems to tolerate benzoyl peroxide really well, but I know it has a tendency to cause skin dryness or flakiness, so keep that in mind if you are looking into a benzoyl peroxide treatment.
Differin Daily Deep Cleanser With Benzoyl Peroxide 4oz for $10.49:
I know this says it’s a face wash, but I actually like to use this on my body. I do use it as a face wash as well, but only occasionally. It has some hydrating ingredients in it so I don’t notice that it dries my skin out, especially compared to the leave on gel. I also think a rinse off product is a good way to go if you find that your skin is easily irritated by leave on acne treatments.
Neutrogena Sheer Zinc Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 3oz for $10.99:
To be honest, I do notice some white cast with this product, but I am quite pale so I don’t mind it. I also like this because it doesn’t irritate my skin. It’s definitely not my favorite sunscreen, but a good drugstore option for sure!
Krave Beauty Beet Shield 1.6oz for $20:
This is the first Korean sunscreen that I have tried and I love it! It is not a mineral sunscreen so it has no white cast at all, and it does not irritate my skin like more typical chemical sunscreen ingredients do. It also doesn’t leave any residue on my skin so it is easy to reapply throughout the day.
Rosebud Salve in a Tube 0.5oz for $7:
I have tried this and did really like it. However, it is quite heavily fragranced and rose scented, so if fragrance bothers you or you dislike the smell of rose, I would skip this one. My favorite lip balm is plain vaseline.
Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion (body) 18oz for $8.79:
I love this body lotion! It sinks in really quickly, so I can use this at night and not feel greasy at all when I get into bed. It is just a good no frills body lotion that has worked well for me.
Shikai Borage Therapy Original Formula Lotion 16oz for $19.99:
This is a good body lotion and hand cream. When I use it I notice an immediate skin softening effect. I have also used the hand cream and like it, but I do think it’s a slightly better value to buy the bigger bottle, even if you are just using it for your hands.
Aveeno Cracked Skin Relief Moisturizing Cica Balm with Oat (body) 11oz for $12.99:
This product was a total game changer for me! I actually discovered this product through my fellow Tulhoma writer, Taryn, while I was staying at her house for a few nights (last year). My hands were extremely cracked and dry from over washing and traveling. I was getting rashes on my hands anytime I would use even my regular hand cream because my skin barrier was so overly dried and depleted. It was actually feeling quite painful and I was feeling a bit embarrassed about it. When I first put this on, I experienced no rash or irritation which was a good sign. Then, within a few days my hands were almost healed! I immediately bought some for myself on my way home. It’s a very occlusive product so I don’t like using it all over my body, unless my skin is feeling particularly dry/flaky, otherwise it feels too greasy. Also, a little goes a long way so I think this product will last a very long time.
Other tips to save money:
- Try before you buy: I think if you are wanting to splurge on a product, it is always a good idea to try a sample or travel size, if you can, before you commit to the full size. I know some stores have good return policies, but there have been so many times I bought a product I didn’t like and procrastinated on returning it, then it just ends up being unused. If you are unsure if the brand offers samples, just send them an email and ask. Sometimes they say no, and that’s totally fine, but there have also been a lot of brands I emailed that have actually sent samples, even if it wasn’t on their actual website. However, some brands do offer samples on their websites. For example, Paula’s Choice has many of their products in travel and/or sample sizes.
- No waste skincare: If you are looking to cut some of your spending, it might be a good idea to take inventory of what you already have and start using up some products before buying new ones. I talked about doing this in my No Waste Skincare post a few weeks ago.
- If you are looking for someone to follow that recommends a lot of budget skincare, I really trust Dr Dray. Plus, she’s an actual dermatologist!
If there are any products or tips I missed, feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments!