Starting a skincare regimen can seem overwhelming and expensive. For years it always seemed like pricey department store counter products had the best ingredients, but that is totally not true. In my experience, oddly the most important aspect of skin products are the active ingredients. Everything I have bought in the more expensive category tends to be full of fragrance and oils that have no positive effects on my skin more often than not. I have found some awesome products that are not overpriced and actually work on my acne prone oily skin.
Acids are my most valuable skin care product by far when it comes to getting rid of breakouts and making my skin look GOOD. AHA & BHA acids soften up gunk in pores to make it easier for the nasty stuff to leave my pores. Before I started using acids, I had awful texture all over my skin and never understood how other people had such a smooth canvas for their makeup. Nip + Fab Glycolic wipes ($15) and Stridex ($14 for 3 boxes) changed my skin and unclogged my huge pores. I also use Jack Black Glycolic acid wash + volcanic ash mask. At $20, this may not seem like an affordable option, but the bottle is fairly large and it doubles as a great mask. Having it be a cleanser + mask in one product makes it ultra easy to get a mask done instead of having to pull out another product. When you go to wash it off after the mask dries, it lathers up and washes your face nicely without feeling too tight or drying. Along the lines of chemical exfoliation, Mad Hippie exfoliating serum ($29) is a gentle AHA great for everyday use. Admittedly it may not belong in the most “affordable” category, but I like the natural ingredients the company uses and the availability on Amazon so I had to throw it in here.
I’m not sure which category retinol should go in, but using RoC night cream ($13) has visibly improved my skin. Retinol is an ultra strong dose of Vitamin A that promotes cell turnover from what I understand. You only need a tiny amount, so this tube lasts forever. It feels like a soft moisturizer, which feels very nice to apply before bed.
Toners are one of the most enjoyable parts of my skincare routine. Allafia Coconut Water Toner ($15) is great as a refresher to spray directly onto my face, or I spritz a cotton pad and run it all over my face to remove any product residue and hydrate it in one step. Micellar water can also be used to remove residue on a cotton pad, with the extra benefit of actually removing makeup. I am not a makeup remover girl, but definitely a micellar water fan. I use the Garnier brand ($6) but just noticed they came out with a mattifying version! Using any kind of pad on your face will amaze you at what still comes off when you think your face is already clean. Especially around the hairline, the nooks and crannies of my nose, and around my jawline, it is hard to actually wash those areas so getting off any residue with a cotton round is extremely helpful.
When you are using acids meant to soften dead skin and regenerate fresh skin cells, exfoliating is critical to reveal the fresh new layer of skin. For so long I wanted to buy Exfolikate by Kate Sommerville, but it’s so expensive! I found a dupe that has better ingredients and is very inexpensive. Acure Brightening Facial Scrub ($8) has micro sized lemon peel granules and walnut shell flour that feel nice and scrubby on my face, but not gritty or damaging to the delicate skin there. Bonus that it is a dark seaweed green color because of the chlorophyll ingredient. Another physical exfoliation method is shaving. I love using face razors ($5) to clear the dead skin and hair from my cheeks, chin, and jawline. You can literally see the greyish dead skin pile up as you go. Getting rid of the peach fuzz is something I do before a night out or other event if I want my skin to feel ultra smooth under my foundation.
I have two more products that I don’t have enough words for to give them paragraphs for their own categories. The first is the most intense clay mask I have ever used- the Aztec Secret Pore Mask ($10). Lots of people rave about this mask that literally will last your entire life. Another wildly popular item is the best moisturizer on earth- Egyptian Magic ($25 for a tub that will last forever ). Once you warm up this wax in the palm of your hands it turns into an oil that is quickly absorbed by your skin. It’s an everyday moisturizing product for me. I use it under makeup and at night. I like to dot it on healing acne to prevent scarring.
I think that covers just about everything that I get the best bang for my buck when it comes to skincare. The Ordinary is another great brand for cost effective skin products, but I left them off this list because I use their serums for anti aging and hydration rather than acne fighting. For more information on how I incorporate these and other products into my skincare routine, check out my more in-depth post.