The Affordable Skincare Routine

affordable budget skin care routine

I’m clearing out my beauty room before house renovations begin (don’t even ask why I’m going ahead with building work when I’m having a baby in four-months-and-one-week’s time!) and I keep discovering very interesting little boxes filled with skincare for various budgets. The one that most grabbed my attention was the “affordable skin care” box; bits and pieces that I’ve been putting aside over the last four or five years that have really impressed me despite the prices being extremely reasonable.

Some of the products are actually more recent favourites; I love the Botanics Bi-Phase Eye Makeup Remover, for example, which costs just a couple of quid, and the Vichy Aqualia Serum which is so hydrating and lovely. Some are becoming staples in my normal routine, like the Olay Eye Swirl and the exfoliating acid pads from First Aid Beauty, and some were discovered years ago but are still brilliant – I love the rose cleanser from Superfacialist, for example, and the Lush Ultra Bland cleansing balm.

My basic routine, here, is cleanse (so important, don’t skip this!) followed by serum and then moisturiser. I don’t often use a toner (though more on that soon, because I could be convinced by the right ones) but I do use acid exfoliants a few times a week, just to keep cells turning over and fresh and my skin glowing and plump. You know I’m a massive fan of Alpha-H’s Liquid Gold, but see some slightly cheaper alternatives below. In actual fact, you use so little of the Liquid Gold that it could be a budget buy – it lasts an absolute age – but I knew that people would spot the price and flag it up!

My Routine is Cleanse + Serum + Moisturiser and/or SPF, or, a few times a week, Cleanse + Exfoliant. (Every two to three days, before bed. Whether I use a moisturiser or not depends on the exfoliant – many are just left to do their work, like Liquid Gold or the Olay Elixir below. Just read the label on whichever you have.)

Here we go with the products in my affordable skin care routine. I’m keeping the descriptions really brief, so remember that not everything will suit everybody, what suits my skin might not suit yours, blah blah, test before you buy if your skin is sensitive, don’t spread any of it on toast and eat it.

the affordable skincare routine

1. Cleansers

First to the apply, massage and then remove-with-a-cloth type cleansers; Lush’s UltraBland, £7.25, which I first started using over ten years ago (I think!) and is a great budget-friendly cleanser. Then the Hot Cloth Polish from ASDA, two for £8, and a nice “dupe” for Liz Earle’s Cleanse & Polish if you’re into that but want a cheaper option. Una Brennan’s Rose Cleanser is just so gorgeous and gentle – probably my pick of this bunch, and comes in at £7.99. You can get it at Boots here. For the oil lovers, I do rather like the Camomile one – £10 from The Body Shop; applied to dry skin it’s silky and easy to massage in, then rinses off very easily leaving no residue.

the affordable skincare routine

For those who prefer a “face wash” that just rinses off without need for a washcloth or flannel or Clarisonic or what have you; three nice ones here. Good for your morning splash, but if you’re removing loads of makeup and SPF then I would always go for something that you can massage in and remove with a “tool” of some sort, whether it be a cloth one or a brush one! Sam Farmer’s Face Wash (£8 at Space NK) is non-stripping and fine for all skin types, the daily cleanser from Yes to Tomatoes (£7.99 here) leaves skin feeling very fresh but comfortable, and the JASON C Effects wash (£10.29 here) is good for adding a bit of morning zing!

the affordable skincare routine

For micellar waters (or cleansing waters) and eye makeup removal, I think that the Botanics, as mentioned before, is exceptional. Just a few pounds (£1.99 at the moment here!) and does as good a job as the luxury brand versions. Garnier’s Micellar is a brilliant all-rounder and doesn’t sting the eyes – that’s £3.33 here – and Bioderma’s Hydrobio is great for skin that usually feels too dry and tight after using a water, that’s £10.20 here.

More cleanser reviews…

the affordable skincare routine

2. Serums

I always think that it’s worth spending a little more on a serum – read my serum post here – but I like the three I’ve picked because they are nice and hydrating and straightforward. The Vichy Aqualia is particularly lovely, and my pick of the three – that’s £16.15 here. The Aloe one is quite soothing and calming, that’s £12 here. I did find that the Superfacialist C+ had something of a brightening effect, but I think only because it made my skin generally plumper and livelier. That’s £15.99 at Boots here.

More serum reviews…

the affordable skincare routine

3. Moisturisers

Again, rather than anything too targeted I’ve gone for reasonably straightforward moisturisers. If you want to spend more then read the other reviews here on the site – there’s a link below. My picks with SPF are from No7 (from £12.50 here), because they always seem a good solid choice and I get on well with them, and the Avon ANEW SPF50 that I reviewed last year. Really rich and velvety, it was a total winner and it’s just £15 here.

Non-SPF, I do like the moisturisers from La Roche-Posay. Possibly not for you if you like your natural/organic skincare, but I have been disappointed with so much organic stuff at very low price-points that I’m sticking to well tried-and-tested options for this post! I like Toleriane Ultra (£14.85 here) for calming down angsty, sensitive skin and then the Hydraphase for long-term hydration. There’s a rich and a light version, £14 here.

More moisturiser reviews…

the affordable skincare routine

4. Exfoliants and Wrinkle Stuff

My exfoliant picks are also quite handy on the old wrinkles front – Olay’s Night Elixir is a glycolic acid gel that renews skin as you sleep and leaves it brighter and tighter by morning. I like it a lot, and it’s reduced to £19.99 at the moment here which is something of a boon! The First Aid Beauty Facial Radiance Pads are great too, and work in the same way really – exfoliating the skin overnight. They are £20.50 here. (Another option, as mentioned, is Liquid Gold.) I haven’t been exfoliating so much since I got pregnant, but usually I do every two or three nights, after cleansing, and I don’t follow with anything else.

For extra-super-anti-wrinkle power, I have two retinol options; Redermic from La Roche-Posay (£25 here) and Vichy’s LiftActiv Advanced Filler (£26-ish here). I’ve had my chief guinea pig Rachael @AMR_Rach testing these and she had absolutely phenomenal results, seeing a proper decrease in both fine lines and those deep furrows that develop between your eyebrows. I must get around to doing a full report, but every time I ask Rach she’s on a new tube and applying away.. Apparently they are both brilliant, but the Vichy just about pips the Redermic to the post!

More exfoliant reviews…

the affordable skincare routine

5. Eye Creams

Bloody hell, it’s taking an absolute age to do this post! It’ll be March before I finish it! Eye creams. To be honest, I’ve only included the Boots one on the left because it’s so cheap – it’s quite basic, really. It’s not going to win any prizes for cutting-edge ingredients, but it’s gentle enough and provides a bit of hydration. You’d get the same from a light moisturiser, but if you like the process of applying a separate eye cream (as I do, it makes me feel as though I’m doing things properly) then this one won’t break the bank. It’s £1.74 at Boots. I know.

Olay’s Eye Swirl does have some nice ingredients worth writing home about, and you can read more on it here. I like it a lot, I did a sponsored trial a year ago, testing it pre-launch, and have continued use. (Rare for me to stick to an eye cream when I have so many to try!) It doesn’t look anything swish, but it pushes the right buttons for me in terms of texture and so on – at £19.99 it’s not in the “budget” category, but I think that it outperforms many much dearer creams, so it stays in the mix!

I feel I need to do some more research in the eye category, there must be some excellent examples between the two price points..though the true budget option would be to simply use your facial skincare around the eye area too. Personally I think that a dedicated, well-formulated eye cream is a good thing, but when you dip down to the very low price points, you’re probably going to get the same effects by using your serum and/or moisturiser.

More eye cream reviews…

the affordable skincare routine

6. Facial Oils

Oils are another area (like serums) where you can spend an absolute bomb. Ingredient qualities vary a lot, but there are some very nice oils at reasonable price points. The Dr Organic Rose Otto oil is pleasant enough, nice texture, nice blend of ingredients; £12.99 from Holland & Barrett. I love Aromatherapy Associates, and the same luxury brand make a kind of diffusion line for Sainsbury’s called Aroma Actives. The Omega Rich Face Oil is very lovely and costs £14 – I can never see it in stock online, but it’s well worth checking for when you’re out shopping. Finally, a new one for me, Therapist’s Secret Facial Oil by Sanctuary Spa – this has a lovely slip and doesn’t leave skin so greasy that you can’t apply makeup. At time of writing it’s on offer here for £11.67.

the affordable skincare routine

7. Spot Treatments

Just two here, for the moment. Effaclar Duo+, which I’ve banged on about loads, and an exfoliating solution from Paula’s Choice. I like the Paula’s Choice for spots because it has a nice dose of salicylic acid so not only helps to keep the skin unclogged, also has something of a soothing action. If you have angry, pustule-y skin then it could be the way forward. They have a whole variety of salicylic stuff – BHA gels, this solution, on the spot treatments – have a browse on their website for more info. You can find Effaclar, which also contains a BHA exfoliant, for £13.50 here.

More spot and acne product reviews…

That’s enough for now, I’ve given myself backache and a headache from sitting in one position too long! I’ll try and get through the rest of the stuff in the budget box soon. Ooh – just realised I missed out the Weleda Almond Oil, which is pictured in the top photograph. My Mum gets her almond oil in big vats from the chemist’s, but can’t vouch for its provenance. The Weleda one is nice, just very simple and plain, great if you want something very natural but without essential oils – it’s about £15 but only a tenner on Amazon.

Right, that’s really the end now!


© 2018 A Model Recommends®: all opinions are my own and any sponsored or paid posts will always be clearly marked as an AD in the title. I accept press samples and receive product and services to review as part of my job. *Outbound links are affiliate links, which means that I receive a very small percentage of any sale made. This does not affect my content in any way and does not cost you anything, but you are most welcome to Google the products on a new page if you prefer. Please see here for full "about" section and disclaimer. A Model Recommends and Ruth Crilly are registered trademarks.



  1. January 31, 2015 / 8:16 am

    Some really lovely picks! I wish we could get a hold of Una Brennan here in Australia, it sounds like such a fantastic brand. I’ve just ordered a pack of the FAB pads, can’t wait for them to arrive x

  2. January 31, 2015 / 8:23 am

    Great post Ruth! This makes it easy to build a skincare routine and you can add in extra products depending on what your skin needs. It’s also great for those who are intimidated by thought of going to a skincare counter of one of the big brands, as most of these products are easily available in boots or superdrug (in the UK). :-) xx

  3. Lisa
    January 31, 2015 / 9:19 am

    Hi Ruth, this was so helpful. I’ve never used a serum before…off to Boots I go! x

  4. January 31, 2015 / 9:21 am

    I’m still yet to try Una Brennan, but it sounds so lovely!!

    Josie XOXO

  5. January 31, 2015 / 9:24 am

    Excellent blogpost Ruth! Very thorough and very helpful.


  6. Anna
    January 31, 2015 / 9:40 am

    Great post Ruth, thanks so much – would love to see a drugstore/affordable anti-wrinkle review!

  7. Lucy. Brenton
    January 31, 2015 / 10:15 am

    Really useful post! Thanks x

  8. Lynsey
    January 31, 2015 / 10:15 am

    Great post, but I do worry that you are using certain products of these that contain retinol and salicylic acid which should be avoided during pregnancy! Love the sanctuary oil and I plan to try the Una Brennan products they look lovely! Is the Effaclar duo safe to use in pregnancy ? I stopped using it when I became pregnant. I don’t know what % of salicylic acid is safe to use! X

  9. Denise
    January 31, 2015 / 10:37 am

    you are completely right about Alpha H liquid Gold. I got a 200ml from QVC about a year ago for £37. It’s still going strong, I use alternate evenings, it’s a fabulous product. A great recommendation from you. Qvc always seem to have an offer on that brand.

  10. Judith
    January 31, 2015 / 11:55 am

    Thank you for such an informative post Ruth! I love reading your posts! And I’m always on the look out for a more affordable skincare product as I’m not working at the moment but like to take care of my skin, as we all do. I will certainly check out those products you mentioned. Congratulations on your pregnancy!

  11. January 31, 2015 / 11:56 am

    Hi Ruth! I came across your blog and videos about two years ago, I never did anything to my skin and it was truly awful. I’d like to thank you for your knowledge, consistency and expertise! Through it I now have (dare I say) good skin and a beauty blog. Thanks!

  12. Joana Oliveira e Silva
    January 31, 2015 / 12:07 pm

    Loved this video and post!!! :) thank you for the variety of choices Ruth!

  13. denise
    January 31, 2015 / 2:03 pm

    This is a fantastic post Ruth, I am always looking for affordable options. I will be heading overseas again in a couple of weeks so will be making a list from this and checking out Boots at LHR. Thanks!

  14. Shannon
    January 31, 2015 / 2:18 pm

    Ruth daaaaawling, I AM EAGERLY ANTICIPATING A LITTLE PREGNANCY UPDATE! I would love to hear your story so far, and would love you to do video updates and share with us how your journey goes. It all goes so fast in retrospect, I don’t have a baby of my own so I’m all the more eager to hear how you are getting on. Hope you’re well xxx

    • January 31, 2015 / 8:11 pm

      I know, I keep trying to get around to it and panicking that I’m running out of time! Next week I am devoting myself to making pregnancy content!! x

  15. Kate
    January 31, 2015 / 4:24 pm

    Hi Ruth, love posts like these!

    Would you say that the una brennan serum is hydrating enough to use alone on a combination/oily skin (no moisturiser) in warmer months?

    Have been pondering which Paula’s Choice BHA to try for a while now, and since you’ve said that the Clear one is also a bit soothing I think that’s the one I’ll go for.

    Hurray for skincare posts! xx

    • January 31, 2015 / 8:10 pm

      All of the BHA products should be, really, as it’s the salicylic that has the calming effect, as well as exfoliating. I don’t mean to say that it feels cooling or what have you, on application – it’s not like applying aloe gel or anything like that! – but for angry skin, it can be really good. Certainly worked on me when my skin was bad a couple of years ago. xx

  16. Natasha
    January 31, 2015 / 5:18 pm

    Love this post! Thanks for taking the time. A lot info and good points. Also reminds me to take the time to take care of my skin.

  17. January 31, 2015 / 6:18 pm

    I love the Botanics eye makeup remover, I’ve been using it for a while now and still haven’t found anything that beats it especially for the price!

    Caz | thisiscaz x

  18. Char
    January 31, 2015 / 6:50 pm

    I’d love to try Aroma Actives but I’ve been to 3 or 4 sainsbury’s already and never seen them (not particularly small ones!). I’m disappointed – where do they stock them? Do they still do the range?

    • January 31, 2015 / 8:08 pm

      Oooh, have found a lot of it online! Sorry, was wrong, thought you couldn’t get it online. No oil, unfortunately – I’ll try and find out. xx

  19. Silviya
    January 31, 2015 / 7:30 pm

    Hi Ruth! I was wondering what exfoliant you would recommend for young skin.Would the Olay Regenerist be ok to use?
    I’m 20 now and have normal/combo skin with the occasional spot here and there.
    Thank you for this post!

    • January 31, 2015 / 8:06 pm

      Have a go with the First Aid pads, they are really nice and gentle. You don’t need to go overkill on young skin! xx

  20. January 31, 2015 / 8:00 pm

    Nice suggestions! I wish we could get some of those here in the US.

    • January 31, 2015 / 8:05 pm

      Most of them can be delivered, I don’t think at much extra cost. You get Vichy, Bioderma, LRP, Olay? Let me know which ones you can’t get!! xx

  21. Lucy
    January 31, 2015 / 8:31 pm

    I have oily skin with dry patches and have tried a few oils, but nothing seem to be standing out for me yet, anything you’d recommend for oily skin to try reduce the oil/daily shine?! Thank you!

    • January 31, 2015 / 8:59 pm

      Melvita do quite a nice balancing oil, actually! People swear by the Clarins one for combination, but I actually liked the Melvita better… xx

  22. Verity
    January 31, 2015 / 9:33 pm

    Thanks Ruth, that was so helpful. It’s good to know what’s worth looking at in the budget side. Will be in Boots tomorrow having a good browse and buy xx

  23. January 31, 2015 / 9:35 pm

    I loved this post and have been wanting to buy some budget skin care for a while but never know what to get because I’m nervous to spend money (even if it is a little) on something that doesn’t work. This really helps!!

  24. Alisa
    January 31, 2015 / 10:02 pm

    Hi Ruth,
    What is the Almond Oil used for? If I have acne prone skin, is it safe for someone like me? ( I’m assuming it’s used as a type of moisturizer) Thanks.

  25. lisa
    February 1, 2015 / 1:09 am

    Hey Ruth, wonderful post! Which affordable serum or oil would you recommend for dry, sensitive skin to even out the skin tone? Thank you!!

  26. vikki
    February 1, 2015 / 12:17 pm

    I proper giggled when you giggled @ 3.52 on the video

  27. Roshni
    February 2, 2015 / 10:31 am

    Hi Ruth!! This is a wonderful post and so helpful. After reading one of your previous posts, i went ahead and and got the AHA liquid gold and just started using it on alternative days. I have Olay’s Night Elixir lying around somewhere because i didn’t like the feeling of going to bed all sticky on my face. However, i was wondering if i should give it a second chance and use it on the days im not using liquid Gold? Will it be too much exfoliation for the skin? Im 28 years old with acne prone skin. Thanks!!

  28. seyhan
    February 2, 2015 / 3:36 pm

    Wonderful post, thank you I started using the La Roche Posay Effaclar range (the gel cleanser and duo plus) in last december after reading your top 10 list and I can’t thank you enough. They have done wonders for my acne prone oily skin. My t-zone is oily no more. No clogged pores, no comedones, no red spots. I have found the product of my life thanks to you. I’ll be checking out their Pigmentclar and Redermic ranges as well. La Roche Posay has wonderful products, very affordable too.

  29. Christina
    February 3, 2015 / 3:27 pm

    Just realised we’re probably due around the same time… 19weeks I’m at but boy am I big! Thanks for the post I think I want to try the Vichy Serum as I’m running out of serums! I’ve now use exfolliating liquids every couple of days but have you tried the Ren Clarimatte? Is it gently enough to use daily?

    • February 3, 2015 / 6:24 pm

      Ooh congrats!!! Haven’t tried the REN.. x

    • February 7, 2015 / 8:01 pm

      Hey, just thought I’d say I use the REN exfoliating toner and use it morning and evening its brilliant gentle but makes your skin clear and glowly x

  30. February 4, 2015 / 1:10 pm

    Ooh much to ponder! Those First Aid pads intrigue me. I have been eeking out a sample of the Redermic and I do like it a lot, think I will bite the bullet and buy the full size. The Sanctuary face oil sounds nice too, my skin is simultaneously parched and spotty at the moment though ugh! So many great suggestions to choose from, thanks Ruth!

  31. Lisa Stephen
    February 5, 2015 / 3:17 pm

    I am getting married in September and I am looking for a new beauty regime to get my skin glowing, what would you recommend? I have oily/combination skin x

  32. vindu
    February 8, 2015 / 6:58 am

    Oh Ruth ! First congrats for your baby. I am 32 weeks pregnant too & also big fan of you. I learn a lot from your video s. I wish I can have some brands in here Melbourne. Love to try out vichy . But it’s very hard & really expensive where I can reach with one website .for moisturizer only $ 72 . Is this the price in UK also?
    Anyway thanks for sharing your knowledge.
    much Love.

  33. January 10, 2016 / 1:17 pm

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  40. Nahrin
    May 24, 2016 / 11:30 am

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  42. May 29, 2016 / 12:41 am

    Any thought how to improve likes on my photos with the followers I already have?

  43. June 1, 2016 / 1:09 pm

    This skin care routine is really awesome. Keeping your skin revitalized every morning is a must. Thanks for sharing this to us. A very helpful and informative post.

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  45. September 23, 2016 / 2:01 am

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