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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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! Boots.com
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.
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.
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.
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!