There’s a lot of voices out there telling us that if we want perfect skin, we’ve got to be willing to shell out. For a long time, I believed this. I went from being a french pharmacy skincare fanatic, to a luxury product queen, to all-natural, and then… a bit of everything. I’ve tried a lot of products in that time, and after much trial and error, I think I’m finally ready to offer some decent, non bank-breaking advice.
I’m writing this post because there’s a fair few students and new grads who follow me, and they’re always asking for skincare recommendations that won’t send them into their overdraft. I know firsthand how tough it is to make that transition to cruelty-free beauty products on a budget – and not only that, but also while switching from horrendous acne to sensitivity and dryness. I’ve tried to compile a list that can cater to the skin issues you are having, enabling you to pick and choose what you need – especially important when you don’t have a lot to fork out on skincare. All of these products should be suitable for sensitive skin, so from there you can cater to your specific skin type.
Should you always buy budget? I believe that there are certain products that are effective while also being more affordable, but some are worth spending more on when you are able to. I tend to go for more affordable cleansers and moisturisers – moisturiser is just creating a barrier for your skin as opposed to adding hydration or treatment, so a simple, non-fragranced one can work fine. As cleanser does not stay on your face for long, I think that so long as it removes dirt and residue, you’re good to go no matter what the price. However, I would always recommend spending more on treatments, serums and toners – they can make a lot of difference to your skin, especially as you’re usually leaving them on for over 10 hours at a time!
Let me be the first to say that you do not need a ten-step routine to take care of your skin. I would recommend having a cleanser, an exfoliator, a moisturiser with SPF, and a night cream, and then adding what you think will be beneficial from there. For example, add a makeup remover/balm cleanser if you wear makeup. You don’t need every product in this list, but hopefully you can find the ones that fit best with your routine. Hopefully that will be manageable and affordable for most people!
With all that said, here are my recommendations for each step of your routine. I have also made a video on this subject, which you can find here. I hope it helps you create a routine that works for you!
BALM CLEANSER – The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Butter. This cleanser delicately removes makeup and pollution while moisturising the skin, leaving it feeling moisturised and smooth. Be ready to go in for a second cleanse if you want a more thorough clean with less residual product.
CLEANSER – ELF Bounce Back Jelly Cleanser. I would be recommending the CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser if I hadn’t recently discovered they are no longer cruelty-free 😩 I love a milky jelly face wash to remove dirt and daily residue without stripping the skin – the Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser being my ride or die. I’ve heard that this ELF cleanser is very similar to both the Glossier and CeraVe ones, however it’s much more affordable and with a nice coconut scent too. Consider me sold.
EYE MAKEUP REMOVER – The Body Shop Camomile Eye Makeup Remover. Sometimes, you’ve got such stubborn eye makeup that you just need to get a cotton pad covered in product up in there. Slippy but tough, this stuff will shift even the most stubborn panda eyes.
MICELLAR WATER – Botanics 3-in-1 Micellar Cleansing Solution. If you don’t wear heavy makeup and want an efficient way to cleanse your face, micellar water is for you. French women swear by it which says a lot as their skin is always amazing. Pop some micellar water on a reusable cotton pad and swipe it over your face in the morning to give it a clean. This one is alcohol and fragrance free, which should mean no irritation too.
TONER – Boots Traditional Glycerin and Rosewater. It has taken me a lot of research to find an appropriate toner – I love one that contains rosewater, as it’s nice and soothing – however many on the high street are full of perfume and other irritants. This Boots toner is the simplest one I found. Pop it on a reusable cotton pad and swipe over your face after cleansing for some instant hydration.
CHEMICAL EXFOLIATOR – The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution. This is an AHA-based toner that offers mild exfoliation for clearer skin, better cell renewal and reduced pigmentation. Apply it once a day (or every other day) in the evenings. The Ordinary offer a lot of the best skincare at high street prices – this is the first of many of their treatment products I’ll recommend in this post!
PHYSICAL EXFOLIATOR – LUSH Angels On Bare Skin. I would argue that a chemical exfoliator is much more effective than a physical exfoliator, however I know some people like to rub something across their face so this is the kindest one I could think of. Angels On Bare Skin is one of LUSH’s best skincare products; it’s gentle, smells lovely and looks good in your shower.
FOR ACNE: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10%, Zinc 1%. I swear by this stuff for managing spots and soreness. Put it on all affected areas after cleansing and toning your skin. You won’t regret it.
FOR HYDRATION: The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid. Hyaluronic Acid retains over 1,000 times it’s own weight in water, and if that’s not a good enough reason to spread it across your face every morning then I don’t know what to tell you.
OIL – The Ordinary Rose Hip Seed Oil. An all-rounder that looks after your face and adds hydration. Can be used by acne prone skin – in fact, it can benefit people with all skin types. Use an oil before or after your moisturiser for extra nourishment.
DAY CREAM – The Body Shop Aloe Soothing Moisture Lotion SPF 15. This moisturiser is such a banger – the whole Aloe range at The Body Shop is formulated without irritants so it’s great for all skin types. SPF is the best thing you can do for your skin when it comes to anti-ageing, so get that day cream on your face! Just remember to wash your skin in the evening as SPF can clog your pores and give you spots if left on overnight.
NIGHT CREAM – The Body Shop Aloe Soothing Night Cream. In a shock turn of events, here is another Aloe product for you. Again, the range is formulated without irritants so it’s good for all skin types, and the aloe in the cream will give you a good bit of nourishment and should aid the overnight repairing of your skin. These moisturisers and SPF are the most expensive products I will recommend but it’s because the ingredients are worth the price.
FACE MASK – The Body Shop Aloe Calm Hydration Sheet Mask. I’ve already harped on about the Aloe range enough, so check back to the moisturisers to hear more about why I love it. I use these sheet masks every week to boost hydration and they make my skin feel great. The sheets are biodegradable so are slightly better for the planet too!
SPF – The Body Shop Multi-Protection Face Mist SPF 30 PA++. A perfect potion to spritz all over your face after you’ve moisturised. Protects you from the sun, the screens, and your thoughts and feelings.
And… I think that’s all the products. I hope this post helps you find the best cruelty-free skincare for your budget, and helps you build a routine that won’t break the bank!