I’m a Dermal Therapist and This Is How I'd Build a Skincare Routine for Less Than $100

budget skin carebudget skin care

I get messages from people every single day asking for budget-friendly skincare recommendations.

Got an affordable substitute for this exxy product? Is this a dupe? Will my face shrivel up if my cleanser costs less than $20? Help! I’ve just gone on maternity leave and I can’t spend $200 on my favourite serum anymore!

I hear you. Skin care can get pretty pricey, pretty quick. And although a lot of the products I write about and use on my clients as a dermal therapist are expensive (more on why that is in a bit), not everyone can justify costly serums as “essential items”.

Contrary to what people say or post about on Instagram, it is possible to build an effective skincare routine on a budget. Don't believe me? Just watch.

Read on for my tips on which skincare products to save on and invest in, plus some excellent budget skincare options to build a routine for less than $100.

Skin Care on a Budget 101.

Fact: No matter your budget or skin type, a great routine really only needs a solid foundation of three products:

  • Cleanser

  • Moisturiser

  • SPF*

Seriously, that’s it. That’s all you need.

Lock these three down, and then you can add in targeted products like chemical exfoliants and serums (or both) when your budget allows.

budget skin acrebudget skin acre

Best Affordable Cleansers. 

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser, $13.90.

One of my girlfriends asked me the other day WHY The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser sells out all the time. It’s because it’s THAT good. It's my go-to budget-friendly cleanser that can be used both AM and PM, and twice as part of a double cleanse. It's perfect for anyone who can’t or doesn’t want to invest in two separate cleansers. It’s heaven for every skin type.

SOME BY MI AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Acne Clear Foam, $27.

Another good way to streamline your skincare routine is to combine two steps in one product. Exfoliating cleansers are great for that.

It can be easy to go overboard with these, so proceed slowly. If acne is a concern, a cleanser with a mix of BHAs (beta hydroxy acids), AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and PHAs (polyhydroxy acids) like SOME BY MI AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle Acne Clear Foam 100ml would be good to try.  

Best Affordable Moisturisers.

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA, $9.80.

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA is another really great budget-friendly product best suited to normal and oily skin types. If you have dry or dehydrated skin, you may find it won’t work for you as you’ll likely need extra hydration. It’s very lightweight.

Skinstitut Moisture Defence, $34.30.

I love Skinstitut moisturisers. They’re cosmeceutical, affordable and formulated for different skin types - there's one for dry skin, normal skin and oily skin. They also contain antioxidants, so are great for daytime use for free radical protection. You can’t go wrong. 

Affordable Sunscreens.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Fluid Facial Sunscreen SPF 50+, $29.95.

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Invisible Fluid Facial Sunscreen SPF 50+ is a chemical sunscreen that delivers SPF50+ broad spectrum protection, and is fragrance-free, non-comedogenic (which means it doesn't clog your pores) and dermatologically-tested for sensitive skin.

It has a light, watery fluid texture and the finish is neither matte nor dewy, but it isn’t shiny or greasy.

Avène Sunscreen Emulsion Face SPF50+, $28.99.

Avène Sunscreen Emulsion Face SPF50+ is a chemical sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum UVB-UVA protection. The formula has been designed to be hydrating with a matte finish (it contains Avene's Thermal Spring Water).

Learn more about beginner skincare in our YouTube video below.

Choose the Best Serum for Your Skin Concerns.

This next bit is kind of like a choose your own serum adventure.

Ask anyone who works with skin and they'll likely tell you an active serum or treatment product designed to treat your specific skin concern(s) is worth investing in. These types of products are referred to as cosmeceutical skin care.

That said, this is an article about affordable skin care, and cosmeceutical serums generally cost around $70 and upwards. So, I’ve found budget active serums to help manage four common skin concerns and keep your basic skincare routine receipt under $100.

Best Affordable Hydrating Serum.

BOOST LAB 2D-Hyaluronic Hydro Boost Serum, $29.95.

This brand recently launched and their price points = skincare accessibility for everyone. If you are a dry skin type or prone to dehydration, incorporating a hyaluronic acid serum into your routine will do your skin a world of good. And BOOST LAB 2D-Hyaluronic Hydro Boost Serum comes recommended by Adore staffers Amy Clark and Hannah Furst.

You can read more about these new serums in our BOOST LAB review article here.

Best Affordable Brightening Serum.

BOOST LAB AHA Glow Resurfacing Serum, $29.95.

Exfoliation is key if you want to brighten dull, lacklustre skin and this serum is a great way to ensure you’re exfoliating every week. Formulated with a combination of AHAs alongside soothing ingredients such as aloe vera and glycerin, BOOST LAB AHA Glow Resurfacing Serum is very gentle and could work as a great starting point. 

Best Affordable Vitamin A Serums (Ageing and Acne-Prone Skin).

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane, $9.80 OR The Ordinary Granactive Emulsion 2%, $17.90.

Vitamin A is a holy grail ingredient of mine and is used to treat a range of skincare concerns including ageing, acne and even pigmentation. If your skin can tolerate it, I believe everyone should be using one in their routine.

Like a lot of active skincare ingredients, vitamin A comes in many different variations all at different price points. This usually has to do with: the form of vitamin A in the formulation, what strength that form comes in, the other ingredients it has been combined with... and marketing.

You can learn more about the different forms and strengths of vitamin A in this episode of the Skincare School podcast below.

Cosmeceutical vitamin A skin care is usually expensive because of the research and effort that's been put into developing a product that's both effective and non-irritating. But if budget is a concern, this is where The Ordinary comes in. This brand does two nice entry level vitamin A serums.

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane contains, you guessed it, 0.5 per cent retinol (a fairly strong form of vitamin A) and squalane to mitigate irritation. On the other hand, The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid Emulsion 2% has been formulated with 2 per cent granactive retiniod (a newer and gentler form of vitamin A).

Both of these formulations are very minimalist though, and while you do have to be wary of correct storage and expiry dates (vitamin A is an unstable ingredient and these bottles aren’t the greatest for stability), your skin can still benefit from using one of them.

These serums are unlikely to cause a lot of irritation either, although please always remember to introduce any new active skincare product - but especially vitamin A - into your routine slowly. One or two times a week is plenty. 

You can learn more about starting vitamin A skin care in our YouTube video below.

To conclude, please know there are always skincare options available to suit your budget. Taking care of your skin shouldn't feel exclusionary - it's something we can all do as an act of self care.

Whether you decide to swap out one of your more expensive products for an affordable option or build a skincare routine for less... your face will survive.

So, do what works for you and your budget.

Want more expert skincare advice from Yads? Check out her stories below!

*SPF is only one part of sun protection! Always seek shade, and wear sunnies, a hat and protective clothing. Use sufficient sunscreen for all unprotected areas and reapply sunscreen as directed. Always read the label.

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