Put money in my hand and I’ll spend it – make no mistake about that. But the chances are few and far between, and the majority of the time I’m working on a budget that has to cater for all of my skincare needs. I’m fortunate to have a job that supplies me with a lot of the products I need, but I still have the mindset of not over indulging – and if someone asks me for advice, there are cornerstone products I’ll always recommend before anything else.
So in this post, I wanted to talk about the ways I’d recommend spending your budget. Of course, there’s no foolproof blanket answer for everyone, and depending on your skin type and specific needs you’ll want to make amendments to make your money stretch as far as possible. However, as a guide there are certain products that are more “necessary” than others, and I often think of products as either “long term” or “immediate” options, depending on what you’re looking to achieve from your skincare regime. Long term products might not have the initial wow-factor, but in 20 years you’ll thank yourself for sticking with them – whereas immediate products have a noticeable effect, but they don’t do all that much in the grand scheme of things.
An ideal system is made up of a combination of both, of course, but if in doubt I’d always secure the long term fix first, and invest in other products as and when you’re able. That’s not to discredit particular products, but grooming and skincare is made up of several building blocks, so to speak, and you’ve got to work from the ground upwards to build a solid and effective routine.
The holy trinity: cleanse, hydrate, protect
Whether you’re looking to build or refine your skincare routine, you’ll need 3 essentials: a cleanser, a moisturising product, and an SPF. This is the bare minimum, and none of it has to be expensive – particularly at the pace the beauty industry moves at today, and the access we have to products from around the world. You could get 3 quality products for £20, no problem.
Breaking that down, you shouldn’t be spending a significant amount on your cleanser at all. As far as I’m concerned, the majority of your cleanse goes down the sink, so you might as well cut out the middle man and throw your money right down there to start with. I know a lot of cleansers now claim to do this, that and the other, but I’m unsure just how effective they can be when they’re on the skin for a matter of seconds.
So, when it comes to choosing a cleanser, here are a few key pointers:
- If you wear a lot of make-up, use an oil cleanser or cleansing balm – these are the best at breaking down products and removing large amounts of dirt.
- For sensitive skin, use a cream cleanser or a light gel.
- Generally speaking, foaming cleansers dehydrate the skin and are too harsh. Your cleanser should also be fragrance-free.
- Micellar water should never be used as your sole cleanse – use it as a pre-cleanse to remove make-up, then do your proper cleanse.
- If you live in the city, always do a double cleanse; a “city cleanse” (to remove pollution) and a normal cleanse.
- Wipe your cleanser away with a clean muslin cloth every day.
I’m always banging on about SPF, and have written about it in depth before, but it really is the key to anti-ageing, and one of the only products that can be legally advertised as anti-ageing in the US. Look for a broad spectrum formula, with UVA, UVB and ideally IR protection. Click here for more info on UVA and UVB, what to look out for and how often to apply.
Serum before moisturiser
The third skincare essential is a hydrating formula. Some people would say you need to be using a cleanser, a moisturiser and an SPF – but I don’t think moisturisers are as essential as a good serum.
Serums are what I mean by long term products – because they hydrate at a far deeper level, but don’t plump skin up in the same way as moisturisers, which have a more immediate effect. You get me? Most moisturisers are too thick to penetrate the skin deeply, so will reduce the effect of surface lines, but won’t replenish skin at a deeper level. If you’re looking for prevention over cure, I’d recommend a nourishing serum topped with a rich SPF with moisturising properties (check out some of my favourites in the gallery above and click here for more info on each of them).
Your serum will likely be the most expensive part of your basics ritual, but bear in mind how long the product’s going to last. Also, take note of how much you should be using – usually a couple of drops – and stick to it. On a side note, the majority of us use way too much moisturiser every day, which is actually ineffective as it just clogs up skin. As a rule, if you have to make an effort to rub it in, you’ve gone too far…
The most effective ingredients
If you’re looking to build an affordable but effective skincare regime, the best place to start is research. Before you even look at products, begin with ingredients – think about your skin’s needs, and find out what’s going to be best as catering to them. If it’s congestion, you need something to unclog pores. If skin’s looking dull, try a chemical exfoliant. Struggling in the city? Invest in some anti pollution.
I’ve written about the skincare ingredients I use the most here, and this list covers what I think are some of the most effective and accessible products on the market right now. Of course, there are others that I dip in and out of, but if I’m dealing with a particular complaint, or for some reason didn’t have the access to products I have now, these are the staples I’d stick with.
Remember, if your skincare regime is effective, you shouldn’t notice minor changes particularly. It’s like exercise – you tone, then you maintain, and skincare is the same. Consistency is key, and as long as skin is consistently in good condition and you have no problem patches, you’re doing something right.
Don’t waste your money
On the one hand, having access to so many products is great, and it means there are really very few products that are hard to find. But, too much choice can make things confusing, and if you’re looking to spend your budget wisely you don’t want to blow it on expensive products that aren’t worth the price tag.
So as much of a contradiction as it is for me, the La Mer devotee, to tell you not to buy “the original classics”, there’s a reason. When new skincare discoveries are made, brands patent the ingredients, so that only they can use them in their formula. And because of that, they’re able to charge extortionate prices, because no one else is able to sell it. But when the patent expires, other brands are able to add the ingredients into their own lines, usually at a fraction of the cost.
There are also certain products you really don’t need in your regime, which often cost disproportionate amounts of money (probably because not as many people are buying them). Toners and scrubs are a no-no for me; your regular regime should tone enough, and chemical exfoliants are far better than scrubs. If you’re looking to cut costs, an eye cream isn’t essential, and a lightweight, gentle moisturiser can work just as effectively.
Masks are another money trap that people fall into without realising what they actually do. Masks are the epitome of the immediate product – they perk up skin for a limited time, and are great if you have a special event. But for a long term routine, they’ll drain your bank balance and leave you with little to show for it. If you do want to WIN some of my favourite face masks in this month’s GIVEAWAY, however, make sure you subscribe via the link below.
If in doubt…
If you’re still unsure about how to spend your money, just ask. Drop me a message or leave a comment, or speak to someone in your local department store or pharmacy. You wouldn’t take pills if you weren’t 100% certain, so don’t risk aggravating your skin with the wrong products. Obviously, I’m a writer and not a dermatologist, but let me know if you have any questions and I’ll do my best to answer.