A mission to curate skincare on a budget, not only in USA but also UK and Australia. I have collaborated with ever so lovely and fabulous Sal aka Ummbaby to find skincare options that don’t burn a hole in our pocket. Below I have a run down on USA drugstore finds, however keep your eyes peeled for UK drugstore/pharmacy/chemist options which Sal will post this week and finally I will post budget skincare options for Australia.
In USA, there are a number of avenues to explore what we call “Drugstore Skincare”. Sold in venues like Walgreens, CVS, RiteAid, Duane Reade, Walmart, Target, etc. Now Ulta may not be technically a drugstore, but it stocks inexpensive options of skincare. This post intends on unraveling all skincare options in a typical skincare routine format. Unfortunately I won’t be talking about each product in detail, this post will aim to provide you with some pointers at certain products and brands. Whilst I have not used every single product mentioned in this post, I have reviewed each ingredient listing. Even if you’re not on a budget and love to mix and match high end and drugstore skincare, this post will help you fill in those gaps.
Some brands will feature repeatedly in each category and some products in these brands are worth a looksie. The brands include, Yes to, Burts Bees, CeraVe, Olay, ROC, Pacifica, Derma E, Shea Moisture, Simple, Garnier, Michael Todd, Soap & Glory, Hada Labo Tokyo, Indeed Labs, Andalou Naturals, Devita, Alba Botanica, Nip+Fab, Acure Organics, S.W.Basics, Michel Todd (Ulta), Tony Moly (Ulta), Pixi Beauty (Target). There is also The Body Shop, whilst its not technically drugstore, a lot of their skincare it’s at a fab price point.
Typically a first cleanse is intended to remove the first layer of war paint and debris from face. You want a product that effectively and efficiently shifts and removes the makeup. Micellar water and oils are fuss free, joyless effective options.
Micellar Water: Used on a cotton pad and swiped all over the face to remove makeup. Some love and some hate. Personally its my lazy route to a proper skincare routine. Brands that cater to micellar water connoisseurs at drugstore level include: Simple Micellar Water, Garnier Micellar Water, Pacifica Cactus Water Micellar Water, Boots Botanics All Bright Micellar Cleanser.
Cleansing Oil: The ultimate lazy human’s cleansing Bae! One pump, schmeared all over face and BAM! The war paint melts away and face can be wiped clean with a cotton pad (not recommended or preferred) or Hot Cloth (correct way! IMO). Our lazy bae’s are sold by Burts Bees Cleansing Oil, Mineral Fusion Makeup Removing Oil Cleanser, Shea Moisture Peace Rose Oil Complex Facial Cleansing Oil. There are others like Boots No.07, Neutrogena however they contain Mineral Oil as first ingredient. You can also look into The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Oil.
Once makeup and dirt from face is removed, this step is intended to feed, nourish and cleanse the skin. Look for cleansers with decent ingredients that you’d like to ‘feed and nourish and nurture’ your skin with. Removal method is hot cloth (sold in Costco, Target) again!.
Gel Cleanser – There are various options of gel cleansers, such as gel to oil, foaming gels, creamy gels. Options: Mario Badescu Enzyme Cleansing Gel, Pacifica Quinoa Sensitive Face wash.
Milk and Cream Cleansers – Great for all skin types. Easy to work with and effective at its job. Burts Bees Intense Hydration Cream Cleanser, Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Creme Cleanser, Yes to Cream (all ranges) cleansers, Andalou Naturals Cleanser (Meyer Lemon, Apricot Milk), Burts Bees Brightening Cleanser and Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleanser.
Balm Cleanser – The Proper Cleansing Product One Should Invest (notice caps, intending emphasis). Enriched with oils and essential oils to feed the skin with goodness and include a aromatherapy-esque massage. Yes to Coconut Melting Gel (Ulta only – says Gel but texture and consistency wise, it’s denser thus in the balm category), Pixi Cleansing Balm, Boots Botanics Hot Cloth Cleansing Balm, The Body Shop Camomile Cleansing Butter.
Mud Cleanser – Wonderful for congested skin or skin looking for an ooomph with a cleanse. Or if you’re lazy like me and want a 2in1 step ‘second cleanse and mask’ look no further than Pixi Glow Mud Cleanser (my review, click here).
Masks are intended to address specific concerns of skin in a ‘crash course’ format and of course with continued use you will see noticeable improvements. Generally, clay or mud masks are great for congested, oily, combination skins. Hydration is for dehydrated skins, but sometimes also adds that boost that makes you look alive. Sheet Masks, are obviously an Asian beauty staple and perfect for my multitasking brain, slap it on and continue moping, cleaning, laundry etc.
Clay or Mud Masks – Shea Moisture African Black Soap Problem Skin Face mask, Nip+Fab Kale Fix Clay Mask, Nip+Fab Glycolic Instant Fix mask, S.W. Basics Hibiscus Mask (Target), Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Mud Mask, Now Foods Clay Powders (available in Moroccan Red, European Green, Bentonite clay and can be used with ACV, Milk, Water, Honey….dabble in kitchen. My DIY recipes click here).
Hydration – Hada Labo Tokyo Anti Aging Facial Mask, Yes to Coconut Ultra Hydrating Overnight Creme Mask, Derma E Hydrating Mask with Hyaluronic Acid.
Radiance – Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus, Andalou Naturals Pumpkin Honey Glycolic Mask, Pacifica Future Youth Enzymatic Resurfacing Mask, Yes to Grapefruit Pore Perfection Brightening Peel, Acure Organics cell stimulating facial mask.
Sheet Masks: Yes to Grapefruit Pore Perfection Paper Mask, My Beauty Diary Sheet masks (now sold in Target for under $15).
TIP 1: Sometimes the whole face doesn’t need a specific type of mask, you can apply clay mask on T-zone, while radiance or hydration mask on forehead and cheeks. Listen to what your skin needs and cater accordingly.
TIP 2: You don’t necessarily need to spend money on this category, there are umpteen number of home made options, all you need to do is explore your kitchen cabinets. I have a post on DIY Masks, click here.
Acids for Exfoliation
Regular readers know my LOVE for acids, if you would like to know about more AHA and BHA please refer to a separate post where I explain it’s basics. If you’ve used highend acid peel pad you will know the pad’s surface is a lot softer on skin and companies invest a bit more in packaging. In the drugstore space, some pads can feel slightly abrasive, some pads don’t feel as well soaked and in some packaging is just meh (basic plastic jars).
Nip+Fab Glycolic Acid and Night Pads Extreme, Alpha Hydrox pads, Clearasil Refreshing Superfruit Pads (Walmart), Shea Moisture Superfruit Renewal Peel Pads (Ulta, my review), Michael Todd Organic Lemon AHA & DMAE Toner (Ulta), Pixi Glow Tonic (Target)
Once you acid exfoliate (where the acids lower skin’s ph 3-5), you need to bring you skin’s ph balance 5.5, still slightly acidic) back to normal/slightly acidic and hydrate skin. If the skin’s ph balance is higher than 5.5 (alkaline) it may result in skin being dry, sensitive and inflamed skin. Chemistry lesson Over!
Personally I wouldn’t spend a lot of mooolah in this category. Basic Rose Water (how to choose right rose water is simplified and explained here).
Yes to Grapefruit and Yes to Cucucmber Toning Mists, Mario Badescu Facial Spray Aloe, Herb and Rosewater, Shea Moisture Black Soap Problem Skin Toner, Derma E Purifying Toner, Derma E Hydrating Mist with Hyaluronic Acid, Derma E Evenly Radiant Brightening Toner, Firming DMAE Toner, Anti Wrinkle Vitamin A Glycolic Toner, Mario Badescu Alpha Grapefruit Cleansing Lotion, Acure Organics Facial Toner Balancing Rose plus Red Tea, Avalon Organics Vitamin C Facial toner.
Depending on your age and condition of the skin around your eyes, you want to choose an eye cream with specific ingredients. Younglings can get away with basic hydration boosters and soothers. Slightly more mature individuals or individuals looking to prevent early want to look into an eye cream with ingredients like Peptides, Retinol, Skin Hydrators, Niacinamide, Vitamin C and E.
Yes to Cucumbers Eye love Cucumbers Soothing Eye Gel, Boots Botanics Organic Hydrating Eye Cream, Burts Bees Renewal Smoothing Eye Cream, Olay Regenerist Eye Lifting Serum, Indeed labs Eyesilix, Tony Moly Panda’s Dream Eye Patch, Nip+Fab Bee Sting Eye Fix, Shea Moisture SuperFruit Renewal Eye Cream.
This is the only category I would really recommend to reserve a bit more $$$ to splurge on. Whilst drugstore do dish up some decent options, I’d still say identify your particular skin concern and get one serum (moderately priced serum) to really notice a difference in skin. Something to look into – most of Olay products are high in Niacinamide compared to other drugstore brands, and are reasonably priced. If you’re interested I have a separate post on serums based on specific skin concerns and ingredients to look out for each skin concern.
Pixi Overnight Glow Serum, Olay Regenerist, ROC Retinol, Burt’s Bees Renewal Intensive Firming Serum, Alpha Skincare Rejuvenating Serum (super shot of Glycolic Acid), Andalou Naturals Turmeric Enlight Serum, Indeed Labs Hydraluron, Peptabright
Short cut to thoroughly moisturize your skin. Why I say this? Typical moisturizers have silicones, fillers, emulsifiers etc. However face oils (blend of carrier and essential oils) are 3-4 drops of concentrated moisturizer for skin and fabulous for Every skin type. I have a separate post on why I prefer Oils over Moisturizers, click here. Drugstore do cater to some lovely oils, but make sure its all oils, no other ingredients are added.
Yes to Blueberries Face & Neck Oil, Pixi Rose Oil Blend, Loreal Perfect Glow Renewal Facial Oil, Olay Regenerist Luminous Facial Oil, S.W Basics Oil Serum, Acure Organics, Badger Organics Rose Oil, Mad Hippie (vitacost.com), Boots Botanics Triple Age Renewal Facial Oil
I have limited experience in finding a good moisturizer in drugstore, and I will not pretend and make recommendations. Based on the inci lists I think some of these could be decent options to look into:
Olay Regenerist Luminous Tone Perfecting Cream, Olay Total Effects 7 in 1 Anti Aging Moisturizer, Shea Moisture Superfruit Renewal Facial Moisturizer, Nip+Fab Bee Sting Deluxe Cream, Pixi H2O Skindrink, Burts Bees Intense Hydration Day and Night Creams.
We all need a good lip balm or stick, I’ve been regular with Nuxe Reve de Miel for years however at $20 a pot, its far from an inexpensive options.
Burts Bees would be an alternative to Nuxe Reve de Miel, Smith’s Salve
Generally there would be serums to address your specific skin concerns however sometimes treating your skin to a weekly or bi weekly treatment can make a world of difference. I’ve use Derma E Overnight Peel (click here for my review) and have compared it to Sunday Riley Good Genes too (click here).
Curated Drugstore Skincare Routine $100 – $120
(depends on your location within USA)
Skin Type: Normal to Combination, needing a Radiance boost.
First Cleanse – Simple Micellar Water $8 , Shea Moisture Peace Rose Oil Complex Facial Cleansing Oil $9
Second Cleanse Yes to Coconut Melting Gel $10
Mask Now Foods Moroccan Red Clay $6-$9 (depends on your location, can be mixed with water, ACV, Milk, Yogurt, refer to my DIY Mask recipes)
Acid Nip+Fab Glycolic Acid and Night Pads Extreme $15
Toner Mario Badescu Facial Spray Aloe, Herb and Rosewater $7
Eye Boots Botanics Organic Hydrating Eye Cream $15
Serum Pixi Overnight Glow Serum $24
Face Oil Yes to Blueberries Face & Neck Oil $16, Boots Botanics Triple Age Renewal Facial Oil $15
Lips – Burts Bees $3.30
Treatment Derma E Overnight Peel $19 (optional)
Hope you’ve found this useful and informative. To read and explore drugstore/pharmacy/chemist options in UK please keep an eye out for Sal’s Ummbaby’s post on A guide to UK Drugstore skincare. Thank you for taking the time to read.