I have personally been obsessed with the skin since I had my first facial at the age of 13 and I have been in the industry for my whole adult life (do NOT guess how long unless it is a flattering number). Because of this, I have always used brands that are considered by some to be luxury brands. Personally, I do not consider them to be luxury brands or high-end brands, they are brands that combine pharmaceuticals with skincare and are science-driven, not marketing-driven like many true luxury brands. However, with the cutting-edge technology incorporated into the creation of this type of product comes a heftier price tag. You are paying for the years of research into new ingredients, the time in the lab it takes to balance a product to the skin’s pH and formulations that have been tested for huge chunks of time.
What is active skincare?
Even with this in mind, this does not mean that affordable skincare is rubbish and cannot hold a candle to more active skincare. For the most part, the difference in price tag means a difference in the amount of actives or if there are actives at all. Active ingredients are ingredients that can cause a physical change to the skin, whether it be salicylic acid clearing out the pore, vitamin C inhibiting tyrosinase (the pigment-creating enzyme) or vitamin A improving the health of the skin cell.
Actives are included in cosmeceutical skincare as they can trigger the skin’s own exfoliating process, for example, and will do it either to the maximum extent or to such an extent that it will help to address a skin concern. Treating acne-prone skin without salicylic acid is nearly blasphemous (unless the client is reactive to acids) – little else works as hard as SA, she is an absolute grafter of a spot-fighting ingredient. Cosmeceutical products are usually only available by having a consult, as when you are using acids and ingredients that could possibly irritate the skin if used incorrectly, you need guidance and education. There is plenty of advice online nowadays when it comes to ingredients but when it comes to the physiology of the skin (ie. understanding the layers of the skin, how the cells behave and the skin’s processes), it is something that I believe can only be taught by someone who has studied it – apologies to the amateur skin whizzes out there, you are the exceptions, not the rules!
From the explanation above, you may be assuming that inactive or less active skincare can do nothing to the skin. This is not necessarily true. It will still have an effect on the skin but not to the same extent. Cosmetic skincare can still moisturise and hydrate the skin, help to protect the skin from damage and balance it. Out of the products below, some are “inactive” in the sense that they can be purchased in your local pharmacy without a consult, some are cosmeceutical, and thus more active, so require a consult.
Affordable Skincare Products and Brands
Probiotic Skincare and Cleansers
One option is to go the probiotic skincare route. I know of two specific brands that create affordable probiotic skincare: Gallinée and Yoghurt of Bulgaria by Biofresh. I’ve written about the Yoghurt of Bulgaria range before with regard to probiotics and I’ve talked about it extensively. I’ve seen the results of probiotics both internally and externally on clients and on friends and family and they can be breathtaking. Your skin is covered in bacteria – FACT! Are they all the type of bacteria that we use antibacterial products for? No way, José – some of this bacteria is essential to the skin’s personal microbiome and help to keep it healthy and balanced.
Some research has shown there to be a correlation between a problem with this good bacteria and atopical skin conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis, hence why probiotic skincare is so genius – it helps to boost this good bacteria back up and can be the key to bringing the skin to health!
Gallinée is a slightly newer brand, created by a French pharmacist named Marie Drego. Their admittedly smaller product range contains a patented triple biotic complex of prebiotics, probiotics and a postbiotic. “What the frick is a prebiotic?”, I hear you ask your computer screen. A prebiotic helps with the growth of the probiotics. “Well, what the frick is a postbiotic?”, I hear you ask now. This so called “postbiotic” in Galinée is actually lactic acid (AKA an active ingredient). Lactic acid is the reason that Cleopatra was bathing in milk – it is a gentle alpha hydroxy acid that sloughs off dead skin cells without causing irritation as glycolic acid may.
All of Gallinée’s products have what’s known as a physiological pH, the pH of the skin, which is between 4.5 and 5.2, meaning that it is pH neutral and perfect for those with a reactive skin or skin prone to inflammation. They also include kaolin, otherwise known as white clay, for it’s soothing and healing properties, plant extracts and natural oils. Their award-winning Foaming Facial Cleanser (€19.90) has a little bit of a misleading name – we usually don’t want things that are overly foamy, especially if meant for more sensitive skins, but this beautiful product foams just slightly and the foam is not due to sulphates galore. Quick note: in my opinion, sulphates are not the worst ever and can serve a very important purpose when balanced with ingredients correctly but they are best avoided by those prone to sensitivity.
Another affordable cleanser option for the oily-skinned and spot prone would be Environ B-Active Sebuwash (€20.00). I love Sebuwash, it is a powerhouse as it contains both tea tree oil, renowned for its antibacterial qualities, and salicylic acid, the aforementioned spot fighter. You need something to remove makeup when using these types of cleansers, as they were not created to remove makeup thoroughly. My suggestion for that would be the Cleanse Off Mitt (€5.95). Perhaps I am biased, seeing as it is my baby, but it is cheapy cheap, reusable, eco-friendly and skin-friendly… need I say more?
It is more difficult to find a serum that is affordable than anything else. I don’t think moisturisers are essential as moisturisers sit on the skin due to their molecular makeup. Serums penetrate further into the epidermis, whereas moisturisers sit on the skin and comfort the uppermost layers of the skin but do not hydrate it properly. For this reason, I think if you can splurge a bit more on one part of your skincare routine, it should be on your serum (NOT on whatever lovely, non-active soothing masque your favourite celebrity has touted most recently).
A serum that suits the vast majority of skins, if not all skins, is the IMAGE Ormedic Balancing Antioxidant Serum (€67.00) – it contains sodium hyaluronate, a form of hyaluronic acid, to hydrate and plump up the skin, aloe leaf extract for soothing inflammation, camellia sinensis/Japanese green tea extract (ALSO known as EGCg) for protective antioxidant properties and a copper complex to help speed up the cell regeneration process and stimulate the skin’s natural production of elastin and collagen to firm the skin. Okay, €67.00 is not affordable at first glance – how and ever, your serum should last you about three months as you only need three drops each time. That makes it a much more palatable and doable €22.30 per month.
If you really cannot fork out that much on a serum, MooGoo’s Super Vitamin C Serum (€22.90) is another option. It contains a form of vitamin C called ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate – an utter mouthful but also a wonder. This form of vitamin C is oil-soluble, meaning that it can easily penetrate the skin (as the skin is covered in oil) and does not cause irritation as some forms of vitamin C can. Ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate is both an incredibly potent antioxidant so it will protect your skin from environmental damage and a faboosh lightening agent, for all of those looking to sort pigmentation out. Word of warning: this serum contains tonnes of vitamin E, so it is ideal for those dry/dehydrated types but it could be a nightmare for those with congestion.
Another more affordable serum that I am loooving at the moment is the No7 Early Defence Glow Activating Serum (€32.00) which is another vitamin C serum – they are en vogue, what can I say?! This serum uses a newer derivate of vitamin C called SAP or sodium ascorbyl phosphate. Why is SAP at the forefront of the vitamin Cs? It is incredibly stable, meaning it gets into the skin easier and without irritation, and can boost the light protectiveness of your SPF. This form of vitamin C has also been shown to be fabulous at battling acne as it brings the oxidisation of sebum down by a whopping 40%.
With SPF, there is no excuse – this is not a step you can cut out of your routine to make it cheaper and there are so many SPFs out there that are cheap as chips, especially when you consider how much they protect the skin from. I I adore all La Roche-Posay SPFs and the fact that they have an SPF Spritz O’Clock in the form of the Anthelios Sunscreen Face Mist SPF50 (€14.99). Avène also have fab options at about €19.99 for all skin types and makeup sits so well on it.
For those who want an SPF in their makeup but want more SPF than comes in the average makeup, Heliocare’s Oil-Free Compact SPF50 is like a creamy foundation/SPF hybrid and is €30 – for something that functions both as makeup AND as a full SPF, that is a steal.
Affordable Mineral Makeup
In my opinion, most mineral makeup is surprisingly affordable because it lasts blimming yonks, especially powder formulations. Fuschia’s Loose Mineral Powder Foundation is €29.00, less than a bottle of Studio Fix. If you cannot be dragged away from your liquid but do want to give skin-healthy mineral makeup a try, Bellápierre’s Derma Renew BB Cream is €34.99 for 40ml.
The Nerdie Opinion
There are plenty of affordable skincare options out there but price point often, but not always, decides what you get in the bottle… except for in the mysterious case of The Ordinary (ps. if you want my opinion on that, click here). In the end, when it comes to skincare and especially affordable skincare, what matters is that it suits you and that if it is something particularly active, you know why it is going on your face and have the guided help of a pro. If you’re doing your own skincare snooping, keep an eye on the ingredients – the higher something is on the list of ingredients, the more there is in it.
If you’re looking for true, massive results, there is no replacement to a consult with a skin expert. I HAVE to plug my team of Nerdettes for this – The Skin Nerd online consultancy is impartial as we stock over 30 brands and believe in a 360˚approach to the skin. If this tickles you, click here for more information and to head to our booking platform!