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Creating Your Affordable Skincare Routine

By Sandra Lopez – Director of Public Relations and Outreach 

My name is Sandra Lopez and I am Thrive’s Director of Public Relations and Outreach. As a first generation and low-income student, understanding personal finance has always been necessary! Living on a budget has changed the way I buy any product and how I prepare myself for the next purchase. Testing new skincare products becomes more difficult when you can’t afford what’s in Sephora or you purchase a product with a lackluster return policy, especially in the time of COVID-19. When the pandemic is no longer a threat, I will be the first in line for some free Sephora samples! Many brands out there will tell you that creating a skincare regimen is an investment, but I’m here to show you it doesn’t have to be! I have always loved the beauty industry and over time have noticed several key ingredients and textures that aren’t only found in a $52 face mask. Many brands use similar ingredients as the drugstore option, and most of the time you are paying for the frilly packaging (I do understand that appeal though) and falling for their aesthetically pleasing marketing choices. I still value a nice looking product as long as it has the right ingredients and works for my skin!

The skincare market can be incredibly overwhelming for first-time buyers and can definitely leave you with empty pockets. Luckily, all of the products mentioned can be found at CVS, Target, Ulta, or online for under $25. I have also included some fragrance-free and environmentally friendly products and companies. Here are some of my favorite skincare products for beginners, so start your collection and find what works best for your skin!

Cleansers: All of the cleansers listed here are gentle on the skin and don’t overstrip you of natural oils. These are great for washing away impurities, removing makeup, preventing clogged pores, and adding hydration. I find that the La Roche Posay Cleanser works best for my oily and acne-prone skin, but if you’re looking for dry to normal skin types, definitely try out the CeraVe products or Herbivore’s Pink Cloud Cleanser

  1. The Inkey List Salicylic Acid Cleanser: $10
  2. CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser: $9 – $14
  3. La Roche Posay Toleriane Purifying Cleanser: $15
  4. CeraVe Foaming Cleanser: $9 – $15
  5. Herbivore Pink Cloud Cleanser: $24 

Toners: Toners can help exfoliate the skin, remove oil/dead cells, minimize pores, and improve the appearance of texture. They also help your skin absorb the rest of the products in your routine! My personal favorite after a long day is the The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution. It really helps to firm and remove anything my cleanser missed off my skin. It also conveniently comes with two different nozzles! If you have dry or sensitive skin, be sure to check out the The Inkey List products and Isntree Green Tea on Amazon. 

  1. The Ordinary Glycolic Acid Toning Solution: $9
  2. The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Toner: $11
  3. The Inkey List PHA Toner: $10 – $11
  4. Isntree Green Tea: $20  
  5. Paula’s Choice 2% Toner: $21

Treatments/Serums: Treatments and serums aren’t necessary components for your skin care routine but they certainly can help tackle specific skin concerns! If you want to smooth out texture, fine lines, or fade discoloration, look into The Ordinary! The Ordinary Peeling Solution has certainly helped me put dullness and congestion in the past. For those experiencing break-outs, acne scarring, or dryness, Krave Beauty’s Resurfacing Exfoliator might be for you!

  1. The Ordinary 0.5% Retinol in Squalane: $5 
  2. Good Molecules Niacinamide Serum: $6
  3. The Ordinary AH 30% +  BHA 2% Peeling Solution: $7 
  4. The Inkey List Beta Hydroxy Acid Serum: $11
  5. Krave Beauty Resurfacing AHA Exfoliator: $25

Moisturizer: Adding hydration to your skin prevents dryness/oiliness, signs of aging, and helps fight acne! Some can include more UV protection as well. I’m currently using the Versed Dew Point Moisturizer because its gel consistency doesn’t add too much to my oily skin and the cute packaging is a plus! Bubble Level Up is also good for oily/combination skin. I tend to change moisturizers when the seasons change, so keep your climate in mind when comparing moisturizers and sunscreens. If your skin is normally dry or you’re currently braving the cold season, try The Ordinary or CeraVe!

  1. The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA: $8
  2. CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion/Cream: $9 – $15
  3. Versed Dew Point Moisturizer Gel Cream: $15
  4. Bubble Level Up Balancing Moisturizer: $15
  5. Rovectin Clean Lotus Water Cream: $16

Sunscreen: This step is extremely important in protecting your skin from damage. Without sunscreen, you cannot get the full benefits from all the other products in your skin care routine! The products below each have a different degree of white cast, so if your skin is tan or darker, do your research! Personally, as someone with brown skin, the CeraVe Sunscreen had too much white cast. Sun Bum’s Tinted SPF blended really well for me instead, so definitely look into tinted options or products that target white cast like Versed Guards Up!

  1. CeraVe Sunscreen: $16
  2. Black Girl Sunscreen Broad Spectrum: $16
  3. Sun Bum Mineral Tinted SPF 30: $18
  4. Versed Guards Up SPF 35: $22
  5. Kinship Reflect Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF 32: $25

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by this list or you’re not sure about your skin type, start by paying attention to how your skin reacts throughout the day and in the sun! If you have the means, going to a certified dermatologist would get you the best answers. It took me a while to figure out what worked for me on my own, and I’m still learning! I’ve learned a lot from past purchases and watching demos/reviews on youtube, but remember – everyone’s skin is different! I use the La Roche Posay Cleanser, The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% (not listed), Versed Dew Point Moisturizer, and the Sun Bum Tinted SPF daily, and only rotate my treatments/serums throughout the week. I also enjoy a fun face mask from time to time. Sometimes, Marshalls or T.J. Maxx will have high-end brands for $10! It certainly takes time and some searching. You do not have to buy everything all at once either – you are more likely to stick to your skincare routine with simple steps and the products you love. I hope you found this helpful and wish you well on your skincare journey!