If you’ve ever needed to purchase skin care products from any drugstore, you know they can cost a fortune. Even brands that tout themselves as lower-priced options can have you forking over $20 for a tube of moisturizer.
What I’ve found to be the most effective skin care treatment plan is actually a combination of DIY treatments and frugal skin care options – not pricey department store products that promise a lot and deliver a little. Of course, everyone’s skin is different, so yours might not respond to the lotion that your friend raves about. Determining proper skin care requires a bit of trial and error, but with enough experience and understanding of ingredients, you can create a skin care routine that benefits your unique tone and type.
You should never use a tight personal budget as an excuse to neglect your skin. Even if you have clear, smooth skin now, forgetting to moisturize and protect your body’s largest organ could be detrimental to your appearance in the future. What’s more, going without sun protection can leave you at risk for skin cancer, so it’s worth the time and effort to pay attention to your skin in the morning and at night.
Luckily, some of the best treatments can be affordable to purchase or to make from ingredients around the house. Choose your skin type below and get started on a low-cost and highly effective skin care treatment plan that helps care for, soothe, and protect.
If You Have Oily Skin
If you find that your skin often gets shiny throughout the day – or if you struggle with acne, blackheads, and other blemishes – this means your body simply produces too much sedum, an oily substance that can clog pores and undo your makeup throughout the day. Unfortunately, your knee-jerk reaction to oily skin may be to use harsh cleansers to dry out the skin, but it can cause a rebound effect: Skin that is too dry triggers the production of even more oil, creating a cycle of overproduction.
If you have oily skin, the trick is to get rid of excess oil without completely drying out the skin. Finding products that treat acne without triggering oil production is a must.
Always look for a cleanser that is free of sodium laurel sulfate, which is a detergent that can strip skin of natural oils. Instead, look for something that is both gentle and effective.
I really like Aveeno Clear Complexion Cleansing Bar, which is less than $3 at most drugstores. Another option is Avalon Organics CoQ 10 Facial Milk, which costs about $10 and cleanses while leaving your skin feeling super hydrated. When I’m in a rush, I rely on Simple Oil Balancing Cleansing Wipes, which sell for less than $5 and get rid of dirt, oil, and makeup without water.
Contrary to popular belief, oily skin does need moisture in order to restore balance in your skin. A properly hydrated face means less oil and fewer clogged pores, but you might find that heavy moisturizers make you break out.
Always choose an oil-free moisturizer to hydrate your skin. I really like Clean & Clear Dual Action Moisturizer, which is oil-free and contains a small amount of salicylic acid (0.5%) to help battle acne, and it’s usually available for less than $5. Individuals with oily skin often forget to protect their skin from the sun, so an oil-free sunscreen like Equate Oil-Free Sunscreen Stick (which costs less than $3) is a great addition to your daily routine.
If your skin is super oily, you may require an acne treatment to help reduce breakouts, balance your skin, and calm redness. My favorite way to keep acne at bay is actually a homemade toner that I keep in a small spray bottle on my vanity. I swipe it on morning and night, and it keeps my skin clear without harsh ingredients.
Try this recipe for yourself:
Pour all the ingredients into a small spray bottle and shake well to combine. Spray it on a cotton pad and apply morning and night, shaking before each application. It might not be the most pleasant-smelling acne treatment, but it’s effective and cheap. If you don’t want to go the DIY route, try Neutrogena On-the-Spot Acne Treatment, which costs about $6.
If You Have Dry Skin
As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed a shift from oilier skin to skin that is dry and sensitive. Those two identifiers often go hand in hand – not only is your skin often dry and dull-looking, but new products can cause redness and irritation. It’s kind of a catch-22, since you want supple skin, but it can be extremely hard to find what works and what doesn’t.
Just remember, gentle is always best. By looking for moisturizing products that are hypoallergenic and free of heavy scents and dyes, you protect your skin from irritation while still giving it the moisture it needs.
Choose a soap-free, sulfate-free cleanser. Soap can be extremely drying to your already-parched skin, so watch out for products that literally make your skin feel “squeaky” clean, since that’s a telltale sign it’s been completely stripped of moisture. In fact, the best cleansers for dry skin leave as much of your natural oil as possible on the skin, which is probably why dermatologists often swear by Cetaphil, which costs less than $15 and is a cream-based cleanser that you apply and then wipe away.
You can also use a cleansing oil, which dissolves dirt and makeup without removing your skin’s natural moisture. Garnier makes a great one that costs less than $7.
Or, make a DIY cleaner. First, blend nine parts of an oil (such as extra virgin olive or sunflower seed oil) with one part castor oil. Apply to your face and rinse off with warm water, keeping in mind that it’s okay if you don’t get it all off. You may want to experiment with different oils and different proportions (castor oil tends to be drying), but the oil cleansing method has been around for a while. There’s just not much in it for cosmetics companies since it relies on ingredients you probably already have in your home.
Here’s a great tip for dry skin: Try using pure coconut oil as a moisturizer. It can be applied directly to the skin and is extremely gentle.
Costco sells a 42-ounce jar for $23, which makes coconut oil approximately $0.55 per ounce. Compare that to popular moisturizer Eucerin, which (at $7 for four ounces) costs $1.75 per ounce. You get major bang for your buck, and coconut oil can also be used in cooking, as a hair conditioner, and can even be added to an equal part of loose oats for a super gentle exfoliating face scrub.
If you don’t love the idea of using coconut oil as moisturizer, choose one that is dye- and fragrance-free, and contains soothing ingredients such as vitamin E and oatmeal. I recommend Aveeno Baby Daily Moisturizing Lotion, which is gentle, effective, and affordable, costing approximately $7 for 18 ounces.
In certain conditions (think cold and dry weather), your dry skin might need some extra TLC to feel hydrated. In this case, I suggest two things: A nightly serum and a daytime pick-me-up. Night serums are more concentrated than a typical daily moisturizer to help hydrate skin, prevent wrinkles, and even plump the skin while you sleep. Unfortunately, they’re also notoriously pricey, so I opt for Olay Regenerist Regenerating Serum ($17) for a lower-cost alternative.
Still, I find that in the late afternoon, my skin starts to feel dry and dull, so I love hydrating sprays that can be applied over makeup. E.L.F.’s Revitalizing Mist does the trick for $10, which is a steal when compared to other mists (Givenchy Face Mist is $35).
If You Have Combination Skin
If some parts of your skin (such as your forehead, nose, and chin) are oily, but you still have dry patches, then you definitely have combination skin. Combination skin is also often called “normal” because it’s completely common to have both oily and dry spots on your face.
However, the problem is when it comes to treating and cleansing combination skin, especially because many products are created to target one specific problem. That’s why you need to look for products that help balance out your skin for a clean and even look.
For combination skin, you want a cleanser that is oil-free, but still offers hydrating ingredients. Biore makes a great $6 Combination Skin Balancing Cleanser that uses glycerin to help keep skin’s natural moisture on your face while still getting rid of grime and makeup.
You can also try facial wipes, which are both gentle and convenient. Yes to Cucumbers Facial Towelettes use green tea, which is known to calm skin without stripping oil, and it usually costs about $5 for 30. In general, products that use natural ingredients to cleanse work best because they’re much milder than chemical counterparts, and don’t aggravate either oily or dry skin.
You need an all-day moisture with a sunscreen to help balance out dry spots and avoid an oily T-zone. I’ve used Olay Complete for years with great results, and as someone who has been treated for skin cancer, I love knowing that my skin care routine includes a daily SPF. A bottle costs about $10, but it lasts a long time, thanks to its six-ounce size. Another option is a $5 jar of St. Ives Timeless Skin Collagen Facial Moisturizer, which uses safflower oil, which is a light and easily absorbed source of moisture for a non-greasy result.
Those with combination skin might also have a lot of luck using BB creams or tinted moisturizer, which combine moisturizer with foundation-like tint. They offer plenty of skin-quenching moisture, while offering some coverage for the redness and acne that affect your oily spots. My favorite is Maybelline Dream Fresh BB Cream, which comes in five shades and, at $7, won’t bust your budget.
Balance is key with combination skin, since you want to ensure that your oily areas become less oily and your dry patches are sufficiently moisturized. A mask might be the perfect compromise, so try this banana-based one that hydrates while helping to absorb excess oil, leaving your face feeling tight, toned, and clean.
You need the following ingredients:
- 1/3 of a ripe medium banana
- 1 teaspoon of honey
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon of whole milk
Heat the milk until it comes to a gentle boil and then remove from the heat. Allow the milk to cool until a skin forms on the surface. Skim the skin from the surface and combine with the banana, honey, and egg. Mix to form a smooth paste, and then apply it to your skin for 10 minutes, rinsing away with cool water.
By using ingredients that address your skin’s problem areas individually (such as the banana to help dry skin, with the honey as a natural astringent for oily spots), you can expect better overall results.
No matter which type of skin you have, there’s a product or technique that should work for you. But you shouldn’t have to pay big money for tiny amounts of a supposedly magical face cream.
By paying attention to a product’s active ingredients and choosing one based on your unique needs, you can find great cleansers, moisturizers, and skin treatments on the cheap. Whether you’re shopping the drugstore or your storage room shelves, a tight budget shouldn’t be a reason you skip a daily skin care routine.
What are your best budget tips for skin care?