When to SAVE vs. SPLURGE for Your Skincare Routine

When it comes to skincare, when should we save, and when should we splurge? Even on a budget, is it worth it to spring for certain products? In this blog, we are going to break down budget and luxury skincare lines. Cassandra has purchased and tried literally thousands if not tens of thousands of different products and ingredients, and she’s used them on herself as well as others. Let’s go through each step of your skincare routine to determine which products are worth paying a little bit more for.  

Step #1: Cleansers

Cassandra doesn’t think you should be spending tons of money on your cleansing step, even if you double-cleanse with a cleansing oil. The double cleansing method is normally used to remove makeup first, and then, to wash the skin’s bare surface. If you don’t over do it, this can be helpful for the skin’s barrier, but many people unnecessarily buy expensive oil-based cleansers. Water is cheaper to have as a product’s first ingredient, so oil-based cleansers tend to be a bit more expensive. However, a lot of these cleansers are just oils with a couple of added antioxidants or benefits. So, here are some  inexpensive oil cleansers from great brands like Beauty Pie.

Beauty Pie - Plantastic Apricot Butter Cleansing Balm - $65

Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm -$10.99

The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm is a fan favorite, and it’s one of Cassandra’s personal fan favorites. If you don’t like the way The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm separates or squirts out, you can try something like the Hemish All Clean Balm from Stylevonna. The Hemish All Clean Balm breaks down makeup, dirt, oil, and sunscreen. 

And when it comes to regular cleansers, you shouldn’t spend a ton of money. There are some really good vitamin C cleansers like the one from TruSkin for a couple of bucks. The Ordinary also has a great hydrating cleanser. So,  if you have an extremely tight skincare budget, you might want to save when it comes to buying a cleanser and splurge elsewhere. Now, the exception to this rule is if you are looking to purchase a targeted or medicated cleanser. For example, you could get a medicated benzoyl peroxide wash for $4-$10 in a store, but if you’re looking for a specialized, fragrance-free cleanser that helps with acne and rosacea, you might want to try this cleanser from SkinFix.

Skinfix - 2% BHA Cleanser - $35

This is still under $50, and if you’re partial to more high-end products, this product from Skinfix is still a great way to save.

Step 2: Toner

After cleansing, what normally comes next is a toner, and you can save money on this step too. However, if you absolutely want to, it might be more reasonable to splurge on a toner versus a cleanser.  Although toners are not necessary to skincare routines, especially if you have a good cleanser, they can definitely support your skin’s barrier. Toners were created because cleansers can be stripping and very alkaline (low on the pH scale). Likewise,  some cleansers can actually damage our skin’s acid mantle. In turn, toners are more acidic to help balance the skin’s pH and to stabilize our acid mantle. Cassandra used to use Dr. Bronners soap and the Juice Beauty toner. So, although toners are not absolutely necessary, they can be helpful here and there. 

At the same time, it is hard to find good toners at budget prices. The Ordinary has some great ones though, and so does Boots. There’s also The Inkey List and Three Ships. Three Ships is actually more of a sustainable brand. They have glass packages as well as paper packaging, and they market themselves as “luxury without the price.”

Here is also a great one from Bubble, and it’s very affordable. 

Bubble - Bounce Back Balancing Toner Mist -$13 


Step 4: Toner

Do you know the difference between toners and essences? Now, for essences — you actually  might want to splurge a little.

Pyunkang Yul - Essence Toner  - $17.10

Essences are supposed to be a little more hydrating. They’re a little bit thicker than toners, and they work fabulously when your skin is feeling dry. Essences also help other products layer more smoothly and penetrate. However, essences are still not a skincare staple.

Jin Jung Sung - Soothing Moisture Skin Essence - $14.69

This is the budget version of the SKII essence. 

The other thing about essences is that they stay on your face whereas cleansers get washed down the drain. That’s why if you’re going to spend more on a product, you should absolutely spend more on serums that treat the skin and have targeted acid. Serums do things such as exfoliate the skin or give the skin a potent retinoid. However, just because you spend more money doesn’t mean you’re getting something better. While there are many expensive and wonderful  serums, you are not required to select an expensive serum to get a good serum.

Step 5: Sunscreen

There are some excellent moisturizers, and there are a lot of bad moisturizers. When moisturizers are formulated well, they can actually support the skin and soak beautifully into the skin. Sunscreens can serve as a moisturizer and SPF. No matter what though, the most important part of choosing a sunscreen is choosing one that you will use consistently. It's not the price. 

Step 6: Spot treatment 

Another thing is spot treatments. Spot treatments are so important, especially for those of us who deal with breakouts and struggle with our skin and self-esteem. But, you should never be paying luxury prices for spot treatments. You don’t have to spend a lot, especially on this step. When it comes to prescriptions, you don’t have to spend a ton of money either. Here are a few options for affordable spot treatments.

Dermatica US 

Agency Skincare Customized Dark Spot Corrector 

If you don’t have health insurance or would prefer a more accessible prescription option, these work wonderfully. Even if you want to spring for a more high-end option, just remember that sometimes prices are more about what the consumer is willing to pay than what the product is actually worth.

Skincare Oils

Skincare oils lock in your moisturizer, and they coat the outer layer of your skin to lock in hydration. Oils basically act as a sealant and oils that have antioxidants are a great option. They are a great alternative to more expensive antioxidant serums. For example, there is a body oil from Osea that has seaweed and extract, and The Ordinary also has some great skin oils. 

It may take some searching, but you can always find something inexpensive that meets your skincare needs.