huhme, my name is Zoe Weiner and I am addicted to skin care. My beauty cabinet currently looks like the stuff #shelfie dreams are made of, and on any given day, my regimen is costing over $1,600 because I’m slathering between 12 and 15 products, including a $200-plus essence, a lactic acid treatment. from $158 and a botanical serum from $125. So…yeah, despite the fact that my routine is stacked and wildly effective, you wouldn’t exactly call it “wallet friendly.”
However, when confronted with a pile of empties, I was faced with the decision between buying expensive replacements and paying my rent (obviously I had to choose the latter), so I had to think: is all this really worth it? My skin looks pristine, but could I achieve similar results without a hefty price tag?
To find out, I decided to go to the drugstore and buy elixirs under $40. My mission? To see if they could make my skin look as glowing as more expensive counterparts. With stores like Target and CVS committed to making clean, effective products accessible to customers more than ever, and new affordable brands appearing daily, the search was actually a breeze. And much to my delight, when I walked into my mother’s house for a visit after five days of exclusively using drugstore diamonds, her first question was, “What have you been doing with your skin?” It was clear that the regime was bearing fruit. Here’s how to copy it.
I’ve always felt weird about spending a lot of money on makeup-removing wipes, so these have been my go-to cleansers for the past few years. They are super gentle, but work really well to remove makeup and prepare the skin for a deep clean. I use them at night as the first step in my routine (or even alone when I’m too lazy for a full 10 steps).
I’m a sucker for a good foaming cleanser, and this one takes it to the next level with an attached facial brush that adds the bubbles. The combination of charcoal and tomatoes helps to detoxify the skin from the dirt that accumulates every day. The built-in brush is like giving myself a mini facial massage that doesn’t feel alone astonishingbut also helps to add yet another level of deep cleansing and gentle exfoliation.
Full disclosure: This micellar water has been a mainstay of my routine for a while, and it’s my go-to on nights when a double cleanse is in order. According to Kathryn Dickinson, founder of clean beauty salon Aillea, micellar water contains “microscopic oil molecules — called micelles — suspended in water, which work to remove dirt and hydrate your skin,” making it a great option if you’re using it twice a day. use a regular cleaner. day your skin dries out. I want my face to feel squeaky clean, so I use micellar water on a cotton pad after my foaming cleanser and the foundation-colored swabs reinforce the fact that I’ve made the right decision.
This toner returns to my skin once it is cleaned of all gross stuff. It’s made with witch hazel, which acts as an astringent, but is formulated with extra moisturizing natural ingredients like aloe vera, sea extracts, cucumber extract, and basil essential oil to balance that out. While toning is a completely optional step in many people’s skincare routines, keep in mind that it can help bring vitamins, hydration, and nutrients into your skin and even help balance its pH.
If you want to be transported back to Spring Break 2010, this stuff will do. It felt like I was rubbing a tropical vacation on my face in the best possible way. It goes on like a jelly, and I could tell it was working right away from the slight tingling it caused in my skin. I left it on for the recommended five minutes during my evening routine while brushing my teeth and scrolling through my Bumble posts, and could see — and feel — a visible difference when I wiped it.
TBH, I was most concerned about losing my arsenal of serums, but when I found this one, which uses peony and red seaweed to improve radiance, reduce pigmentation and restore collagen, I fell in love instantly. Since I couldn’t see any difference in my skin at all when making the swap, I’d say it definitely works as it should.
This eye cream with matcha and probiotics is packed with antioxidants, which help with puffiness and dark circles. I used this bad boy after a few late nights and was thoroughly impressed with how quickly it helped me to fake eight hours. The metal tip of the tube smoothes the formula and cools the skin under the eyes.
If I had to pick one all-time favorite product from my drugstore routine, this would be it. Olay’s new fragrance-free whipped moisturizer is equally lightweight (it feels like you’re smearing with frosting) and heavily loaded with active ingredients like vitamins C and E plus niacinamide to get to work and a smooth, silky complexion to create. I love that it also has SPF 25 which means I don’t have to worry about adding an extra step to my regimen to make sure my skin is protected.
The best thing about this facial oil—which feels silky smooth and doesn’t leave a slippery film—is the fragrance. I used it at night, and the combination of rosehip, jojoba, and evening primrose put me to sleep and didn’t grease my pillows while I snoozed.
Being deeply committed to this experiment, I decided to really make my drugstore skincare routine “head to toe” and also take it from my sink to my shower. This foamy formula is so moisturizing that I don’t even have to use lotion when I get under the power (I still did, though, because #selfcare). The foam technology is one of the first of its kind, helping to retain moisture in your skin instead of stripping it like regular soap (and foam) does. From now on, this stuff will be a mainstay in my shower routine.
Putting on a body moisturizer after a shower has become something of a daily luxury for me, and I was wondering if the price of the product would make any difference to how much I enjoyed that part of my routine. The short answer, as it turns out, is that it doesn’t matter whether I smooth out my skin with a $70 moisturizer or a $7 rendition. This hydro-boost lotion contains hyaluronic acid, which helps bind moisture and keep my skin glowing. to keep you happy.
Want more from the drugstore? Try one of our all-time favorite hydrators, straight off aisle 1. And the affordable goodness doesn’t just stop with skincare: Here’s why you should lighten up your makeup bag with a drugstore mascara.
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