Happy 50th blog post to me and thanks, readers, for sticking around! As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve made major changes to my blog — opting to focus on a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Within this broad remit, skincare takes a prominent place in my health. So today, let’s talk about best and worst budget skincare. This list isn’t exhaustive, and the products are highstreet/drugstore brands at affordable prices. These skincare items are mostly purchased in the UK, but many are available in Canada and the US.
First, the back story:
Since moving to the UK in 2011, and presumably being stressed with my PhD and life, my IBS has significantly worsened (a topic for another day), I’ve developed seasonal allergies, and my skin has gone to shit. This could also be attributed to body changing as I approach 30. 🙁
My skin issues started when I was living in College and I found that after I shaved my legs, the week following would be unbearable. I would scratch until I bled, the itching kept me up at night, and I would develop bumps and ingrown hairs. I also get skin so dry that it appears dusty and flakes. The same goes for my underarms. This problem continues, and I suspect it has to do with stress, seasonal allergies, and IBS as mentioned above, but it’s likely that I’ve developed major skin intolerances. I can’t just not shave, and I’ve tried waxing, epilating, sugaring, and creams, so my solution is to shave less frequently and I’m very picky about my skincare. I also opt for organic fabrics when possible, and I use sensitive laundry soap.
These skin changes apply to my whole body and my face too! Until about two years ago, I could basically use whatever body wash and face gel I wanted. This, sadly, is no longer the case. Now I need to be super careful about what I use so that I don’t get whole-body itching, and so that my face doesn’t break out in red bumps. My face is combination skin, and I am prone to dry patches. If all else fails (and it often does) good old Benadryl usually helps me get sleep and ensures that my legs don’t look like they were mauled by a cat in the night.
Without further ado, here are my best and worst budget skincare items for dry, sensitive skin.
Legs and Shaving:
The Venus Embrace Sensitive razors work for me. The blades are relatively fool-proof to shave with, and there isn’t any product on it which irritates my skin. I use un-perfumed soap or a body wash like Sanex to shave.
The Venus razors with the gel bars on them (like Venus Spa) are horrid. They made me break out in hives and also cut my legs to smithereens. Shaving gels and shaving with conditioners do not work for me because they make me break out in a rash and cause me to itch, increasing my chances of getting ingrown hairs.
My safest bet is a product with 0% everything (and 0% fun) like Carex or Sanex. But, I find Palmolive milk and honey wash to be moisturising, smells great, doesn’t irritate my skin, and it’s only £1. Similar products from other brands that are honey or almond-based also seem to work.
Unfortunately, anything that smells great is the worst. Harsh scrubs, and scents like citrus or floral aggravate my skin. I also have to steer clear of Lush products, which disappoints me greatly.
I swear by Aveeno. I used to use the skin relief one, but I actually think I prefer the daily moisturising lotion. However, I have a new first-place contender! Mixa is a French pharmacy brand that I believe is France’s #1 brand, and it recently launched in the UK. This stuff has saved my skin. I’ve been using the soothing body lotion with oat milk for a couple of weeks and I haven’t had any issues. Lastly, I don’t really use hand lotion, but when I do it’s always The Body Shop Shea Butter Hand Cream!
Generally any product that is heavy on the perfume irritates my skin. For example, I’ve struggled with products from Bath&BodyWorks and Soap&Glory.
Despite my changing skin, one product that has stayed with me since I was a teenager is the sensitive version of the St. Ives Apricot Scrub. But, I can only use this once a week and I have to use a heavy layer of moisturiser afterwards. Because I wear a full face of makeup daily, the best cleanser I’ve found recently is the Vitamin E Hot Cloth Cleaner from Superdrug. If you wear heavy makeup, I’d recommend checking this one out if you like a thick cleanser with a soft scent, before forking over £14 for the Liz Earle version.
Before I tried the Vitamin E Hot Cloth Cleaner, I tested out the Naturally Radiant version and my skin is still hating me for that a month on. Lesson learned, if you have an allergy to tropical fruits such as kiwi and pineapple like I do, maybe don’t rub a product all over your face that contains kiwi fruit extract. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve tried a couple cleansing products from Simple and I find they just don’t really do anything. They don’t remove makeup, they don’t leave my face feeling clean, and I don’t find them moisturising.
As mentioned above, the Vitamin E Hot Cloth Cleanser is working for me at the moment. I also like the Garnier Sensitive Micellar Water for removing eye makeup without the sting. I keep a pack of makeup removing wipes by the bed (for those nights when I am too lazy) and the ones I like best are from Johnson&Johnson and Simple . Finally, coconut oil works for removing waterproof mascara.
I tried the Yes to Cucumber wipes and had to throw the pack away because they stung my eyes and made my face burn. I also don’t like the Simple Exfoliating wipes, purely because they are too rough. Moreover, I didn’t get on with the Boots Simply Sensitive Miceller Water nor the Garnier Fresh Eye Makeup Remover because they didn’t take off the makeup and the Garnier one stung my eyes.
Going back to Mixa, the product I’ve been using religiously the past few weeks is the Mixa Cica Repair Balm. This balm is for face, body, and hands and is extremely thick, but sinks into the skin nicely. And, as I found out from A Model Recommends, French makeup artists use it on models as a primer before shows for a natural glow. Glowing skin? Oui, s’il vous plaît! Apart from Mixa, Rosehip Facial Oil from Boots works well post-shower when I want some extra moisture.
I also picked up the Naturally Radiant Night Cream by Superdrug and, like the cleanser, it made my skin angry and bumpy. The Moisture Bomb Night Cream by Garnier wasn’t bad and smelled nice, but the gel texture was too light to be considered a night cream.
I try to always wear at least SPF 15 on my face year round, whether that is from a primer, foundation, or a moisturiser. Simple Kind to Skin+ Protecting Moisture Cream SPF 30 was my go to product in 2016, and I used it as a primer. Additionally, a product that is equally good, but that I’ve only been able to get in Canada, is L’Oreal Ideal Moisture 48hrs for Sensitive skin with SPF 30. Hawaiian Tropic‘s scent always reminds me of vacation, but I’ve been too afraid to try it recently.
I tried The Body Shop Vitamin C moisturiser with SPF 30 a few years ago and throughout the summer I kept finding that my eyes would sting when I was outside. At first I thought it was my mascara, and then I realised that I was sweating and the cream was sliding off my face and into my eyes. Garnier Ambre Solaire Kids SPF 50 was also a no go for me, not because it didn’t work but because it is a sun block and therefore the white residue doesn’t rub in. In 2016 I ended up with white stains all over my outfits when I used it at a summer conference in Kent.
I thought I would mention that I picked up The Body Shop Skin Defence Multi-Protection essence SPF 50 the other day because it was 40% off [RRP £16]. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve heard that it is lightweight and works well under makeup. I’ll give it a go and let you know how it works out!
Update (July 2017): This stuff is amazing and I’ll definitely be re-purchasing! Update (July 2020): I still use this product, but it has been reformulated to have higher SPF.
If you’ve read until the end of this long post on best and worst budget skincare, kudos! I hope you’ve found some useful tidbits on what budget products work for dry, sensitive skin.
Good luck on your skincare journey!