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The Rise of Affordable Natural Skincare?

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I *really* love skincare, especially the natural kind.

But while I like a bit of luxury as much as the next beauty addict,  the prices of some of my favourite natural products can be kind of a bummer.

And while brands that put an emphasis on natural or organic ingredients have been around for years, their products often tended to be on the more expensive side of the skincare divide.

This meant that, for a long time, those of us who loved clean ingredients which didn’t cost the earth were lost in something of a beauty wilderness.

But thankfully no longer:  Enter the rise of affordable luxury.

Because lately an increasing number of new brands have heard the call of the skincare obsessed (me included) and are beginning to offer ingredient-conscious (and often cruelty-free) formulas without the price tag.

But how do these newer lines measure up?

Over the past few months I’ve been testing out some of the latest brands filling this gap in the market, and here are my top picks so far:

The Inkey List

This British brand, created by two former Boots workers, Colette Newberry and Mark Curry, drew comparisons as the UK’s answer to The Ordinary when it first launched in September 2018.

Cruelty-free and featuring a range of ingredient-specific products, The Inkey List promises fuss-free results with prices all under £15.

As the owner of some serious under-eye bags, my standout product from their range is the Brighten-I Eye Cream.

The Inkey List Brighten I

Image – Live That Glow


Containing Panax Ginseng root extract and Centella Asiatica to depuff and hydrate, silicones to blur imperfections, and Mafura (an African tree) seed butter to moisturise, this product’s standout active ingredient is Brightenyl.

A molecule which helps to regulate melanin production, Brightenyl is thought to prevent dark circles from becoming darker, as well as reducing existing hyperpigmentation.

According to The Inkey List, this ingredient is four times more powerful than vitamin C- and I have certainly found has had a noticeable depuffing effect (which is probably helped by the cooling metal tip applicator this product has.)

I’m yet to see any major long-term dark circle lightening benefits, however, but I do notice some brightening, and for the price, I’m very happy to have found something affordable enough to use every day to tackle puffiness.

Great for: Serious under-eye bags.

Not so-great for: Moisturising, as this is more of a brightening product.

The Inkey Lists’s Brighten-I Eye Cream is £8.99 for 15 ml, Cult Beauty UK and $9.99 for 0.5 oz/ 15 ml, Sephora US

Fourth Ray Beauty

Why is it that so many of the brands I fall in love with are so difficult to get in Europe?

This time it’s the turn of Fourth Ray Beauty; the skincare arm of the ever-popular affordable makeup brand, Colourpop.

With an emphasis more on gentle natural ingredients than hard-hitting, science-based results, Fourth Ray has some really lovely, gentle products for skin in need of hydration.

While I’m enjoying everything I’ve tried from this brand, my favourite so far is the Good Mood Gel Moisturizer.

Despite the addition of dimethicone (which I don’t really enjoy the feel of), I am a fan of many of this bargain moisturiser’s other ingredients, including Damascena rose water, hyaluronic acid, and apple, apricot, cucumber, mango and grapefruit extracts.

“Rose water has been used as a beauty product for thousands of years, so it’s no surprise that it can improve your complexion and reduce skin redness,” says Healthline.

Rose water’s “antibacterial properties may help reduce acne,” and  “the anti-inflammatory properties can reduce skin redness and puffiness,” it adds.

As another plus, this watermelon-scented gel is also alcohol, oil and cruelty-free.

Great for: Oily Skin types.

Not-so-great for: Those who don’t love silicones in their skincare.

Fourth Ray Beauty’s Good Mood Gel Moisturizer is ($14/£12 for 50 g, Fourth Ray Beauty)


Good Molecules

Another new favourite is US brand Good Molecules.  Similar to The Ordinary, this line’s focus is on science-backed, research-led products at affordable prices.

So far I’ve been genuinely impressed with this line of 13 individual products at prices starting from £4.67.

But my standout favourite has to be Good Molecules’ Super Peptide Serum.

Good Molecules Super Peptide Serum

Image – Live That Glow

Containing multiple peptides- including hexapeptide-8 and copper peptides, this lightweight and fast-absorbing serum works for both morning and evening use, and layers well with my other products- leaving me with skin that feels noticeably firmer over time.

Because of the uncertainty around whether peptides can actually have a long-term effect on skin elasticity, it’s difficult to tell how this will perform over time but, for the price, this is something I will be happy to repurchase and use daily for its immediate lifting effect.

A note for those sensitive to essential oils, however; this does contain a small amount of citrus oil, so test first before use. According to WebMD, “Citrus-oil-treated skin may become red and irritated when exposed to the sun,” which is also something to keep in mind when using this product.

Great for: Skin firming.

Not-so-great for: Anyone who likes more moisture from their products.

Good Molecules’ Super Peptide Serum $12/£9.37 for 30ml, Beautylish


I’ve been a fan of British affordable luxury brand Bybi since its launch in 2017, and I’m thrilled to see how it already seems to be making its presence known on a more global scale.

Because as well as being both cruelty-free and vegan, Bybi puts real emphasis on natural ingredients and environmentally-conscious packaging.

My actual favourite product of theirs for sheer coppery goodness is their Babe Balm Bronze.

But since that probably qualifies more as a makeup product than skincare I thought I’d include a close second; the Swipe Clean Oil Cleanser.

A thick, honey-like texture, Swipe Clean emulsifies surprisingly well when mixed with water, creating a milky, thin texture which can be pressed into pores (my favourite way to use an oil cleanser) for a deep cleanse.

Bybi Swipe Clean

Image – Live That Glow


Containing sesame seed, grapeseed, jojoba seed, plum kernel seed and papaya seed oils, this fluid also easily removes my makeup without leaving a film and also contains rosemary leaf extract to balance oilier skin.

For more on Swipe Clean (including which skin types this works best for), have a look at my Bybi Swipe Clean Review.

Although it is one of the most expensive products in Bybi’s lineup, this is a cleanser I will return to time and time again.  The brand’s range of booster oils is particularly good value, though, starting from £12.

Great for: Most skin types.

Not-so-great for: Acne types, which might not enjoy an oil product.

Bybi’s Swipe Clean Oil Cleanser is £22.10 for 100ml, Feel Unique UK and $31.20 for 3.38 oz/ 100 ml, Feel Unique US

The Takeaway

The skincare industry has definitely woken up to the demand for natural, effective- yet not break-the-bank- products; and that’s great news for organic fans like me.

While some newer brands still have a slightly limited product range, between those listed above there’s everything from cleansers and toners to masks, exfoliators and even retinols and acids. Enjoy!




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Sally Underwood is a journalist, *serious* beauty fan, and Editor-in-Chief of Live That Glow. Formerly Editorial Director of one of Europe's largest newspaper groups, Sally has been a beauty obsessive since her teen years spent dragging her long-suffering (but immaculately-groomed) friends around every beauty counter in London. She now leads Live That Glow's editorial operations.

Expertise: Skincare, Body care
Education: University College London
  • Nishu


    Good molecules makes some amazing product. Great line up, sally. It’s definetly gonna save me some money. It would be great if you could start a series recommending some dupes of the high end products.

    14th November 2019
  • Tatjana Cvejic


    Such a great post!!!!! I have to find a way to get Good Molecules Super peptide serum! I think that one of the main points of your amazing post is your question “Why is it that so many of the brands I fall in love with are so difficult to get in Europe?”

    20th November 2019

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