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The affordable skincare for every skin type

5 of the Best Affordable Skincare Brands

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In the bleak, pre-Glossier days of years gone by there were basically two options when it came to skincare budgets: the affordable three-for-two deals from Boots, or the wait-did-I-really-just-spend-that-much expensive products sold from behind the teeny spaceship-looking counters they put in the middle of department stores.

So for a long time what you put on your face was pretty much directly determined by how much you had available to spend.  The thing is though, that while some of the cheapest products were often very effective, those with prices at the top of the budget spectrum weren’t always an indication of quality.

And it also left anyone somewhere in the middle of the range- who wanted high quality, skin-healthy formulas without being so concerned about the price that you just end up gazing wistfully at a product *without ever actually using it*- in a weird sort of skincare no man’s land.

But no more!  Thankfully (and I’m guessing in part due to the influence of platforms like Instagram currently making skincare as popular- or even more so- than makeup and haircare) the last few years have been quite the fertile ground for a series of newer brands aimed at quality formulas and affordable prices.

And here are five of my favourites that together make up a pleasingly affordable skincare routine.


The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm

Without exaggeration one of my favourite ever cleansers, The Inkey List’s Oat Cleansing Balm is not only a total bargain (at £9.99 for a very generous 150 ml), but also so full of soothing ingredients that it’s perfect for my sensitive skin; even when it’s really stressed out.

Containing oat kernel oil and oat powder (both highly soothing), this oil/balm formula is worked over dry skin before being massaged in with wet fingertips and removed- ideally- with a face cloth.

It leaves my skin comfortable, soothed and moisturised enough that I’m not immediately reaching for face cream after using.

Created by two former Boots beauty experts, Colette Newberry and Mark Curry, The Inkey List goes heavy on science-backed ingredients and quality ingredients, and light on fussiness or fragrance; making it an increasingly budget beauty favourite since its launch in 2018.

Great for: Sensitive skin types prone to redness or dryness as this is about as soothing as it gets.

Not-so-great for: Anyone who doesn’t enjoy an oil formula.  Also for re-ordering as this sells out really quickly (so I tend to buy a few at a time).

The Inkey List’s Oat Cleansing Balm is £9.99 for 150 ml, Cult Beauty UK and $9.99 for 5 oz/ 150 ml from Sephora US

Nuxe Reve de Miel Ultra-Rich Face and Body Cleansing Gel

Another favourite cleanser, and one that works well for all skin types, is Nuxe’s face and body product.

Sold in a ginormous 400 ml, this is about the best value you’re going to find in a cleanser (but definitely means it needs to be decanted before travel).  Full of soothing ingredients like honey, vitamin E and honey, this low-foaming gel is so gentle on skin and leaves me cleansed and glowing.  And as someone who is seriously lazy and will ironically go to great lengths to shave even two minutes off any sort of activity, I also love how this doubles up as a shower gel, meaning I can do all my cleansing in one go.

Great for: All skin types and anyone who likes their products to double up as a multipurpose.

Not-so-great for: Very sensitive skin types, which may not get on with the artificial fragrance here. Having said that, my own sensitive skin really enjoys this one.

Nuxe’s Reve de Miel Ultra-Rich Face and Body Cleansing Gel is £19.50 for 400 ml from Look Fantastic UK and $28 for 13.5 oz/ 400 ml, Look Fantastic US


Fourth Ray Beauty Watermelon Face Milk

Something in between a light serum and a moisturiser, Fourth Ray’s Face Milks are a really lovely way of hydrating oily skin without overwhelming it- or also for moisturising in the heat (without ending up seriously sweaty).

I love this watermelon one partly for the scent and partly for its hydrating ingredients (like cucumber water and aloe).  Dispersed via a dropper, it’s hygienic (great for breakout-prone skin) and quick to use and absorbs into skin in seconds.

The one downside? The slightly convoluted shipping process, since this comes directly from the States, making it prone to customs delays etc (although I’ve been pretty lucky so far).

Fourth Ray’s Watermelon Face Milk is $14/£10.65 for 30 ml from Fourth Ray Beauty

Great for: Dehydrated or oily skin types.  Hot weather trips when you might feel like skipping the moisturiser.

Not-so-great for: Struggling to think of anything, but I guess anyone who doesn’t like the scent of watermelon..?


Fourth Ray Good Mood Moisturizer

Another favourite from Fourth Ray, this watermelon-infused gel moisturiser is also lovely for oily or hot weather skin and is a bargainous $14/£10.65 for 50 g.

Packed with all sorts of hydrating goodies like watermelon extract and rose water, the gel formula here makes this really quick and fuss-free to apply and keeps skin comfortable all day.

Great for: Oilier skin types or anyone living in hot weather as this hydrates without blocking pores.

Not-so-great for: Cold weather or very dry skin types since this goes heavy on the light hydration rather than emollient ingredients. Also, anyone who doesn’t get on with silicones since this contains dimethicone.

Fourth Ray’s Good Mood Moisturizer is $14/£10.65 for 50 g from Fourth Ray Beauty


Bybi Babe Balm

Who doesn’t love a multipurpose product (seriously, who?), and Bybi’s Babe Balm is one of my favourites mainly for its ability to be used almost for every single skincare purpose (also the price).  In fact, Babe Balm’s so practical I’d like to think if I somehow ended up stranded in a jungle I’d be able to make it out with nothing more than this little balm and perhaps something unexpected yet versatile like a small tin opener (surprisingly versatile).

Lovely for moisturising/ highlighting/taming eyebrows/glossing lips etc, Babe Balm can be used pretty much all over the hair and body and lasts ages.  For some more ideas for how to use it check out my 10 Ways to Use Bybi’s Babe Balm.

Containing just 16 ingredients, this balm is all-natural and full of moisturising goodies like shea butter and squalane.  It’s also cruelty-free, vegan, and its packaging is made from sugarcane (not plastic).

Great for: Pretty much most things and most skin types.

Not-so-great for: Acne types, who may not want to apply something this rich directly to the face but could still enjoy taming hair/smoothing dry heels etc.

Bybi’s Babe Balm is £18 for 30 ml from Feel Unique UK and $23 for 1.01 oz/ 30 ml from Revolve Clothing US




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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

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