The other day I was thinking about it and I realized – I finally had figured out a (somewhat!) affordable but fancy bedtime skincare routine.
It’s mostly clean, too. Retinol is not clean and I don’t think the Pixi Glow Tonic is clean either, but everything else is! I always say that I try to be 80/20 in my own skincare routine with a focus on clean ingredients BUT I also want high-tech and need my retinol! (If you want a clean alternative I would definitely recommend trying Bakuchiol, which I wrote about in this post!)
I have more affordable skincare recs here in this post… but I’ve never outlined a full skincare routine at solely affordable/drugstore prices. If you buy everything (8 products) featured, that’s $153. Not cheap (the two retinol products drive up the cost!) BUT you’re getting a full routine that is in my opinion, pretty comparable to a MUCH more expensive skincare routine.
ALSO: be sure to check out Sephora’s newly launched “clean beauty under $20” page!
Affordable Skincare Routine
Before we dive in, a few quick things!
- THIS is my current skincare routine. I’ve updated a few things and will do a winter skincare post but that will give you the general idea.
- THIS is the correct order to apply your skincare products! (I’ve listed out this routine in proper order but I always get asked questions about product order so I wanted to link to that post again.
- This post is a bedtime routine! I find that if you are diligent at night you don’t have to do a ton in the morning. I usually splash my face with water (or use this toner/cleanser), and pat on a light moisturizer, my fav daytime eye cream and tinted moisturizer w/ SPF. Don’t ever skip SPF… I usually try to wear at least SPF 30 every day. I haven’t found an affordable/drugstore one I truly LOVE yet but this is my fav from Supergoop. You want to fight against those free radicals!
Lastly, these are just the skincare products I love and what works for me! Everything mentioned in this post has been tested, vetted, and is fully Grace-approved! BUT if we have different skin types, this might not work for you. I’m 38 with dry skin. My biggest concerns are dehydration, fine lines, and texture. I will occasionally get a little bit oily (especially on my t-zone and get so annoyed by the larger pores on my nose!)
I love love love a good double cleanse. It’s such a nice way to kick off your skin care routine! A balm to remove all my makeup, dirt and grime… and then a gel cleanser to get my skin really clean and prepped for skincare. Besides being super effective, it’s also just a really nice, luxurious ritual. I don’t double cleanse every night but I do it if I wore makeup, my skin feels dirty, I’ve been traveling, or I just want the ritual. If not, I’ll just pick one!
Start by using the Cocokind Oil to Milk Cleanser ($18). Massage this on dry skin and then add a little bit of water to emulsify. Overall, I’m pretty medium on Cocokind but I really love this cleanser and it’s a great price. You could also do a micellar water as your first step (so many of my girlfriends are OBSESSED!) and I get it, it’s satisfying and they really do get all of your makeup off but I personally prefer an oil cleanser or cleansing balm!
THEN, use this Weleda Clarifying Gel Cleanser ($20). I love this cleanser – it’s my favorite face wash at this price point. It smells amazing and really deep cleans. Even though I have dry skin I really like this cleanser as it deep cleans, prepping my skin for moisture!
Exfoliate (2-3x a week)
For a manual exfoliation, I love the Seaweed Bath Company’s face scrub. It looks like it has been discontinued, but not to fear: I’ve been testing out this one from Versed and it’s just as good… maybe even better? Budgets aside, it is my favorite face scrub but I do really love that it is $17. I got a tip to (gently) exfoliate for two full minutes in the shower and this has been a game changer… your skin will be buttery soft and SO SMOOTH afterward!
Retinol / Acid / Serum
A few times a week (I do it every other night, recommend starting with 1-2x a week) use the Olay Retinol Serum. At $29 this is the most expensive of the products, but it’s also really effective and most retinol serums cost $100+. Definitely read my full review of the Olay retinol products. I find them to be very good and comparable to the more expensive retinol products I’ve tried.
Pixi Glow Tonic ($14) is the real deal and my favorite affordable glycolic acid/toner. It’s similar to P50 in that it exfoliates and makes you GLOW!
On non retinol nights I would do a gentle serum like the Olay Wrinkle Correction Serum, or acid. (This is also when you’d do your salicylic acid to treat acne if you have oily skin.) Or if your skin is feeling tight or irritated, skip this step and just go straight to moisturizer. If you have sensitive skin, acids can often do more harm than good.
Everything really depends on YOUR skin (test things out! Pay attention to how your skin feels) but I would recommend doing each of these things SEPARATELY a few times a week. Don’t do them both, I think retinol + glow tonic would probably be a little too much. I’d probably start with retinol 1-2x a week and Glow Tonic 3x a week with a couple off nights where you do a hydrating serum (don’t have a drugstore/affordable rec for that yet) or just go straight to moisturizer after you cleanse).
I am still loving the Olay Retinol Eye Cream ($29) and use it every night. It’s gentle, it doesn’t irritate, and I have definitely noticed a big improvement in the texture around my under eye area. I get asked if it helps with dark circles and I don’t think it does but honestly, no topical cream is going to fix your dark circles.
There are so many great night creams out there but personally, Skin Food and Skin Food Light ($12 each) are my two favs here. Both are so hydrating. I would liken the Skin Food to La Mer’s original cream (it’s extremely rich – a little goes a long way and you have to warm it up between your fingers first) and the Skin Food Light to the Dr. Bader Rich Cream (in consistency, not active ingredients, obviously). I use both creams a lot… usually Skin Food at night or when my face is just extra dry, and Skin Food Light for day. I have a post about Skin Food, with all of its many uses… it’s one of my favorite parts of my skin care routine.
Lock it all in with Oil
We’ve talked about this before but oil is the last step, and it locks in all of those good actives!!!
Everyday Oil ($14 for one ounce) is one of my favorite oils, and it’s an amazing price! I like to tap on oil over my moisturizer as a final step before bed to lock everything in. It smells amazing, it feels amazing, and it leaves my skin so glowy. The Everyday Oil Mainstay Blend smells like Palo Santo which I love but they also make an unscented formula for my sensitive skin friends!
PS – I’m still on the hunt for a good affordable hyaluronic acid! If you have recs, leave them in the comments and I will give them a try.