Affordable-ish Skincare

Product Details: The Seaweed Bath Co. Purifying Micro-Scub, Everyday Oil, Embryolisse Lait-Créme Concentré, Weleda Skin Food Skin Cream.

Product Details: The Seaweed Bath Co. Purifying Micro-Scub, Everyday Oil, Embryolisse Lait-Créme ConcentréWeleda Skin Food Skin Cream.

Affordable Skincare!

The request I most often get asked for is affordable skincare. I know it can be frustrating to read here when I review so many products; a lot of which can be very expensive. Here’s the thing though – I’m closer to 40 than I am to 30. Most of the products I use are either all natural, high-tech, or (ideally) a combination of both. I’m lucky to have access to a lot of my favorite products (beauty companies can be very liberal with sending out samples), but even if I didn’t I would still invest in my skin (over fashion, etc). You only get one face –  it’s important to take care of it.

Thaaaat being said, a lot of you are much younger than me and my skincare routine is that of someone in her mid-late thirties. If you are in your twenties I don’t think you need all the bells and whistles (like a Dr. Bader for example… it’s my fav, but you can wait a little bit… though if you can afford it, prevention doesn’t hurt either!)

Today I am going to share the most affordable skincare products I’ve found that I stand behind. I say affordable-ish because they aren’t always cheap, but they are high-quality, and if you take any one thing away from reading my blog I hope it’s the importance of taking care of your skin.

First, a few memories. I wasn’t always a blogger with access to high-end skincare.

In my twenties, I didn’t do much, though I did always wear SPF, every single day. Natural products weren’t a “thing,” yet either. Up until I moved to New York when I was 24, I used this Neutrogena moisturizer It was my absolute favorite and I would still stand behind it as a great product, especially for someone a little younger who doesn’t have a lot of aging concerns. It has AHA’s to smooth and exfoliate, it has sunscreen, it’s a great everyday moisturizer.

When I moved here, my roommate (who became my best friend and now is VP of trend beauty over at Macy’s!) introduced me to the world of Kiehl’s, specifically this moisturizer which I also still recommend. I balked at the price tag at first (it’s $31, I was young and v v broke) but the bottle lasts so long. It’s 4.2 oz which is a LOT of moisturizer + you only need a little. I think one bottle would last me about a year… at least!

My first high-end skincare product was SK-II Facial Treatment Essence, which I started using when I was 27. P&G (I was working for them at the time) purchased the company, and our entire office received a training on the brand. They gave us all a (very large) bottle that I would use every day (after cleansing, before moisturizing – read more about SK-II here, in this post). That bottle lasted well over a year and I continued to buy it when I finished with it (using the Kiehls’ moisturizer afterward).

So there you have my skincare history…

The two products I swore by up and down (and still love). Neither are cheap but you can buy them once a year… maybe even once every 18 months. To me, it’s worth the investment. As for a cleanser I would just use any old cleanser back then – whatever I had in the shower. I’m still that way though this one from Elemis is just fantastic.

But now that I have given you that history (and NO I am not ridiculous and trying to pass SK-II off as affordable but I’m telling you all of this to stress a point – even when I was really struggling, I bought it with my own money). Now I’m going to give you all of my affordable skincare recommendations! I take skincare so seriously and am not going to recommend garbage products to you just because they hit a certain price point. These are all products I love and would use as my own routine if I did not have the access that I have as a blogger, and I’m also getting really into DIY beauty (read my post about egg beauty benefits and then try this DIY turmeric mask!)

My favorite “affordable-ish” natural brands!

I’ve said this before but I aim for an 80/20 rule with natural products. I try to use at least 80% natural/organic skincare (body products included). I’m less strict with products that rinse off (cleanser, body wash), and most strict about body lotion as I use the most of it so just from a surface area POV it makes the most sense to use a really clean body lotion.

For that reason, we will start with clean products – and then I’ll share some “dirty” ones I still love.

The Seaweed Bath Company

I have written about The Seaweed Bath Co. before but am such a fan of the brand. I love all of the body products (ƒanything with the Awaken scent is amazing, especially if you love Palo Santo as much as I do.) But the face scrub is divine – it’s the only face scrub in my shower right now and my number one favorite at the moment (price point aside), I just love it so much. Also, for the smoothest skin ever, gently scrub your face for a full two minutes. Thank me later.

Everyday Oil

Honestly, if you are on a hardcore budget, I would say to just buy Everyday Oil and use that to wash your face with (massage a few drops all over dry skin and then use a warm wash cloth to towel off) AND moisturize your face with it afterward. This oil is amazing – my friend Emma is the founder and that’s all she uses on her skin and she looks amazing. It’s such a good product. I should note it’s totally fine for oily skin too.


Okay so I’ve said this before (and it horrified a few of you) but for those of you with very dry skin, Weleda Skin Food is basically your perfect (clean! affordable!) La Mer dupe. Into the Gloss agrees with me so… feel free to argue, but I have very dry skin and in the winter, nothing is better than using skin food as a moisturizer – it’s rich and luxurious and fixes a variety of skin woes.

Indie Lee

I look at Indie Lee as a “bridge” brand between something more affordable and something more expensive. Especially in the natural space where those products can cost SO much. I love her cleansers, especially the brightening cleanser ($32). The  new eye serum is very, very good although it’s $48. Her spot treatment is my GO TO when I get a zit. It dries pimples right out!

Other More Affordable Products I Love!

I still swear by L’Oreal Bright Reveal. I love, love, love these products – they’re high-tech and anti-aging, especially if your goal is bright, glowy skin. The peel pads are my favorite!

Embryolisse. This is one of my favorite moisturizers ever – from the French drugstore but you can get it at a lot of places. It’s $28, so not exactly cheap but not expensive either.

Bioderma. This is another French drugstore beauty product I love as it takes off your makeup in one sweep and it’s SO GENTLE.

Pond’s Cold Cream. Oh Pond’s. It’s just such a classic. There is nothing better after a big event where I have on a full face of makeup (this is rare so I don’t do it very often). Coming home, coating my face in Pond’s, letting it really sink in and melt all my makeup off, and then getting it all off with a warm, wet, hot towel.

Neutrogena Sheer Sunscreen. And this healthy tint from Neutrogena. And the  these Neutrogena wipes. I am still a big fan of everything they do as I have very sensitive skin – their products are all very gentle and effective.

My Ideal Affordable Skincare Routine.

I’d start with this cleanser, then (if my skin needed it exfoliate with either the Seaweed Bath Co scrub or L’Oreal Bright Reveal Peel Pads), and then depending on how much hydration my skin needs I would use Embryolisse (light to medium moisture), or Skin Food (heavy moisture) and then lock it all in with Everyday Oil. Keep in mind I have pretty dry skin, so my routine is all about exfoliation and hydration!

PS – If you’re confused about what order to apply products, read this post!!! It’s one of the questions I get asked the most, so I dedicated a whole post to it!

My Ideal Affordable Skincare Routine.

photography by Trent Bailey.


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Leave a Comment


  1. I really, really appreciate this! I can’t afford luxury products on my salary, so these are recommendations I’m be checking out thoroughly! 🙂

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    8.10.18 Reply
  2. Katie:

    IT’S INSANE YOU’RE CLOSER TO 40 THAN 30. I would be SO happy to look like you even in my mid-late 20’s! You’re so gorgeous and fresh!

    I also LOVE using Waleda on my face, it gives that dewy, bright look that I often skip highlighter all together.

    One thing, I bought the Seaweed Co. scrub per your rec and really can’t stand it. I thought I must have bought the wrong product but looked at your post and it was the same one! I think your comparison to Kate Sommerville (I think?) is what threw me for a loop. The Seaweed scrub is so THIN and just runs all over my face when I scrub for two minutes, while the ExfoliKate I have is thick, seems like 100x more scrubbers per squeeze! Is your’s more thick, and I really did get the wrong product?

    8.10.18 Reply
    • Aw you are so sweet. I know, it’s insane to me too (not bc how I look but how I feel – I feel like I’m 25, hahahahaha!)

      Re: the Seaweed Bath Co – OH no! I thought the scrub was pretty thick and concentrated! The granules are larger than the Kate Somerville ones (so there are fewer of them), but I thought the consistency was pretty thick. I wonder if you got a bad bottle – or if I got a really good bottle. Ugh. I think maybe we both need to try it again!? I LOVE mine, so weird!

      So glad you agree re: Weleda! Sometimes I just use a little bit and put it on like highlighter!

      8.10.18 Reply
  3. Rachel:

    Thanks, Grace. Definitely going to try the Everyday Oil (I’ve been using Josie Maran Argan oil but this is half the price!)

    Question: was wondering if you’ve tried Missha time revolution essence? Victoria McGinley posted about it the other day as an affordable dupe for SKII but was wondering what your thoughts are? Thanks!

    8.10.18 Reply
    • I haven’t tried it yet!! Honestly, I think the reason SK-II is so amazing is the pitera ingredient BUT I adore Victoria and all of her reviews so am going to have to catch up on her post – I completely trust her!

      8.10.18 Reply
      • MarciaMarciaMarcia:

        I was actually coming here to comment about Missha Time Revolution essence. It is every bit as good as SK-II and if you look at some comparisons online, a lot of people prefer Missha’s because the niacinimide really help reduce redness in a way that SK-II doesn’t. Missha uses a similar yeast based formula to Pitera, just from a slightly different source. I’ve gone through several bottles of it (at about $50 a bottle, it lasts forever) and I swear by it.

        I am also a huge fan of Embryolisse, Weleda skin food, and Bioderma micellar water. And a few months ago – at Grace’s recommendation – I tried Kiehl’s Glow Formula Skin Hydrator, and I love love love it. It’s not crazy cheap $38 for 1.7 oz bottle, but you don’t need much, and it makes my skin look amazing. One more recommendation – the LaNeige line of skin care (I found it at Sephora). It’s a Korean brand that is excellent and very affordable. And for reference, I’m 47, have really good skin, but it’s on the dry side and super sensitive.

        As always, thanks Grace for great recommendations!

        8.10.18 Reply
        • Thank you so much Marcia! It sounds like I have to try the Missha!!! Like I said, I completely trust Victoria so if she loves it I know I will love it too!!! Sounds like we have a lot of similar favorites, and similar skin! xo

          8.10.18 Reply
          • Hooray for this thread! Grace: Yes, I need to write a dedicated post now that I’ve been using it for about a month, but the Missha is amazing. Pitera is proprietary to SKII, but Missha has its own ferment product, PLUS niacinamide, AND has fewer preservatives. And it has no scent. There are also two versions of it depending on how dry your skin is. I can’t recommend it enough! $49 retail, or you can risk it and get it for around $25-29 on Amazon (I did this and it was fine). Two enthusiastic thumbs up.

            I love Skin Food too! Another super thick lotion I love in winter is Triology’s Ultra Hydrating Face Cream. It’s around $30 (so, more than Skin Food), but is clean and uses manuka honey. I find it dries more matte than Skin Food too. Credo and Whole Foods sell it!

          • ahhhh so much good info! Thanks friend!!!! Always love your beauty advice/recs! xo

  4. Amanda:

    Thanks for this post! What is your favorite clean body lotion?

    8.10.18 Reply
  5. Taylor:

    Love this post! Right after college I treated myself to switching all my skin care products to Kiehl’s products and I absolutely loved it, my skin definitely needed it post college. From there I’ve been able to add higher end products into my routine, but I will always be thankful for the ‘inexpensive’ Kiehl’s brand for helping me feel like an adult without spending too much money!

    I still love my CeraVe moisturizer when my skin is absolutely parched. Love having it on my shelf as a staple!

    xo, Taylor

    8.10.18 Reply
    • Right??? It’s crazy to me that I think of Kiehl’s as inexpensive now (because it is, comparable to other products I use) as when I was 24 it was a huge splurge!!!!

      8.10.18 Reply
  6. Cy:

    Thank you Grace! I needed to order a new bottle of everyday oil( love the smell! ) just FYI, the link goes to free people and not her everyday oil site. Because I’m a return customer shipping is free. On the FP site shipping is $7.95! I love the seaweed scrub you recommended, I also bought one for my bestie. It reminds me of the very pricey remede, in like the small granules. The Embryolisse is so good too and I think I’ll order the Weleda, haven’t used that for awhile and it’s such a good classic . I always love to try your skin care recs. I don’t wear a lot of makeup either,( as you get older it makes you look older) and it’s all about skincare. I just turned 57 , been told I look much younger and trying to keep it that way! 🙂

    8.10.18 Reply
  7. You mentioned all of my favorite affordable brands! I use Embryolisse, Bioderma, Weleda, and Indie Lee regularly but also love the Everyday Oil 🙂 Another good one is Acure, which is all natural and similarly priced to Embryolisse.

    briana |

    8.10.18 Reply
  8. Katherine:

    This post is so helpful! I am a college student so I gravitate to the inexpensive skincare. BUT having this list of affordable and worthwhile products makes it seem a lot more do-able to take care of my skin early without breaking the bank.

    8.11.18 Reply
  9. Rebecca:

    Hi Grace! Thank you for all the great skincare recommendations. I am ready to make my first big skincare purchase and was wondering if you recommend Dr. Bader or SK-II to start? Is Dr. Bader a lotion and SK-II in place of a serum? Thanks so much! Do they do two different things?

    8.11.18 Reply
    • What is your skin like? I think SK-II is a great way to start. Dr. Bader is amazing if you have really dry skin or are starting to see fine lines.

      The products do two very different things. SK-II is an essence, which means it’s thin like a water. After cleansing, I pat my face dry and then I pat this onto my clean dry skin. Once the SK-II is absorbed I put on serum and moisturizer.

      Dr. Bader is a moisturizer… if you use it you can skip serum altogether. I use it after SK-II!

      Here are two posts you can read, one about SK-II and one about Dr. Bader. They’re completely different products so it’s hard to tell you which one you should use, especially as I don’t know anything about your skin!

      8.13.18 Reply
  10. Love this post, Grace!

    I have the same approach as you, and even when I was a broke university student and later earning hardly anything as a junior political researcher, I would spend money on good skincare where possible because I knew it was an investment. Aesop, Jurlique, SK11 essence and Estee Lauder foundation were my splurges, and everything else could be cheap (I still buy all those same products today and thank myself for starting antioxidants early because I’m 35 and don’t have a wrinkle yet).

    My favourite budget buys (that I still use) would be: pure roseship oil as your night cream (Triology and Akin are my favourites – loaded with antioxidants and super hydrating + repairing), Bioderma micellar water (seconding your recommendation as it’s better than all the fancy versions), Bastiste (cheap as chips) or Klorane dry shampoo (also better than the much more expensive versions), Pixi glow tonic, and Kiehl’s ultra face cream (seconding your recommendation) and avocado eye cream (you get a lot of cream for not much money), and La Roche Posay if you are sensitive or have any skin issues.

    Briony xox

    8.14.18 Reply
  11. Brianna Rooney:

    I keep coming back to this post – so helpful!

    FYI L’Oreal Bright Reveal is buy one get one 50% off at Walgreens right now – good time to stock up!

    8.21.18 Reply
  12. Linda Ackerman:

    What do you think about roc serum, it has retinol and I think its better then neutrogena for retinol skin care.

    7.28.19 Reply