Growing up, I recall being told that, when it came to skincare, the more expensive the product the better. That general assumption was that expensive skincare products were better, due to higher quality ingredients and significant money put into research and testing. And while there’s some truth to that, the older I get, the more I realize that there are also some hidden skincare gems at your local drugstore. The lower ticket price on a lot of products isn’t necessarily related to the quality of the ingredients, but rather the fact that they can distribute and manufacture it on a larger scale which, in turn, keeps production at a lower cost per item.
With this in mind, let’s compare some high-end skincare products vs. more budget-friendly alternatives, so that you can get the best skincare routine for your budget.
Cream-to-foam cleansers are a new addition to my skincare routine. I find them to be fantastic at deep cleansing. They’re also amazing on days where I wear makeup. Sisley’s La Mousse Brightening Cleansing Foam-In-Cream lathers away the effects of pollution and excess sebum while still keeping your skin soft and supple afterwards.
CeraVe is a recent drug store discovery for me and to say that I am shocked at its efficacy given its price range is an understatement. It works beautifully at cleansing and removing makeup, but it also hydrates your skin and keeps it nice and soft. Plus, the price tag is truly unbeatable.
Related: 10 tricks for dry and itchy winter skin.
Vitamin C serums
Let’s talk vitamin C. It’s mostly only effective in water-based formulas, so you want to make sure that there’s at least 10 to 20 per cent vitamin C present in the ingredients. It should also be in a darker container that is air-tight to protect this precious liquid. Skinceutical’s C E Ferulic checks all the boxes and it’s one of the best vitamin C serums on the market with its 15 per cent vitamin C formula, plus the addition of vitamin E, ferulic acid and glycerin. It also has a smokey scent which is highly indicative of the presence of high-quality vitamin C.
Vichy’s Liftactiv Specialist Peptide-C Ampoules may come in at a lower vitamin C percentage (10 per cent), but it’s a close runner-up to Skinceutical’s serum. It’s still highly effective and the choice of ampoule packaging guarantees that that the vitamin C will remain as fresh as possible.
Hyaluronic acid serums
Hyaluronic acid has been the holy grail of skincare ingredients for a few years now, thanks to its ability to hold onto water and keep the skin hydrated. Not all hyaluronic products work, in my humble opinion, but I did quite enjoy Dr. Barbara Strum’s Hyaluronic serum as I found that my skin felt more plump after using it for a few days. It also contains purslane extract which creates a potent anti-aging potion when mixed with hyaluronic acid.
The Ordinary’s version of a hyaluronic acid serum may not be as sophisticated as Dr. Barbara Strum’s, but if you’re looking for a product whose focus is mainly on hydration, it does the trick nicely. It’s a bit stickier, though, so make sure to apply it on wet skin to promote its absorption.
Sunscreens aren’t meant to solely protect against the sun anymore. Chanel’s UV Essentiel has a high SPF 50 formula that also protects the skin from pollution, oxidative stress and dehydration, but one of the main reasons why it’s one of my favourites is its texture. UV Essentiel is almost milk-like and feels very light weight on the skin without leaving any white residue. It also happens to smell absolutely divine.
While this may not be the most budget-friendly “low-end” alternative on the market, I wanted to include Shiseido’s Urban Environment Oil-Free UV protector because of its similarities to the Chanel sunscreen. It has the same ultra- light formula that looks matte on the skin while protecting against daily environmental aggressors. It does have a slightly lower SPF at 42, but it’s otherwise similar.
Let’s talk about the cream of the crop (pun intended). La Mer’s Crème de La Mer is an icon in its own right. Enriched with the brand’s secret Miracle Broth, this cream soothes and moisturizes in ways that few other do. It comes at a hefty price tag, but it truly does work wonders.
There are rumours of formula dupes for Crème de La Mer, and one of them happens to be an old classic. The Nivea cream is a classic that my grandmother and my mother used before me, and there’s a reason why it’s still so popular to this day. Other than the Miracle Broth, its ingredients are almost identical to La Mer’s cream — and it even smells similar too. Is it as lush and aesthetic? Probably not, but it will definitely won’t break the bank.