Taking care of your skin at any age shouldn’t be complicated.
It doesn’t have to be expensive, either. While I’m not against a splurge here and there on products I believe in, my day-to-day skincare has to be affordable.
And for me, that means staying below $20 for most of the products I buy (under $10 for some), with a few that are (generally) still below $30.
Good thing that still leaves plenty of high-quality options.
Best Skincare Brands for Products Under $30
The products listed for each brand cost under $30 and come highly-recommended. Anything preceded by three stars is something I use myself (or have used).
I’ve been using Cera Ve products for years and can always trust their lotions to leave my skin feeling hydrated and petal-soft.
For the perfect facial pick-me-up in the middle of the day, spritz your face and neck with your favorite facial mist. Allow it to dry and then smooth on a layer of Cera Ve Daily Moisturizing Lotion or PM (or AM) Facial Moisturizing Lotion.
Hydrating Facial Cleanser — with hyaluronic acid and 3 essential ceramides (16 oz.) —> $13.59
Hydrating Micellar Water — no rinse formula with 3 essential ceramides and niacinamide (10 oz.) —> $9.84. I love using micellar water, because I don’t have to rinse at the sink, It’s effective (gets a surprising amount of dirt out of skin I thought was clean) and easy to use.
Eye Repair Cream — with 3 essential ceramides & hyaluronic acid (0.5 oz.) —> $10.77
*** Skin Renewing Vitamin C Serum — with 10% pure vitamin C, 3 essential ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and vitamin B5 (1 oz.) —> $18.84 (squeeze tube)
Resurfacing Retinol Serum — with 3 essential ceramides, licorice root extract, and niacinamide (1 oz.) —> $15.99 (pump bottle)
*** Daily Moisturizing Lotion for normal to dry skin (face & body) — with hyaluronic acid and ceramides (19 oz) —> $17.78. While this formula doesn’t have niacinamide like the facial moisturizing lotions (for AM & PM), it comes in a large pump bottle and beautifully hydrates tired, dry skin all over.
AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with Sunscreen (Broad Spectrum SPF 30) — with 3 essential ceramides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid (3 oz.) —> $13.47.
*** PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion — ultra lightweight and hydrating with 3 essential ceramides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid (3 oz.) —> $12.38. This is perfect for evening use, when sunlight is no longer an issue. It absorbs quickly and easily and leaves my skin feeling soothed and soft.
*** Skin Renewing Night Cream — with ceramide & peptide complex (1.7 oz) —> $13.98 (over 30,000 reviews with a 4.6 average rating).
I started with TruSkin’s Vitamin C-Plus Super Serum, because I was looking for something that had both vitamin C and retinol, among other restorative ingredients (like niacinamide and hyaluronic acid).
TruSkin uses all plant-based (vegan) ingredients in their skincare line. Every item is also cruelty-free and free of toxic chemicals.
UPDATE 5/14: I’ve taken a break from most retinol products for now, since most of them tend to cause visible irritation seconds after applying. If I find one that doesn’t, I’ll update this post with the information.
Vitamin C Daily Facial Cleanser — with vitamin C (15%) and organic rose hip oil (4 oz) —> $15.99
*** Daily Facial Super Toner for all skin types — with glycolic acid, vitamin C, ocean minerals, and organic anti-aging ingredients (4 oz) —> $15.99 (This is one of my top 2 toners, and I love that I can spray it on).
Tea Tree Clear Skin Super Serum (Age Defying Formula) — w/ Vitamin C, salicylic acid, hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, & retinol —> $24.79
Vitamin C serum — with Vitamin E, hyaluronic acid, witch hazel & jojoba oil (nearly 70,000 reviews) —> $19.99
*** Vitamin C-Plus Super Serum (Age Defense Formula) — with vitamin C, niacinamide, retinol, hyaluronic acid, and salicylic acid —> $24.79
Vitamin C Daily Facial Moisturizer for all skin types — with Vitamin B5, green tea & jojoba oil —> 2 oz. for $15.99; 4 oz. for $26.95
*** Retinol Moisturizer for face care and eye area — with hyaluronic acid, green tea, and vitamins E and B5 (2 oz) —> $19.99
Cetaphil is another well-known dermatologist-recommended skincare brand, trusted for being kind to sensitive skin as well as effective for treating excema. I’m not currently using any of their products, but if I had to, I’d use the following.
Gentle Skin Cleanser (use w/ or w/out water) —> 20 oz. pump bottle for $11.48
Deep Hydration Refreshing Eye Serum — with hyaluronic acid and vitamins E and B5 —> $14.97
Daily Oil-Free Hydrating Lotion (w/ hyaluronic acid) — with 6 moisturizers + Vitamins E & B6 ???
Moisturizing Lotion (body & face) —> 3-pack (2 20-oz pump bottles & a 4-oz travel bottle) for $28.43
Hydrating Eye Gel-Cream — with hyaluronic acid (0.5 oz.) —> $12.22
*** Sheer Mineral Face Liquid Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 (formulated for sensitive skin) — microbiome gentle, contains vitamin E, water resistant, and ideal for use under make-up (1.7 fl. oz.) —> $14.49
UPDATE: As of around May 10th, I’ve started using the Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Sunscreen, because it’s easy to apply, doesn’t leave a whitish cast, and feels better on my skin than the thicker moisturizers with sunscreen added to them. This one is almost watery thin, but it disappears as you apply it, and the SPF 50 (hopefully) means better sun protection when I’m outside or driving.
Bliss describes its product line as “clean, cruelty-free, spa-powered skincare.” Like TruSkin, they’re also vegan-friendly & free of toxic chemicals.
I’m just getting acquainted with this brand and will update this post with reviews as I learn more.
*** Rose Gold Rescue Soothing Toner Mist for Sensitive Skin — with calming rose water and nourishing colloidal gold (3.4 oz.) —> $9.00 (This is my other go-to toner; it feels great sprayed on freshly-cleaned skin.)
Lemon & Sage Refreshing Body Wipes — natural deodorant gym & travel wipes (30 ct.) —> $5.99
Pumpkin Powerhouse Resurfacing & Exfoliating Enzyme Mask — with shea butter and prebiotics (1.7 oz.) —> $15.99
Jelly Glow Peel — gentle non-abrasive exfoliator with fruit enzymes (4.0 oz.) —> $9.00
Eye Do All Things Hydrating Eye Gel To Depuff & Brighten — with cooling rollerball (0.7 oz.) —> $16.49
Bright Idea Vitamin C + Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting & Brightening Serum (am & pm) — $20.25 (Ulta.com)
Renew & Smooth Glycolic + Polyhydroxy Acid Night Serum — resurfacing / exfoliating six-acid blend (1 oz.) —> $20.00
Glow & Hydrate Niacinamide + Hyaluronic Acid Day Serum — replenishing / balancing (1 oz.) —> $19.20
That’s Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads — single-step pads for exfoliating & brightening (15 pads) —>$15.00
Rose Gold Rescue Gentle Moisturizing Cream for Sensitive Skin — with soothing rose water and nourishing colloidal gold to calm, balance, and soften your skin (1.5 oz.) —> $19.00
Bright Idea Vitamin C + Tri-Peptide Collagen-Protecting & Brightening Moisturizer — brightens and boosts skin’s natural elasticity (1.5 oz.) —> $19.38
I’ve yet to familiarize myself with any of this brand’s cruelty-free and skin-loving products, but these are four products I’d love to try:
Beauty Sleep Resurfacing Serum — 5 AHAs + hyaluronic acid (1 oz.) —> $19.60 (Ulta.com)
Prime + Perfect Mask — superfruits + shea butter (2 oz.) —> $19.99
*** From the product description: “I love this mask because it makes my skin look brighter and tighter and my pores look smaller” — Jessica Alba, Founder of Honest Beauty
Hydrogel Cream — with two types of hyaluronic acid (1.7 oz.) —> $19.99
Organic Beauty Facial Oil — hydrates, softens, and replenishes with pure fruit and seed oils, lightly scented with rose, ylang ylang, and clove (1 oz.) —> $27.99
My favorite thing, so far, from this brand is their facial spray, which feels great spritzed all over the face and neck in the middle of the day when I need a pick-me-up. They also have some facial masks worth a look. And you get 3 free samples with every order!
Right now, you can get a free gift when you spend at least $50.
*** Facial Spray with Aloe, Cucumber & Green Tea — “cooling facial mist hydrates, tones, and re-energizes” (4 oz.) —> $7.00
*** Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs, and Rosewater — “revitalizes with a dewy radiance. Boosts moisture and glow” (4 oz.) — $7.00
Facial Spray with Aloe, Sage, and Orange Blossom — “replenishes and revives dull, tired skin”; restores balance (4 oz.) —> $7.00
Temporary Lifting Mask (must-have for special occasions) — lifts, tightens, and refines (for all skin types, 1 oz. —> $20.00 ***Note: smells like roses, which is always a plus for me.
***Super Collagen Mask — a “time-tested favorite (and a must-have of our New York City salon’s asetheticians)”; leaves skin soft, silky & younger looking (2 oz. in a soft green color) —> $18.00
Brightening Mask with Vitamin C — brightens uneven skin tone and texture and leaves skin feeling fresh & rejuvenated (2 oz.) —> $22.00
*** Note (from the Mario Badescu website): Mist your face before applying the mask to clean skin. When the mask is dry, mist it again to make removal easier.
Neutrogena & RoC
These popular dermatologist-recommended brands are easy to pick up at a drugstore or just about any store with a health and beauty section.
Hydro Boost Hyaluronic Acid Hydrating Water Gel Daily Face Moisturizer for Dry Skin
Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream (w/ hyaluronic acid and retinol)
*** Anti-Wrinkle Deep Wrinkle Night Moisturizer (with hyaluronic acid and retinol)
*** Multi-Correxion Revive + Glow Daily Serum — with Vitamin C+ (1 fl oz) —> $21.12
Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Night Retinol Serum (30 capsules) —> $19.87
***Multi-Correxion 5 in 1 Anti-Aging Daily Face Moisturizer with SPF 30 (1.7 oz) —> $18.99
Retinol Correxion Line Smoothing Anti-Aging Eye Cream — visibly reduces fine lines, dark circles, and puffiness (0.5 fl. oz.) —> $16.59
The follow products each have their own brand. Some of these I found while doing an internet search on “Best [type of skincare item] under $30.” Some I learned about from random Google-generated ads on well-loved skincare products.
I keep learning, so I’ll probably add to this list as I go.
*** Anai Rui Rose Clay Facial Mask — w/ Kaolin pink clay, niacinamide, collagen, hyaluronic acid, etc. — brightening, moisturizing, anti-aging (4.05 oz.) —> $16.99. (This one came with a tiny spatula to help with slathering on an even layer).
*** Radha Beauty USDA Organic Rosehip Oil — for moisturizing face/skin, hair & nails (4 oz.) —> $14.95
***Note: The listing describes this as “ideal for fussy, dry, mature, and blemish-prone skin.” (I mean, that alone….). A little goes a long way with this stuff.
DETOX Organic Charcoal & Clay Mask — with kaolin clay, rosehip oil, and vitamin C (4 oz.) —> $20.99
Pura D’Or Professional Organic Castor Oil — for noticeably fuller hair, lusher eyelashes, thicker eyebrows, and younger looking skin (4 oz.) — $14.99 (includes bonus brush kit)
Seoul Ceuticals Vitamin C (20%) Serum (daily AM) with ferulic acid, hyaluronic acid, and d-Alpha Tocopheryl — Korean Skincare K Beauty (1 oz.) —> $16.99
Seoul Ceuticals Marine Mineral Plump & Glow Essence — with tamarind extract, cucumber extract, green tea, aloe leaf juice, and marine minerals (4 oz.) —> $18.49
CosRx Propolis Light Ampoule — hydrating serum with propolis 73.5% | Korean Skin Care (1.01 oz.) —> $28.00
My Current Favorites
These are the products I currently use every day or every week. Not all of them are listed above or included in the total product count. I’ll update it as I make changes.
- Garnier Micellar Water with Rose Water & Glycerin (AM) —> $6.79
- Cera Ve Hydrating Facial Cleanser (PM) or Garnier SkinActive Green Labs Brightening Gel Wash Pinea-C — vegan formula with pineapple and vitamin C (4 oz.) —> $7.96, or…
- Olay Effects 7-in-1 Citrus Facial Scrub (PM) —
Toners / Toning Sprays
Serums & Oils
- Seoul Ceuticals Vitamin C (20%) Serum (daily AM) with ferulic acid, hyaluronic acid, and d-Alpha Tocopheryl — Korean Skincare K Beauty (1 oz.) —> $16.99
- Cera Ve Renewing Vitamin C Serum (10%) (daily PM)
- CosRx Propolis Light Ampoule (daily AM or PM)
Moisturizers & Eye Creams
- AM —> Cera Ve PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion + Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Face Sunscreen SPF 50
- PM —> Cera Ve PM Facial Moisturizer or Renewing Night Cream or…
- PM —> TruSkin Retinol Moisturizer
A Word of Caution
Tempting though it is to load up on serums that promise to reverse aging, firm up your skin, and erase those fine lines and wrinkles, be careful not to use too much of these products in the space of a day.
I can say from experience that overdoing it on serums and age-defying lotions leads to angry skin. And angry skin is far more likely to break out.
If you have sensitive skin like mine, it doesn’t take much to stress it out.
So, speaking as someone who has a gift for learning things the hard way, do as the product makers suggest:
- Try a dab of each product on a small area of your skin to test for reactions before you slather it on your face.
- Don’t double-up on serums. More is not better.
- Let your skin get used to a small amount of one product before you increase it or add another.
- Use no more than the amount suggested to avoid irritating your skin and giving your face an angry red flush or weird red spots that look like an instant break-out.
Happy skin is beautiful skin. And happy skin is clean, calm, hydrated and balanced.
That’s what we’re going for.
This is Not the End
I’ll be updating this post as I learn more. The whole point here is to make it easier for you to find products your skin and your budget will love.
Also, if you have any suggestions you’d like me to check out, please share them in the comments below!
And thank you for taking the time to read this! 🙂