With so many expensive beauty treatments out there, it's no wonder so many of us think we need to spend a lot of money to get better skin. I used to be one of those people, dropping hundreds of dollars at Sephora to improve my complexion. From costly cleansers to high-priced supplements, I truly thought I could buy my way to better skin. But I was wrong.
Eventually fatigued from spending so much money and receiving very few results, I decided to hit pause and went a straight month cleansing with just a Dove Beauty Bar* (hey, guys do it!). From there I played around with some classics, found some new favorites, and learned a few savvy tricks to get better skin for less money. Here are ten of my personal favorite ways and, just a fair warning, some of these are pretty weird but they are all amazing!
1. Facial Buff Sponges ($1.99, Target)
I really wanted a Clarisonic face brush while I was in college because I was convinced it was going to stop me from ever breaking out again. Eventually, I bought it, my skin didn't get any better and I returned it (yes, I take advantage of store return policies if I buy something I don't like).
Now I use something that I actually really love and only costs me a couple dollars a year. Facial buff sponges from Target. When I wash my face at night, I simply dampen the sponge, squeeze a little of my cleanser on there (see below for brand), and move around my face in circular motions. My skin feels so soft afterward because the sponge gently exfoliates as I wash my face. I use the same sponge for a couple weeks and then I toss it.
2. PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash 10% Benzoyl Peroxide 5.5 oz (156 g)* ($9.48, Amazon)
My friend is an aesthetician and she actually recommends this face wash for those who have oily skin or are prone to breakouts. It is less than $10 and works way better than any other fancy cleanser I've tried (I've tried a lot)!
It has 10% benzoyl peroxide and foams up as you use it, so a little goes a long way. I have super sensitive skin and this cleanser doesn't irritate me, although I do only use it once a day (which is all I need). I've been using it for a couple of years now and it has kept my skin clear.
3. Aveeno 1% Hydrocortisone Anti-Itch Relief Cream, 1 Oz (Pack of 2)* ($9.98, Amazon)
This is probably going to freak most of you out but I legit use hydrocortisone cream as a moisturizer at least twice a week. This stuff is gold and let me tell you why.
First of all, if you read the “uses” on the packaging, you'll discover that it is actually recommended for pretty much every type of skin irritation. Why more people aren't telling you to use this on your face is beyond me. Whenever my skin is feeling super sensitive (stingy, red, blotchy, breaking out, etc.), I wash my face, put a thin layer of hydrocortisone cream on and am good to go.
Aside from a face-saving skin cream, I also really like it as a primer. Are you dying?
Yes, I use hydrocortisone cream before applying makeup. I don't know, maybe I'm crazy but I think it is the perfect base for my foundation (which btw is the Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream by IT Cosmetics — not cheap, but I buy it directly from their website when it's on sale and shop through Ebates* for cash back).
Need another reason to buy hydrocortisone cream?
I also use it after I tweeze my eyebrows to eliminate irritation and prevent ingrown hairs, and I use it as a spot treatment if I have a breakout. It is essentially my Aquaphor. Um, except I don't use it on my lips — but I have a really amazing lip balm for that.
4. Organic Vanilla Honey Lip Balm ($1.99, Whole Foods)
I used to be obsessed with Fresh's Sugar Lip Treatment but they are $24 a pop! As a lip balm addict, I had to drop that habit and look for a replacement. Luckily a few years ago I found my new favorite in the checkout line at Whole Foods for just $1.99.
It's made with all natural and super-hydrating ingredients like coconut oil, olive oil, and shea butter. Vanilla extract and honey give it a nice, sweet fragrance that I also love.
5. Vaseline Petroleum Jelly* ($3.99, Amazon)
I read years ago that Jennifer Aniston applies vaseline as an eye cream at night so I had to try it and it's honestly really effective. I don't go to the full extent that she does and put it “all over” my eyes and lashes, but a little dab right under works for me. Whenever my skin is dry or really tired, this is my solution and it's actually not that surprising that Vaseline helps replenish the eye area since its purpose is to lock in moisture and protect skin.
FREE tip alert! Do you know all of the insane benefits of facial massage? Seriously giving your face a little daily rub down can do everything from reducing puffiness to boosting collagen. Not to mention it's kind of a stress-buster too. You can massage your face while cleansing or as you apply moisturizer (which is what I do) but you can also use coconut oil or a treatment oil to do a facial massage.
7. Bacitracin ($5.99, CVS)
This might freak you out as much as my hydrocortisone tip but hear me out. When I have a really bad breakout, I put a little bacitracin on it. Bacitracin is a first aid antibiotic and one of the ingredients in Neosporin.
When my rosacea got really bad a few years ago, I used the prescription Aczone and it worked wonders — but for a pimple, I find the best combo is a dab of hydrocortisone cream followed with a little bacitracin. When I do this, my pimple heals faster and doesn't leave a dark spot after.
8. Thayers Alcohol-free Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe Vera, 12 oz* ($10.48, Amazon)
Witch hazel makes an awesome toner for sensitive or oily skin types. It is probably even a key ingredient in the toners you have used. However, by buying *just* witch hazel at a drugstore you get pretty much the same benefit for a fraction of the cost.
They even have blended witch hazel toners with aloe and rose flower water (linked above) for extra soothing benefits.
9. Gauze Pads* ($2 to $6, Amazon)
To apply your toner, upgrade your cotton balls to gauze pads and you'll get a little extra exfoliation. I've been using ones from Intrinsics but really any lint-free, 2″x2″ gauze pads will work. See you really don't need that Clarisonic!
10. Castor Oil* ($7 to $15, Amazon)
Think what you want about the Kardashians, but those girls know brows. When Khloe revealed she used castor oil to help lengthen and thicken her eyebrows, I couldn't resist testing it for myself.
Verdict? I'm 99% sure it helped grow in some “bald spots” on my left eyebrow. If you're going to try it, just dunk a little eyebrow/eyelash wand in the bottle (I use this one from e.l.f. cosmetics — it's only $1!) and brush it through your brows at night before you go to bed. Some people even use it on their eyelashes. You'll find bundles sold that include brushes along with the castor oil, specifically for applying the oil to your brows and lashes.
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What do you think, guys? Let me know if you've tried any of these tips or what you do to get better skin without spending a lot of money!