I’m a beauty editor who has specialized in the 50-plus demographic for decades. Beneath the glam title, I’m a very practical woman who can’t stand spending $300 on a face cream. Testing and comparing products is part of my job, but I always do it with a big dose of skepticism. And it is not just expensive stuff that gets my side-eye. I know how celebrity endorsements, clever marketing, trendy buzzwords and social media hype can make a $20 serum seem like a dupe for one triple the price. If you wonder whether inexpensive skin care — sold at drugstores, mass retailers or specialty stores — can match or best the glitzier ones the answer is often … yes! Here are some that do:
1. Gentle but conscientious cleansers
You could spend $80 on a fancy cleanser, but why let your beauty dollars go down the drain? Cleansers are essential for makeup removal and good skin care, but let’s be honest — they stay on the skin for a very short length of time. Low-cost cleansing waters, balms and oils not only offer the premium level hydration mature skin needs, but they efficiently remove makeup and sunscreen without leaving your face feeling tight or stripped of moisture (it’s time to toss the “squeaky clean” concept if you haven’t already). Try a creamy formula like Acure Seriously Soothing Cleansing Cream ($10, target.com), a balm-to-oil like The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser ($9, ulta.com) or a cleansing water like Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Cleansing Water-Makeup Remover for Sensitive Skin ($11, walgreens.com). The latter also makes an ideal first step for those who double-cleanse in the evening.
2. Natural serums, creams and oils
If you look for the words clean, green, organic or vegan and prefer skin care that’s cruelty-free and has no parabens, phthalates or sulfates, there’s no need to splurge. While pricey brands like Vintner’s Daughter and Tata Harper do get social media buzz, low-cost naturals really rock this category. You may not be familiar with these brands, but they have the up-to-date research, transparency in ingredients and full lines from serums to night creams women seek. For example, try the Andalou Naturals Rejuvenating Cream Plant-Based Retinol Alternative ($12, walmart.com) with bakuchiol to repair sun damage, Mad Hippie Face Cream ($27, target.com) with nurturing green tea, aloe vera and niacinamide to reduce lines and redness and Cocokind Ceramide Barrier Serum ($22, ulta.com) with lipids to restore the skin’s outer layer and prevent moisture loss, and lactic acid to help speed cell turnover. Many mainstream brands are “greening up” too, so stay tuned for more products to hit the market.