Cabinet of Bargain Curiosities: Skincare Edition
Bright post-yuletide blessings to you, astute readers! Let's just jump right in with some skincare talk. If like me, you're anywhere near the vicinity of the 50-Plus Club, you'll already know that as we get older, skincare plays a more important role than it did in our younger days, when we'd roll in after a 90s night out and faceplant into a pillow coated with Aussie Scrunch Spray residue, our black kohl eyeliner still intact.
Yes, I need to do a bit more due diligence these days, to put it mildly. However, I also take issue with marketing that pushes the narrative that the only way to achieve your best, most glowing complexion when you've reached middle age is to spend a fortune on super high-end products. While I certainly do have a list of high end products I'd love to take for a spin (don't we all), these days there are a ton of really good products available both online and in your local drugstore that will help you keep your glow on, and not make you feel like you need to choose between your skincare routine and selling an organ on the dark web to pay for it. Great news for those of us who are budget conscious...and right now, that's pretty much all of us, isn't it?
Here's a look at some of my favourite bargain products from my skincare cabinet of curiosities, with links for any of you who want to give any of these products a whirl. I tend to alternate these products, picking and choosing what feels right on any given day. While I am not being paid by any of these brands for my review of these products, there are a few affiliate links scattered throughout this post.
1. Revolution 5% Caffeine and Hyaluronic Acid Revitalising Under Eye Serum
This simple under eye serum is a lightweight formulation that soaks right in to the skin. I use it on freshly showered skin underneath any other products or makeup I might use that day (including a more moisturising eye cream if I need it), and it really does work to help combat any under eye puffiness. I also use it once in a while throughout the day just to refresh the eye area if I feel I need it. This is an absolute steal at £6 ($7.40) at Revolution Beauty (ships internationally).
2. Good Molecules Daily Brightening Serum
This is a nice brightening serum that is beta arbutin-based. Unlike many brightening formulas that are niacinamide-based, beta arbutin is gentle on the skin and I don't feel any suggestion of irritation from this serum. What I like best about this serum is that unlike many other serums I've tried, this one does not leave any film behind that then peels off under other products, so I can use this serum as a sneaky layer under another moisturiser or foundation without worrying about turning into that face-peeling guy in that scene from Poltergeist (very GenX reference, I know). This serum is $13.20 on Amazon US (ships to the UK).
3. Good Molecules Overnight Exfoliating Treatment
This is a simple 10% solution of alpha and beta hydroxy acids in a lightweight, clear serum formulation that leaves my skin soft, supple and exfoliated when I wake up. I like to alternate this product with other overnight products during the week. I feel like this serum really makes my skin into a smooth canvas and leaves it looking and feeling more even and toned. $11.79 on Amazon US (ships to the UK).
4. Superdrug Optimum Vitamin C Moisturiser
I bought this moisturizer at a time when I had run out of daily moisturiser and needed something on the quick. I am partial to vitamin C products because I like the glow they impart. This moisturizer has both vitamin C and niacinimide in it, and it does impart a very subtle glow to my skin. However, this formula is very lightweight, and I find that a lot of the time, I need to add my ceramide moisturiser on top to get enough lasting hydration. However, I would not hesitate to purchase this again - at £7.49 for 50 ml, it's a handy bargain product, and nice to have in the arsenal. Another plus - the packaging is actually appropriate for a product that boasts ingredients that can destabilize when exposed to oxygen and light. I'm always shocked at how many brands are selling us creams in jars that claim to have ingredients in them (like retinols and vitamin C) that oxidize and destabilize when air and light is introduced. Superdrug products are UK and Ireland only (sorry fellow Americans)
5. Superdrug Optimum Retinol Serum
This product definitely got my attention the very first time I used it. The formula is lightweight but moisturising, layers well under moisturizer, and after just one night (yes, I use this one at night) my skin felt softer and looked more even and bright. In addition to 0.4% retinyl palmitate, this serum also boasts brightening niacinimide, as well as skin-calming herbs green seaweed, tulsi, and lady's thistle. This is a very elegant product for the £7.49 price tag, and I will be repurchasing this one when I run out (UK and Ireland only).
6. The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2% Serum
This is a more intense vitamin C and alpha arbutin brightening serum. This formula is a water-free direct vitamin C pigment corrector that goes on with a bit of an oily finish, but eventually soaks into the skin. I use it as a part of my nighttime rotation. This formula has the potential to be a bit more irritating, so those with sensitive skin may need to build up to it. I quite like this serum, and find that it's a real workhorse that lasts quite a while. To that end, it is actually sort of challenging for me to use this product within the 6 month time frame that The Ordinary gives it before the ingredients begin to destabilize. However, The $12 price tag is an absolute bargain for something that is this potent, and better yet, it ships internationally.
7. The Ordinary Niacinimide 10% +Zinc 1% Serum
This is another brightening serum from The Ordinary, this time with a very high concentration of niacinimide in a water-based formulation. This is my second bottle of this niacinimide serum, and I really like the effects I get from it when I use it regularly. This serum however does leave a film on the skin, and like it directs you on the product page you have to apply it to clean skin, then "seal" it with some sort of moisturizer. I only use this at night, because I find that depending on what you might use over this serum, it does have a tendency to peel a bit, although it may be my heavy-handedness that causes this. This serum definitely brightens, enhances glow, and for me even helps heal any breakouts threatening to erupt. This serum is $12 and ships internationally.
8. No 7 Hydra Luminous Water Surge Gel
This is a great hyaluronic acid moisturiser with a bit of staying power and an elegant, highly absorptive formula. This gel cream doesn't leave a film and leaves my skin soft and supple. It does have scent in it, so those who are sensitive may find it too much. Normally, No. 7 product lines do offer many fragrance free options, but unfortunately I did not see a fragrance-free option for this particular product on their website. Another downside to this product is the jar packaging, meaning you either have to dip your fingers in the product (repeatedly, for however long it takes you to use up the jar), or use some sort of clean implement to scoop out the product (annoying). However, if you are not fragrance sensitive and want a good hyaluronic acid moisturiser that will absorb quickly, leave your skin soft, and work well under makeup, this is a good one. $17.99 / £14.95 (Ships to US & UK)
9. Revolution Skincare Ceremides Moisture Lotion
This is one of my absolute favourite bargain workhorse products. This ceramide lotion is lightweight but moisturising, fragrance free, and has a zillion different uses. I have a large bottle of this lotion both at my house in Scotland and another in Florida, and I use it on my entire face, neck, chest, under eyes...pretty much anywhere. Ceremides are an important player in the natural protective barrier of your skin, and also play well with other ingredients, so this lotion is an excellent pairing with just about anything you see fit to pair it with. I often use this throughout the day if I need a refresh as well as in my pre-makeup skincare routine. £9 / $10.80 at Revolution Beauty.