The Beauty High-low: Where to Spend Your Cash Vs Where to Grab a Bargain

May 31, 2020

Whether you’re a cleanse-and-go kinda person or you really want to build up an intensive skincare arsenal, one thing’s for certain: skincare can be expensive. From cult £200 creams to swanky facial treatments— if you’re going to be investing in your skincare, you want to know that it’s really worth your buck.

But what if you’re on a budget? You want efficacious skincare that works and is affordable, without spending a fortune on everything. Because whilst it’s not always the case that ‘you get what you pay for’… there are definitely some categories where that rings true more than others. Add the minefield of beauty marketing into the mix and it’s a tricky space for consumers to navigate.

So here’s our ‘beauty high-low’— consider this your handy guide: where you should invest your cash vs where you could probably bag a bargain…

If you can afford to, here’s where to spend your money:

If you’re going to spend your money anywhere, make it a serum. Generally speaking, a good quality serum is formulated with more expensive ingredients that penetrate deeper into your skin. They’re more expensive to make, require more research and technology to formulate and can offer the most noticeable difference to your skin.

If you’re into exfoliating acids (AHAs, BHAs, fruit enzyme acids) the really powerful ones will come with a heftier price tag to match. Whether or not the formula is worth your money is, in part, down to your skin. Older skin types might want to invest a little more, to really see the results – where as younger skin types could probably get away with a cheaper product (£10-£20) as the skin is generally a little more sensitive and doesn’t require such a potent formula.

Unstable ingredients (vitamin C, vitamin A / retinoids) often cost more money as they’re harder to ‘keep stable’. What this essentially means is that the ingredient will ‘go off’ if not packaged correctly (in an air-tight, dark container.) Therefore a lot of the time these products cost more— not necessarily because of the formulation, but because of the delivery system. You can find cheaper ones, but if they’re not packaged well, the actual formula will be useless on your skin in a matter of weeks.

Bit of a niche category but worth mentioning all the same. Expensive eyelash serums – like Revitalash – really do work. But don’t expect the same results from cheaper, ‘nourishing’ oils.

If you’re going to buy an evening specific night cream, chances are it contains some form of vitamin A (retinoid) or peptides. In this case, these creams often come with a price tag— but can be really effective. If your ‘night cream’ is nothing more than a moisturiser with a fancy label – that’s absolutely fine, but you can probably save your cash.

Mid-range products:

A decent, every day facial SPF needn’t break the bank— after all, you’re going to be using a LOT of it (aren’t you?!) Look for French pharmacy skincare brands, a broad spectrum UVA UVB protection and factor 30+ upwards and you’re sorted.

As above, you’re better off investing your money in a really great serum – and layering a decent, but not extortionate, moisturiser on top. Serums are often water-based, sinking deeper into the skin with smaller molecule ingredients. Moisturisers essentially sit ontop of your skin, locking in moisture. A mid-weight moisturiser needn’t cost a fortune.

Eye cream divides opinions like no other. Ask any derm or aesthetician and you’ll get a mixed answer. Some will say skip the eye cream completely, and just apply your serum up into the eye area — others will swear by a dedicated eye product. Either way, no matter how expensive your eye cream is… it can’t perform miracles. Expect hydration and firming (to a degree) not botox in a bottle or a dark circle remover— don’t be fooled by its claims.

There are some really great cleansers that are on the pricier end of the scale, but there are also some really nice budget cleansers out there. At the end of the day, you end up washing a cleanser down the sink within a minute or so… so if you’re on a tight budget— CeraVe, The Inkey List and La Roche Posay do good cleansers that won’t set you back a fortune.

Where to save your cash:

Of course, there are some great nourishing face masks out there that are ritualistic and a dream to use. But if you’re on a budget it’s important to know… clay face masks cost PENNIES to make— and most hydrating face masks are just a cocktail of hyaluronic acid and glycerin. If you’re worried about where to spend your cash, buy a nice serum instead.

Facial mists are great— keep them on your desk, in your bag and spritz away for instant hydration and refreshment. But they’re essentially water with — sometimes — some fancy botanical oils added into the mix. They don’t cost mega-bucks to make and they’re certainly not going to ‘change your skin’… so don’t waste your money.

Bioderma, Garnier, Simple— they’re all perfectly fine. Don’t spend £40 on a micellar water… unless you literally have money to burn in which case, there’s still better things to spend your money on.

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