A Definitive List Of Skincare Products Under $15 That Actually Worked For Me

I recently wrote a post about a list of inexpensive beauty and makeup products that I actually use on a daily basis and find to be just as good as their pricy Sephora counterparts (though it’s always good to check beauty stores like Ulta for sales, if you’re searching for a particular product). I then decided, as a formerly very sad problem-skin girl who somehow ended up with pretty good skin after a lot of Target runs and trial-and-error, to write a list of the inexpensive skincare products that I found actually worked for me.

Beauty products are easy to find cheap, but I have always found it to be a bit harder to find good-quality skincare at a price that didn’t genuinely hurt my feelings. I have a hard time spending money on anything more than $15, especially during the time when I was buying these products, unsure of whether or not they would actually do anything for my terrible skin. But, I ended up loving this particular group of products, and it is just icing on the cake that each one costs less than $15.

Although my current skincare routine is pretty simple, (just out of necessity, because I don’t currently have the room in my budget for a lot of products), I have used all of these products before, and I loved them all. If I did have enough money, I’d own all of these products at the same time, and use them on rotation — that’s how good I find these all to be. (And I’ve tried a lot of skincare products.)

So, in all of its under-$15-glory, here is the definitive list of cheap-as-hell, mostly drugstore-brand skincare products that actually worked for me.

1. Palmer’s Cocoa Butter

This is hands down the only body lotion I’ll ever use. It keeps my skin soft even when it gets disgustingly dry and itchy in the winter, and it smells like hot chocolate. It is also one of the only lotions I’ve ever tried that doesn’t sting my super-sensitive skin.

2. Yes to Tomatoes Detoxifying Charcoal Cleanser

This is one of very few drugstore/inexpensive brand facial cleansers I’ll use, mostly because my “better skin” days are mostly due to a rotation of black soap and Lush scrubs. However, for someone with traditionally “bad” skin, this product always helps keep it in good, clear condition if I feel like I need to switch it up from my regular products. Everything in the Yes to Tomatoes range is excellent for problem-skin people like myself, and it all comes at a reasonable price tag — most of the products are under $15, and a lot of them (especially the ones I love, like this cleanser or the bar soap version) are in the $4-$10 range.

3. African Black Soap

I’ve beaten this product to actual friggin’ death on TFD, but it deserves the mention in this post. I use it for cleansing both my body and face. I won’t explain why I’m so obsessed again, but please for the love of god, try this product.

4. Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer

Since virtually everything makes me break out, I feel super blessed when I find something that works well with my skin, and usually stick with it forever. I started using this oil-free moisturizer when I very first started actually washing my face and using moisturizer actively, around age 11. It has been reformulated a few times, but it still holds up. I don’t use it on an everyday basis anymore – my skin has been through hell, and needs something a little more luxurious at this point, so I tend to get my everyday moisturizers at Lush – but it is still an excellent product that I’ll buy in a pinch if I’m short on cash but don’t have my pricier moisturizers on me.

5. Simple Facial Cleansing Wipes

I have very sensitive skin, and never was too keen on the idea of wiping it down with a facial cleansing wipe. To me, that always seemed like rubbing eye makeup remover on my precious face-skin. But I gave these Simple brand ones a shot when I found the oil-balancing ones, and I actually love them. They are definitely gentle on sensitive skin, but they are hella effective at removing my makeup. I’m not really the type to use a cleansing wipe for everyday facial-cleansing, (mostly because I find that my bar of black soap removes my makeup entirely), but these are awesome for on-the-go, overnight trips, or keeping in a gym bag.

6. The Body Shop Tea Tree Toner

This isn’t “drugstore”, but it is on the inexpensive side, as far as toners go. It is often on sale at Ulta for around $10. I’ve been using this religiously for years now – in fact, it is the only product that stuck with me through my bad-skin-phase a in 2014, and still works well for me to this day. I stopped using it for a few days last week to test whether or not it was still effective on my skin (since it is now a lot drier than it used to be) and I noticed an immediate difference. This toner doesn’t dry out my skin at all, but it does keep the tone and texture even and smooth. I don’t plan on living without this product for a while. It also lasts forever, provided that you’re using it sparingly. I use it once a day – after I was my face at night – but will use it in the morning after I wash my face if I’m in the middle of a breakout and want to clear it up faster.

7. Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15

This is a longtime favorite of mine for an SPF moisturizer. I’ve always been religious about keeping my face protected from the sun, but a lot of moisturizers with SPF are only good for giving my sensitive skin terrible rashes and breakouts. This one seems to do the trick for me, although I only use it on days where I’m going outside and won’t be wearing any makeup with sun protection either.

8. Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Eye Cream

I’m not an avid eye cream user, and have never actually used a high-end one, so I don’t have a ton to compare it to yet. But when I realized my eyes were looking a little sad and the skin around them was dull and dry, I picked this eye cream up at the store, mostly because it was the only one I could find for under $10. I figured I’d give it a shot, and I’m glad I did, because I actually love the results. My under-eye area looks a lot softer and smoother, instead of flaky and textured when I use this. It isn’t exactly aging me backwards or anything, and I’m still tossing concealer on after sleepless nights, but it definitely helps me look a little more lively in the eyes, and that’s about all I can ask for from an $8 eye cream.

9. CeraVe SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Lotion

Another favorite drugstore SPF product is this one, which is kind to my sensitive skin provided that I only use it on high-sun-exposure days. It feels impossible to find a drugstore sunscreen that doesn’t break me out, but this one works if I don’t wear it every day. I’m still on the prowl for a high-SPF moisturizer that doesn’t bug my skin even after continued use, so if you know of a good one, help your girl out!

Mary writes every day for TFD, and tweets every day for her own personal fulfillment. Talk to her about money and life at mary@thefinancialdiet.com!

Image via Unsplash

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  • Summer

    I think you’ve finally sold me on trying the African black soap. I hope my oily-ass face likes it!

    • Lauren

      I’ve been using it for about a month and my skin is the best it’s been since before puberty. I have a few odd blackheads and that’s it. Birth control didn’t work, all the salicylic acid in the world didn’t work. But this shit works and it’s amazing.

      • Summer

        Excellent news as my face basically lives off of salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Thanks for the review, I’m definitely going to give it a try!

  • nancxpants

    I haven’t tried the Burt’s Bees eye cream yet, but I can vouch for their Intense Hydration day and night creams. That line keeps my dry skin sooo happy and soft, even through the winter. (Also love their shampoos, conditioners, and of course lip balm!)

  • Stevie

    Three sneaky Amazon-affiliate program posts in one day? Not being upfront about the affiliate links in each posts feels a bit icky, TFD.

    • Chelsea recently wrote an entire post dedicated to this exact topic which is so exhausting to talk about over and over and over. They have an entire page dedicated to disclosing their Amazon affiliate status, which is perfectly in line with FCC guidelines and is far less distracting, in my opinion as a reader, than a disclosure on every single thing they write.

      • Stevie

        The post disclosing the affiliate status post is not helpful or informative for new readers to the site. I respect your opinion that you think disclosures are distracting. However it is my opinion as a reader that all bloggers should note affiliate links on each post. It doesn’t have to be extensive – just one sentence. Otherwise, It tends to come across like ulterior motives are trying to be hidden.

        • I get it, but this isn’t a blog — it’s a website and a business. It feels different to me than a personal fashion blog linking to items on a Nordstrom sale. There are no ulterior motives — there are direct motives to be a profitable business that can pay their writers.

        • Lexie

          THIS IS FREE CONTENT. Come on.

          • Stevie

            Yikes. I totally get that it’s free content. Please recognize I didn’t say anything until the third Amazon post on the same day. And a post on a topic that has been covered numerous times.

        • Why are you reading a post like this if you’re not interested in purchasing the products?? More importantly, why are you reading a blog like this if you’re not interested in supporting the people who run it? Come on dude, it’s 2017. This kind of commentary is washed up.

  • I’ve been using the Neutrogena oil-free moisturiser for years and it’s perfection, the SPF one especially. It successfully keeps me from being roasted in the ferocious NZ sun and doesn’t break me out either (which is awesome because I’m both super pale as well as acne-prone).

  • A different Emma

    I also have sensitive skin that breaks out incredibly easily from sunscreen, and by FAR the best I’ve found is the Clinique mineral sunscreen (white tube, yellow top). I’ve found mineral sunscreens in general work better for me because they sit on top of the skin as opposed to sinking into it as chemical sunscreens do. Most mineral sunscreens I’ve tried are greasy and/or leave a white film on skin but this one doesn’t. It’s $26, but I use it every single day and it lasted 13 months.

  • Violaine

    I have to disagree (personally) on the Yes To Tomatoes range. Their cleanser and toner have really damaged my skin and the toner just smells of pure alcohol…

    No comment about the rest of the list but I would like to add coconut oil (best makeup remover ever, can be used as a hair mask or body moisturizer as well), Olay cream (it smells soft and weird, a bit like I imagine a cute grandmother would smell, but the smell doesn’t stay for long and it’s perfect to use before makeup or on its own), Biore cleansers (either the charcoal one or the baking soda one, but I prefer the baking soda one), and I found a cheap (less than £1) vegan soap from the supermarket Sainsburys. I think generally we tend to forget that soap is often cheaper because you use what you need (with shower gel it’s easy to use more, same with cleanser) and because you don’t pay for useless packaging because it’s often just wrapped in paper. I would definitely recommend using a nice, soft face soap rather than a liquid cleanser.

    • jdub

      Seconding that Biore charcoal cleanser!! I ran out a few weeks ago and was just making do with whatever random stuff I had laying around the house… and noticed a difference for sure. That stuff, plus a swipe of Apple Cider Vinegar toner + baby oil for moisturizer, has totally changed my skin.

    • I’m also a big fan of bar soap!