Health & Fitness/Shopping Smart

The 4-Step Skincare Routine That Costs Me Less Than $19 A Month

By | Thursday, June 21, 2018

I’ve alluded to my skincare addiction a couple dozen times by now, so it’s high time I share my arsenal. I’d like to preface that everyone’s skin is different, and these are just what work well for my combination-type skin and budget. I’ve been using each of these for almost a year, in this order, and I’m happy to report that my skin is clear and healthy. From sun protection to long-term care, I know I’m covered for less than $20/month.

Pro-Tip: While these are the products that work for me, check out the online tools and communities that really dig into the benefits of ingredients, types of products…you name it. My favorites of these are:

That said, let’s get started!

Step 1: Clean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser

  • Costs: $4.97 individually / $26.22 for a six-pack
  • Lasts four or more months on average
  • Annual Cost: $14.91
  • Monthly cost: $1.24

Straight-up drugstore – it doesn’t get simpler than that. They tell you that acne is a teenage timestamped phenomenon, but what they don’t tell you is that women frequently get cyclical acne in areas like their T-zone and chin. I use this to wash my face in the morning and in the evening before bed, and it makes a difference in my skin’s overall clarity. I’ve tried a lot of the higher-end products, but this works as well as the best of them and costs just a fraction of the price. Aw. Yiss.

Step 2: Thayers Witch Hazel Toner, Rose Petal

  • Cost: $5.94 individually (in my local store)
  • Lasts four months on average
  • Annual Cost: $17.82
  • Monthly cost: $1.49

After using a somewhat harsh cleanser, it helps to reset your skin with toner. This stuff is a favorite on r/skincareaddiction, and for good reason: it’s gentle, it works, and it’s inexpensive. Use this with a cotton round after cleansing your face. Bonus points if your cotton rounds are reusable!

Step 2, option B: COSRX AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner

  • Cost: $11.00 individually
  • Lasts six months on average
  • Annual cost: $22.00
  • Monthly cost: $1.82

As I said, occasionally breakouts happen. If I feel one coming on, I’ll reach for this toner instead of my rose water and nip it in the bud. While it contains both AHA and BHA, which exfoliate your skin, it’s very gentle and hydrating. I’ve even started using this as a preventative solution (pun intended), using the gentler toner on my cheeks, forehead, and neck while using this on my T-zone and chin. If we can cocktail masks, why not cocktail toners?

Step 3: COSRX Oil-Free Ultra Moisturizing Lotion with Birch Sap

  • Cost: $19.95 individually
  • Lasts three months on average
  • Annual cost: $79.80
  • Monthly cost: $6.65

Here’s where the costs start to tick upwards. I haven’t found a true drugstore moisturizer that doesn’t leave me feeling greasy or too dry, but COSRX has my back. This moisturizer feels extremely lightweight and dries to a natural finish so I can wear it day and night without feeling like I have a layer of slime on my face and neck. It also does its job and does it well.

Step 4 (Daytime): Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50+/PA++++

  • Cost: $15.77 individually / $38.98 for a three-pack
  • Lasts 6 months on average
  • Annual cost: $25.99
  • Monthly cost: $2.17

Oh, you bet I’m wearing sunscreen all day every day. This stuff is awesome! A little bit goes a long way, and it disappears on your skin. No greasy feeling, no white cast in flash photography, no nothing. I put this on my face, neck, and hands over moisturizer as the last step, or under my makeup for protection throughout the day. And be sure to protect the area around your eyes! Even with all that daily coverage, somehow one bottle seems to last and last and last.

Step 4 (Nighttime): COSRX Ultimate Nourishing Rice Spa Overnight Mask

  • Cost: $14.14 individually
  • Lasts four months on average
  • Annual cost: $42.42
  • Monthly cost: $3.54

At night, I really want to let my skin reverse any damage caused by, well, living in Los Angeles. And wearing makeup. And working in an office. Or just aging like a normal human being. This is my solution to that. I was skeptical when I first heard about women wearing masks overnight, but this dissolves into the skin so easily that, like their birch sap moisturizer, I really don’t notice it much after initial application. It’s super hydrating, though, and I definitely see a difference in my skin the next morning. Whenever I use this, I wake up with a bit of a glow and plumper skin. Not bad for a $14 mask!

Bonus: A Ton of Hand Towels

  • Cost: $20.95 one-time
  • Lasts…pretty much forever
  • Annual cost: $20.95
  • Monthly cost: $1.74

Why towels, you ask? Because it’s good to use a fresh, clean towel every time you want to dry your face! This was one of the biggest aha duh moments for me. Now, instead of using just one hand towel or the same microfiber towel, I have a stockpile of fresh, clean, fluffy hand towels just waiting for me. I keep them under my sink and rotate them out every time I need to wash my face. Then I toss them in the laundry and replace them again for the next week. Super easy, relatively waste-free (I’m doing laundry anyway), and my skin feels so much better since I’ve started doing this.


That’s it! Our annual total is a whopping $223.89 for a full skincare routine – or $18.66 per month on average. From cleanser to masks, that’s not too shabby. Stay sexy, my friends!

Tis is a 20-something recruiter, startup enthusiast, finance blogger, and proud feminist-slash-crazy cat lady. Find her on Twitter or check out the blog for lifehacks and musings on personal finance, professional growth, and enjoying the journey to early retirement.

Image via Unsplash


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