How to budget AND fine tune your skincare products!

Hi, I'm 35 and I've gotten lots of good advice from you. Thanks! I have to budget and finding that I am spending a lot monthly on (drugstore) moisturizer for my very dry skin. The moisturizers that are marked "facial" are much cheaper. Much more in a bottle. Can I use these for my face as the money matters to me? Also, if I experience no extra dryness, redness, or peeling from Retin A after 3 months of use, does that mean the dosage is too low? Will it have an affect at a too low dosage? So far I haven't seen any! Thank you!

I love your question. Millions of women/men can’t afford to spend $200-300 on skincare every month for the really great stuff. I hear you. Although I gotta say… I sometimes hear patients say they can’t afford a $60 anti-aging cream. And then, in the next breath talk to me about how much they are spending on dinners out, cars, or shoes, etc. For me, I’d spend the money on my skincare products and cook home more in a heartbeat. We are human though and none of us are consistent all the time!

Here are the essentials!

What skincare products to save on:

  • Cleansers – I love the Eminence and organic cleansers, but Cetaphil and CeraVe and Dove for sensitive skin are great. No need to spend a lot here.
  • Moisturizers – I’m thinking in your question you meant “body,” not facial. Usually you get much more for your money with a larger “body” size. Go for it. Again, we often recommend the CeraVe Cream and Lotion at our clinic as an inexpensive option. Vanicream is also good, and Eucerin.
  • Acne meds – Good ones are available over the counter for most cases of acne, unless you have the severe or scarring form. Then, see your doctor! Benzoyl peroxide or alpha hydroxy cleansers, the OTC Differin, etc. There are many options.

What to spend on:

  • Sunscreen –  Use it daily on your face, neck, chest (if exposed) and backs of the hands. Buy the highest zinc you  can afford 10-20% is good. This is a good one that really lasts.
  • Antioxidants – There really aren’t cheap alternatives to the Vitamin C based ones that work.   Skip the cheap ones and put that money towards good sunscreen and a retinoid.
  • Retinoids or alpha/beta hydroxy acids –  If you can’t use a retinoid, use the latter. Most importantly, use it! 🙂 Find one that you like that won’t sit in a drawer. To answers your question, going higher doesn’t necessarily mean more effect. Since this is a “long game” and not a sprint product, try the higher one for 3 months and see how your skin responds.

When you can afford it, and have the time to experiment a little, that’s when to consider adding in to your skincare regimen things like cell growth factors, peptides, special lipid based moisturizers, mineral rich algae products, combination products with 2-5 actives, etc. All these are more expensive.

But… if you have the above, you have the essentials!

Hope this helps,

Dr. Brandith Irwin
Founder, SkinTour
Director, Madison Skin & Laser Center
Follow my skin tips and travels on Instagram!

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

Ask me your skincare question!

Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin. I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skin care advocate.

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One of the best investments in your skin is your daily skincare. Why? Because you can prevent many problems with blotchy skin color, lack of glow, texture, some types of acne, and fine lines with good skincare products. You can also correct some of these problems with effective skincare products. Great skincare is often more expensive because quality ingredients are expensive. Some companies spend on research/development which benefits all of us and adds to the cost. Are they worth it? In general - yes! I have handpicked some of what I consider to be the best skin care products, and offer them for sale on SkinTour's shop. This is based on my team and I's testing and research at our clinic. Many of the products are in my own regimen. What could be better than using skin care products a dermatologist uses?!