10 Of The Best Affordable Skincare Brands To Try Now

Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you most expensive luxury skincare. But in beauty, not all of the most effective products come with an astronomical price tag. Myriad affordable skincare brands offer all of the best active ingredients in effective and luxurious-feeling formulations that don’t cost the earth. “I often find that people tend to equate uber-cheap prices to a poor quality product,” says medical and aesthetic doctor, Dr Ewoma Ukeleghe. “But that isn’t always the case. A lot of these cheaper brands can afford to conduct research and create products that are highly effective.”

The problem is, consumers often assume that the more expensive a product is, the better it will be, and in a confusing and crowded skincare market where there is always a new product being touted for its miracle effects, we end up going around in circles. The reality is, a consistent approach to skincare that incorporates good quality ingredients (that you can afford to continue buying) is important for the quality of skin, so it’s worthwhile getting to know the affordable skincare brands that keep prices reasonable, without scrimping on efficacy. 

If you’re wondering if there are still certain products worth splurging a little more on, Ukeleghe says the answer is yes. “You can compromise on cost when it comes to products such as cleansers and moisturisers, but I’d stress that this isn’t so much the case with serums,” she says. Every good skincare routine includes a cleanser, a moisturiser, a hydrating product and an SPF, and she says cleansers and moisturisers (read on for our pick of the best affordable options on the market), and in some instances SPF, are the products you can get away with paying less for.

“You can save on SPF as there are some great, affordable formulations on the market, however I typically find that cost does matter, particularly if you want a formulation suitable for oily, acne-prone, sensitive skin or skin of colour,” she says. Once the backbone of your routine is in place, you can add in serums and masks, utilising ingredients like retinol, AHAs, BHAs, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid according to your skin concerns, from congestion to dullness.

Being prepared to invest in a serum is Ukeleghe’s main rule of thumb, since they tend to incorporate more expensive ingredients, bumping up the price. Brands like La Roche-Posay do offer serums that manage to be affordable and effective, so make them the starting point of your hunt for an inexpensive serum that delivers on its promises.

Here is the British Vogue beauty team’s pick of 10 of the best affordable skincare brands to try now.

La Roche-Posay

This French pharmacy brand is a favourite of editors, celebrities, and probably most of your friends, and that’s all thanks to its excellent formulations. There is a product for everyone: the Toleriane range is a favourite of those with sensitive skin (the new Ultra Dermallergo Serum is £28 and excellent at alleviating dryness and redness), while the brand’s Retinol B3 is a brilliant introduction to the best anti-ageing active around – and it’s great for sensitive skins too.

CeraVe

A brand developed with the help of dermatologists, CeraVe products are formulated around the founding principle that our skin barrier is integral to how our skin looks, performs and feels. To that end, each product contains ceramides, an ingredient that makes up half of our skin barrier, and they’re really quite brilliant. Two good entry points are the Hydrating Facial Cleanser, a product that lifts all make-up off without stripping the skin, and the Moisturizing Cream, which is a £5 tube of creamy heaven. 

The Ordinary

Renowned for its minimal prices, The Ordinary’s products don’t disappoint either. There’s a huge range of choice, but good first ports of call are the Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, the Squalane Cleanser, and the Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%. If you become confused while perusing the website, the brand has recently launched virtual consultations on the Deciem website to connect you with team members over chat or video call, to help you decide what is best for your skin type.

L’Oréal Paris

Enjoy world-class skincare formulations with L’Oréal, whose consistent innovation in the skincare space makes it a rival for even the most expensive brands, without the lofty price tags. The brand’s new Age Perfect Golden Age Cooling Night Creamis £14.99, and helps re-cushion sallow skin thanks to the neo-calcium within the formula. Meanwhile, its Revitalift Laser Glycolic Acid Ampoules contain 10 per cent glycolic acid, and help to unclog pores, exfoliate the skin and leave it radiant; and the Revitalift Filler with 1.5% Hyaluronic Acid is an excellent choice for those who want to hydrate, plump, or simply boost their skin’s luminosity.

Simple

We should all aim for simplicity in our skincare routines, and Simple – unsurprisingly – offers us just that. You’ve probably tried the face wipes over the years, but a better choice is the milky Kind To Skin Purifying Cleansing Lotion or its micellar waters. The Hemp Ultra Calming Sheet Mask and facial moisturiser are two other stand-out products in the range – both leave skin feeling soothed and glowing.

Avéne

Another excellent French pharmacy brand (we have a lot to thank them for), Avéne’s speciality is sensitive skin, but its products are worth exploring for all skin types. After all, acne-prone skin also tends to be sensitive too. Look no further than the Hydrance Rich Hydrating Cream and Hydrance Aqua-Gel moisturisers (depending on your preferred consistency) to moisturise, and the Gentle Milk Cleanser to cleanse the skin without drying it out. The newest launch from the range is the Cleanance Comedomed, a cream containing a milk thistle-derived active ingredient called comedoclastin, which helps to reduce sebum and stop spots from forming in the pore. A must-try.

Garnier

Utilising the power of plants in its products, Garnier’s skincare products will appeal to those who like a natural approach to skincare. The Organic Lavandin Anti-Age Facial Sleeping Cream is enriched with jojoba and argan oils, and leaves skin hydrated, supple and smooth when you wake up in the morning. And if you haven’t tried its Moisture Bomb sheet masks, where have you been, exactly? The Night Time Face Tissue Mask with deep sea water and hyaluronic acid is second to none.

Super Facialist

From face wash to eye cream, Super Facialist offers a broad range of skincare products categorised by skin issue. For those who want to encourage luminosity back into the skin, the Vitamin C range is a good choice (the Brighten Booster can be mixed with your moisturiser for supercharged results), while the blemish prone will love its Salicylic Acid line, which utilises salicylic as its star ingredient – the Pore Purifying Clay Mask is a stand out.

Vichy

With some seriously cult products under its belt, Vichy gives great skincare. Its newest launch, the Minéral 89 Fortifying Sheet Mask, is made up of 89 per cent Vichy mineralising water (which is ultra soothing – and its signature ingredient), and hyaluronic acid, delivering a major boost to skin’s hydration levels. Another star product in the same range is the Minéral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Booster – it’s packed full of hyaluronic acid, so ideal to use morning and night.

The Body Shop

You probably already know it makes great body creams, but The Body Shop’s skincare offering is just as strong. If you’re yet to try its Aloe Soothing Body Butter, now is the time – it’s an ideal accompaniment to facial massage, and helps to calm irritated skin. Those who suffer from spots will love the Tea Tree line, while those with mature skin should look to the Drops of Youth collection.

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“Maskne” Is a Thing — Here’s How to Fight Face Mask Breakouts

So, you made (or bought) your own face mask and have been diligently wearing it for the past few months. Now, out of the blue, you’re experiencing breakouts in strange new spots.

You’re likely dealing with “maskne“, the latest not-so-fun term to enter the coronavirus lexicon.

While it was primarily healthcare workers experiencing mask-induced breakouts and skin irritation at the beginning of the pandemic, now that masks are becoming a part of everyday life for the rest of us, dermatologists are being bombarded with (virtual) appointments for this skin woe, explains New York City-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D. And unfortunately, the warm weather we’ve all been waiting for is only making matters worse.

So you’re not alone in your skincare struggles… but how do you treat these breakouts, and prevent them from happening in the first place? Here, derms break down everything you need to know about maskne.

What exactly is ‘maskne’ — and what causes it?

As the name suggests, “maskne” is acne brought on by wearing a face mask — and its been on derms’ radar long before COVID-19. “We saw similar skin concerns with mask use during the SARS crisis years ago,” says New York City dermatologist Michelle Henry, M.D.

“The clinical term for maskne is acne mechanic and it is caused by friction, rubbing, and occlusion of the skin by outside forces,” she explains. (You may have even experienced this from wearing sunglasses in the sweaty summer months.)

“Any friction and irritation can push bacteria into the skin, creating micro-tears — which allow easier entry for bacteria and dirt — and can lead to inflammation which then drives the acne process,” explains dermatologist Tiffany J. Libby, M.D, assistant professor of dermatology at Brown University.

You’ll notice these breakouts where the mask sits — the bridge of the nose, chin, and cheeks — and they make take the form of whiteheads, blackheads (if oxidized by the air), or even abrasions and cysts, Dr. Engelman says. “Masks can also trigger rosacea, perioral dermatitis, irritant dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and skin breakdown,” Dr. Henry adds.

While masks already trap humidity, dirt, oil, and sweat on a good day, our chin, mouth, and nose area are even more susceptible to breakouts now that summer is here. “Maskne is absolutely worse during the summer months as the increased oil production in our pores creates the ideal environment for cysts,” Dr. Henry says.

How can you prevent and treat maskne?

While any form of acne is frustrating, maskne can be particularly pesky due to the combination of factors that contribute to it — and the fact that you can’t simply eliminate the ‘outside force’ causing it. (Seriously, keep wearing your mask!) Luckily, you can make a few adjustments to your skincare routine to combat mask breakouts, soothe irritation, and stop the vicious maskne cycle.

Wash your face before and after wearing a face mask.

Hopefully, you’re taking the time to diligently wash your hands throughout the day — and avoiding touching your face as much as possible. But you should also be sure to wash your face with a gentle cleanser before applying a mask to prevent trapping bacteria under the mask and pushing it further into your skin, Dr. Engelman says.

“I recommend starting with a benzoyl peroxide cleanser once a day to target bacteria and remove excess oil,” Dr. Libby says. “I love Differin Daily Deep Cleanser which has 5% benzoyl peroxide, which is just as effective as [higher concentrations], and gentler.”

For healthcare workers on the frontline wearing the tightest-fitting masks for many hours of the day, a combination of “maskne” and eczema (which can occur in the forms of irritant or allergic contact dermatitis) is common, and can manifest as dry, itchy skin, Dr. Libby says. If you are experiencing both of these conditions, it’s important to immediately cleanse your skin after removing your mask and to use a cleanser that won’t over-dry or stripping your skin, which can worsen irritation.

Both derms recommend Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which can also be used without water. If you have irritated or sensitive skin, gently swipe a cotton round with the cleanser over your skin, Dr. Libby suggests.

Use a chemical exfoliant.

While benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid spot treatments can help target whiteheads once they are formed, chemical exfoliants, which dissolve dead cells on the skin’s surface, are key for preventing mask breakouts from forming in the first place, Dr. Engelman says.

She suggests opting for one with salicylic acid, like Humane Clarifying Toner, once per week to unclog pores, without irritating sensitive skin. (It’ll also leave skin softer and brighter in the process.)

Apply a skin-soothing moisturizer.

After cleansing, be sure to add moisture back into the skin — but skip your heavy winter creams. “I suggest a gentle, fragrance-free and non-comedogenic moisturizer like Cetaphil Daily Hydrating Lotion,which is formulated with hyaluronic acid to help hydrate, soothe, and restore the skin protective barrier,” Dr. Libby says.

“I recommend moisturizers with ingredients like ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help strengthen and reinforce the skin barrier,” Dr. Henry adds.

For healthcare workers or those experiencing extra dryness and eczema, applying an OTC cortizone cream on a short-term basis is helpful in alleviating skin irritation and calming down inflammation, Dr. Libby says.

Ditch your foundation.

Dr. Engelman suggests ditching heavy foundations as we head into warmer months, which will only further trap bacteria in your pores under your mask — the perfect storm for acne.

Instead, opt for a tinted moisturizer, or tinted sunscreen for breakout-friendly SPF protection, like IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream SPF 40.

But don’t forget the SPF.

If you’re forgoing makeup altogether, you still need to apply sunscreen. “Even though our faces will be mostly covered by masks, other areas are still exposed, so it’s best to just apply an even layer of SPF as the finishing step to your morning routine,” Dr. Libby says. (And FYI, you need to wear sunscreen indoors, too).

Look for non-comedogenic and oil-free options as they work to decrease excess oil that can clog pores and lead to acne. “I like mineral options, as zinc oxide is an anti-irritant and has antimicrobial properties, both which are suitable for acne-prone and sensitive skin types,” she adds.

Or, swap your moisturizer for one with SPF. Dr. Henry suggests Olay Regenerist Whip SPF 25. “It’s a great non-comedogenic option for your daily moisturizer with sunscreen that won’t clog your pores.”

Add a soothing, occlusive balm.

If you’re already dealing with maskne, creating a physical barrier to protect this chapped skin is key. Layer on a hydrating and occlusive balm, like Glo Skin Beauty Barrier Balm, along the area where the masks sits right before you put it on, Dr. Engelman says. This will not only soothe parched skin, but it will prevent bacteria from spreading, she adds.

Or, opt for pimple patches.

Another physical barrier Dr. Libby suggests is silicone tape or Duoderm ($24; amazon.com), again applied to skin where the mask contacts your face and applies the most friction. “Acne patches, like COSRX, are another dual-functioning solution as they apply acne medication to individual lesions throughout the day, while also serving as a physical barrier to the mask,” she says.

And don’t forget to wash your fabric mask every time you wear it.

If you’re wearing a fabric face mask, you should be washing it after every. single. time. you wear it. This is important for your health: You don’t know what bacteria the mask has come in contact with and don’t want germs making their way into your nose or mouth. But it’s also helpful for keeping breakouts at bay.

Bottom line: “Masks, while important for our safety, can trap in humidity, dirt, oil, and sweat and — if you’re not cleaning them properly or reusing them for prolonged periods of time — this can further exacerbate these symptoms,” Dr. Libby says.

That’s why it’s a smart idea to make or buy a few masks (ideally in a softer fabric, like a silk blend, to reduce friction) so you can easily switch them out and wash them in between uses, Dr. Engelman says. Another option? A mask with the aforementioned zinc oxide embedded in the fabric may be helpful, Dr. Henry adds. “Zinc is anti-inflammatory and soothing to the skin. It will contribute to protecting the skin barrier.”

InStyle article

Best Vitamin C Serums That Could Transform Your Skin

Vitamin C can do more than just help you kick that cold! In fact, this potent antioxidant can actually help transform the look for your skin thanks to its ability to boost collagen, minimize acne scars, and reduce signs of aging. But if you think a daily glass of orange juice is all you need for a glowing complexion, think again.

When ingested orally, the vitamin’s benefits barely ever make it to our skin. Instead, you’ll have to apply it topically in the form of a vitamin C serum in order to see the multifaceted ingredient start to work its magic on your skin. Besides brightening and evening out your skin tone, the versatile antioxidant also works to improve skin’s hydration and prevent wrinkles.

No7 Youthful Vitamin C Fresh Radiance Essence

With 5% pure Vitamin C. Easy to mix, at-home activation. Use for two weeks for visible results. Promotes brighter, healthier and more radiant looking skin. Evens skin tone and texture.

Shop at Target $20

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare C + Collagen Brighten & Firm Serum

Formulated with amino acids and antioxidants, this face serum minimizes and prevents the appearance of hyperpigmentation, fine lines and wrinkles. 

Shop at Dermstore $78

Drunk Elephant C-Firma Day Serum

A potent vitamin C day serum packed with antioxidants, nutrients, and fruit enzymes to visibly firm, brighten, and improve signs of photoaging. 

Shop at Sephora $80

BeautyRx Skincare Triple Vitamin C Serum

Infused with 10% Antioxidant Serum and three concentrated forms of Vitamin C, this powerful formula reduces the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation, unveiling a more even skin tone. 

Shop at Dermstore $95

SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic Serum

SkinCeuticals’ C E Ferulic features a synergistic antioxidant combination of ferulic acid and pure vitamin C and E to enhance your skin’s protection against environmental damage caused by free radicals. In addition to antioxidant protective benefits, this formula improves signs of aging and photodamage to reduce the appearance of lines and wrinkles while firming and brightening your complexion. Lastly, this powerful formula helps neutralize free radicals induced by UVA/UVB, infrared radiation (IRA) and ozone pollution (O3). 

Shop at Dermstore $166

Sunday Riley C.E.O. Rapid Flash Brightening Serum

A serum targeted to fight the look of dullness and discoloration, while visibly diminishing the signs of aging. 

Shop at Sephora $85

DIOR Capture Youth Glow Booster Age-Delay Illuminating Serum

 Murunga plum, known to be 100 times more concentrated in vitamin C than oranges, combined with alpha hydroxy acid helps to brighten the complexion and smooth skin texture. Enriched with antioxidant-boosting iris extract, this serum has a lightweight texture that offers a natural glow and energizes skin, helping it resist aggressions (stress, fatigue, and jet lag). 

Shop at Sephora $95

TruSkin Naturals Vitamin C Serum

With almost 8,000 five-star reviews, this serum by TruSkin is one of the most popular beauty products on Amazon. The serum’s formula combines vitamin C with botanical hyaluronic acid and vitamin E to help diminish the look of dark spots, wrinkles, and fine lines while also firming and brightening your skin. Happy customers rave that this handy product started to transform their skin in just one week! A lot of reviewers have even been uploading before and after photos of themselves to show off how clear and bright their skin looks after using the serum.

Shop at Amazon $20

Olehenriksen Truth Serum

Over 150,000 Sephora shoppers agree this is one of the best vitamin C serums around. Many customers love how quickly the product absorbed in their skin, while others couldn’t get over how delicious the serum’s citrus scent was. One reviewer called it a “game changer” before adding “seriously this stuff works. It has truly made my skin better.”

Shop at Sephora $50

Timeless Skincare 20% C + E + Ferulic Acid Serum

This potent serum is so popular it earned itself an Amazon’s Choice recommendation. You can use the powerful product on its own or add two or three drops to your daily moisturizer if your skin needs the extra hydration. One glowing review said, “This is a wonderful serum. It dramatically refined my skin’s texture and brightened my complexion. It absorbs quickly, and the smell dissipates once it dries.”

Shop at Amazon $25

Mad Hippie Vitamin C Serum

This award-winning serum combines vitamin C with hyaluronic acid and konjac root powder to help soften, smooth, and brighten your skin’s texture. Eighty-four percent of Ulta customers said they would recommend this product to their friends and family, with most customers saying the serum left their skin glowing.

Shop at ULTA $34

Mario Badescu Vitamin C Serum

You can say goodbye to fine lines and wrinkles thanks to this potent serum by beloved beauty brand Mario Badescu. Ulta customers can’t stop raving about how fast the product works. Many reviewers said they saw dark spots and acne scars fade in just five days of regular use.

Shop at ULTA $45

Obagi Professional-C Serum

Dermstore customers love this concentrated vitamin C serum thanks to its powerful anti-aging properties. Many reviewers gave it two thumbs up, saying the serum left them with healthier-looking skin that actually glowed. They also loved that it also helps prevent any future damage from pesky UV rays.

Shop at Dermstore $127

InstaNatural Vitamin C Serum

This nutrient-packed serum by InstaNatural is a best seller on Amazon thanks to the 2,700 five-star reviews customers have given it. Customers raved that the serum not only helped reduce the appearance of old acne scars but it also helped clear up current breakouts and blackheads. One happy reviewer called it, “the nectar of the gods for your skin.”

Shop at Amazon $18

Kora Organics Noni Bright Vitamin C Serum

This vitamin C serum from Miranda Kerr’s skincare line Kora Organics may be new to the market, but it’s already racked up over 8,000 likes at Sephora. During a clinical study, 90 percent of participants said their skin looked smoother, while 80 percent said their skin looked brighter and more radiant. “I love this product. It’s been over a week and I noticed a difference in my skin. The smell is amazing, and the results are even better. My face is brighter and my hyperpigmentation and acne scarring is noticeably reduced,” raved one customer.

Shop at Sephora $68

LilyAna Naturals Vitamin C Serum

This popular serum from LilyAna Naturals is infused with jojoba oil, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid (along with the vitamin C) to help hydrate and moisturize your skin. The powerful product works to firm and smooth your skin’s texture, along with reducing the appearance of sunspots, redness, and other discolorations. The best part?  It’s non- comedogenic (read: safe for acne-prone skin), so you’ll never have to worry about it clogging your pores or causing breakouts. With details like this, it’s no wonder why more than 3,300 Amazon customers gave the serum an impressive 4.4-star rating.

Shop at Amazon $30

Tatcha Violet C Brightening Serum

If you suffer from dull or tired-looking skin, consider this vitamin C serum from Tatcha. It is specially formulated with 20 percent vitamin C and 10 percent AHA serum that work together to soften and smooth skin, leaving you with a glowing complexion. The beloved serum has more than 60,000 likes and a 4.4-star rating at Sephora. What’s more? 88 percent of customers said they love it so much, they’d recommend it to others.

Shop at Sephora $88

Kate Somerville + Retinol Vita C Power Serum

This vitamin C serum from Kate Somerville is packed with retinol to help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Along with improving the tone and elasticity of your skin, the product can also help your skin look brighter, smoother,  and more luminous. “Can’t say enough. Literally fixed my tired, acne-prone, and scarred skin in just a week! I have literally tried everything out there from $700 creams to $50 ones and this one is the holy grail,” raved one customer.

Shop at Sephora $98

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The Best The Ordinary Products Worth Your Money

Few brands have revolutionized the way we shop for skin care the way The Ordinary has. Before the Canadian brand burst onto the scene, accessibility to cheap high-quality products had mostly been restricted to makeup. Even with so much innovation among drugstore skin-care brands, few affordable options really rival what luxury serums and moisturizers have to offer.

That’s why buzz for the best The Ordinary products refuses to die down. The brand takes a clinical, science-based approach to skin care and specializes in single-ingredient-driven products that deliver targeted results. The best part? Nothing costs more than $20. In fact, the majority of it clocks in for less than $10. This is largely in part thanks to The Ordinary’s dedication to transparency, resulting in prices that aren’t significantly marked up.

But despite its low price point, the brand can be intimidating. Because the names of the products refer to skin-care ingredients–not results—they all sound like something out of an advanced medical textbook. Meaning you’re left trying to decipher what the hell ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate (a vitamin C derivative) or epigallocatechin gallatyl glucoside (an anti-inflammatory compound in green tea) does.

GLAMOUR editors went through hundreds of dollars of The Ordinary skin-care products to help explain the cryptic descriptions of each and narrow down what’s actually worth adding to our medicine cabinets. 

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5

For true, deep moisture, you’re supposed to use a serum or acid that can penetrate deeper than your standard emollient. Enter hyaluronic acid. It provides a healthy glow, leaves the skin dewy but not oily.

$7 at Sephora

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution

Yes, part of this product’s appeal is that it looks like you’re doing an at-home blood facial, but the results are just as Instagrammable. The mix of AHAs and BHAs deeply exfoliates to clear up congestion, dead skin, and hyperpigmentation. The skin looks brighter and smoother after one use—with no irritation to sensitive skin.

$7.50 at SkinStore

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors + HA

Apply a pea-size dollop once every day for a week after washing the face. The moisturizer comes out with a sunscreen-like consistency, but it blends in with the skin in seconds. After a week of using it, the cheeks would be plump and flake-free, probably because it has hyaluronic acid, which helps skin cells retain moisture. With such noticeable results for a low-maintenance moisturizer, we can count on this for the winter months.

$7.70 at Sephora

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%

The mornings after use (preferably three times a week), the skin is brighter, glowier, and a smidge bouncier.

$6.80 at ULTA

The Ordinary High-Adherence Silicone Primer 

The first noticeable thing about The Ordinary’s High-Adherence Silicone Primer is its texture, which feels just like a creamy moisturizing lotion. Once applied, it makes the skin feel so soft that you almost don’t want to put on makeup for fear of losing the silkiness. The makeup goes on smooth and stays matte throughout the day.

$4.90 at Sephora

The Ordinary Pycnogenol 5%

Pycnogenol is an extract derived from pine trees that has the ability to boost collagen and elastin production in your skin. Plus, it’s a great hydrator. The skin looks and feels healthier after using it.

$11.90 at LookFantastic

The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil 

It’s great for moisturizing and nourishing the skin, yet it still feels lightweight. Using it in tandem with a retinol can significantly fade post-acne hyperpigmentation, and it definitely makes a difference in the glow factor. It has a slightly earthy smell.

$9.80 at Sephora

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution 

In reality, chemical exfoliants are much gentler and better than physical exfoliants, like face scrubs or loofas. This glycolic acid visibly resurfaces the skin, and it’s pretty gentle—though you shouldn’t use it more than every other night. Plus it’s affordable and lasts forever.

$8.70 at Sephora

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 

I’ve always been curious about azelaic acid, since I’ve heard it can treat both acne and dark spots while being safe enough to use even during pregnancy. The texture is super luxe and absorbs nicely, can provide an improvement on a stubborn breakout, and make post-acne dark spots look less opaque.

 $8.20 at LookFantastic

The Ordinary Caffeine Solution 5% + EGCG

While it doesn’t help with dark circles (sadly, not much will), the lightweight serum instantly de-puffs and smooths out any baggage. It brightens the eyes in seconds, and makes it look like you got a full eight hours of sleep.

$6.70 at Sephora

The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid* 2% Emulsion

This is an incredibly gentle retinol option. The serum is an almost milky consistency, and after a month of using it, users report that they’ve started to see a few lines on their foreheads fade. It’s also a wonder for smoothing out the texture of the skin.

$9.80 at Sephora

The Ordinary Vitamin C Suspension 23% + HA Spheres 2%

Perfect for a pre-bedtime ritual, it’s is only $5; plus, it can be mixed with your other favourite serums to reduce its somewhat gritty texture. If you’re looking to fight wrinkles and even out your skin tone, this one is a great bet.

$5.80 at Sephora

The Ordinary 100% Plant-Derived Squalane

Squalane is a fantastic hydrator—it’s nonsticky, fast-absorbing, and has humectant (meaning, moisture-drawing) properties that work in tandem to make your skin look crazy plump. The downside is that it’s traditionally derived from animals. But that’s not the case with this serum. Instead, it’s powered by plants, so you feel even better about using it when you see dewy, bouncy skin.

$8.20 at LookFantastic

The Ordinary Ascorbyl Tetraisopalmitate Solution 20% in Vitamin F

The name of this sounds insane (and impossible to pronounce), and I’ll admit that, going in, I had no idea what it did. After a little research and a test-drive, though, I’m sold. It’s basically a form of vitamin C (which helps brighten and even out your skin tone), while vitamin F is a fatty acid rich in omega-6 that helps maintain your skin barrier (when it’s disrupted, all kinds of things like acne and redness occur). You notice a major difference in the condition of the skin after just one use—it is noticeably smoother, firmer, and overall much brighter and more radiant.

$17.80 at Sephora

The Ordinary Retinol 0.5% in Squalane

It’s lower-strength and delivered with squalane, so it’s a bit less irritating than other ones out there. Start by using it one to three times per week, use it only at night, and know that if you don’t wear sunscreen after using it, it will damage your skin.

$5.80 at ULTA

The Ordinary Mandelic Acid 10% + HA

Mandelic acid is really slept on—and hard to find—so it’s exciting to see this hyperpigmentation-fighting superstar available at a lower price point. It’s super gentle yet has helped reduce some of the acne as well as the scars it leaves behind.

$6.80 at ULTA

The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Masque

This pocket-sized, super-affordable charcoal-colored mask is the only thing that’s been helping with my quarantine breakouts. I rate it highly for both skintertainment and effectiveness. It gives me a bright, exfoliated glow without irritating my skin. There is simply nothing more I want from a product.

$12 at ULTA

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These Toners Will Do So Much More Than Even Out Your Skin Tone

It’s time to pick up and prioritise an oft-overlooked yet powerful beauty product: toner. If you haven’t already worked one into your daily skincare routine, we’re here to tell you you’re missing out. Not only can the right toner help to tackle acne, eczema and rosacea, it can improve the appearance of dark marks and hyperpigmentation or non-uniform skin (often caused or exacerbated by hormonal imbalances), as well as signs of excess sun exposure.

Below, five of Miss Vogue’s favourite facial toners for evening out the skin tone, and reducing stubborn hyperpigmentation.

Ole Henriksen Glow2OH™ Dark Spot Toner

Packed with skin-brightening ingredients, this powerhouse toner will slough away dead skin, giving you that fresh-from-a-facial glow. As it contains anti-bacterial and blemish-reducing witch hazel, this toner is a great pick for those with acne-prone skin. When used consistently, you should see a significant reduction in spots, as well as the dark marks they tend to leave in their wake.

The GlowPot Refreshing Orange and Aloe Toner

This revitalising toner is perfect for skin in need of some TLC. The gentle-yet-effective ingredients work in unison to bring the life back to dull skin. Aloe vera, widely known for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, will accelerate the production of new skin cells, which in turn helps to heal acne scarring and reduce the appearance of marks. The vitamin C-rich orange peel essential oil is another great, skin-brightening ingredient that will help to boost the luminosity in your skin.

Alpha H Liquid Gold

This highly-rated toner is a staple product for those in the know. A number of factors have contributed to its popularity: the tried-and-tested ingredients proven to work on uneven skin; the fact it’s suitable for all skin types; and its ability to address a number of different skin issues in one go. The 15 per cent glycolic acid acts as a mild exfoliant, while natural liquorice root soothes irritation and brightens dark marks.

Boots Traditional Glycerin and Rosewater

This one is a classic. If you are on the lookout for a gentle toner containing a small number of ingredients that simply work, this is the one to try. Containing traditional ingredients used for centuries, this toner will help to even skin tone, lock in moisture and refresh a tired complexion. The key ingredient, rosewater, will help to control excess oil production, which in turn minimises acne-causing sebum and hyperpigmentation. On top of all that, it’s a bargain.

REN Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic

This Ren toner has won over beauty buffs for all sorts of reasons: it brightens, micro-exfoliates, hydrates, tightens and evens out the skin. Really being consistent with this toner will give you lasting results. Its new, greener bottle is also made from 100 per cent post-consumer recycled plastic — a big plus.

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Skincare Techniques I Wish I Learned Sooner

  1. Don’t over cleanse – depending on your skin type and needs, one cleanse in the morning and one before bed (followed by moisturizer and serums, respectively) is enough. When you use more than one cleanser, they can strip the skin of moisture and have an opposite effect.
  2. Retinol, Vitamin C, etc in cleansers are just a marketing ploy – these ingredients should be in the leave-on treatments (such as moisturizers and serums), because you won’t get any benefits from it if the cleanser is on your skin for ten seconds.
  3. Don’t overcomplicate your skincare routine – be especially careful with AHAs and BHAs in exfoliants and toners, there IS such a thing as too much when it comes to skincare routines, sometimes the simpler and the less products – the better and more effective.
  4. Oils don’t moisturize – they soften up the top layer of the skin, but they can’t pull the moisture into the skin (you need a humectant to do that), so the oil should never count as your moisturizer. It’s a nice last step in a skincare routine to lock everything in and make the skin nice and soft, though.
  5. Use humectants on damp skin – they’re pulling the moisture into your skin, for example hyaluronic acid: it looks for moisture to pull into the malleable skin, so if the skin or the environment are dry, it’s going to reach into the lower layers of the skin to pull the moisture out of there and dehydrate your skin. When the skin is damp, apply the humectant, followed by moisturizer and a serum for best results.