Skincare can be a challenging category to navigate. Even as a beauty editor, I get overwhelmed trying to figure out what skincare products actually work and which premium beauty brands are really worth the money.
Scrolling through social media, you’ll often find influencers and beauty lovers raving about their favourite skincare products and brands.
NHS dermatologist Cristina Psomadakis; consultant dermatologist Sharon Wong; and junior doctor, skincare expert and Inkey List ambassador Kemi Fabusiwa share their recommendations below.
Skincare Products to Save On
“Your cleanser literally goes down the drain, so you don’t want to think about the money you’ve spent on it,” says Psomadakis. “The main thing to look for in a cleanser is one that suits your skin type and routine and is a texture you find enjoyable. The Inkey List has a variety of cleansers, all incredibly affordable and suitable to a variety of skin types,” she says.
Shop affordable cleansers:
“My favourite is The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm. It is super hydrating and great at removing makeup, all for £10.99,” says Psomadakis. This balmy texture is ideal at gently removing makeup as a first cleanse.
This is one of my all-time-favourite cleansers, which was recommended to me by a dermatologist when I had an eczema flare. It has a cushiony, lotion consistency and really gently removes makeup without staining even the most sensitive of skins.
2. Exfoliating Acids
“People can spend an absolute bomb on skincare, and higher cost doesn’t mean higher efficacy,” says Psomadakis. Exfoliating acids fall under this category, and they’re worth scrimping on. “AHAs (e.g., lactic and glycolic acid) and BHAs (e.g., salicylic acid) are exfoliating acids, which help to remove surface dead skin cells on the face and scalp to keep cell turnover healthy,” says Wong.
If dullness, pigmentation or textural issues are concerns, try glycolic acid. This one from The Ordinary comes in at £8 for 250 millilitres, meaning that it will last you for ages. Apply a couple of drops to a reusable cotton round, and swipe over the skin to unveil an even-toned complexion.
Salicylic toners are great to address enlarged pores, blackheads, acne or general oiliness. This one from La Roche-Posay is a French pharmacy favourite.
An excessively oily scalp can lead to dandruff and irritation, but salicylic acid can help address this too. Simply apply this and leave on for 10 minutes before shampooing to help dissolve flakes and buildup. Your scalp with breathe a sigh of relief.
3. Hyaluronic Acid Serums
Hyaluronic acid has become one of the buzziest skincare ingredients in recent years, mostly down to it being a great hydrating ingredient for all skin types and holding up to a thousand times its weight in water.
Shop affordable hyaluronic acid serums:
“One of my favourite budget-friendly hydrators is Inkey’s Hyaluronic Acid Serum,” says Fabusiwa. “Not only will it only set you back £6.99, but it’s also formulated with 2% premium-grade hyaluronic acid, the optimum level for performance on the skin,” she says.
This is one of the best hyaluronic acid serums that I’ve ever tried—and it comes in under £20. In fact, I’d say it’s better than most expensive hyaluronic acid serums that I’ve used. It leaves skin feeling plumped and moisturised and fine lines looking softer over time.
For its seriously competitive price point, this serum has great four- and five-star reviews.
Skincare Products to Invest In
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is often hailed as one of the best skincare ingredients you can use. It helps to shield the skin from environmental damage, it brightens pigmentation, and it whips up collagen production too. That being said, vitamin C can be unstable ingredient and tricky to formulate effectively, so it’s worth investing a little more on this skincare ingredient.
Yes, it’s expensive, but Skin Ceuticals'”C E Ferulic serum is highly regarded as the best vitamin C serum that money can buy. This antioxidant serum is formulated with vitamins C and E and ferulic acid, helping to combat environmental damage and maintain the skin’s youthfulness. It has a 15% formulation of vitamin C, which helps to brighten pigmentation as well as address any fine lines. It’s a great all-rounder for all skin types and has a water-like consistency that sinks in quickly. It usually sells for around the £145 mark, but it’s on sale on Face the Future right now at £115—so be quick.
This serum has a 15% concentration of vitamin C, and it also has vitamin E and ferulic acid like the SkinCeuticals one—but at a more affordable price point.
You’ll often spot Medik8 products in the very best skincare clinics, and it’s loved by dermatologists.
2. In-Clinic Treatments
Products aside,aesthetic treatments can go a long way to help you achieve your skin goals. “Whilst a consistent skincare routine is the backbone of beautiful, healthy skin, it won’t ever help to correct serious skin complaints such as scarring or severe hyperpigmentation,” says Fabusiwa. “It is often worth saving money and spending it on advanced treatments such as lasers, chemical peels and micro-needling that have a strong evidence-based and high clinical efficiency,” she says. This is even more crucial if you’re considering injectable treatments such as Botox or fillers. “You absolutely want to pay for someone’s credentials and expertise when it comes to any surgical or injectable procedure,” says Psomadakis. “If it goes wrong—and it can go very wrong—you want to be sure you are working with a qualified professional who can reduce the risk of complications and correctly diagnose and manage the situation if something does happen,” she says.
Whether you wear a chemical or mineral SPF, it is one of the most important skincare products to wear daily to protect from skin cancer and signs of skin ageing.And having it sit on your shelf is no good in protecting your skin. So sometimes it pays to find a premium SPF with an elegant formula that you like and will want to use.
“It is worthwhile to invest in a formula you love using,” says Psomadakis.
“There are some great affordable options, so don’t rule those out. Just be sure to prioritise your spending budget on a sunscreen you love to use daily.”