I Swapped My Elaborate Skincare With These 3 Affordable Products

For years, I’ve struggled with my skin. My complexion is quite fair, and my skin leans far to the dry side. Little breakouts happen easily, and underlying redness has frustrated me throughout most of my teen and early adulthood. 

I’ve spent so much time (and money) going back and forth between different skincare routines over the past few years, learning exactly what — and more importantly, what doesn’t — work for my super-sensitive face. Harsh ingredients often left me dried out, but sometimes the gentler stuff felt like it wasn’t doing anything at all.

With such a fine line to walk, I’ve alternated between numerous high-end and drugstore products from Sephora, Mecca, Priceline, and even my neighbourhood Woolworths to discover the best options at all price points. And I think I’ve finally nailed it. 

After trying a huge variety of face washes, serums and moisturizers, I’ve narrowed down my routine to three essentials: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Cleanser, Ole Henriksen Truth Serum, and Sukin Mattifying Facial Moisturizer. 

The best part of all: It’s a relatively cheap routine. While there is one expensive product thrown into the trio, the other two are less than $20, making the splurge worth it. Get into the habit of using it, and you’ll see that it’s worth it too. 

To learn more about the three products that turned my skin around, keep reading for a detailed review of each. 

The Three Essential Skincare Products

Cleanser: Neutrogena, Hydro Boost Cleanser Water Gel ($15.99)

I’m not joking when I say I’ve tried nearly every cleanser “for dry skin” on the market. From milky ones costing nearly $100 to cheaper options from the supermarket, any cleanser that has received praise for washing sensitive skin has been something I’ve tried out myself. 

Because my skin is sensitive, it’s important for me to use a gentle cleanser. However, I sometimes found that “gentle” options — especially when milky in texture — left my skin feeling unwashed, as if there was still makeup residue lingering. While some work better than others, this seemed to be a common problem for me when hunting down cleansers that wouldn’t cause me to dry out or flare-up. 

Once I discovered Neutrogena’s Hydro Boost Water Gel, it was a game-changer. Because it contains hyaluronic acid, this cleanser simultaneously washes your face while providing deep hydration. According to Priceline, the “silky lather…effectively lifts away dirt, oil and makeup without disrupting the skin barrier.” — I can attest that my skin never felt worse after using this cleanser, only better. And the results were instantly visible.

Serum: Ole Henriksen, Truth Serum ($70,00-100.00)

I have a suspicion that the real change in my skin has come from this citrusy scented serum, as my skin looks more radiant than ever since I added it into my routine. The price varies depending on whether you get the 30ml or 50ml bottle, but with this product, a little goes a long way. With the small bottle, I’ve lasted more than a month, using the serum both night and day — when you break it down, that makes it a pretty affordable hero product. 

Jam-packed with vitamin C and collagen, this serum brightens and firms the skin while providing extra hydration. The serum smells amazing and glides on so smoothly that you instantly feel like your skin looks better for it. After a few weeks of using the Truth Serum, I definitely felt that my sometimes-dull skin was more glowy than it had been before. But I’m interested to see if the effects will hold throughout winter as well.

Moisturiser: Sukin, Mattifying Facial Moisturizer ($13.95)

I was skeptical about this product at first, but I was in a pinch when I bought it and thank goodness I did. The only reason I purchased this moisturiser is because I had forgotten to pack mine while going on a weekend away, and it was what seemed like the best option at the small-town pharmacy I stopped at along the way. 

The thing that initially turned me away from this moisturizer was the “mattifying” promise. In my mind, “mattifying” was equivalent to “drying” — but this moisturiser is anything but. Though it feels extremely light on the skin, the moisturiser somehow deeply hydrates without being heavy or greasy by any measure. 

I also love that the product is natural with ingredients like pomegranate, aloe vera and chamomile working to boost skin’s health and appearance. The moisturiser is advertised as helping balance oily skin, but for someone who rarely gets any sort of shine, I think this pick is equally great for those of us with dry skin as well.