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Do you ever find skincare shopping a bit confusing? The Stylist beauty team shares its favourite high street skincare brands to help you sort the practical from the pointless…
Skincare. It’s probably the most important part of any beauty routine, and yet, it’s an area that is riddled with confusion.
When it comes to developing an effective skincare routine, it’s important to first figure out your skin type (which you can do with our handy guide). Once you’ve done this, you can create a regime filled with the steps and products you need to take.
But when you start shopping, it can feel like a bit of a minefield. With multiple brands releasing endless products filled with enticing promises, it can be difficult to sort the practical from the pointless. Add to that the fact that it’s easy to drop a lot of cash on non-essential products (especially when expensive doesn’t necessarily equal effective), it’s understandable you might feel a bit lost.
So, we’ve rounded up our favourite affordable skincare brands to provide a bit of inspiration…
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Developed by dermatologists, CeraVe quickly earned cult status in the US thanks to its clever, high-tech formulas. After various pilgrimages to stock up on Ulta any time we touched American soil, the brand finally launched in the UK a little over two years ago. So what makes it so special? Each product is packed with beneficial ingredients, with the main star being ceramides. While our skin cells produce ceramides naturally, boosting them helps protect the skin’s barrier and results in healthier skin.
Our pick: CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser
Alongside its signature addition of three essential ceramides, this cleanser has 0.5% salicylic acid to gently exfoliate the skin while removing make-up, dirt and oil. It also contains hyaluronic acid for extra hydration. No wonder we can’t stop singing its praises.
Shop CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser at Boots, £10
2. The Ordinary
When it came to skincare shopping, effective products were usually associated with expensive price tags. That is until The Ordinary came along. A sub-brand of Deciem, The Ordinary was developed to deliver products that focused on pioneering ingredients at an accessible price point. To do this, it names each of its products after the key ingredient for full transparency. Since launching, it’s released countless sell-out serums and has amassed a loyal fan base.
Our pick: The Ordinary Salicylic 2% Masque
Contributing beauty editor Lucy Partington doesn’t really use face masks – but this one has seriously impressed her. As well as helping to dry out blemishes, she has noticed it reduces oiliness.
Shop The Ordinary Salicylic 2% Masque at Boots, £9.90
3. The Body Shop
For most of us, The Body Shop was a key part of discovering beauty products when we were younger – and it’s one of the few that has stood the test of time. The Body Shop is still a firm part of our skincare routines, thanks to its effective formulations and clear skincare categories. From gentle cleansers and nourishing body butter to intensive moisturisers and soothing lotions, there’s a lot to explore across the brand’s offering.
Our pick: The Body Shop Drops of Youth Concentrate
A hard one to narrow down, but there’s a reason this serum is purchased every 27 seconds. As well as helping to protect skin from indoor and outdoor pollution, it has been reformulated with moringa oil for extra environmental protection.
Shop The Body Shop Drops of Youth Concentrate
4. The Inkey List
When The Inkey List first launched, the beauty industry was quick to draw comparisons between it and The Ordinary. Like the latter, the Inkey List also stems from a belief in no-frills formulas, ingredient-focused packaging – think retinol, vitamin C and hyaluronic acid – and affordable prices.
Our pick: The Inkey List Niacinamide
Also known as vitamin B3, niacinamide works to reduce redness, excess oil and blemishes, while also improving uneven skin tone and protecting the skin against environmental aggressors. This particular formula also contains 1% hyaluronic acid to keep the skin hydrated.
Shop The Inkey List Niacinamide at Cult Beauty, £6.99
5. La Roche-Posay
Snoop through the Stylist beauty team’s skincare cabinets and you’re bound to spot a La Roche Posay product (or two, or three…). This French skincare brand comes highly recommended by dermatologists for its high-quality formulations. What’s more, a lot of the products contain spring water, making them suitable for sensitive skin types.
Our pick: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+
Formulated for oily and acne-prone skin, this moisturiser contains niacinamide, glycerin and salicylic acid to reduce and prevent blemishes.
Shop La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+ at Lookfantastic, £17
Founded by Marc Elricks (you might know him as the founder of Tanluxe), every single Byoma product prioritises the healthy functioning and integrity of the skin barrier.
A protective layer, a healthy skin barrier controls transepidermal water loss and protects against external and environmental stressors. All Byoma products are enriched with a patented tri-ceramide complex combining fatty acids, cholesterol, and ceramides, to make sure the health of your skin barrier is never compromised.
Our pick: Byoma Brightening Serum
One of three serums Byoma sells, the Brightening Serum combines niacinamide and hyaluronic acid (along with the tri-ceramide complex, of course) to visibly brighten and hydrate skin.
Shop Byoma Brightening Serum at Cult Beauty, £12.99
7. Boots Ingredients
Boots’ own-brand skincare line, Boots Ingredients, focuses on affordable single-ingredient skin care products like vitamin C, retinol and hyaluronic acid moisturiser.
Our pick: Boots Ingredients Hyaluronic Acid Serum
In a close call, hyaluronic acid just pipped the others to the post. At £5, it helps to hydrate the skin (drawing moisture towards it) and improve plumpness and moisture.
Shop Boots Ingredients Hyaluronic Acid Serum, £5
Founded in 1904, it’s fair to say that Garnier has been around for ages. Many people tend to focus on hair care, but its skincare offering is equally impressive and has something for every skin type. Plus, in recent years, the brand has turned its attention to focusing on sustainable ingredients and packaging, without compromising on its iconic formulas.
Our pick: Garnier Micellar Water Sensitive Skin
Micellar water is a great way to break down make-up and dirt before cleansing – and this one is particularly good. Developed for sensitive skin, simply soak a reusable cotton pad and sweep it across the face to remove make-up and impurities. A great, eco-friendly alternative to make-up wipes.
Shop Garnier Micellar Water Sensitive Skin at Boots, £5.99
9. E.l.f Skincare
Not only the creators of affordable make-up and nail polish, E.l.f also sell high-quality (but not price) skincare. From masks to cleansers, moisturisers, serums and SPFs, products range from £6 to £14.50.
Our pick: E.l.f Holy Hydration! Makeup Melting Cleansing Balm
Melt away stubborn make-up, SPF, dirt and debris using this balm-to-oil-to-milk cleanser. Packed full of ceramides, peptides and hyaluronic acid, it helps maintain the healthy functioning of your skin barrier and retain hydration.
Shop E.l.f. Holy Hydration! Makeup Melting Cleansing Balm at Boots, £10
Founded in 1921, Weleda has since championed holistic and organic formulations enriched with flower and herb extracts.
Our pick: Weleda Skin Food
An award-winning product, Weleda’s Skin Food is renowned by celebrities, make-up artists and skincare enthusiasts. Specifically designed to help heal rough or dry skin, Skin Food comes in a rich and light formula and is infused with soothing chamomile and calendula.
Shop Weleda Skin Food at Cult Beauty, £8.25
Developed over 20 years ago in Soho, London, Pixi has a cult following. Favouring simple-to-use and aesthetically pleasing products, Pixi make-up and skincare has stood the test of time, often making the list of beauty editor favourites.
Our pick: Pixi Glow Tonic
An award-winning facial toner, Pixi enriched this highly-concentrated formula with 5% glycolic acid to speed up cell turnover, clear congested pores improve skin ton and exfoliate the skin.
Shop Pixi Glow Tonic at Cult Beauty, £10
Coined the number one sensitive skincare brand in Japan, Curél’s primary aim is to provide skincare that works for even the most sensitive of skin. The brand pays a lot of attention to testing the ingredients, colours and odours in its products and everything is packed by hand.
Our pick: Curél Intensive Moisture Facial Cream
A bestseller from the brand, contributing beauty director Shannon Peter says: “It’s perfect when your skin is having a bit of a wobbly moment or you’ve overdone it with an acid or retinol. It’s packed with ceramides, which helps to rebuild a compromised skin barrier.”
Shop Curél Intensive Moisture Facial Cream at Lookfantastic, £14.40
When Dr Prosper Haller discovered the therapeutic properties of thermal water in the 1930s, Vichy skincare was born. To this day, the brand is known for offering clever and science-led formulas that are developed alongside health professionals, including pharmacists and dermatologists. But despite its innovative and effective formulas, it still maintains an affordable price point.
Our pick: Vichy Minéral 89 Eyes Hyaluronic Acid +Caffeine
Inspired by the brand’s cult Minéral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Booster, this eye serum contains the same hydrating hyaluronic acid and soothing thermal mineralising water but also contains caffeine to make the area appear brighter and fresh.
Shop Vichy Minéral 89 Eyes Hyaluronic Acid +Caffeine at Lookfantastic, £15
Main image: courtesy of brands
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