The beauty industry is an oversaturated marketplace with new product launches throughout the year, from big-name brands to indie startups. As a result, finding the best solutions for your skin type or concern can feel like an overwhelming task.
It’s easy to spend hundreds too, and premium brands can be very inviting thanks to their beautiful packaging and marketing promises. It can also be an opportunity for a first foray into a designer brand, as beauty products are often the cheapest of their offerings.
However, it’s important to remember that just because a product costs more, that doesn’t mean it's better for your skin.
There’s a huge market for affordable skincare, with some products as effective, or sometimes more, than their luxury counterparts. Demand has also risen for products that are low-cost but focus on ingredient-led skincare essentials, with brands such as The Inkey List and The Ordinary leading the way.
TikTok has also become a popular space to share skincare routines, tips and advice, with the dermatologist-led, budget-friendly brand, CeraVe, developing a cult following due to its efficacy, accessibility and being constantly recommended by fellow users and even skincare experts on the app.
While high-end brands can often be a lavish treat, these are the affordable products we go back to time and time again that suit both our skin concerns and our bank balances.
Across face and body, we’ve narrowed down our search to the top nine picks that truly deliver. From moisturisers to micellar waters, these are our favourite budget beauty buys.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
CeraVe moisturising lotion
This versatile product is brilliant for dry skin, and while it won’t clear up eczema, it does provide relief to flakey patches. Lightweight and fast absorbing, it can be used on the face and body equally well.
It has a gel-like texture that takes seconds to rub in, comes in a generous 236ml pump bottle and does exactly as promised, thanks to its formula rich in ceramides and hyaluronic acid. There’s no greasy after-texture and it's fragrance-free to reduce any risk of irritation. It also leaves dry areas feeling super soft.
This lotion is ideal if you hate waiting for a richer cream to absorb before you can put your PJs on. While it may not be the most luxurious looking bottle, it’s effective and well worth a spot on your bathroom shelf.
Buy now £7.10, lookfantastic
The Body Shop camomile gentle eye make-up remover
If you have waterproof mascara and colourful eye looks that simply won’t budge with your usual cleanser, reach for a bottle of this. There’s nothing it can’t remove, including glitter, while being non-greasy and leaving lashes super soft. Not only that, it surprisingly makes for a brilliant stain remover on carpets, clothes and bedding too. Simply soak a cotton pad before applying to skin and let it work its magic. You can find it in a mini 30ml size too, so if you’re travelling or staying somewhere overnight, you don’t need to lug the full-size bottle around in your bag.
Buy now £7.50, The Body Shop
Avène soothing thermal spring water spray
Whatever your skin type or concern, a bottle of this should always be kept nearby. It’s packed with skin soothing ingredients that will calm irritated complexions. Whether it’s taking the sting out of sunburn, reducing redness after a reaction to another product or to keep you cool during a heatwave that robs you of sleep, it’s the best multitasker money can buy. The atomiser distributes a very fine mist, so there are no large droplets that would leave your skin dripping. It can be applied over make-up too, with no disruption. It’s available all the way from a handbag-friendly 50ml bottle to a huge 300ml version that, in our experience, could last a whole year.
Buy now £8.50, LOOKFANTASTIC
Soap & Glory smoothie star breakfast body scrub
This gritty scrub works brilliantly to slough off dead skin cells to leave you with baby soft skin. It’s a real treat in the shower and gives you change from a tenner which is an added bonus. The combination of bananas, oats, shea butter, sugar, almond and honey extracts means it smells good enough to eat (which you should not do) and works like a polish to leave skin smoother. It washes off easily too, with no grainy bits left on the skin or in the shower for you to find hours later. It’s a huge tub too – ours lasted us weeks – making it worth every penny. It’s so popular that it’s currently sold out online, but you can check stock at your local Boots on its website.
Buy now £5.33, Boots
The Inkey List succinic acid blemish treatment
While we’re already big fans of The Inkey List’s SPF, which you can read our review of here, this targeted spot treatment is also a worthy contender for your skincare arsenal. It’s a gentle but effective treatment for blemishes that’s ideal if you find other types of spot treatments too aggressive or drying. Its main ingredient is succinic acid, which reduces oil production, inflammation and de-clogs pores to fight breakouts and prevent future ones. It has a green gel consistency that we found sat well under make-up, so you can apply it in the morning and evening, as long as you let it dry down first before applying further products.
Buy now £6.99, The Inkey List
Superdrug simply pure hydrating serum
Dehydrated skin is a common bugbear, particularly in winter when we spend a lot of time in central-heated spaces that can zap moisture from our skin. This serum is packed with hyaluronic acid and ceramides, which, for less than a fiver, smoothes and softens skin while keeping hydration levels topped up. It doesn’t bother sensitive skin and is perfect if you’re new to serums and want to begin with something simple and effective. It perks up skin before make-up too and is a beauty buy that everybody can benefit from.
Buy now £3.29, Superdrug
Palmer’s body oil
Body oils are a godsend if you have particularly dry skin and want something hydrating that doesn’t skimp on a luxury feel. Palmer’s is well known for its cocoa butter-based hand and body products, but its oil is an underrated gem that deserves more attention. It gives a glowy boost to skin and is a particularly welcome addition during the colder winter months. The bottle does distribute the product quite quickly, however, so we’d recommend applying this in the bathroom with a towel beneath you, to avoid any spills. It’s perfect for after shaving and has a subtle cocoa butter scent that isn’t too overwhelming.
Buy now £4.04, Boots
Garden of Wisdom 100% pure squalane oil
Put simply, this is a face oil for people who hate face oils. There’s none of that greasy texture that takes ages to absorb and it doesn’t give you a sweaty sheen nor disrupt make-up if you want to apply it in the mornings. Squalane is lightweight, absorbs fast and improves dullness in lacklustre skin. It won’t cause breakouts or clog pores and can easily be added to other products for extra moisture too.
Buy now £10.00, Victoria Health
Simple water boost micellar cleansing water sensitive skin
Micellar water is a water-based cleanser that you can easily spend upwards of £20 on. But don’t bother, as this brilliant bargain buy does the job just as well as its luxury counterparts by removing make-up swiftly and easily. Simply soak a cotton pad (reusable, preferably) before wiping the skin gently. It’s perfect if you’re short on time and energy, as it leaves no greasy film on the skin, lingering tightness or stickiness. It’s fragrance free too, leaving less room for irritation on sensitive skin types, and is a fuss-free way to get your make-up off without the need for running water or a sink. It’s also cruelty-free and housed in a 100 per cent post-consumer recycled bottle.
Buy now £6.99, Boots
The verdict: Skincare products under £10
There are no downsides to CeraVe’s moisturising lotion, which solves many dry skin concerns. With fuss-free ingredients that won’t cause irritation and or greasiness, we’d happily pay double for it.
Check out our guide to the skincare trends you should look out for in 2021