Knowing when to save and when to splurge is hard at the best of times, let alone when it comes to our skincare routines. We are talking about precious faces, after all. I've been let down before — recommended an expensive product only to find it either didn't agree with my skin, or just didn't live up to the hype — as I'm sure you've experienced, too.
So here, with the help of Dr Shreya Andric, Principal Dermatologist at Northern Sydney Dermatology & Laser, we go through the skincare ingredients worth investing your hard-earned cash in, and the items you can get away with spending less on.
Save On: SPF
If you’re going without SPF right now because you're planning to splurge on a fancy one in the future, buy a cheap alternative in the meantime.
“Any sunscreen that is made in Australia has gone through such rigorous testing for it to be approved here,” says Dr Andric. “We always say that the best sunscreen is the one you will use.”
That being said, it should always be at least SPF30+, if not 50+. And a broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
While you’re covered for protection at any price, you can get less greasy formulas and thinner consistencies at a higher price point. But when it comes down to it, SPF should be a non-negotiable, so grab what you can and never forget to apply it.
Splurge On: Vitamin C
Dr Andric’s most-recommended product for improving the appearance of skin is always SPF first, followed by vitamin C. She explains that the ingredient is a hard-working all-rounder for its antioxidant properties and brightening effects.
But not all vitamin C products are created equal. It’s worth scanning the label for a few more seconds because some use L-ascorbic acid (pure vitamin C) and others are use derivatives like Ascorbyl palmitate.
“L-ascorbic acid is the most biologically active and well-studied form of vitamin C there is available,” says Dr Andric. “There are many vitamin C derivatives, which are inactive but are activated and converted to L-ascorbic acid on application to the skin.”
So basically, this means less vitamin C is absorbed by your skin when using a derivative. A pure version will give you more bang for your buck because it doesn’t need to convert once applied.
Save On: A gua sha
A gua sha is a tool used to scrape along the skin to encourage lymphatic drainage and boost circulation. While it’s become a popular skincare step in recent years to sculpt our faces, its history is rooted in traditional Chinese medicine.
The practice was historically undertaken using spoons and coins. While there are studies that speak to the results of gua sha boosting circulation, it’s the jade or rose quartz material in modern gua shas that tends to jack up the price. Try a cheaper alternative, or even a spoon from your cutlery drawer, and follow the same technique instead.
Splurge On: A dermal therapist
If you know what your skin type is, Dr Andric explains that it will be easier to decide which active ingredients to include in your routine.
“If you are unsure, it is worthwhile seeing a dermal therapist who will be able to assess your skin and put together a skincare plan for you,” Dr Andric says.
Sure, you'll likely end up shelling out a week's worth of rent for a session, but having an expert assess your skin and offer advice will pay off in the long run, and help you save money on trialling products that don't serve your skin.
Save On: Makeup remover
Similar to your SPF, makeup remover has a job to do. It works to remove the traces of your day (whether it be makeup, dirt or both) from your skin so it’s clean and ready to absorb the active products you apply next.
Whether it's reusable microfibre cloths or an affordable micellar water you pick up from the chemist, as long as it removes your makeup, it’s doing all it needs to. Save money here so you can spend it on those targeted ingredients that go onto your skin after it's clear.
Splurge On: An exfoliant
I'm sure we've all used a low-quality exfoliant at some point and suffered the consequences. While on the cheap side, physical exfoliants contain tiny fragments of tough textures (like crushed walnut shells) to manually dislodge dirt and grime from the skin.
It's easy to press too hard with physical exfoliants to the point where you disrupt your skin barrier. So, if you’re after an exfoliant, don’t skimp. Try spending a bit more on chemical exfoliants (always consult an expert for advice) to avoid over-exfoliating.
Whatever your budget for self-care and skincare, divvying it up in the right way will allow you to build a regime that works smarter, not harder.