I Swapped All My Skincare For Supermarket Versions & This Is My Verdict

Photographed by Jenny Brownlees
I’m not blessed with good skin. I was blessed with good hair and I have a theory that most mere mortals don’t have both. I had severe acne as a teen, which left me with pigmentation marks and temperamental, oily skin that is definitely prone to a hormonal spot or seven. Because of this I’m pretty product cautious. When I find something that works I tend to stick to it religiously.
Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a surge in the humble supermarket beauty offerings. Similar to their clothing departments, the brands have had to work hard to compete with the high street. They've been working hard to develop formulas that not only work but contain buzz-worthy ingredients (often the same as those found in luxury brands) but boast eye-catching packaging just like their pricey counterparts.
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ASDA’s award winning nspa range has been acclaimed by beauty insiders and customers, offering “affordable and indulgent beauty products, designed to treat even the busiest people”. It’s a huge plus for me that none of the products or raw materials have been tested on animals. Similarly, Sainsbury’s offering - Source Of Nature - is vegan and cruelty free. Beauty buying manager, Rebecca Wicks, tells Refinery29, that the brand wants to make vegan skincare accessible for all shoppers by providing high-quality products at affordable prices, while Waitrose beauty buyer, Sarah Minness, explains their Pure range has been a hit with shoppers, "offering shoppers quality, innovative beauty buys that are kind to skin, the environment and purse strings.”
After a re-vamp of their in house fashion, M&S is hot on the beauty bandwagon too, their Formula range is created with over twenty years of expertise in intuitive skincare, aiming to be, in their words, “the ultimate anti-ageing solution”. Aldi and Lidl are also ever expanding their skincare ranges, due to resoundingly positive press and beauty product sell-outs. I mean, who doesn’t love a bargain? With that in mind, I made it my mission to test the ranges out to see if they really are all they promise...

Makeup Remover

I stopped using face wipes this year when I read up on how bad they were for the environment. I now realise why everyone had been banging on about Micellar water – my skin has never felt cleaner, softer and been less spot-prone. I usually use La Roche-Posay's Sensitive Micellar Water, £16, to clean my face in the morning and to take off my makeup at the end of the day. This week, I swapped it out for Waitrose’s Pure Micellar Water, £2.50. The main ingredient, waterlily, is said to help soothe and calm skin and I can report it took my makeup off perfectly. It didn’t leave a sticky residue either, which had put me off when I tried a cheaper micellar water previously. I like that Waitrose’s version is suitable for vegans and is paraben and sulphate free. I think I have just saved myself a fortune (£11 per 400ml to be exact.) We’re off to a good start with this budget beauty malarkey…
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Cleansers & toners

I try to be consistent with my skincare and start every day with a proper cleanse, but sometimes I let it slip. I think using a product that feels indulgent means you’re more likely to keep up the use and see the benefits. I’d already read reviews that said Aldi’s Lacura Hot Cloth Cleanser, £3.99, was a convincing dupe of Liz Earle’s Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, £16.50. This was a sell-out last year and was so popular with customers that they’ve brought it back. It exceeded my expectations, removing my makeup and leaving my skin ultra-soft. The muslin cloth alone feels like it’s worth £3.99, plus the scent (the cleanser is infused with rosemary, chamomile, cocoa butter and eucalyptus oil) is a treat.
Confession: I don’t usually use a toner, so adding in Sainsbury’s Source of Nature Purifying Toner White Tea & Green Tea, £2, felt like a bonus already. Plus, it costs less than my morning coffee. After a week I could tell my skin was responding well – my makeup seemed to go on better and (though I can barely type this for fear of jinxing) no spots thus far. For £2, I’d pick this up again.

Face masks

In my everlasting quest to keep spots (particularly the hormonal variety) at bay, I found my skin reacts well to a weekly face mask. The world became charcoal obsessed last year and I followed suit. My skin seems to love The Body’s Shop Himalayan Charcoal Purifying Glow, £17 - it literally feels as if it’s drawing out impurities as it dries. But at £17 for 75ml, it's costly and I probably only get four to five uses out of a pot. I tried to forgo it for ASDA's nspa Detoxifying Charcoal Clay Mask, £1.50, and Waitrose’s Pure Hydration Mask, £3, but nothing beats The Body Shop. No swapsies here, I’m afraid. I’m sticking to my old faithful.
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Moisturiser

I've tried many day creams in my time, but my absolute favourite is Nivea’s Oil Free Moisturising Day Cream, at the grand price of £4.10. I've stockpiled it for years. The oil-free aspect seems to work so well with my acne-prone skin. I wear it every day and often mix it with my foundation to create a tinted moisturiser on days I don’t want to wear a full face. But as I near 30, I’ve become conscious that as much as I like my freckles, they multiply every time the sun is out and I'm worried that if I don’t start using an SPF moisturiser soon, they will basically become age spots. Plus I want to protect my skin from harmful UV rays. I trialled a few SPF moisturisers, from factor 10 through to 30, but they've been too thick for my oily skin. I think my search may be over, though. As soon as I applied ASDA's nspa Expert Daily-Rejuvenate Cream, £10, I could tell the light texture was going to bode well. It sinks in straight away and doesn’t feel heavy on my skin. As much as I love my under-a-fiver bargain, I don’t mind paying £6 more for something that’s going to protect my skin from sun damage in the long run. It’s also worth mentioning, with the rose gold packaging – it looks ten times its price. After two weeks using the day cream, I can safely say it's a keeper.
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Night cream

I often find night creams too thick for my oily skin, so miss it out of my routine, hoping my serum/face oil will be enough. At night I usually switch between three of The Ordinary’s Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%, £5, Salicylic Acid 2% Solution, £4.20, and Alpha Arbutin 10% + HA, £7. I’ve found using any of these three products before bed means I wake up without any blemishes. But now, as I hit 28, I want something more. Because I don’t particularly want to spend a lot on something I have managed this far without, a budget night cream would be ideal. M&S Formula Absolute Ultimate Sleep Cream, £22, Aldi’s Caviar Night Cream, £6.99, and ASDA's nspa Expert Nightly-Repair Cream, £10, all felt equally gorgeous on the skin and I would happily buy any of the three. They absorb easily, smell pleasant and didn't feel too weighty. If I was feeling flash (kinda), I’d go for the M&S option, but I’m also privy to the absolute bargain that is Aldi’s. In fact, the caviar range is said to be a dupe of La Praire’s Skin Caviar Luxe Cream, £345. If you have sensitive or dry skin, Waitrose’s Pure Hydration Night Cream, £6.50, and the Sainsbury’s Source of Nature White Tea & Avocado Night Cream, £3.50, felt more soothing. Both were just a little too thick for me.
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Eye cream

I’ve tried many eye creams, from the luxe and expensive to the cheapest of the cheap, mainly they are all pleasant and cooling on application. I've never woken up and said, wow, but I still like to use them. That said, Waitrose’s Pure Hydration Eye Cream, £5, felt as good to me as any, so it’s a potential re-buy. The cotton milk and shea butter extract are said to help skin feel nourished and hydrated. If you have specific hang-ups, say, puffiness or dark circles, I could see why you would want to spend more on a specialist eye cream.

Exfoliators

The St Ives Face Scrub, £4.19, is a bit of an old faithful for me, even though it's deemed as a harsh scrub. All I can say is that it works for me and it's affordable. Much like the face mask, I didn’t find a supermarket equivalent that cut the mustard. If you have sensitive skin, or just prefer a gentler physical scrub over acids, ASDA's nspa Brightening Micro Derma Scrub, £5, was my pick of all the supermarket offerings.

Facial oils

I usually use the bareMinerals Eternalixir Skin Volumising Oil Serum, £38. I love using it with my jade roller and the two combined give me the softest skin. Always looking for a cheaper alternative, I was excited to try Waitrose’s Pure Hydration Facial Oil, £6. Ingredients include shea butter extract, apricot, olive and Vitamin E, to soothe and hydrate. While I can’t say it’s as impressive as bareMinerals, it isn’t bad either. It’s a whole £32 pounds cheaper, so on weeks when payday feels lightyears away, I'd happily opt for this.
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Serums

My skin seems to drink up serum and I can noticeably see a difference when I use it. I’ve been hooked on Soap & Glory’s Make Yourself Youthful Super Serum, £20, for years now, but so it seems is everyone else, because since I first started buying it, I’ve seen the price go up and the bottle get smaller. It's only 30mls, so doesn’t last me long. While ASDA's nspa Exert Rejuvenating Serum, £10, didn’t feel revolutionary, my skin still felt soft and hydrated.
I was sold on the claims that crocus chrysanthus bulb extract is proven to help reduce the appearance of ageing skin, such as pigmentation and wrinkles.

The verdict

I actually kept my skincare swap up for two weeks. I’d conclude that, on the whole, there is no doubt that you can find effective products at the supermarket. Whether you’re experimenting like me or looking to save, I’m confident that even the most luxe-loving beauty aficionados could find something to love in those aisles. For me, Waitrose's Pure Micellar Water, ASDA's nspa SPF Day Cream, Aldi’s Lacura Hot Cloth Cleanser and Night Cream were all stellar supermarket discoveries. My skin has looked and felt a little better, probably thanks to the addition of toner and an SPF, but next time you’re doing the food shop, I'd definitely suggest picking up a few bargains. See you at the checkout.
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