How to build a skincare routine, without breaking the bank

Searches for ‘affordable skincare’ have increased a whopping 50% in the past year, according to the Boots beauty trends report 2022, which outlined ‘affordable beauty’ as a theme and concluded that consumers will want, need and get even more for their money. Considering the current cost of living crisis, it’s no wonder consumers are becoming increasingly savvy with their spending. In the skincare sphere, it’s the purse-friendly products that are in demand – the ones that strip back on all the fancy frills and packaging to deliver hard-working ingredients that don’t cost the earth. 

"Affordable products don’t have to compromise on quality," says Jenna Whittingham-Ward, Head of Beauty for Boots Brands & Exclusives. "It’s important to acknowledge that the rise in living costs will influence how customers shop for beauty and with more than 500 beauty brands available at Boots, we are exceptionally well-placed to offer something for everyone, across all price points."

Starting with the everyday essentials, we have curated a simple skincare routine for every skin type that will not break the bank – promise! "Skincare routines don’t have to be overcomplicated and have 10 product steps," says Dr Sophie Shotter, an aesthetic doctor and founder of Illuminate Skin Clinic. "Having a good routine that gives you tangible results on a budget is absolutely doable." We break down how.

How to build an affordable skincare routine

"A skincare routine should always have the three following steps: cleanse, moisturiser and SPF," says Dr Kemi Fabusiwa, NHS junior doctor and skincare expert. "With these steps you know that your skin is cleansed of the daily debris that can accumulate on the skin, clogging the follicles and potentially causing congestion. The moisturiser will also help support the skin’s barrier and the SPF will protect you from harmful ultraviolet radiation. After this, you can add in additional steps, such as a treating active."

Step 1: Cleanse 

Cleansing is an important skincare step to help maintain healthy, radiant skin. Why? Daily cleansing can melt away make-up, remove dirt and excess oil to reveal a fresh and clean complexion. What’s more, many formulas can help remove pollutants, bacteria and dead skin cells, too. 

As it’s a wash-off product, there’s no need to splash the cash on a luxurious cleanser. Dr Shotter’s advice? "Find a formula that you can use morning and evening that’s also good to use around the eye area when removing make-up." Also, consider your skin type. "Oily skin should seek out salicylic acid cleansers, while dry skin should opt for hydrating formulas," adds Kemi. 

Here's our top affordable picks:
Best affordable cleanser for oily or blemish-prone skin

Boots Rose Face Wash

• Size: 150ml

• Removes make-up and impurities

• Contains fragrance

• Gentle lather 

This must-try cleanser washes off the day, helping to remove make-up and impurities with its gentle lathering formula. The hero ingredient, rosa damascena flower water, is known for its soothing qualities, great for those who tend to throw everything but the kitchen sink at their skin and need some help calming it down.

Best affordable cleanser for dry or sensitive skin

Simple Kind to Skin Refreshing Facial Wash Gel

• Size: 150ml

• Cruelty-free

• 100% soap-free

• No artificial perfume or colour

• Contains pro-vitamin B5 and vitamin E 

The perfect pick for dry and/or sensitive skin, this gel wash contains purified water, pro-vitamin B5 and vitamin E to help nourish and replenish skin, while taking off the day. It’s also free from soap, alcohol and artificial perfume, so it’s suitable for those who tend to find their skin reacts to any of these.

Best affordable cleanser for combination skin

Eucerin DermatoCLEAN Face Cleansing Gel

• Size: 200ml

• Fragrance-free

• Alcohol-free

• Tested on sensitive skin 

Ideal for combination skin types, this cleansing gel removes make-up and product build-up without stripping skin of essential moisture, thanks to hydrating hyaluronic acid and gluco-glycerol. Massage onto damp skin before rinsing for a refreshed, clearer-looking complexion.

Step 2: Moisturise 

Next step, moisturise. After cleansing, there’s the option to tone, apply eye cream, a skincare serum and then moisturiser. But if you want to strip everything back to basics and keep spending to a minimum, the experts recommend going straight in with a moisturiser. "Moisturisers are designed to help hydrate the skin and deliver nourishment," says Dr Shotter. 

To find the right formula for you, consider how your skin feels post-cleanse. Is it irritated or dry? You may want to go for a rich moisturiser that’s loaded up with hydrators. Or does your skin feel oily? You may find that you don’t need to moisturise daily – "or try a light lotion to moisturise the skin’s barrier without clogging the pores’" says Dr Fabusiwa.  

Here's our top affordable picks:
Best affordable moisturiser for dehydrated skin

Garnier Moisture Bomb Pomegranate Hydrating Face Sheet Mask Dehydrated Skin

• Size: 32g

• Suitable for all skin types

• Dermatologically tested

• Vegan formula*

These hydrating and revitalising sheet masks are great for giving your skin a splash of hydration. Infused with nourishing hyaluronic acid and pomegranate, the mask gets to work on the skin, providing a fresh and re-plumping effect – our best-kept secret for a radiant complexion.

Best affordable moisturiser for oily or blemish-prone skin

Boots Travel Mini Tea Tree & Witch Hazel Shine Control Day Moisturiser 

• Size: 50ml

• Dermatologically tested

• Non-greasy formula

• Contains tea tree and witch hazel

• Controls shine 

This gel-like moisturiser quickly sinks into skin to help deliver a hefty dose of tea tree oil and witch hazel to help calm and balance the skin. The clever formula also helps absorb excess oil and takes down shine for a matte base that’s ready for make-up.

Best affordable moisturiser for dry or sensitive skin 

Cetaphil Moisturising Lotion

• Size: 236ml

• Dermatologically tested

• Oil-free

• Non-irritating

• Does not clog pores 

This lightweight lotion is brimming with nourishing avocado oil to help restore and hydrate dry or sensitive skin. Alongside avocado oil, there’s glycerin, niacinamide and panthenol for an extra moisture boost and to help calm any irritation. For best results, apply daily post-cleanse.

Best affordable moisturiser for combination skin

The Ordinary Natural Moisturizing Factors & HA

• Size: 100ml

• Contains 11 amino acids

• Non-greasy texture

• Fragrance-free 

If you have combination skin, give this moisturiser a whirl. The non-greasy formula helps hydrate and protect skin with an impressive cocktail of amino acids, hyaluronic acid and glycerin. Skin is left looking soft and supple, without feeling too oily or dry.

Step 3: SPF

The final skincare step is, as you may have guessed, SPF. "Always use sunscreen, every single day, during summer and winter," advises Dr Shotter.  A broad-spectrum sunscreen will help protect skin from skin cancer and premature ageing, as well as dark spots and pigmentation. It’s an everyday essential that will futureproof your skin. 

"Modern sunscreen formulations are elegant and can provide multiple benefits," says Dr Shotter. "For example, if you’re prone to dry skin you can pick a hydrating formula that also acts as your daytime moisturiser." This will also take your routine down from three steps to just two. "If your skin is oily, seek out oil-free SPFs," adds Dr Fabusiwa.

Here's our top affordable picks:
Best sunscreen for oily or blemish-prone skin

Eucerin Sun Oil Control Gel Cream Ultra Light SPF50+

• Size: 50ml

• Dermatologically tested

• UVA and UVB protection

• Fragrance-free

• Non-greasy texture 

While this product is on the more expensive side, it can act as a moisturiser and SPF. Specifically formulated for blemish-prone skin, the lightweight cream boasts sebum-regulating ‘oil control’ technology and oil-absorbing microparticles that help give skin a matte, dry-touch finish. Clever!

Best sunscreen for dry or sensitive skin

Bondi Sands Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+ for Face – Fragrance Free

• Size: 75ml

• Fragrance-free

• UVA and UVB protection

• Water resistant for up to four hours

• Non-greasy texture 

This glow-giving SPF is laced with nourishing aloe vera and vitamin E to help hydrate and make the skin look plumper, while providing protection from harmful UVA and UVB rays. A great pick for holidays as this formula is water resistant for up to four hours, too. 

Additional skincare steps

If you want to take your skincare regime further than these simple three steps, consider adding in targeted treatments. "But don’t focus on single ingredient products," warns Dr Shotter. “It can be tempting to layer different products with different ingredients, but trust that the experts have formulated good products." This will also help to keep costs down. 

Instead, opt for products like serums, face masks and toners that contain a cocktail of skin-savvy ingredients. "Pick a serum that targets your particular skin concern, rather than choosing your own ingredient combination," says Dr Shotter. "For your morning serum, you could focus on hydration, while for evening, think about adding in a retinol."

Here's our top affordable picks:
Boots Vitamin C Toner

• Size: 100ml

• Suitable for all skin types 

Skin looking lacklustre? Sweep on this toner, formulated with vitamin C and yuzu extract, after cleansing to help boost the appearance of radiance and more refined pores. Note: don’t apply to broken skin as it can cause irritation.

Boots Glow Peach Serum

• Size: 35ml

• Recyclable bottle

• Contains fragrance 

This glow-bestowing serum contains a cocktail of hydrating ingredients including niacinamide, panthenol, glycerin and peach extract to help support the skin’s natural moisture barrier and deliver a good glow. Apply a few drops onto freshly cleansed skin before moisturiser and/or SPF.

Simple Protect ‘N’ Glow Detox & Brighten Clay Mask

• Size: 50ml

• Suitable for all skin types

• Clay mask

• Cruelty-free 

This face mask is formulated with natural bentonite clay and vitamins C and E, as well as ginger root, to help clear dull, dead skin cells and soothe sensitivity. Use weekly for brighter, revitalised-looking skin. 

Not sure on the right product for you? Try our skincare tool & find a personalised solution

*Vegan formulas do not contain any animal-derived ingredients or by-products.