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Allegedly, Hailey Baldwin has a skincare routine that costs around $1000. Well, that’s great for her but that is not feasible for my budget.

Truth be told, I never put much thought into my regimen. Of course, I always wash my face morning and night, but having a routine with certain products? Nah. No time for that!

After noticing how oily my skin was (and not that cute dewy glow), I put my trust in handy dandy Facebook to help me suggest what to do. Overwhelmingly, people suggested oil cleansers with argon and almond oil, and they were right! My skin balanced out within a week, and I no longer looked like I put my face in vegetable oil.

Now with the pandemic and all this time on my hands (not really, but kind of?) I took the time to explore more about a skincare, set goals, and figure out which products to invest in.

Again, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and money isn’t growing on trees, so as I do research, I study price ranges and ingredients. Here’s the thing:

You do not need to break the bank to have great skin.

Nope, $100 cleansers are not better than $10 cleansers. Yes, serums can be affordable. No, that expensive miracle cream will not cure all of your troubles. It’s a fraud.

Further, your needs in the morning are different at night. You don’t need sunscreen before bed unless you’re sleeping outside, so save that for your AM routine. On the flip side, Lactaid Acid is better to use at night because it makes your skin sensitive to the sun.

Before I break down what I use for AM and PM, here are few more things to know:

Make realistic skin expectations.

Having under-eye circles is normal. The darker the melanin, the more likely you’ll have some degree of dark circles. If your goal is to get rid of these altogether, lower your expectations. On the same token, you could be oversleeping or not getting enough sleep. Wanting to lessen them is fine (I do), but take into consideration some of your stressors and plan accordingly.

Also? Blemishes are normal. No one has super smooth evenly textured skin. Don’t compare your skin to people you see on Instagram; it’s a filter.

Cruelty-free is not expensive.

People assume, for some reason, not testing on animals is more expensive than doing so. Not true. The products listed are cruelty-free and vegan and are under $10 each. Bam! Note: cruelty-free does not mean vegan and it does not mean these brands only sell vegan products.

Your skin changes throughout the year

My skin in the summer is oily in the t-zone area, but dry during the cooler months, so I switch up my needs according to what my skin is asking for. However, your skin always needs sunscreen all the time, 24-7-365.

Some things are genetic.

Some people are prone to acne breakouts, some are lucky not to experience it. You may be doing everything, “right” and still not have genetics on your side. Rule of thumb: don’t work against genetics, work with them.

AM Skin Care

ELF’s Bounce Back Jelly | $6.00

After working out, turning to oil cleansing wasn’t the best, and I hate the feeling of grit on my face. I need CLEAN, so by faith, I went into Target and picked up ELF’s Bounce Back Jelly Cleanser. I read some reviews and figured a cleanser that was a “jelly” wouldn’t dry out my skin.

Absolutely love it. Not only did it leave my skin clean, it didn’t’ leave it dry like other cleansers tended to do. Best $6.00 ever.

ELF Daily Hydration Moisturizer | $12.00

Ask any expert, not me because I am not one, moisturizer is important for your skin to stop the overproduction of sebum (your body’s natural moisturizer). Pairing this with my face was helps me avoid waking up with a shiny face because honestly who wants that? And it doesn’t let up. It doesn’t have a strong perfume smell and doesn’t cause irritation.

Trader Joe’s Rose Water Toner | $3.99

I have no idea if rose water is a miracle worker or a fad, but I use it nonetheless because it makes me feel good. Whether or not you want to use it for fuzzy feelings or to tone, you’re in luck: the product contains more rose water and less alcohol, which cannot be said for a lot of products (note: it does contain witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, so if you have sensitive skin skip this). Also, it’s only 3.99.

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA | $8.90

I’m pretty conscious about my dark circles and looked up all the ways to get rid of them or in the very least lessen their appearance. Since the focus is on our eyes anyway thanks to masks, I knew those insecurities would be on display.

Alpha Arbutin can help fade acne scars and limit hyperpigmentation and brighten skin. This will take consistency for at least four months to see results, but according to my mom, who is the only person I’ve actually seen sans a mask, she says my skin looks brighter, so hey, it’s working? But seriously, I can see my scars fading and the dark circles lightening.

Andalou Naturals Ultra Sheer Daily Defense Facial Lotion SPF 18 Sunscreen | $11.24

Please wear sunscreen. Your skincare routine does not matter if you’re not wearing anything to protect your face from the sun all year.  

Andalou does not have the sunscreen smell and is light enough on my face that I forget I’m wearing it. A lot of sunscreens can make my makeup look lighter because of the zinc cast it leaves, but this blends in perfectly. Note: if you are using serums, your skin is even more sensitive, so sunscreen is crucial. 

PM Skin Care

ELF Daily Face Cleaner | $4.00

This helps me take off the makeup that I may have decided on for the day. This can be a bit more drying than the ELF Jelly Bounce cleanser, but not by much.  

The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid 10% HA | $7.20

I just added this to my nighttime routine so I don’t have long-term raves yet, but I do like how gentle this is on my skin as well. Because this will make your skin super-sensitive to the sun, more so than arbutin, it is recommended to use this at night only. You can also mix this with moisturizers or face washes to get your skin adapted. 

ELF Holy Hydration! Face Cream | $12.00

You can use this day, night, or both, but I like to use this at night because I tend to use more products that can dry out my skin at night than in the morning. It also has hyaluronic acid, which helps lock in moisture and is all the rage in skincare commercials!

Weekly Skin Care

ELF Exfoliating Scrub | $5.00

Exfoliating once a week helps rejuvenate my skin. It’s also not harsh (*coughs*Ives Apricot Scrub*coughs*) and again, doesn’t dry my skin. Plus my skin feels like the smooth hand of Jesus once I’m finished.

The Ordinary AHA 30% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution | $7.20

I use this once a week and baaaaaaby when I tell you my face felt like it washed by the goddesses hands herself. Yes. Worth it.

A few tips before closing:

The first five ingredients are what’s in your products the most. You want to make sure alcohol and fragrances are near the end

Anything listed after Xanthan gum has less than one percent, as there is no more than one-percent of xanthan gum in products

Switching up your products by season is normal. Sometimes you need more moisturizer for the winter, and a lightweight in the summer. Adjust your needs accordingly.

Your skincare doesn’t need to be expensive to be quality. Don’t let the price tags fool you.

Genetics has a lot to do with your skin. If you are prone to dry skin because your family has dry skin, you cannot change that. You can manage it.

I don’t know what to recommend for severe acne or skin conditions related to medical problems. Finding a good dermatologist will help you understand your skin needs better.

What are some of your favorite products to use? 

Love you, mean it.

*February 23, Estee Lauder announced it is buying a 75% stake into Decium, which owns The Ordinary. Currently, Estee Lauder is not cruelty-free, but as of now does not change The Ordinary’s cruelty-free standing.