- Hero Cosmetics
Skin care can be a sensitive topic. Everyone has different concerns, but ultimately, we all have the same goal of feeling and looking good in our own skin.
The truth is, despite all the magazines and websites telling you otherwise, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on skin care to see results. Sometimes simpler (and cheaper) really is better.
I asked my coworkers to share the affordable skin-care products they use and love, because who better to take advice from than a discerning bunch of product reviewers?
Below you’ll find 22 skin-care products under $25 that the Insider Picks staff swears by.
Simple Micellar Cleansing Water
Of all the expensive makeup removers and cleansing waters removers I’ve tried, this drugstore version is the one I tell everyone about. Unlike regular water, the chemical composition of micellar water allows it to bind to oil and makeup to remove everything with just a few swipes of a cotton pad.
Not only does it get every last bit of stuff off your face, it also cleanses and leaves your skin feeling hydrated and fresh. On lazy days, my entire day’s skin-care routine includes this and nothing else. – Sally Kaplan, Insider Picks editor
Mighty Patch Hydrocolloid Acne Absorbing Pimple Spot Dot
- Hero Cosmetics
This is my go-to solution for those angry, pus-filled pimples that sprout on your face at the most inopportune times. The stickers absorb the nasty fluids from your pimples and you can directly see the results: when you take off the sticker the next morning (or even as soon as in a few hours, depending on the nature of the pimple), the sticker turns white with the pus it has absorbed, and your pimple will have noticeably deflated.
Since they’re clear, I’ve even worn them during the day to work, and no one bats an eye. Though they’re more expensive than most other brands, I’ve found these particular patches to be much more effective at healing the pimple and also to adhere to skin better. – Connie Chen, Insider Picks reporter
Muji High Moisture Light Toning Water
My face would look like an exoskeleton if not for this extremely moisturizing toner. Muji’s skin care line is the brand’s unsung hero, but I would write an entire musical about this product if I had the creative energy. It’s extremely hydrating, gentle on sensitive skin, and doubles as both a toner and a moisturizer – especially during the summer when you really only want a thin, lightweight layer of product on your face. – Sally Kaplan, Insider Picks editor
Saturday Skin Cotton Cloud Mask
Face masks are a fun, affordable way to treat your skin when it needs a little boost. I recently tried this Saturday Skin face mask and it did wonders for my jet-lagged skin. Beyond the adorable packaging, this super-moisturizing mask is packed with prebiotics and probiotics to give your skin serious hydration and radiance. – Remi Rosmarin, Insider Picks reporter
Mario Badescu Drying Lotion
- Mario Badescu
Mario Badescu’s drying lotion is magic. It’s an acne spot treatment that dries out whiteheads while you sleep so they’re virtually gone by the next morning. A bottle of this stuff lasts me a good six months or so. – Ellen Hoffman, director of content strategy for Insider Picks
Fleur & Bee Rosewater Toner
- Fleur & Bee
I recently started using this toner from a new company that’s totally vegan because I was tired of dealing with my adult acne. I really like how subtle yet sweet the scent of rose-flower oil is and that it helps manage my oily skin throughout the day. Plus, I know exactly what I’m putting on my face. – Francesca Rea, Insider Picks content producer
Differin Adapelene Gel 0.1%
Differin is a prescription-strength retinoid that, until recently, you needed a prescription in order to get. My dermatologist recommended it to me as a common workaround for a nearly identical prescription that typically retails for $233. Since using it, my skin’s texture is the best it’s ever been – no rough, uneven bumps. It also helped clear up my skin in only a few days while on vacation. It’s my most-trusted topical treatment. You can find a full review here.
CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion
Sometimes basic is best, like in the case of this simple CeraVe lotion. It’s lightweight, but still very moisturizing, and has a silky smooth texture that feels great on your face. As a result of my job, and a genuine curiosity about skin care, I’m always trying new products with a range of different ingredients. I love having this lotion as my control; its simple formula can be layered over everything, and I know I can always rely on it for consistently soft skin. – Remi Rosmarin, Insider Picks reporter
Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 15
I’ve used cheap drugstore moisturizers, fancy moisturizers that cost more than I’m willing to admit to the internet, and everything in between. And I’ve got hand it to Aveeno; this is the only one I’ve used consistently since high school. I’m always surprised by how few of those fancy moisturizers include SPF, but this one does and it feels light and never greasy on my skin, which makes it one of my go-tos, especially in the summer. – Ellen Hoffman, Ellen Hoffman, director of content strategy for Insider Picks
As Ellen mentions, Aveeno really deserves hearty praise for their moisturizers. By virtue of this job and by being a curious person anyway, I’ve tried my fair share of moisturizers in life (enough to have shamefully reached Sephora VIB status in high school). But while I have my pricey lotion splurges, I’ll probably never stop stocking this in my bathroom cabinet.
It adds a visible luminosity, makes my skin feel noticeably softer, and has never clogged my pores. It’s a bit more expensive than other drugstore brands, but if you’re going to shop on the cheaper end of the spectrum this is the best I’ve found. – Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter
Tonymoly I’m Real Sheet Masks
- Tony Moly
When I went to Seoul, Korea for the first time, I was an ignorant person who had never used a sheet mask or any face mask, for that matter (I know, I know, insane!). Before I left, I asked my friends what I should bring back from my trip, and they all said the same thing: Tonymoly sheet masks. So I dutifully went to the busy shopping district in Seoul and wandered through skin care shop after skin care shop, laden down with free samples until I found Tonymoly and bought three packs (and got two more for free because of a promotion).
I now use these sheet masks from Tonymoly regularly (especially in the winter) to hydrate my skin. Since the ingredients are plant-based and gentle, these masks don’t irritate my skin, either. – Malarie Gokey, Insider Picks senior editor
Aztec Secret Clay Mask
- Aztec Secret
I love face masks as a way to relax, but few have ever made a noticeable change in the quality of my skin. This bonafide cult-favorite that costs $10 and has 9,000 5-star reviews is a gem hiding out in the open.
I bought it after getting a recommendation from a coworker who said it was her favorite, and I’m extremely glad that I did. My skin is temperamental, but nothing has been as effective or inexpensive. It feels like my face is going to tighten and fall off every time I use it (I now add more water than is advised), but it has made a marked difference in the texture, tone, and clarity of my skin. For best results, I use it with half of the clay mixture, and split the other half between water and Apple Cider Vinegar.
All in all, It’s cheap, lasts for forever, and the 100% natural calcium bentonite clay draws out all the impurities hiding deep down. It’s gotten me to a place where I can go with or without makeup comfortably. You can find my full review here. – Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter
Brickell Men’s Purifying Charcoal Face Wash
I used Brickell’s Charcoal Face Wash for the first time after receiving it in a Birchbox and once the small sample ran out, I quickly purchased more. This is my go-to facial cleanser because unlike most cheap cleansers, it doesn’t strip away moisture. The charcoal does a great job of deep-cleaning my pores and the blend of peppermint and eucalyptus oils give a really refreshing and invigorating sensation. – Amir Ismael, Insider Picks reporter
Noble Formula 2% Pyrithione Zinc (ZnP) Original Emu Bar Soap
- Noble Formula
If you want your face to feel squeaky clean (not an exaggeration at all) after just one use, try this exfoliating bar soap. It has 2% pyrithione zinc, which has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, so anyone who suffers from acne, eczema, and seborrheic dermatitis can benefit from using it. Other beneficial ingredients include olive oil to moisturize your skin, emu oil to combat inflammation and swelling, and calendula to heal dry, damaged skin.
I’ve been using it for over a month now and it’s always soothing to use at the end of the day when I want to really clean out the oil and dirt that has accumulated on my face. – Connie Chen, Insider Picks reporter
I owe a recommendation from my dermatologist for finding this in the landslide of products on Amazon, but it’s the only bar of soap I’ve finished and then subsequently replaced in recent memory. It’s unassuming, but it works exceptionally well. I use this just for my body, and the 2% pyrithione zinc clarifies while the oatmeal exfoliates, and the emu and olive oil leave my skin feeling moisturized rather than stripped. To put it simply, it just does exactly what you’d hope it would. – Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter
Panacea Daily Facial Cleanser
This cruelty-, paraben-, and sulfate-free cleanser from a new Korean skin care brand I’ve recently gotten into feels perfectly balanced. Its gentle ingredients work to moisturize and soften my naturally very dry skin and help keep breakouts at bay. The brand recommends using a quarter-sized amount, but you can actually get away with using much less (let’s say more like a dime-sized amount) and extend the life of the product. A little goes a long way. – Ellen Hoffman, director of content strategy for Insider Picks
Simple Kind to Skin Facial Moisturizer with SPF 15
I use Simple’s Facial Moisturizer with SPF 15 every day to protect my skin from the sun’s rays. Just like every other Simple product, it doesn’t have any dyes, fragrance, or weird chemicals that can irritate skin. It absorbs into my skin quickly and never feels greasy, either, which is important if you’re super fair like me (aka ghost white or translucent) and absolutely have to wear sunscreen every day or risk a pink face. – Malarie Gokey, Insider Picks senior editor
Shea Moisture Men’s Utility Soap Bar
- Shea Moisture
With shea butter, cocoa butter, mango butter, and avocado, the Shea Moisture Utility Soap Bar is perfect for cleaning and adding much-needed hydration to my skin at the same time. In addition to using it for everyday moisture, it can be used to soothe skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. The best part is that I can use it on my face, body, and hair. I can even lather it up like a shaving cream for a close shave, and it doesn’t dry out my skin. – Amir Ismael, Insider Picks reporter
too cool for school Egg Cream Mask Set
With tons of hydrating and brightening benefits, too cool for school’s Egg Cream Mask is one of my favorite ways to unwind after a long day and simultaneously take care of my skin. The mask looks silly when it’s on, but that’s part of the fun with these things.
Pro tip: Buy a pack of five sheet masks on Amazon for $18 instead of spending $6 for a single one at Sephora. – Ellen Hoffman, director of content strategy for Insider Picks
Simple Kind to Skin Foaming Facial Cleanser
I have sensitive skin, so any kind of fragrance upsets my face immediately and turns it red. Although there are tons of natural facial cleansers that cost a ton of money, there’s no need to buy them. Simple makes an excellent foaming cleanser that has zero artificial perfume, dyes, or harsh chemicals. It uses chamomile, which calms and softens my skin; glycerin for hydration; and geranium, which leaves my skin feeling fresh after cleansing.
Its gentle, foamy texture is perfect or anyone who has sensitive skin and doesn’t want or need exfoliation every day. – Malarie Gokey, Insider Picks senior editor
Shea Moisture Tea Tree Oil & Shea Butter After Shave Elixir for Men
- Shea Moisture
I got this aftershave as a gift a couple years ago, and now it’s the only one I use. It’s not greasy because it’s a liquid not a cream, it dries really fast, and it gives you just enough of a jolt with the oils to let you know that it’s done its job without that burning sensation you feel from other aftershave products. – Breton Fischetti, VP of Insider Picks
CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser
CeraVe is known for its gentle yet effective skin-care products, and they really do deserve the clout. After many years of trying whatever was new and most exciting, I’ve settled into using this foaming facial cleanser daily in the shower and my skin couldn’t be happier. It’s gentle, effective, and doesn’t strip my skin’s natural moisture. My skin always feels clean, but it never feels tight. It’s basic, but that’s why I love it. – Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter
Mario Badescu Seaweed Cleansing Soap
After trying the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, I decided to try this cleansing soap. I like that it not only cleanses but gently exfoliates my skin in a non-abrasive way. It does smell a little bit like low tide, but hey, that means the anti-inflammatory properties of the seaweed extract are working. – Francesca Rea, Insider Picks content producer
Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water
I’ve tried lots of different micellar waters, but this classic French pharmacy buy is the best I’ve ever used. The water is soft, removes waterproof mascara from my lashes more gently and effectively than others, and leaves my skin feeling clean and hydrated – without any residue. It’s been undefeated for the last couple years for me, despite frequent competition. – Mara Leighton, Insider Picks reporter