You don’t have to splash out to care for your sensitive skin. Some of the cheapest brands are anything but nasty - Judy Johnson shares her pick of the best products for small spenders
I’ve never been particularly impressed by fancy things. Pretty packaging, yes - show me something in rose gold and I’m interested - but a beauty product has to have substance rather than style to really wow me. I rarely buy into a brand, usually only a product, and the price tag has to be justified, somehow; I’m not going to spend the equivalent of my monthly London travel card on a face cream and while I have no problem with those that are able to and do, for most of us I think it’s reasonable to hope for affordable, efficacious products that leave both your skin and your bank account balanced. After all, one of my favourite products in the world is a skin-soothing cream that costs less than £2.
Though it’s a well known industry truth that it’s worth paying more for skincare rather than splashing out for makeup, there are now a few cheap gems out there that are well worth adding to your basket; for we sensitive types, I’d say it’s a smart move too because unless you know your exact beauty demons there’s always the risk of reaction and therefore of wasting your hard-earned cash .
The key is to not be fooled by all those tempting labels or convincing brands - the ingredients list is where you’ll find the true value of the product. There’s no point saving money if all you’re paying for is a heavy dose of mineral oil, but unlike the 'gentle’ products of my teens that stripped my skin and angered it, there are now more and more smart, safe products out there for sensitive types that don’t require too much investment.
Here’s my pick of the low-cost, high-performing products that have your sensitive skin covered…
Superdrug Simply Pure Serum
£2.69, Buy online
Yes, you read that price right (and at the time of publishing, you can buy two and have the second half price). How a stampede of beauty buffs has not depleted Superdrug of their stock of this serum I do not know, but the secret is out so if there’s one thing you do today, click the link above and add this to your basket. Fragrance-free, this serum from Superdrug’s own brand is incredibly soothing and ideal as a step between your cleanser and moisturiser for evidently more nourished, softer skin. Containing various skin-loving ingredients such as glycerin, urea, ceramides, allantoin and sodium hyaluronate, it replenishes skin with moisture and leaves it soft, smooth and radiant. I've been using it for well over a month and have noticed my skin is far less dry than it would usually be at this time of year.
The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5
£5.90, Buy online
Readers of this column will know that overcomplicated formulas and labelling are my bugbears; I like my products to be transparent with me on what’s inside them, and for what’s inside them to be free from known irritants. Less is always more for sensitive skin, which is why this pared-back range is an exciting one. Created by Deciem, the company behind the renowned Indeed range (another favourite of mine), The Ordinary has made waves in the beauty world since its launch in September thanks to its honest, fair and impressively low price points for a range that consists specifically of known active, efficacious ingredients. I’ve been testing their hyaluronic acid serum since the launch and although its texture is slightly stickier than my usual £30 bottle, I can’t fault its effects. Skin looks and feels plumped and hydrated immediately after use, and with a little bit of sinking-in time my moisturiser sits well on top of it before I apply makeup. I can’t justify a bigger spend elsewhere - this works.
RMS Beauty Coconut Cream
£12.50, Buy online
I have to admit, I didn’t expect to like this - I tend to prefer a liquid cleanser, whereas this is more like a balm because of the way it solidifies in cooler temperatures. However, this is 100% organic coconut oil , which, assuming you haven’t been on another planet for the past year you will know is a hero ingredient be it in your kitchen or your bathroom cabinet. Because it contains lauric acid, giving it antibacterial and anti fungal properties, coconut oil suits all skin types (though do be careful to wash away thoroughly if you have active acne ). Best of all, it obliterates makeup in an instant - my liquid eyeliner, hard-wearing mascara and tinted SPF didn’t stand a chance with this. A dream to use, and a tiny bit goes a long way, making it a great budget buy; and, of course, it smells delicious. No-brainer.
Boots Simply Sensitive Eye Makeup Removal Pads
£1.99, Buy online
I wouldn’t usually endorse a wipe of any kind (call it a pad if you like, but they’re still wipes) but they do sometimes have a place - so long as you use them as you’re meant to, as a quick makeup remover and not as a cleanser as so many people do. Perfect for travelling or lazy eye makeup removal, these cheap and cheerful pads from Boots’ own range are impressively fast and pleasingly neat at getting rid of even stubborn mascara at the end of a long day - thin but soft, I was able to get right into the roots of my lashes without stinging my eyes. Best of all, there was no burn or itch (so many eye makeup removers leave me with hot eyes), thanks to the fragrance-free and aloe vera-rich formula. I still cleansed and rinsed afterwards, but wouldn’t hesitate to buy these again, especially at that price.
Simple Kind to Skin Hydrating Cleansing Oil
£6.99, Buy online
I love an oil in my nighttime skincare regime, but I must admit this is my first foray into a cleansing oil - and what a great introduction it was too. I’ve been keeping a close eye on Simple for the last few months after discovering that their fragrance-free shower gel is not only cheaper but more pleasant than my usual brand; though I had a few scary moments in my teens with Simple’s earlier skin products they really seem to have upped their game, and this cleanser is no exception. If you find cleansing leaves your skin dry and tight, you will love this - you need only a few drops (hello, money-saving formula) which you massage in gently to remove makeup before rinsing away. It leaves skin feeling far fresher than you’d expect, with no residue and no grease. Baby-soft skin for under a tenner.
Garnier Skin Naturals Micellar Cleansing Water
£4.99, Buy online
I love a micellar water for quick, refreshing makeup removal before I go in with my cleanser, and have always been loyal to Bioderma’s cult favourite, Sensibio , but have recently been using this fragrance-free Garnier version which is a pretty good dupe of the backstage essential. It’s a tad greasier, and requires a little more effort, but the price point (£4.99 for 400ml) is unbeatable and given that I use it as a pre-cleanse it doesn’t bother me that my skin has a slight residue afterwards. There’s also a travel-size for under £2 which comes everywhere with me, rather than risk spilling my pricier micellars en route.
Sukin Sensitive Cleansing Gel & Facial Moisturiser
Australian skincare brand Sukin has only just come onto my radar but I wish I’d found it sooner; so much so that I felt this one deserved double the mention because I’m that impressed with the formulas in the low-cost range. A ‘natural’ (not organic) range, none of the products contain detergents such as SLS, parabens, synthetic fragrances, mineral oils or artificial colours. I love the aloe vera- and rosehip-rich facial moisturiser, a light but soothing lotion that has looked after my skin in this harsh cold weather; while the gentle gel cleanser containing chamomile and avocado oil swiftly removed makeup and left my skin feeling clean and refreshed yet soft rather than squeaky and tight. And all for just £8.10 each? Yes please.
What are your favourite budget beauty buys? Let me know in the comments!