Shortly after finishing college, I started working a regular job — not an amazing job, but it was enough to allow my beauty habit to go somewhat unchecked for a while. Then, everything changed when life happened, and I quit my job and moved to the U.S.
It took me a while to find another job; my days of carefree shopping sprees were over, and to be honest, I didn’t take to beauty budgeting all that well. If you had called me a pampered brat, I would have had to agree.
But something very good came out of that time. I discovered some excellent wallet-friendly beauty and skincare products, and not just those tempting cute packages strategically placed beside the checkout counter, or the last-minute dollar deals I add to my cart to reach the free shipping threshold (don’t tell me I’m the only one who does that!), but products I’ve consistently purchased over and over, just because I love them.
Here are 10 of my favorite skincare treats, each of them $10 or less, to leave your skin healthy, glowing and fresh, without making your wallet unhappy.
1. Shiseido Facial Cotton ($9.50)
I know, fancy facial cottons might be the last thing on your mind when you’re on a budget, but hear me out. Shiseido’s version is thicker and softer than the average drugstore cotton, and it doesn’t leave behind any stray fibers on my face.
But those aren’t even the reasons it’s on my must-have list. What I recommend using this for is something called “the lotion mask.”
It’s an idea I picked up from a book called the Japanese Skincare Revolution, by Chizu Saeki, and it’s a fabulously simple way to healthier skin. Here’s a video from the author, but to break it down…
Shiseido’s cotton is much thicker than regular drugstore cottons and withstands a little stretching. It also separates easily into thinner layers.
Start by taking one of the cotton pads, soak it in water, and squeeze out most of the water by pressing it between your palms.
Then, pour a few drops of any alcohol-free toner on it (I think rose water works great), stretch the cotton a bit, and separate it into three thinner layers.
Next, place them over your face, and relax for about 10 minutes. When you’re done, even after just one use, your face will feel hydrated, smooth, and have a noticeable glow.
Try it! It could be the best $10 I’ve ever spent, and if you have a Japanese store nearby, you might be able to find an even less expensive version of a similar idea.
2. Olay Daily Facials Cleansing Cloths ($7)
These are carried in most drugstores, and having tried many different cleansing cloths and washes — including some crazy expensive ones — I have yet to find one that leaves my skin in a condition as good as these.
If you’re new to them, here’s how they work: They’re small square towelettes that you wet, and when you rub them against your skin, they work up a lather. Just gently scrub with them to cleanse.
I use them like a washcloth, and then use lukewarm water to rinse off most of the lather from my face, before rinsing any residual cleanser with cooler water.
There’s not a lot to them, but I think these cloths really work only up to their potential if you follow the directions.
Thrifty tip: Half a towelette should be sufficient in most cases (unless your normal day involves mud-wrestling alligators). Just snip them in half and store. The smaller size makes them easier to use, and this way they last longer. Store in any air-tight container, so they stay moisture-free.
3. Lush Toner Tabs ($2)
I’ve tried just about every Lush product out there and have loved most of them. I’m a Lushie. My favorites, though, are their fresh face masks, which are made with natural ingredients. Pair them with one of Lush’s Toner Tabs, and you’ve got yourself a nice relaxing at-home facial, all for less than $10.
First the toner tabs, which look and feel like macro-versions of regular tablets (some have petal bits in them).