Best homemade or cheapo beauty and skin care products?
October 21, 2018 9:06 PM   Subscribe

I’ve spent the last few years getting into skin and haircare to treat issues I thought were untreatable. Naturally I’ve bought a lot of products, some of which work, but I have no way of currently knowing if they’re expensive because they work (i.e., high concentrates of some relatively expensive material) or just because they’re luxury products selling a lifestyle. Help me with your best, they really work, cheap (drugstore?) or homemade skin and hair products.

A little about me: combination skin, occasional pimple, some fine lines, large pores. My hair is naturally dark blonde, frizzy, past the shoulders. My skin gets painfully dry in winter climates but I currently live in a humid temperate climate.

Products I’ve discovered on the cheap end that pretty much work and save me a lot of money springing for the fancy version:
Suave Professionals Rosemary Mint shampoo/conditioner (knockoff of Aveda, cleans my hair, nice scent, not super moisturizing but...)
Infusion 23 conditioner and leave-in: Works great for conditioning, looks nice after blow drying
Stridex extra strength pads: Keep my pores looking smallish, fight the occasional zit, I love that it’s a serum so I can wait 30 min and put something on top
Epsom salts: Nice addition to a bath, makes the water feel silky
Shea Botanicals pistachio and passaflora bath oil, available at some drugstores: Lovely in a bath without costing too much
Homemade sugar/coffee scrubs: Helps with kerosis pillaris
Triple milled French-style soaps: Super rich, last forever

Expensive holy grail products I probably pay way too much for:
Sunday Riley water gel moisturizer, AMAZING overnight mask with mild exfoliants
Nuxe dry oil: great scent and not oily or sticky
Nuxe honey lip balm: insanely moisturizing, great scent
French drugstore products that are famous for being cheap but which are then expensive when you import them

I recently have felt quite proud of myself for downsizing my skin/hair care collection to some of the the cheapest versions I could find of things that actually work. I’d like to keep going... what else am I missing out on in the world of natural or low cost skin and hair care?
posted by stoneandstar to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
I've felt that coconut oil really does help with hair frizz, as well as (of all things) Dove Nutritive Solutions drugstore shampoo.
posted by batter_my_heart at 9:43 PM on October 21, 2018

Everything by Ziaja seems to be four times as expensive in the US as in Poland (honestly, their Polish prices in PLN are lower numbers than the USD ones despite it being currently ~3.73 PLN to the dollar), but still attractively priced. The Natural Olive line and their Argan Oil stuff is great for heavy-duty moisturising emolient, while the Marine Algae (Sopot if you can get access to the original Polish products) are amazingly lightweight and moisturising, though I don't see my favourite micellar water in that shop. Their sensitive skin / Phytopharm stuff is genius, and their enzyme peels are very gentle and effective.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:30 PM on October 21, 2018

While it's not super inexpensive, I've become a true believer in many of the products from Makeup Artist's Choice. They use the same ingredients as top prestige brands at the same concentrations. Their formulations are slightly different, and often, I prefer them. Their version of Sunday Riley Good Genes is fantastic. They always have a 20% off coupon on the website. Their mailing list is worth it for sales.
posted by quince at 11:04 PM on October 21, 2018 [8 favorites]

- Vaseline as an overnight treatment for cuticles
- Clean & Clear foaming makeup dissolving cleanser (not great for *very* dry skin, ok for most, will take off sunscreen)
- Jojoba or olive oil as a makeup remover, otherwise
- Oil of Olay Sensitive SPF 15 (if you live somewhere not too sunny, are only out for a bit, not using photosensitivity-causing topicals) - it’s zinc + chemicals (only low-end drugstore SPF that doesn’t break me out)
- Crushed aspirin + water for an occasional mask to dry out skin
- A spoonful of vitamin C powder in any shampoo to remove chlorine after swims (have to mix it fresh every time, not a stable solution). Way cheaper than Ultraswim per use
- To cover greys: definitely do it at home. Go to a hair supply store like Sally’s, get a jug of 10 vol+ developer for six bucks that will last forever, a decent semi dye in the Neutral range (eg from Wella), some clips, a brush, and a plastic pot. (Only do your roots and you can spare your hair so much damage from box and even salon dyes). Get a root touch up spray to extend time between coloring (again to spare hair)
+20 vol if the greys are stubborn and if your hair isn’t fragile/porous
- In the US, Differin is an affordable OTC topical. It’s for acne, but it’s also a retinoid so does anti-aging stuff as well
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:36 PM on October 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've tried a lot of French lotions for dry skin and eczema (Topicrem, La Roche Posay, Avène), but I always end up going back to Cerave Moisturizing Cream (in the tub). I also really like Eucerin's urea products for kerosis pillaris.
posted by neushoorn at 12:01 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

+1 for Differin, especially if your insurance covers it. I spent a lot more on fancy retinoids that didn't work half as well as a tube of Differin.

The Ordinary is the go-to for good ingredients, simple packaging and low prices. The business has had some drama lately, and briefly announced they were shutting down, but that no longer seems to be the case *shrugs* This site lists a bunch of recommended routines for their products; you don't have to use every product.

The Weleda Everon lip balm is a similar texture to Nuxe (a bit harder, maybe) and a toned-down fragrance, but much cheaper.

Speaking of Weleda, Skin Food is a great cheap-ish product for dry spots and dull skin.

I tried looking for a cheaper micellar water than Bioderma, but everything I tried was a bit sticky. That's one worthwhile French product.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:27 AM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Epsom salt costs way less if you buy it as 25kg bags of magnesium sulphate fertilizer from a farm supplies store rather than in tasteful little 250g boxes from the grocery shelves.
posted by flabdablet at 6:31 AM on October 22, 2018 [5 favorites]

Anything by Cerave pretty much. They do their job & they do them well. They are good reliable workhorses. You will prise my Cerave PM cream & their encapsulated retinol cream out of my cold dead hands.

Nthing how good differin is, if you can get it at Sams club it's even cheaper.

Look into Japanese skincare. I can get amazing facewashes & hyralaunic acid toners for for less than drugstore products via Amazon. I adore this Hado Labo cleanser makes my skin feel better than a cleanser I was paying 3 times that for and it actually feels more decadent to use. I use a couple of their products now a days and highly recommend them. Also if you're looking for AHA's or BHAs Cosrx has a great range of toners. Their AHA whitehead toner basically eliminated my KP and a couple of closed comedones I had with regular use.

Vaseline for really dry skin. If you find it too oily, Cerave has a healing oitment which is basically vaseline but designed to absorb more & be slightly less greasy. Burts bees coconut foot cream works the same if you want to avoid mineral oils & you don't have to use it just on your feet.

The Ordinary products work well. They are often oil based though, which is an issue for my skin during summer, but a fact I love in winter so read descriptions carefully. Their Rosehip oil is amazing.

The company Timeless, produces a Vitamin C serum & Hyaluronic Acid I love, you can find them on Amazon, but their prices have shot up in the past few months. They used to be very cheap for how great their quality was, but now there are a lot more places to get those products, but it might be worth watching to see if their prices come down again.
posted by wwax at 8:19 AM on October 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

I have oily skin and large pores that has settled down into combination skin now that I've gotten older (I'm 41). Differin is great, and I also like tea tree oil (Desert Essence brand) for those times when my skin feels like it's about to act up.
posted by 8603 at 8:44 AM on October 22, 2018

I bought this Egyptian Magic cream at my local TJ Maxx after seeing a recommendation for it on Buzzfeed, and let me tell you, it is life-changing. My skin has never looked better and more moisturized. I am a reforming big-spender when it comes to beauty stuff and while I still spring for Sunday Riley and Odacite this $12 cream is the new holy grail for me in terms of moisturizer. I have dry skin with some hormonal acne and apply a very thin layer in the morning after serums and under sunscreen/makeup, and a thick layer at night.
posted by stellaluna at 10:10 AM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I really love Pantene's Three Minute Miracle conditioner. I recently had my hair colored and it was very dry and prone to breaking, but when I use this conditioner it helps tremendously with frizz and dryness. And at four bucks a bottle, it won't break the bank.
posted by zoetrope at 10:21 AM on October 22, 2018

I started using Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe Herbs and Rosewater after reading about it in a Buzzfeed affiliate link “article” and it’s pretty freaking amazing. Face feels a little dry? Spritz! Need a refreshing pick-me-up? Spritz! Hair kind of dry/frizzy? Spritz! I love it.
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:52 PM on October 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

Trader Joe's skincare!! I just started using it a few weeks ago and I am so sorry that I stocked up on more-expensive versions earlier in the year--I like the TJ stuff better, actually.
Particular recs:
-The hyalauronic acid serum ($7.99!!)
-Rosewater toner (I hear it is pretty close to the Mario Badescu one, though I haven't used it)
-Lavender salt scrub--big tub for like $5 and it works better than my more expensive scrubs (and less messy than homemade)
-Stick sunscreen in SPF 50. I put this over my lotion/under my makeup and it doesn't migrate into my eyes and burn like liquid sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF does.
- other people have told me the cleansing wipes (similar to stridex) are good.

They also have a tea tree/mint shampoo and conditioner line that I'm going to try when my current bottles run out. I'm hoping to switch to it from my Head & Shoulders mint.

For homemade, I like to make masks with apple cider vinegar and Bentonite clay. You can also mix in glycerin or oil to make it more of a cleanser--I have used avocado oil for this and then added dried lavender for sort of a semi-dupe of Angels on Bare Skin from Lush.
posted by assenav at 2:02 PM on October 22, 2018

I'm not sure which Sunday Riley product you're talking about, but if it's their overnight lactic acid treatment you might try the Ordinary's version. It's nearly a hundred dollars cheaper. If it's the Luna you're using the Ordinary also has trans-retinoic acids in oils.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:19 PM on October 22, 2018

nthing CeraVe: for me (sensitive/reactive dryish combination skin with the occasional zit) the foaming facial cleanser is just perfect. I use only a little bit, once a day (at night).

I have also had great success replacing fancy moisturizers with oils. After cleansing at night, I pat a few drops each of sunflower seed oil (from the grocery aisle) and rosehip seed oil (ordered online) onto my still damp face, and that's all I need to keep my skin hydrated. (It helps to wash one's face only at night here - that way you're not drying it out twice each day).

Lastly, a 50/50 mix of liquid aloe and water is fantastic for spritzing on dry hair to calm/control/define curls!
posted by marlys at 5:40 PM on October 22, 2018

Seconding Hado Labo as a great brand (their Gokujun Premium Hyaluronic Lotion is very popular) and nthing Cosrx as a well-formulated but not-super-expensive brand.

Random one: lots of people swear by hydrocolloid dressing for helping pimples heal faster; you can buy specialty "pimple patches" or you can buy bandages marketed for blisters for slightly cheaper and cut them to the appropriate size.

I don't know if you like sheet masks but you can get plain cotton sheet masks and soak them in your favorite toner/essence/whatever yourself to make your own sheet masks.

You may already know this, but the r/SkincareAddiction and r/AsianBeauty on Reddit have a ton of well-informed skincare lovers, and they talk a lot about cheaper options along with the spendy stuff.
posted by aka burlap at 8:31 PM on October 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Looks like the nuxe honey lip balm would be pretty easy to recreate. Melt together some shea butter, beeswax, sweet almond oil, honey in the microwave, add a drop of essential oils for scent (grapefruit, lemon, and rose, based on the ingredient list). Store in an old lip balm jar. The dry oil also looks like it could be mimicked by mixing together the oils on the ingredient list, although the scent might be tough to recreate.

The shea butter can be used as an all-purpose lotion or hand cream. Sweet almond oil can be used as a face moisturizer or all-purpose moisturizer.

Straight up bentonite clay as a mask. No point buying premade masks that have bentonite as the active ingredient anyways.

One trick to figuring out cheaper versions of products, I find, is to just look at the list of ingredients and figure out if the active ingredients are things you can buy on your own.

I'll add in deodorant - crystal deodorant is cheap, lasts forever, and doesn't stain clothes like drugstore deodorants.
posted by ersatzhuman at 4:58 PM on October 23, 2018

Soap & Glory The Fab Pore Pore-Refining Mask
YourGoodSkin Soothing Lip Balm (or Walgreens ChapAid Lip Balm)
CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser for Normal to Dry Skin
No7 Restore & Renew Face & Neck Multi-Action Serum
St Ives Skin Renewing Collagen Elastin Body Lotion

When I was younger, I used witch hazel diluted with water to get rid of my pimples. Got that tip watching the old Martha Stewart Show.
posted by 1smartcookie at 8:49 PM on October 23, 2018

« Older You Don't Have To Keep Telling Me That, Do You?   |   Ethically making money from a hobby that's other... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.