Tips & Techniques, Wellness / Self-Care

The best low-budget, high-performance Skincare regimen

Drugstore budget-approved.

words by: Adam Hurly
Oct 21, 2022

You don’t have to spend a lot of money on your grooming regimen in order for it to perform well. Truth be told, there is a very well-defined threshold that separates a great regimen (with a small amount of products) and an excessive one that demands twice as many products, each one 4 times the cost of the baseline routine. In other words: Having a baseline regimen is the most important thing you can do to maintain “skincare fitness” long-term, in order to keep skin as firm, bright, buoyant, clear, and smooth for as long as possible.


Below is evidence of our claim, and one that is friendly to all budgets. It’s a routine consisting of 10 products (between shower and sink ledge, from head to toe, and from day to night). Here are the best types of skincare products you need for that baseline supply, along with our top selects for low-budget skincare products (all under $25) that perform extremely well. And together, the sum of their parts — the regimen itself — performs most supremely.


A twice-daily cleanser

Washing your face twice a day is imperative. First, it flushes away any sweat and germ buildup from your pillow (which, after nightly use, begins to harbor lots of bacteria, so please also be sure to wash pillowcases weekly). Secondly, it rinses away all the day’s buildup as you begin your nightly regimen.


In both instances, it “resets” your canvas, flushing away excess sebum, sweat, and grime, thus allowing you to apply any other products without clogging pores or hindering performance.


Get the Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser, $16



Photo via Amazon


An SPF30+ morning moisturizer

Most people think of a moisturizer as a way to hydrate and nourish the skin — and while that’s partially true, its role is more of a defensive one. Moisturizers help reinforce the barrier defenses of your skin by shielding it from things like toxins and bacteria, while also adding bonus things, like antioxidants and vitamins to the dermis.


Apply one in the morning for the day ahead — ideally with SPF30+ for the added benefit of thwarting UV rays each and every day. The long-term benefits for your complexion will be impeccable. And yes, even if you have oily skin, you still need a moisturizer for these defensive reasons — just make sure it’s oil-free. You’ll use a separate moisturizer at night, since wearing SPF to bed is pointless.


Get the Cardon Moisturizer with SPF30, $22


cardon moisturizer

Photo via Amazon


A protective, restorative night moisturizer

A night moisturizer shields your skin from the drying effects of the dry winter air, or the summertime air conditioning. Secondly, it tends to be densely concentrated with good-for-you nutrients, so that it helps restore skin as it experiences a nightly cellular replenishment.


In harsh winter days, you can also add use it as a daytime moisturizer, so long as you also apply some type of SPF layer. (Because those UV rays work around the calendar, even piercing clouds on dreary days.)


Get the Neutrogena Hydro Boost Night Moisturizer, $16


neutrogena night moisturizer

Photo via Neutrogena


A deep-hydrating serum

It’s really smart to apply some kind of hydrating serum beneath your moisture (so, after cleansing) — and in particular, one with hyaluronic acid, which can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. Apply a couple drops to freshly rinsed skin, then layer moisturizer over top to trap it inside the further layers of your skin, and enjoy the firming, supple, and softening results for the long term. Do it once or twice daily, but at least as part of your morning regimen to help skin look “plumper” during the day.


Get the YEOUTH Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $23



Photo via Amazon


A pore-clearing, exfoliating serum

Some people will need this far less than others, but salicylic acid is still important for everyone to have at the ready. It’s a brilliant ingredient in the fight against acne, oily skin, and rough skin — any and all of the above. That’s because salicylic acid dissolves dead skin cells and flushes excess sebum from deep within the pores, while also controlling oil production to prevent further buildup. It aids in the surface-level exfoliation of dead cells, too (though ingredients like glycolic acid and lactic acid tend to be more common here).


You can use salicylic as a spot treatment on budding blemishes, or put a drop or two in your bedtime moisturizer for an overnight reset. Don’t use it in the morning in case your skin reddens with use. An overnight application should give you the proper time to recover from any application. And remember: A little goes a long way.


Get The Ordinary 2% Salicylic Acid Solution, $6


the ordinary

Photo via The Ordinary


A concentrated eye cream

Don’t underestimate eye cream. These tiny products pack seriously high concentrations of ingredients in order to reinforce that delicate area around your eyes. There’s a reason that we show our tiredness and aging most readily around our eyes — because the thin skin in this area loses its resilience and firmness much sooner than anywhere else. An eye cream can keep it tighter, brighter, and in turn prevent puffy under eyes, dark circles, crows’ feet, and more.


Get the CeraVe Eye Cream, $18

cerave eye cream

Photo via CVS


A face-dedicated SPF 30+ sunscreen

If you are otherwise loyal to an SPF-less daytime moisturizer, then you should apply a face-dedicated sunscreen over top of it. Secondly, you should have a face sunscreen ready for those long days spent in the sun’s spoil, reapplying every 2 hours or after water exposure. Body sunscreens aren’t engineered for the sensitive face (and can often lead to sweating or even breakouts), so make sure you only apply products to your face that explicitly say they are formulated for such.


Get the Blue Lizard SPF30 Mineral Face Sunscreen, $17


blue lizard

Photo via Amazon


A body-dedicated SPF 30+ sunscreen

Body sunscreens are easier to get in bulk, since there is so much surface area to cover (and since they aren’t typically as concentrated with nourishing ingredients like facial ones, not to mention, they wear heavier than facial SPFs). You need them for long stretches in the sun and, in a perfect world, they would cover any sky-exposed part of your body on every other day of the year. We know that feels like a stretch for most guys, but keep one at the ready anyway. And, as is the case with any SPF product, make sure it is SPF 30+ or greater, in order to bounce the maximum amount of UV rays.


Get the Bondi Sands Fragrance Free Body Sunscreen SPF 50, $13


bondi sands

Photo via Amazon


A nourishing body wash

Simply put, make sure your body wash nourishes and softens skin while it washes you, rather than merely deplete your skin of all its moisture and suppleness. Ideally it also explicitly promises to preserve your skin’s pH levels, meaning it honors your skin’s natural chemistry to prevent any dryness or irritation.


Get the Native Body Wash (2-pack), $18


native body wash

Photo via Amazon


A lotion for everything below the head

You don’t need a dedicated moisturizer for your body, hands, feet, and such. Instead, get one for all those body parts, and apply it after each evening shower, daytime hand washing, and particularly after long spells in the sun, sea, or snow. Remember not to apply a body moisturizer to your face, though; most will suffocate the pores and even lead to breakouts.


Your face requires its own cleansers, serums, and moisturizers, and the same goes for the rest of your body, from the neck down. You’ll see many brands selling hydrators for each of these parts individually, but rarely do you need to parse out those duties, especially for the sake of saving money and vanity space.


Get the Bevel Body Lotion, $9


bevel lotion

Photo via Bevel


If you’re here, you’ve probably decided it’s time to get serious about skin care. Don’t worry, we got skincare routines for every type of guy. If you’ve just started college, or are looking for a minimalist skincare routine, it’s all here.


Photo via iStock