Sike we ain't ever gonna beat capitalism as long as we participating in it. Anyways, I've noticed the girls are getting more into skincare and some of them don't know where to start because many of these brands tend to have ridiculous ass prices, like one cleanser be my lunch for next two weeks. Know what I'm sayin? Some of you may also not know this but lowkey? I'm anti-drugstore skincare. Yes I said it. Unless it's like a French skincare brand like La Roche Posay cause they make some quality shit. Or maybe I should just clarify and say that I'm anti-Western drugstore skincare. Yes let's say that, let us go with that instead. The brands I'm mentioning are very affordable but effective, which is what we all want in life innit? Now of course everything is not gonna be like $10 or less because that's honestly unrealistic and if something works, it's allowed to be worth something , ya know? But the prices are extremely fair for the ingredients they include and their efficacy, in my opinion. Sometimes the phrase "you get what you pay for" isn't always true.
I fucks with Cosrx. I haven't tried many products from them yet cause I'm still in the process of testing out some other skincare products but also because like I'm really fighting the urge to not be a huge product hoarder because as much as I love beauty and having an array of beauty products in my possession? The amount of choices I'd have and unused products would give me great anxiety. But so far I have tried their Whitening Power Essence which I briefly reviewed on my instagram (that's your cue to hit the follow button, don't be fucking rude) and it was a total miss for me. Didn't do anything so I was disappointed in that because so many people in the Asian beauty forum on Reddit were raving about it, the same way they raved about the BHA Blackhead Liquid. So what I do? I copped the BHA Liquid next. And I don't regret a damn thing, you can read my mini review for it also on my instagram (hit. the. follow. button. girl).
- BHA Blackhead Liquid $17- A holy grail product of mine. I've talked about it here and here. It's so so so good for those with oily skin because it helps to keep the pores clean and prevent any future breakouts, as well as clearing up any closed comedones. It just literally eats through the sebum and keeps it from forming any pimples or blackheads, she's everything!
- Pimple Patches $5 - A quick and simple solution to reducing pimples overnight using hydrocolloid patches. These are also great because 1) you can wear them under makeup and 2) they don't contain any active ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, for those who have allergies or whose skin just doesn't fair well with certain acne-fighting actives.
- Snail Essence $14 - This essence is loaded with 96% snail mucin which is great for repairing, healing and hydrating the skin. Lowkey this is sort of one of those all-in-one products that can help with healing acne, reducing hyperpigmentation, and get rid of dry patches.
- Low pH Morning Gel Cleanser $9 - This is a great and cheap low pH gel cleanser that's great for people with sensitive, oily, or acne-prone skin. I personally have never liked the way gel cleansers felt on my skin but if you're someone who loves gel cleansers and the way they make your skin feel, this would be a good one to add to your stash.
- Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF 50 $13 - I'm using this as my current SPF and I love it so far. If you use too much and you're dark like me, you will have a very slight white cast but even then it's not that noticeable at all. I'm just annoying and notice every little thing with my skin. I'm impressed by this moisturizer because it's not greasy, barely leaves a cast, and is super affordable. You really won't find a good broad spectrum SPF like this in drugstores.
Muji is one of those brands that not only look good in your medicine cabinet, but they're also cheap and get the job done, very straightforward stuff. I also love Muji cause they're like Ikea, they have every fucking thing. Furniture, clothes, skincare, stationary, everything. Going to a Muji store in New York and blowing a paycheck is on my bucket list, I have a new obsession with minimalism now and Muji fits into that perfectly so it's only right that I give them my money.
Mild Cleansing Oil $16- Though I still have yet to try it, this was one of the top oil cleansers that I kept seeing being mentioned when I first got into K-Beauty. Their skincare in general seems very minimalistic and straightforward so this would be a perfect starter product, or even brand, into Korean skincare.
- Cream Cleanser - I currently have an obsession with cream cleansers ever since I bought the Pixi Double Cleanse. I personally think every single skin type can benefit from cream cleansers and if it's actually formulated right, they shouldn't ever clog your pores or cause acne. This cream cleanser is hard to find online so if you're lucky enough to live near a Muji store, please buy this and try it out for me. Or just buy it and send it to me. Yeah, do that instead.
- Unbleached Cotton Pads $6 - I've recently discovered a whole new world which is made up of unbleached cotton pads. Using unbleached cotton pads on your skin is better than bleached cotton pads. The concept is very similar to eating brown rice and wheat bread over white rice and white bread, because brown is always better. I got these from Amazon and it came with 180 pads and I love them, they're super soft and feel like tiny pillows caressing my face when I use them. They don't have those scratchy particles that hurt your skin sometimes like some bleached cotton pads do and it doesn't fall apart, leaving little pieces of cotton on my face during usage.
This brand has been receiving nothing but buzz lately and understandably so. Their entire goal with this brand in particular is to formulate incredibly effective yet cheap skincare to the public in order to prove that all skincare doesn't have to be outrageously expensive in order for it to do its job. They're totally trolling the beauty industry by doing this because they pop up and everyone's like "oh wow look at how cheap and straightforward this is! Serums for $6! Fuck would I keep paying $40+ dollars for when I could buy this instead!" I love it. I really do love a good troll.
- Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% $6 - This is one of the few products from this brand that I have yet to hear anything bad about. Niacinamide is one of those ingredients that can kind of do it all. It's an antioxidant, fades dark spots, improves the moisture barrier, she's just a miracle worker. The zinc is supposedly good for reducing sebum production which I'm skeptical about, but for $6 you really got nothing to lose. This is also a great alternative to Paula's Choice's $42 10% Niacinamide Serum as well as Glossier's $28 Super Pure serum.
- Salicylic Acid 2% Solution $5 - Yet another possible Paula's Choice dupe, this BHA serum is great for those who have acne since it chemically exfoliates deep down inside the pores. The only thing with this solution is that there are no skin-soothing ingredients to help buffer the skin and reduce irritation like the ones you'd find in Paula's Choice's acids, so if you have sensitive skin keep that in mind.
- Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution $8 - An apparent Pixi Glow Tonic dupe, this toner is an AHA that mildly exfoliates the skin for a more even skin tone and reveal a smoother texture. For only $8 this it's good for those who want to get into acids and want to incorporate some gentle exfoliation into their routine.
- Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% $6 - I've tried this out and it personally does nothing for me, but I've passed it down to my mother who has ultra sensitive and dry skin and she loves it. People have compared this and the 10% Lactic Acid to Good Genes but I'm not entirely sure about that. If you want something that's hydrating, gentle, and will help to even out your skin and improve its texture, try this or the 10% serum out.
- 30% AHA + 2% BHA $7 - I've seen many people label this as a dupe for the $80 Drunk Elephant Babyfacial and while I can't attest to this since I'm still in the process of testing it out, again, you can't really go wrong for $7. This acid is meant to brighten and even out the skin as well as clean out the pores and help keep acne at bay. It's obviously strong as hell so it's only meant to be used 2-3 times a week like you would a mask.
I discovered this brand through Reddit one hot, sticky summer afternoon after spending 90% of my day googling how to reduce my oily skin because I was fed the fuck up that day. I couldn't take it no more. From what I gathered, oily skin tends to lack linoleic acid which maracuja (passionfruit) oil is rich in, so I figured I'd use that oil to help balance my skin out. Obviously that shit did not work cause at this point I really do not believe you can really reduce and regulate your skin's sebum production topically, and if there's a product out there that does that? I have yet to experience its magic, so I'm a non-believer till then. BUT I did discover that I quite like maracuja oil, it gives my skin a natural looking dewiness to it that's not heavy or greasy, and it absorbs nicely.
I unfortunately have yet to try anything out from this brand personally, but I've heard nothing but good things in the SkincareAddiction forum in reddit about their products. Instead of buying $50 maracuja oil from Tarte or $72 Marula oil from Drunk Elephant, you could get it for like 1/8th the price from Garden of Wisdom. They're like the all-natural, organic version of The Ordinary. I would list some product recs but they literally have so many products on their website, I'm not even gonna play myself. Just know that this brand is perfect if you want to experiment with oils and organic, no-nonsense skincare (cleansers, masks, body care, oil cleansers, serums, moisturizers, etc.) at a broke bitch-friendly price.
My nigga Mario Badescu. Again, I can't attest to the efficacy of their products because I've only tried their Rosewater mist which I kind of loved and plan on repurchasing, but I've heard nothing but good things about this brand as well. There are so many different products to choose from and there's literally something for everyone. This brand is extensive, carrying cleansers, makeup removers, toners, masks, night creams, eye creams, moisturizers, serums, facial mists, etc. at an extremely reasonable price with ingredients that are not only effective actives but they're paired with other nourishing ingredients to help soothe the skin and prevent it as much as possible from getting irritated and having any bad reactions.
Facial Spray With Aloe, Herbs, and Rosewater $7 - A cult-favorite and best-seller that I believe is really a placebo effect cause rosewater really doesn't do shit for the skin, but I personally like to use it because it smells great and you can use it as a refresher in humid weather, before moisturizers/serums, and to take away powderiness from makeup.
- Drying Lotion $17 - One of their best-sellers and award-winning products, this spot treatment is perfect for getting rid of whiteheads overnight. It contains salicylic acid, calamine, and sulfur to dry out the, excuse my language, puss from the whitehead to make it magically disappear overnight.
- Glycolic Acid Toner $18 - Eight whole ass ounces of an exfoliating toner for under 20 bucks really isn't bad in my opinion so if you have dry, textured, and/or uneven skin, then you should give this a try.
- Buffering Lotion $19 - I wish I had discovered this before because it really could've made my life so much easier when I was dealing with acne and inflamed, cystic pimples. Unlike the Drying Lotion, this is meant for those painful pimples under the skin that never surface. $19 might seem extra for 1oz of product but this is a spot treatment, so you really won't be using that much of it that often. It's like a long-term investment really.
- Enzyme Cleansing Gel $14 - A gentle AHA cleanser with fruit enzymes like papaya and grapefruit, this will help to exfoliate, refresh, and brighten the skin. If you have dry, dull, uneven, or sensitive skin and want an effective cleanser, this would be good for you.
This brand has a special place in my heart. Their Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Milk was the very first K-Beauty product that I bought and I still love it, always will. I discovered them while scrolling through the Asian Beauty forum on Reddit on a mission trying to formulate a new skincare routine for myself. They have 3 lines; anti-aging, moisturizing, and brightening. Despite the fact that they have a decent range of products, the main ones I always hear about are the ones from their moisturizing Gokujyun line.
- Gokujyun Clear Lotion $12 - Not to be confused with a moisturizer, this is actually a toner. Many Asian toners are actually called lotions which can be very confusing at first. But this lotion is meant to be used after cleansing (toner stage) and before moisturizing, or it can be used on it's own according to the brand. Though, since this contains hyaluronic acid I wouldn't recommend using this alone, but rather seal it in with a moisturizer instead because when used incorrectly, hyaluronic acid can dehydrate your skin.
- Gokujyun Milk $13 - This milk, aka moisturizer, is a dream. It has a creamy but runny consistency that's so lightweight even on my oily skin. It leaves my skin with a smooth and healthy, dewy look which is always the goal. This milk is meant to be used in conjunction with the lotion so if you buy the lotion, I'd strongly recommend buying the milk as well to layer and seal with.
- Foaming Face Wash $9 - Though I personally stay away from all foaming cleansers because they are inherently the devil, this one in particular has a pH of 5.5 unlike most foaming cleansers that are alkaline and have a higher pH, which is terrible for the skin. This is another cleanser that's loved in the K-Beauty community.
Makeup Artist's Choice
If we keepin it a bean, I would only recommend this brand to those who are knowledgable and experienced when it comes to skincare because this is like some professional shit. I don't want y'all ending up like those stupid youtube gurus who do like freaking 20% TCA Peels at home without prepping their skin, without doing research, and without ever even using any type of acid a day in their lives and ending up with severe chemical burns all over their face. If you're going to try any of these acids, go for something gentle like lactic acid and at a low percentage then work your way up. Especially if you've never used acids before or you have sensitive skin, or both even.
But this brand is great because they sell these super potent and effective products at amazingly affordable prices, much like The Ordinary.
- Mandelic Acid Serum $5-$16 - Mandelic acid is probably the best acid for dark skin and way less irritating than glycolic acid since the molecules are bigger and don't penetrate the skin as deep, however it's still more effective and stronger than glycolic acid. This 10% concentration is potent and is to be used every other day. Dark spots? Blackheads? Large pores? Rough, uneven texture? Sun damage? This serum shall take care of it.
- Fade Peel $2-$30 - Comprised of several different acids like lactic, glycolic, malic, and kojic acid, this peel is perfect for those who want to even out their skin and banish any textural issues. These acids in particular are also ideal for those with darker skin. This is quite strong so it's recommended that you start out with the Fade Serum first, then use the peel.
- TCA Peels $26-$100 - Ranging from 12.5%-30%, MUA has several different grades of TCA peels to choose from. Again, these peels aren't for beginners or those with notoriously sensitive skin so please don't play yourself and literally burn your face off. These are kind of hardcore and require downtime, but the results will be worth it. These will tighten the skin, reduce fine lines and discoloration, and smooth out the skin, among a few other things. This seems expensive but again these are peels and are meant to be used in moderation over a prolonged period. It's also cheaper than getting it professionally done, it's literally an at-home chemical peel.
- Mandelic Acid Toner $5-$16 - One of their best sellers, this 5% mandelic acid toner will aid in reducing the appearance of pores, treating acne, and retexture the skin. This is gentle enough to be used everyday unlike the mandelic acid serum.
This is another Asian beauty brand favorite, one of the first brands I heard of when I discovered K-Beauty. Still haven't tried anything from them but these products in particular are frequently mentioned and recommended when it comes to Korean skincare and with good reason. They also tend to include snail extract in a lot of their products just as a heads up if you're like a tree-hugging, potato and bean eating vegan or whatever.
- AHA 8% Peeling Serum $17 - The second ingredient in this is Glycolic Acid, that's how you know it's good shit. Much like many of the aforementioned actives, especially ones formulated with glycolic acid, this will also help with textural issues, discoloration, sun damage, etc.
- Snail Repair Cream $17 - Similar to the Cosrx Snail Essence, this cream is meant to hydrate the skin and reduce the appearance of any fine lines and discoloration with its 92% snail extract. Despite it being a cream it's frequently recommended to those with oily skin since it's not heavy or greasy. It's one of the best-selling products from the brand for a reason, ladiez.
- Snail Recovery Gel Cream $10 - A gel-cream formula with 74% snail extract that's also great for oily skin that's meant to hydrate and accelerate the skin's healing and repairing process for quicker recovery from dark spots, acne, and signs of aging.
- AHA & BHA Toner $19 - This is one of those pH balancing toner's that also serve as a gentle daily exfoliant with the use of AHAs and BHAs, so it's a bit of a multitasker. It's good for all skin types since it's nothing hardcore or super strong, but it is recommended specifically to those with oily and acne prone skin. This is great to also use to prep your skin before using acids and actives at night so your skin is at the proper pH level for your products to actually work.
This was by no means an exhaustive list of all the wonderfully cheap but good skincare brands out there, but these are the ones that I'm most eager to try because they truly make me believe that skincare doesn't have to be uber expensive just to be effective. They make me believe in love again.