The Best Skin Care Lines for Every Budget


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Skincare can be an investment that pays major dividends — after all, healthy skin protects against harsh weather and environmental exposures, boosts confidence, and helps you put your best face forward. But in the world of $300 miracle creams, lotions, and potions, sussing out what skin care lines work best without draining your bank account can be tricky. Hitting up your beauty boutique for samples, trying out store brands, and buying mini or trial versions of high-end brands can all help you save, so when you find your perfect fit, you can actually afford it. Whether you’re scrimping by on a student’s budget or splurging on the high-end luxury, these five brands cover every budget.

Bargain Line: Target's Up & Up (Under $5)

What You Should Know

  • Acne treating exfoliant with salicylic acid
  • Target’s house brand scrub
  • Blemish fighter on a budget

Under $5 each, many store brand skincare lines are less expensive versions of more common brand names, just under different packaging. If every dollar spent on skincare is a splurge, you need the most bang for your buck; Target’s Up and Up house brand is an inexpensive, effective place to start. This blemish fighting scrub contains Salicylic acid, and the exfoliant is derived from walnut hulls, not plastic microbeads.

“It has a pleasant scent, surprisingly can take off all makeup, and leaves you feeling refreshed.”

What You Should Know

  • 1 ounce container, comparable to Clean and Clear
  • Remember to wear sunscreen after using any benzoyl peroxide products
  • Works on face or body breakouts

This 10 percent benzoyl peroxide acne medication treats existing breakouts and, when used daily, can prevent new ones from occurring. Now with the Target Clean seal, so you can be sure that not only are the products you’re purchasing effective, they’re also free from undesirable additions like certain parabens or pthalates,

“I was so focused on expensive products from Sephora and from my dermatologist that I ignored good ole’ benzoyl peroxide… Dries up acne quickly and effectively.”

What You Should Know

  • Currently under $5
  • Oil-free moisturizer, suitable for acne prone skin
  • Only use one salicylic acid product at a time

Useful both for face and body breakouts, this Target brand moisturizer is comparable to acne fighting moisturizers from Clean and Clear. Salicylic acid is a powerful blemish fighter, but can be drying when overused. Glycerin moisturizes help to counteract this effect, but using too many salicylic acid products can still be over-drying, which is counterproductive to fighting acne long term.

“I like this better than the name brand’s version! This feels more lightweight/less greasy, and I prefer the scent of this one.”

What You Should Know

  • Suitable for oily, combination, and normal skin
  • Cruelty free, not tested on animals
  • Deep-cleans dirt, makeup, and dead skin

Coming in at around 7 cents per sheet, these exfoliating facial towlettes are inexpensive enough to keep in a purse or desk drawer in case of makeup emergencies. Cucumber extract keeps your skin feeling clean and refreshed. Free of parabens or dyes, they’re dermatologist tested and have no added fragrance.

“These towelettes are amazing. The price is unbeatable and the wipes smell so good! They don’t leave my face feeling sticky or greasy, but they still get all of my makeup off.”

Budget Line: The Ordinary (Under $10)

What You Should Know

  • Available in a small trial size or larger 5-ounce option
  • Uses vegan Squalane
  • Free of mineral oil, triclosan, and other undesirable ingredients

The Ordinary’s entire skin care line gives users the power to customize each element of their routine, adding effective ingredients to target their every concern. Powerful moisturizers, blemish fighters, vitamins and more; for experienced users it’s a playground. For those new to targeted skincare, it’s an affordable chance to use highly effective ingredients, and discover exactly which major components are most effective at treating their concerns. The Ordinary’s vegan squalene cleanser is gentle enough for daily use, but strong enough to remove makeup, and includes glycerin for extra moisturizing power.

“This is an amazing cleanser for sensitive skin!! Doesn’t strip, doesn’t dry out, gets the makeup off. I can’t rave enough about it.”

What You Should Know

  • Features glycolic, lactic, and salicylic acids
  • 95 percent of reviewers recommend it on
  • 10 minute facial peel

Reviewers list plenty of skin conditions this powerful peel can tackle — from acne scars and sun spots to dull, dry winter skin — and nearly 95 percent of reviewers recommend it, saying it’s powerful, effective stuff. At somewhere between 10 and 15 peels per bottle, it works out to 50-75 cents per use, eminently less expensive than any single use masks and perfect for skincare lovers on a budget.

“Amazing quality product for the $$. Might be too intense if you have sensitive skin. I don’t, so I slather it on.”

What You Should Know

  • Caffeine is a natural antioxidant
  • Apply under primer to prevent flaking/peeling
  • Vegan, and free of alcohol, nuts, gluten, and fragrance

Caffeine and Green Tea polyphenols combine in this powerful eye treatment to de-puff and help restore a natural, healthy looking skin color by reducing contour pigmentation — aka those dark circles that make it look like you’ve been rubbing your eyes all night. While you’ll need to combined it with a targeted serum if you’re looking to fight wrinkles, this does include glycerin and hyaluronic acids, so you’ll get a moisturizing benefit with regular use.

“I love everything from this brand. So inexpensive, and more effective than expensive brands. I’ve been using this along with wrinkle reducing serums from them to help fix my under eyes, and it’s made a real difference, not just a temporary fix! 

What You Should Know

  • 7 percent Glycolic Acid solution clarifies skin and improves tone
  • Features aloe vera, ginseng, and tasmanian pepperberry
  • Free of alcohol, oil, or silicone

Used between washing and moisturizing, toners can range from blemish fighters, to chemical exfoliants, to soothing treatments for redness or blotchy skin. This 7 percent Glycolic acid toner does a bit of everything, resurfacing skin over time while minimizing irritants and soothing tired skin.

“This price point is amazing and honestly every product I’ve bought from The Original line has done exactly what it states to do!”

Splurge Line: Laneige (Under $40)

What You Should Know

  • Soft, creamy foam cleanser
  • Made with nearly 15 percent natural plant oils
  • A gentler alternative to harsh cleansers

K-Beauty brand Laneige is a cult favorite, with multiple Allure Best of Beauty winners in its lineup, and the targeted treatments face off against any skin concern — be it dry, oily, or damaged — and deliver proven results at a largely affordable price point. Budget conscious but high-quality, the Water Bank set in particular garners rave reviews.

Highly moisturizing, Laneige’s foaming cream cleanser features meadowfoam and sunflower oil to soften and hydrate skin after cleansing, and can be used every day.

“It makes my face feel super clean without drying it out more and it smells really good.”

What You Should Know

  • Features Lychee peel extract 
  • Only 10 ingredients
  • Safe for twice-daily use after washing

Hypoallergenic, this soothing toner features a small ingredient list and plenty of antioxidant and mineral power. Dermatologist tested, it’s free of oils and alcohols and safe for sensitive skin.

“This toner beats everything I’ve ever used. It’s calming. It’s soothing. It’s everything I’ve ever looked for in a toner.”

What You Should Know

  • Good for all skin types
  • A cooling gel
  • Treats dryness, puffiness, and fine lines and wrinkles

Dermatologist tested, this ionized mineral gel delivers intense moisture to delicate skin around the eyes, improving their appearance as well as making makeup set better and last longer. Glycerin and botanicals like sugar cane extract ensure it’s even more effective at plumping dry skin until it’s healthy and hydrated.

“Absorbs very quickly. Works great under my under eye concealer. I’ve only been using it for about 3 weeks, but can already tell it’s going to be holy grail status.”

What You Should Know

  • Best of Beauty winner, 2017
  • Overnight mask for all skin types
  • Key Features: ionized water, morning primrose, and apricot

This overnight mask has a pleasant texture that isn’t heavy or tacky after applying. Full of antioxidants from Morning Primrose and Hunza Apricots, the mineral rich formula includes zinc and potassium, and Laneige’s Moisture Wrap system keeps the active ingredients locked into skin and working hard while you sleep.

“I absolutely love this sleeping mask. It is very soothing and I wake up with bright and hydrated skin without it being greasy.”

Luxury Line: Tatcha (Under $100)

What You Should Know

  • Mini size available, great for an inexpensive trial
  • Clean at Sephora; free of parabens, pthalates, mineral oil and more
  • Powerfully moisturizing without clogging pores

Tatcha founder Victoria Tsai has focused intently on designing a skincare line with a holistic, natural base, and a long tradition of use in Japanese culture. With cleansers, moisturizers, and rejuvenating creams and serums focused around just a few basic ingredients — seaweed, green tea, and rice — Tatcha brings centuries of traditional, natural skin care into the modern world.

With more oleic acid than olive oil and packed with skin boosting vitamins, this oil cleanser nourishes skin damaged by stress or environmental exposures, and cleans off even waterproof makeup without harsh scrubbing. Since it’s non clogging, even acne sufferers rave about this soothing cleanser.

“I’ve been using this cleanser every morning and night for about 2 weeks now, and can say that no product has ever helped my skin so much.”

What You Should Know

  • Fights free radicals
  • Reduce evidence of oxidation and UV damage
  • Includes Japanese Angelica root to fight hyperpigmentation 

Light weight and easily absorbed, this vitamin C-infused, antioxidant-rich night serum helps resurface skin, attacking dark spots, acne scars, and evening out skin tone after every overnight use. Fruit based AHA gently removes deeply deposited debris and dulled, dead skin.

“Perfect skin every morning. My skin is smooth, clear, bright….this stuff is GOLDEN.”

What You Should Know

  • Features Tatcha’s famous seaweed, rice, and green tea combo
  • Free of nearly 50 undesirable ingredients, like sulfates and synthetic fragrance
  • Not for intensely dry skin

Tighten pores and control excess oil with this lightweight moisturizer that’s perfect for combination skin. A touch of 24 Karat gold imparts a gorgeous glow without being sticky or clogging pores. Visibly shrinks pores and encourages skin rejuvenation with a pleasant scent and texture.

“I have oily skin and the first whole day that I used it, I felt my skin had a better texture and tone the following morning.”

What You Should Know

  • Single use sheet mask
  • Intensely moisturizing 
  • Includes a generous amount of serum

Reviewers note that though this mask is labeled as a single use package, the volume of serum is nearly enough for two uses. This intense moisturizer not only hydrates skin but also increases the effectiveness of Hyaluronic Acid treatments in doing so. With Tatcha’s signature red algae and rice germ oil, it only takes one try to see why so many are hooked on this mask.

“This made my skin feel like SILK! It is my new favorite mask. Incredibly hydrating and softening. The fiber is very plush and the serum is a little richer than the dewy skin mist.”

Ultra Luxury Line: SK-II (Over $100)

What You Should Know

  • 3-piece introductory set
  • Features SK-ii signature ingredient, Pitera
  • Good for dry, combination, and oily skin types

Like many Ultra Luxury brands, SK-ii features celebrity acclaim; Cate Blanchett has been an avid spokeswoman for the brand for nearly 20 years, and if her enviable skin is due in part to regular use, it’s certainly a glowing endorsement. If dropping over a $100 per item for an unknown product is daunting — and yeah, we’re not gonna find that sort of change in the average couch cushion — trying sample size versions of these products is a less expensive, though still indulgent, way to go. This 3-piece set includes minis of its New Age face cream (full version $235), Facial Treatment Essence (2.5oz for $99 from Sephora), and Clear Lotion Toner ($76 for 5.4oz).

“My skin is so even, almost pore-less compared to before, and so soft. I did not expect results like this.”

What You Should Know

  • Multiple award winner, including Prestige’s Product of the Year, 2016
  • Useful for nearly every skin type
  • Can last a very long time; many users suggest keeping it refrigerated

Preventing the signs of aging requires effective ingredients and a commitment to regular use; the most successful skincare routines are usually regimented, twice daily, multi-step affairs. While no single product can carry the burden of 100 percent of your skin’s health alone, this facial essence is one of the most broad-spectrum approaches around, useful for nearly every skin type and concern.

“After only 1 use, I noticed that my skin is smoother and brighter. Love how product absorbs really fast in to skin. If you can afford it, buy it.”

What You Should Know

  • 6-pack of Pitera infused sheet masks
  • Each mask includes as much Pitera as 30mL of Facial Essence
  • Around $16 per mask

A cult classic and winner of multiple awards, this pack of six face masks is an amazing single step home facial. You can forget all the sugar scrubs and cucumber peels, just apply this to clean skin and wait for the glow up happen. Since these are designed to work below the surface, not just superficially, you’ll actually need time for skin to process them after you’ve applied, so use the mask before bed, enjoy a restful nights sleep, and wake to a healthy glow.

” I would mortgage my house for this sort of result. Will be stalking sales to hoard these in case of a zombie apocalypse.”

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