Quarantine skincare favourites on a budget

Woman touching her skin gently.
Photo by Park Street on Unsplash

While the first semester is in full swing and many of us are struggling financially during the current pandemic, we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to look after ourselves both mentally and physically. You don’t have to break the bank by purchasing luxurious expensive products from Sephora. In fact, some of the best products that have the most potent ingredients can be found in cheaper or drugstore products. Here is a list of products from the start to the end of a basic skincare routine that will work with most skin types. I’ve decided to cut out the argued “extra” steps such as toner, essence, oils or eye cream, because we’re trying to have a cheap yet effective routine. So if you’re struggling to pin down a routine, we’re going to talk about the best budget products to save our skin from the stress that is 2020.


Cleansers are the most ignored part of the skincare routine. Don’t just squeeze some cleanser in your hand and rub it on your face for 10 seconds then wash it away! Take at least 60 seconds to wash your face thoroughly. Washing your face for the specified amount of time will give you a chance to clean every single spot on your face that you might miss, like your temples and in the crevices of your nose. Here are the cleansers that are effective and great for anyone on a budget. 

Nafisah from The Ordinary explains the function of the Squalane Cleanser. (The Ordinary)

The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser ($7.90 CAD): This product is super gentle and is incredibly cheap! This cleanser is able to wash away sunscreen and makeup while leaving your skin moisturized. The main ingredient in this product is an oil known as Squalane which is already found naturally on your skin but with age, your body begins to produce less of this really great oil. The great thing about this cleanser is that any skin type can use it whether you’re acne prone or not. 

Acure Brightening Cleansing Gel ($10.75 CAD): If you’re looking for a cleanser that does more than simply wash your face and adds a little boost to your routine, this is perfect. This cleanser helps fade away dark spots and gives your skin a brighter appearance with skin loving derivatives of vitamin C. This cleanser is slightly exfoliating, which helps skin cell turnover to help fade away post-acne hyperpigmentation. I will say however, if your skin is sensitive to essential oils and fragrance you might want to try the one previously mentioned!


The serum stage of your routine is a great place to play around and try products that can do different things to your skin. Whether you want extra moisture for your skin, to fade dark spots or target acne, all of it can be done in the serum stage! Keep in mind that serums are personal and there is a lot of trial and error in finding a serum that is best suited for you. Serums can be one of the most expensive parts of the routine, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are some serums that don’t cost a lot but can do wonders for every skin type. 

Person spraying serum on their hand.
Photo by Amplitude Magazin on Unsplash

CeraVe Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum ($25.99): The next serums will be cheaper I promise, but this one is for skin types that are dryer than the Sub-Saharan desert. This is a very moisturizing non-irritating serum with ceramides, which are the natural building blocks of our skin. The ceramides in this serum help protect the skin barrier. It also has hyaluronic acid, which is naturally found on our skin. It helps draw moisture from the environment, which keeps your skin soft!

The Ordinary Ethylated Ascorbic Acid 15% Solution ( $18.00 CAD): Ascorbic acid is basically just vitamin C. Vitamin C is effective in anti aging, skin evening and can help protect your skin from free radicals. In my experience, vitamin C can be irritating, and the reason why I recommend the ethylated version is because the chemists over at The Ordinary add an ethyl group, which in turn allows the skin to absorb vitamin C better, as well as make it less irritating on the skin. That’s why it’s a bit more expensive than the rest of the vitamin C serums on The Ordinary’s website. If your skin isn’t sensitive to vitamin C, check out the other ascorbic acid serums on the website that are cheaper. But don’t say I didn’t warn you!

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% ($5.90 CAD): Niacinamide can be found in a lot of skin care products nowadays. This serum is an all rounder in terms of being effective for every skin type. If you want to control your sebum production, fade away dark spots and control active acne this serum is the one for you.


Yes! Oily skin types also need to wear moisturizer! This should be a non-negotiable step in everyones skin care routine. The main issue with not moisturizing is the effect of transepidermal water loss which essentially means there is no water in your skin. This can leave your skin looking dry, give you rough skin texture and make your pores appear enlarged. Moisturizing isn’t a complicated step, it’s there to simply lock in the benefits of the serum you applied. Don’t worry about getting a confusing moisturizer with loads of random fruit extracts and ingredients. Your best bet would be a moisturizer with no fragrance that simply just moisturizes, so keep it simple!

Etude House SoonJung 2x Barrier Intensive Cream ($20.00 CAD): This moisturizer is very simple and has a lot of occlusive ingredients such as shea butter to help moisturize and help maintain the health of your skin barrier. 

CeraVe Moisturizing Cream ($14.04 CAD): Again a super simple, cheap and effective moisturizer. CeraVe is hypoallergenic and recommended by dermatologists. Use this to lock in the serum you used and don’t forget to moisturize your neck!


Sunscreen is the most important part of the skin care routine and must be worn in every season by every single skin color! There is no point to a skin care routine if you’re going to end up going into the sun to damage your skin from the UVA and UVB rays. As a darker skinned individual myself, I was told by my parents that we don’t need sunscreen because we are a part of the elite group of people known as POC. And although we are elite, we all need to wear sunscreen. But unfortunatley, it’s incredibly difficult for darker skin tones to find sunscreens that won’t wash us out and make it look like we threw white flour on our face. Here are two sunscreens that I promise blend into every skin type beautifully and don’t leave a white cast. 

Cosrx Aloe Soothing Sun Cream SPF50 PA+++ ($22.55 CAD): This is a super gentle and buildable sunscreen. You can even replace your moisturizer with this and can put this around your eyes without it stinging. Perfect for the darkest of skin tones! 

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel Face Sunscreen SPF 50 with Hyaluronic Acid ($13.86 CAD): A cheaper but great sunscreen for darker skin tones. This one is super hydrating if you have dry skin. This can irritate your eyes as it is a chemical sunscreen so don’t get it too close to your eyes. 

So there we have it! A simple four step routine cut right back to the basics that anyone can use when they’re on a budget. This routine will roughly cost you $60, but keep in mind that this routine can last you months if you use the proper amount of each product. With each step you roughly only need a quarter or dime sized amount of product. Using more product than what is necessary isn’t going to intensify the benefits of each product. Remember, skin care is personal to you, experiment with different products that claim the results you want. Skin care is about taking care of yourself, and most of all, being patient! You have to give your products time to do their thing. So as we power through the first semester, let’s take care of ourselves and our skin.