If there’s one thing I’m always after, it’s super-glowy skin, and I’ll try just about any treatment or product to achieve it. Oftentimes, though, I’ll drop money on expensive formulas that don’t live up to their bold promises. Just as frequently, I’ll discover affordable products that blow me away. The trick to uncovering the affordable finds that are worth it? Chatting with industry veterans who know their stuff and can recommend what really works. That’s why I was excited to talk all things skincare with Sean Garrette—an NYC–based aesthetician and global ambassador for Fenty Skin who has the glowiest skin in the game.
His approach to skincare is all about finding what works. While he has the opportunity to test and try just about every product on the market, he believes in a tight edit of products that are effective. "When it comes to my clients, I always push that less is more. You don’t need five cleansers, six serums, and four moisturizers,” he explained. Instead, he suggests you “create a concise routine with products that target the issues you’re dealing with.” Here, he's spilling exactly which essential skincare basics are worthy of your medicine cabinet.
With access to the best of the best in skincare, I wanted to know which affordable products are just as good as the expensive ones. Ahead, Garrette is sharing the six he personally uses as well as the ingredient to always avoid.
The Ingredient You Should Skip
Since uncovering great skincare products involves a close study of their ingredient lists, I was curious to know if there were any red flags for Garrette when he looks at a bottle. "The only ingredient I would recommend avoiding in drugstore skincare is denatured alcohol," he explained. "That ingredient is prevalent in a lot of drugstore skincare products. It can be very drying, dehydrating, and sensitizing to the skin and cause irritation and increased breakouts."
So what should you add to your shopping cart instead? Garrette weighs in on that here.
"This is a toner and serum two-in-one packed with antioxidants like niacinamide and acerola cherry that help refine the look of pores, brighten complexion, and reduce excess oil on the surface of the skin."
"This is a great and affordable hydrating serum that only costs $8. It is packed with hyaluronic acid and Matrixyl 3000, which is a powerful peptide that supports collagen production and plumps the skin."
"Good chemical sunscreens are hard to find for a great price point. Krave Beauty knocked it out of the park with the Beet Shield. This is an SPF 50+ that is packed with antioxidants like vitamin C, beetroot, allantoin, and resveratrol and EGCG."
What reviewers have to say: "I decided to switch my SPF moisturizer, and I'm so happy I found this! It's super light, smells so good, and doesn't feel like a sunscreen at all! Plus, I love that when I run out, I can buy the refill instead of buying an entirely new thing!"
What reviewers have to say: "I really like this product. I'm 58 years old. Prior to using this, in the evenings I used SkinMedica's Lytera to reduce the appearance of sunspots, followed by .5% retinol for fine lines & wrinkles. This PCA product does the job of both in one application. My spots are not returning, and my skin feels really smooth. I use other PCA products and have not been disappointed."
What reviewers have to say: "I recently got this product. My goodness! I’ve been using it for a week and already see the results. My skin is glowing, and the recovery for the few acne spots was remarkable. Must have!!!"
What reviewers have to say: "I'm a skeptic, but this surpassed the hype. I had heard about this but was hesitant to convert. I was using Good Genes, which helped quite a bit with pore congestion, yet I didn't find the concoction which put me beyond okay skin. This was part of a beauty days promo, so I figured for half off it was time to try. I'm so glad I did because it's not hyperbole to say it transformed my skin. It's smoother, less congestion—which was my #1 goal—and I have dry skin, but I don't get dry patches the way I used to. I can wear less foundation. All in all, this is currently the most transformative product I have tried this year. I use it about five nights a week."
What reviewers have to say: "Great product. Use this mask as an acne spot treatment for my acne and cystic acne and sleep with it on overnight. Holy-grail product for me, saved my face. Highly recommend."
What reviewers have to say: "I literally just created an account to be able to review these products. I work part-time in a factory that has no AC in the hot, humid Canadian summers, and now add a mask onto this, yikes for my skin. These daily peels are a skin saver for me during bad breakouts! I started using them a year ago, and I really only use them when my skin is really bad, but within two days, my breakouts subside, and my skin is glowing."
What reviewers have to say: "This actually holds in natural moisture and gives your skin a chance to heal without clogging pores or creating a 'barrier.' Not only is this good for nourishing and rejuvenating my skin, it works especially well (maybe synergy is the right word) with other anti-aging creams and products."
What reviewers have to say: "I've had facial eczema for months and tried everything to fix it. The only thing left to me was steroid cream, and I really didn't want to use that. I bought Modulating Glucosides out of desperation. It was a last resort, and I am thrilled with the results. Within four days, the patches of itchy, inflamed, painful, and angry eczema had gone. Not a trace of them showed anywhere, and no sign of a flare-up. However, if it does come back, I'll use MC right away. It's a game changer for me, and I can't recommend it enough."
What reviewers have to say: "This product is, easily, the best thing for my skin. I struggle with rosacea, breakouts, and blackheads. I was hesitant to purchase this product because it seemed expensive for such a little amount in comparison to other PC products, but I went for it anyway because I was desperate. It took about a month to really notice results, but I was patient and consistent, and my skin did a complete 180. I have almost no more redness, almost all acne scars have faded, and has prevented breakouts more than anything else I have ever used."