Sometimes, keeping my skin in check feels like a full-time job. It's sensitive, it's prone to redness (hello, rosacea), and it's easily irritated. And while I'll never complain about being a beauty writer and getting to test new and exciting skincare products, I will say that it can be a little taxing on the already-delicate state of my skin.
Luckily, though, after a lot of time and trial and error, I've found a routine that works for me. It's a mix of high and low products that simultaneously soothe irritation (or at the very least don't add to it) and deliver active ingredients, too. And when I say high and low, I mean it. Some of my products cost a pretty penny, but others cost less than dinner and drinks. In fact, some of my most-used products cost less than $25. It's proof that skincare doesn't have to be expensive. Keep scrolling to see 18 under-$25 products I use to care for my sensitive, redness-prone skin.
My Morning Skincare Routine
My morning routine is less involved than my nighttime routine. Blame it on my proclivity for sleeping in and hitting snooze, but I rarely have time to do a 10-step routine in the morning (and I wouldn't want to anyway—I know I only need a few products to get the most benefit).
I like to start with a gentle cleanser. This one contains anti-inflammatory oat milk, antioxidant-rich marula oil, and balancing probiotics and blackberry vinegar. Together, these ingredients soothe sensitive skin, strengthen the skin's barrier, and calm redness.
Next, I use a vitamin C serum. I use one every single day without fail (antioxidants like vitamin C keep the skin protected from environmental stressors that can lead to early signs of aging). This one contains vitamin C, of course, as well as phloretin and ferulic acid. Both are potent antioxidants in their own right and can actually enhance the protective effects of sunscreen.
Next, it's time for a lightweight, hydrating moisturizer. I'm someone who's prone to that uncomfortable tight feeling that comes with dehydration, so I always reach for a moisturizer like this in the AM. Its gel texture and hydrating ingredient list (which includes sodium hyaluronate and aloe leaf juice) give my skin exactly what it needs.
The best part about this sunscreen, in my opinion at least, is its slight peachy color. It's not exactly tinted, but it's not white either (no white cast!). It's what makes it blend so seamlessly into my skin, almost providing a slight blurring action while it's at it. I think it's kind of genius.
My Nighttime Skincare Routine
When it comes to my nighttime routine, I require more time and more products to get it done (don't say I didn't warn you). The first step is makeup removal. If I'm wearing a lot of makeup on top of my sunscreen, I'll use a balm or lotion-based cleanser to whisk it away. This cleansing balm transforms into a milky texture once it meets water, so it doesn't leave that thick, oily residue behind unlike other cleansing balms I've tried. (I still usually follow up with a traditional cleanser just to make sure my skin is squeaky clean and free from excess oil.)
After cleansing, it's time for toner. Fun fact: I never used to be a fan of toner until I realized how quickly it could hydrate my parched skin. Now, I use it every single night without fail. This one is chock full of amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and humectants, to keep the skin plump and bouncy.
Then it's on to the serum step. I rotate a few different serums in and out of my routine, according to what I think my skin needs. This is one of them. It's a gentle retinol serum that doesn't further irritate my sensitive skin. I love that I can get all the anti-aging benefits of retinol without any of the dryness or excessive redness.
Once I've applied my serum, I like to lock in the moisture and active ingredients with a night cream. This one uses fermented purple tea, green coffee, and microalgae to provide the skin with a burst of antioxidant activity and protect against the degradation of collagen and elastin. Plus, it's not thick or oily, which means it doesn't smear all over my pillowcase and make me feel like there's residue on my skin in the morning.
Extras and Occasional Use Products
Occasionally, I'll give myself an at-home dermaplaning treatment with this tool. It's honestly one of my all-time favorite products from Versed. It's sharp and sturdy and does the job of dermaplaning tools that are double (if not triple!) its price tag. Try it—seriously.
When I feel like my skin needs extra exfoliation, I reach for this resurfacing mask. It contains an AHA-BHA complex, plus pineapple enzymes, to slough away dead skin. It leaves my skin bright and glowing, and surprisingly, it doesn't irritate my skin or exacerbate my redness.
I'm a big believer in getting the best of both worlds when it comes to exfoliation. By that, I mean using both chemical and physical exfoliants. When it comes to the latter, I like using a gentle scrub like this one. It uses superfine microcrystalline, which is a 100% plant-based, biodegradable alternative to microbeads.
When I'm craving a mask moment, I reach for this $10 pouch that contains mineral-rich red kaolin clay, antioxidant-rich turmeric, and skin-smoothing witch hazel. It makes my skin look bright and clear, and even though it's a clay mask, it's not overly drying. Instead, it's creamy and hydrating.
The same goes for this product, which is a unique makeup-skincare hybrid. It's kind of a serum, kind of an illuminator. The formula, which contains peptides and blackberry extract to firm and smooth the skin, also contains light-reflecting particles to give instant radiance. I pat it into the high points of my face (cheekbones, cupid bow, and browbone) for a healthy glow before I head out the door.
Body Skincare Routine
If there's one product I always have in my bathroom cupboard, it's body oil. There's nothing else that can make my skin look and feel bright, smooth, and moisturized. This one is a dry oil, meaning it's non-sticky and non-greasy, so there's no wait time between application and getting dressed. Plus, it smells divine—warm and slightly floral.