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Today we're talking amazing well-ageing products at a low price. Truthfully, I've wanted to do a post like this for ags, but I couldn't hand-on-heart say that any of the low-cost ascorbic acid or retinoid products were really comparable to high-end options on the market at that time. However, in 2022 I found some amazing alternatives that I can't wait to share with you...
If you're not familiar with my approach to well-ageing skincare, I did an entire post on it here, but my pillars are: retinoids and sunscreen as the most important factors, pure-form ascorbic acid as a secondary AM essential, then peptides, acids and ceramides as supporting extras. This routine features the basics plus all of these key actives, so we'll dive into the product and how these ingredients work!
Let's start off with my affordable, functional basics; this is the structure of your routine. Whilst they might not be the exciting, transformative steps, you need good basics to ensure the rest of your routine is as effective as it can be. Plus, you can still choose basics that support you in your well-ageing goals.
We'll begin with cleansers and I have two to recommend to you today. The first is your evening cleanse to remove any sunscreen, makeup and general grime from the day. I personally really like the Q + A Grapefruit Cleansing Balm* | £9. Firstly, I just love a cleansing balm in a tube; it's so convenient and travel-friendly! it comes out as a creamy balm, you massage it into your skin and it just loosens everything up nicely so that when you emulsify the formula with water and wipe everything away, you're truly wiping everything away. I don't find that this leaves any sort of film or greasiness on my skin and it's so effective, even on waterproof eye makeup. To use after your cleansing balm and in the morning (if you like to cleanse in the morning - it's not mandatory), I really love the Aveeno Calm and Restore Nourishing Oat Cleanser* | £8.39. This is a non-foaming, water-based light jelly formula with soothing oat extract. It's completely non-stripping but still offers a gentle yet effective cleanse. Perfect for dry and / or mature skin types!
Then we obviously have moisturiser and sunscreen. The moisturiser I've chosen can be used AM or PM; the Byoma Moisturising Rich Cream* | £13.99 | contains the fundamental components of our lipid barrier - ceramides, cholesterol and fatty acids. These three are essential for the healthy, calm functioning of our skin and ceramides in particular prevent dryness and our natural stores of them deplete with age. Using them in creams can not only help in the short-term but also assist in increasing your skin's own ceramide production. This also contains nourishing shea extract and bakuchiol, which has antioxidant benefits, can help with discolouration and may give some similar skin benefits to retinoids (though much more research is needed on this, it can't hurt as an added extra in your routine). What I love about this is that it feels nourishing and softening but still has a light, creamy texture.
My sunscreen of choice as a great all-rounder is the Bondi Sands Sunscreen Lotion for Face SPF 50+* | £6.99. This is a fantastic broad-spectrum, high-protection sunscreen with a moisturising lotion texture (so moisturiser isn't needed underneath it during the summer months) that absorbs without leaving a cast. It has really great water resistance, so is suitable for outdoor exercise and the height of summer. It also works really nicely under makeup and never pills up on my skin, so can double as your everyday sunscreen all year round.
Let's get into the active ingredients in this routine. Obviously we need a Vitamin A derivative in the mix; this is the proven class of well-ageing ingredients with decades of research supporting their efficacy in reducing fine lines, minimising signs of photoageing (so they also work against hyperpigmentation), increasing skin cell turnover (which slows with age) and boosting up collagen production in the skin (collagen depletes with age and is responsible for giving the skin fullness and 'bounce back'). Ascorbic acid is pure-form Vitamin C and you do really want the pure form to get that collagen-boosting benefit. Alongside this, Vitamin C more broadly can help with discolouration and also provides antioxidant benefits, protecting the skin from free radical damage, therefore preventing premature ageing. I've also picked out peptides, because they have hydrating benefits and may help increase collagen production or maintain existing collagen. And I've chosen an acid to give you more of that increased skin cell turnover.
The retinoid I've chosen is the Geek & Gorgeous A-Game 10 | £17.95. It's taken me ages, but I've finally found a retinal product at a really great price-point! Retinal is my retinoid of choice because it's a step up from retinol but doesn't have the drawbacks of a prescription formula. This isn't an entry-level product at a 0.1% strength, but there is also a 0.05% concentration formula available if you've tried retinol before and want to take your results to the next level. This yellow-tinged creamy-lotion formula absorbs easily, feels moisturising and the texture should be suitable for all skin types. This delivers smoother, clearer, more even skin in an impressive timeframe and didn't give me any irritation or dryness. It's one of the priciest products in Affordable Beauty Month, but retinal is pricey to formulate with and this sort of concentration would usually set you back more than £60!
For a pure-form Vitamin C, I've gone for the Geek & Gorgeous C-Glow | £ 11.95 | which contains 15% of the stuff, plus Vitamin E and ferulic acid to increase stability and boost the formula's overall antioxidant potential. Pure form Vitamin C can be a real pain to formulate with and Skinceuticals currently hold a patent for a formula with maximum stability and efficacy without being harsh on the skin. This is the best dupe I've found for that £150 product; it doesn't irritate my skin and I was able to finish the entire bottle before it even started to oxidise (the process which eventually renders the ingredient ineffective). For £12, I'm so glad this collagen-boosting, skin-protecting well-ageing hero ingredient is more accessible to more people now!
As I've mentioned, peptides are a bit of a grey area when it comes to proving their benefits for your collagen. However, a) they might work in this regard and b) they're also very hydrating, so can improve the appearance of dehydration lines in any event. The Ordinary's Multi-Peptide + HA Serum* | £14.70 | (formerly the Buffet serum) is a great all-rounder, but if it's a little pricey for you or you're not quite sold on peptides yet, you can try the Matrixyl 10% + HA for £9 or the Argireline Solution 10% for £8.40 (which I personally have had great results with), also from the Ordinary. Peptides are short-chain amino acids and the Ordinary have combined four of the most promising in respect of well-ageing benefits with hyaluronic acid as a humectant (drawing water into the skin) to make a fantastic skin-plumping formula.
Finally, as I mentioned: we have an acid. Acids increase skin cell turnover, which slows down as we age (often leading to less vibrant skin), but they also indirectly help soften signs of ageing by evening out the skin tone (helping with any old sun damage from the 00s when most of us were not on the daily sunscreen!) I've chosen the Ordinary's Lactic Acid 10% + HA | £7.90 | because this concentration will offer a robust exfoliation and will help to resurface the skin and shed some of those additional dead skin cells that can accumulate to a greater degree as we age, but lactic acid is also nice and gentle. It has hydrating benefits too (especially when combined with hyaluronic acid, like it is in this formula), and we could all do with a bit of extra hydration. For me, this is a really effective, non-irritating exfoliant that I can even combine with other actives like my Vitamin C and retinoid (though I'd only do that if you're pretty confident your skin can handle it!)
Have you tried any of my picks? What would you add to this list?