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Realistically, most people aren't spending the cost of a mini-break on skincare, but I've had the opportunity to try so many different products as part of running this blog, that I've tried a lot on the premium side. And - honestly - my verdict on those super high-end, luxury brands like La Mer, Sisley, Dr Barbara Sturm and so on, is that they're not worth it. If you're fortunate enough to have big money to spend on skincare: skip the 'status symbol' brands and try something like these products... 

The first brand I'll be highlighting today is Allies of Skin, starting with their Retinal & Peptides Repair Night Cream | £115. I first tried this product when a) it was a little cheaper, and b) when there weren't many retinal options on the market. Whilst there are now far more retinal products available at a good price, this is a brilliant allrounder if you have the cash to splash. What is retinal? It's my personal favourite form of retinoid, and retinoids are our most well-studied and proven ingredient when it comes to reversing signs of photoageing and boosting up collagen production in the skin to keep it bouncier for longer. Retinal is my perfect combination of fast, visible results, and this contains a not-for-the-faint-hearted 0.06%, which is going to work hard for your skin, but it doesn't cause me any irritation. It's encapsulated which slows down release and prevents your skin from reacting too much to this powerful active. There are also 4 peptides in here, which could also increase collagen production in the skin and have a hydrating benefit, and antioxidants to protect the skin from free radical damage. It also comes in a moisturising base, making it a one-step PM powerhouse for smoother, more radiant and bouncier skin. 

I also really enjoy their Molecular Saviour Probiotics Mist | £62. A face mist absolutely isn't necessary, but if you enjoy it and can afford the splurge; this is a really good one that gives my skin lasting hydration and has some weight to it and added benefits that make it almost like a serum-mist you can just use and go in directly with your moisturiser / SPF afterwards. It's formulated with a skin-friendly 5% niacinamide to boost the skin barrier and help prevent discolouration, fermented ingredients which can also help with barrier function, amino acids to replenish and hydrate the skin, soothing and anti-inflammatory ingredients like zinc and bisabolol, plus peptides to hydrate and plump the skin. So many face mists feel kind of 'meh' or like they're more experiential than beneficial to the skin, but not this one!

Next up is Aussie brand Cipher! This is a really small collection of multi-active formulas that offer a holistic solution to the skincare concern they're targeting, and I have a couple of favourites to flag up today. The first is their Night Shift Holistic Tone-Balancing Treatment* | $128. Pricey, I know! Though - to be fair - you are getting 50ml of product vs. the standardise 30ml for serums (so it's a moisturiser-level quantity) so if you want to invest in one formula to use every night (I use mine alongside my retinoid) then it's about the equivalent of a £60 normal-sized serum (so that's probably what you want to benchmark its affordability against). If you have discolouration you want to trat and you're looking for something gentle and cosmetically-elegant (as opposed to a heavy-duty tretinoin + tyrosinase inhibitor prescription) then this is a great option. There's an azelaic acid derivative that will be effective against discolouration and redness, niacinamide (as mentioned earlier, this ingredient helps prevent the spread of hyperpigmentation through the skin), licorice root (which inhibits tyrosinase, the hormone that causes our skin to over-produce melanin in response to injury) and alpha-arbutin (which helps to harmonise the skin tone). These powerful actives are rounded out beautifully with hydrators and skin-soothers like Beta-glucan, panthenol and madecassoside (the active component of the cica plant) and even peptides for some well-ageing benefits. The result is a formula that delivers visible results - attacking the issue from multiple angles - but doesn't irritate my skin at all, to the point where I can use it every day, including alongside a retinoid.

I also really enjoyed their Ctrl-Z Multi-Corrective Overnight Facial* | $151. This treatment (which I use once or twice a week in place of my retinoid / discolouration treatment) uses exfoliating acids, enzymes and non-acid exfoliants to smooth, resurface and clarify the skin, boosting up cell turnover (which can get sluggish as we age). It's formulated with two AHAs - the gentler younger siblings of glycolic: lactic (with hydrating benefits) and mandelic (it has antibacterial properties and can help with discolouration, so is a great option for blemish-prone skin. We also have salicylic acid, as our oil-soluble BHA to get into the pores and treat spot-causing debris and reduce the surface-level breakout. Yeast oligopeptides help boost the skin's natural exfoliation function and pineapple enzymes, which work on more of a surface level to slough away dead skin cells. There's niacinamide in here for its added brightening benefits and madecassoside and panthenol to support the skin through the exfoliation process. This gives me clear, soft, smooth skin by morning without causing redness or irritation. You don't need to spend so much on a single product to achieve this end, but if you just want one formula to do it all; this has worked brilliantly for my skin.

Next, let's talk Venn, which is based on a South Korean skincare philosophy of gentle but effective ingredients and plenty of hydration. My first favourite product by Venn is their Moisture Balance All-in-One Face Cleanser* | £69. For this post, I've tended to focus more on actives rather than basics, purely because for me; if you're going to spend then you want the most bang for your buck. But this cleanser is that good that it's made it into this post regardless (and if you can get a good discount on it; even better!) This is a pretty unique cleanser, formulated at a low pH (for mild exfoliation) and without traditional surfactants (cleansing agents). I find that this light, non-foaming gel truly does leave my skin feeling hydrated, smooth and balanced. Personally, I don't use this as a makeup-removing cleanser (though it claims to work for this purpose), but instead as a morning cleanse and occasionally a second cleanse in the evening. It's formulated with soothing chamomile water, glycerin as a water magnet, fruit enzymes and PHAs to gently smooth the skin, calming centella asiatica (cica) extract, green tea, panthenol and niacinamide. It's a great all-rounder that leaves my skin looking and feeling fresh, whilst keeping it happy and hydrated.

I also really enjoy their Vitamin B Activated All-in-One Concentrate* | £180 | as a one-step serum and moisturiser treatment on lazy days when I want to maximise benefits in a few steps as possible! Sadly, this one has definitely gone up (more...) in price since I first tried it, but it's still significantly cheaper than La Mer and of course, contains far more proven beneficial ingredients, which is kind of the point of this post! This is a kind of lotion-emulsion loaded with amazing ingredients, which is why (other than in the dead of winter) it makes a great serum-moisturiser hybrid. It contains six B Vitamins, including niacinamide and panthenol to help boost hydration, barrier function and overall skin health. There's also pycnogenol in here, which is one of my favourite powerful antioxidants that always seems to give my skin the glow it needs. There are replenishing amino acids in the mix, alongside my moisturiser base must-haves of glycerin and shea butter (the latter gives this formula a nourishing quality despite the lighter texture), and we have mastic gum, an antioxidant which also exhibits clarifying benefits. It's a brilliant one-step all-rounder for soft, hydrated, glowing and healthy skin.

Of course I couldn't do this post without mentioning my beloved Zelens (who actually so 30% off sales every so often, which is when I recommend stocking up). Both of the products I'm featuring today are from their Vitamin D line, and honestly: I was pretty close to also including the third and final product from this line (a face mist) too... First, let’s talk about the original product from this line: the Power D Vitamin D Concentrate* | £105. This is a lightweight oil that can be used liberally at nighttime or sparingly during the day, under your moisturiser or over the top as a finishing step. This is one of only a handful of brands I’ve seen hone in on Vitamin D for its skin barrier boosting properties. Provitamin D3 is formulated in an emollient base alongside skin-softening phospholipids, squalane (a replenishing, skin-similar plant oil), Vitamin F which can help prevent water loss through the skin (which is especially important overnight), there are replenishing fatty acids, non-fragrant plant oils that can provide antioxidant benefits, Vitamin E and soothing bisabolol. This is skin-healing in a bottle and whenever my skin has a wobble: this is what I reach for. I also reach for this as part of my daily routine, especially if I’m using a stronger active. It’s liquid gold that always leaves my skin soft, balanced, nourished and healthy, without a greasy application or a shiny finish.

I also love their newer launch, the Emulsion D Fortifying Moisturiser | £65. This is a slightly more affordable and also more everyday-wearable (for many people) way of getting Provitamin D3 into your skincare routine, which is great if you like the sound of Power D but you’re not that into oils. This has a base of glycolipids and phospholipids, it’s also formulated with cholesterol and ceramides (boosting skin barrier function), prebiotics and probiotics (which can also improve barrier health), Vitamins E and F and glycerin to draw hydration into the skin. It’s a lightweight moisturiser that still has a rich, nourishing feel to it. I travel with it a lot because the texture paired with the substantial-feeling nature of this product means I can wear it AM or PM and it works really well under makeup and sunscreen. It’s not too rich or heavy, it won’t sit on top of your skin, but it’ll deliver all of those amazing hydrating and skin barrier boosting benefits.

Have you tried any of these brands or products? Have luxury products impressed you or disappointed you in the past? Or do you prefer not to dabble in skincare at this price-point - let me know your thoughts below! 

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