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Creating a Skincare Routine on a Budget

I’m in the worst relationship of my life. 

It wasn’t always this way, but recently it seems that I can’t catch a break. I pick at her. I’m rude to her. Sometimes, I wake up and I can’t even bare to look at her. There are moments where I think about throwing everything I know away and starting fresh, but then I remember I’ve spent far too much time and money to give up. There are very few days when things look clear. We have a tumultuous relationship. When it’s good I feel unstoppable, but when things are bad, oh, are they bad! 

Yes, I’m talking about my skin. 

Whenever I looked at prepubescent tween or an older European woman who has the funds to deep exfoliate her skin once a week, I feel nothing but pure envy flow through my body. “They’re so lucky,” I think to myself. What did I do to deserve such bad skin? What moral sin caused Mount Kilimanjaro to grow on my forehead? Nobody ever told me that bad skin would follow me after puberty, nobody warned me. I used to have baby doll skin, so beautiful in fact, a random lady once stopped me to tell me I looked like a brown porcelain doll. Micro-aggression aside, I was nothing but flattered. I felt like a Greek God. Then, I got my first period and I went from porcelain to Proactive. 

I’ll never forget the first time my skin was pointed out. I was standing outside of a kabob restaurant (because I was 13 and my parents gave me no other choice on a Sunday afternoon) and I went to say hello to a *former* family friend. As I reached in to hug her, she stopped and said “Oh man, your skin.” An awful thing to say to a person, no? You would imagine she had a better understanding of societal rules and norms when talking to young teenage girls, but alas, so much for women empowering other women. This moment has stuck with me my entire life. Shortly after this alteration at 2pm on a Sunday in the parking lot of a kabob restaurant, I got on Acutane. Like many young people can attest to, Acutane is hell, but it gets the job done. I would go in for monthly blood tests to make sure I wasn’t pregnant (like I had any type of relationship with a man that wasn’t a part of One Direction), had to drink copious amounts of water through the day, and spent at least a grand on Chapstick. But, after a few months, I had perfect skin. Granted, my back and my chest are scarred like no other, but there were no irritated little bumps on my face. 

From that moment, my skin had it’s highs and lows, but it hasn’t broken out in the way it used to, at least not until two months ago. I don’t know if it’s the stress, or a hormonal imbalance, maybe even the universe playing a prank on me, but my skin has not looked this bad in years. I’m prone to scarring, and I’m well aware that I am, but that doesn’t stop me from picking at every moment possible. I don’t know if it’s the poop-infested air of NYC or the copious amounts of sweat my body excretes daily, but I need help. Right now my skin is okay, not good, but okay. I asked my friends and they all said they are experiencing similar problems with random, crazy break outs. As much as I would like to blame this on some type of retrograde and hope this problem fixes itself, my skin is not going to get better without some type of routine. I’ve been doing this regimen for the past month, and my skin is slowly transforming. Skincare is expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are dupes for everything and organic solutions. 

In the morning, I cleanse first with the L’oreal detox clay cleanser. I don’t know much about this product other that it comes in 3 colors, but this thing is magical. I find other drug store “grapefruit” cleansers to harsh and perfumey for my skin, but this stuff is magical. Twice a week I follow with St. Ives’s rose water and volcanic sand exfoliator. After which I use a witch hazel toner. I slab on a day serum (Drunk Elephant’s Vitamin C serum) and follow with a huge tub of Pond’s moisturizer and sunscreen. At night I follow the same routine sans sunscreen and Pixie’s milky serum instead of Drunk Elephants. As you can tell by all the brands I just name dropped, skincare isn’t about having the best brand or the most expensive one. Some of the most popular skincare brands have ruined my skin, while drugstore products are my savior. I’ve really tried it all but I had to learn that skincare isn’t about the expense, it’s about the results. Granted, if I could use La Mer products for the rest of my life I would, but like many college students, skincare on a budget is more my style. Here are a few skincare products I’ve fallen in love with throughout the years: 


What: L’oreal Pure Clay Cleansers

Price: $6.99

Where To Find: Almost any drugstore 

Thoughts: I cannot even explain how much this has done for my skin. To be perfectly honest, I accidentally bought it because I thought it was a clay mask and not a cleanser, but when I started using it, I immediately saw the redness in my skin go down. I have combination, sensitive skin so I was expecting my skin to break out after about 5 uses, but with this cleanser, I skipped the “purging” process and had such clear skin for so long.


What: Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

Price: $9.49

Where To Find: Also literally any drugstore 

Thoughts: I don’t know if this is the most underrated or over hyped cleanser. I had always heard my friends talking about it, but I never knew how much it would actually help. I don’t like how it doesn’t have any scent to it, but I know for a lot of people it’s preferred. I think this product is really helpful for people who don’t have really bad breakouts, but experience the occasional pimple or two. The only reason I stopped using this cleanser is because I needed something a little more intense.


What: Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser

Price: $18 (Full Size)

Where to Find: Glossier (Online or Showroom)

Thoughts: I did not use this product for a long time, but only for a brief time during the summer. I really liked the way it felt on my skin and the way my skin looked immediately after use. I had some trouble with other Glossier skin products, but I’m a whore for their product design and packaging, and it really did work out for me. I have many friends who swear by this product, and in my short trial run, I can say that it did help a lot, but like other cleansers it was not as intense as I wanted it to be. 



What: Thayer’s Witch Hazel 

Dupe for: Dior’s Micellar Water and Mario Badesceau’s Rose Water Spray 

Where to Find: Beauty Stores, Drug Stores, and Markets

Thoughts: Witch hazel is a very tricky product. Some products are really harsh, and some do nothing. After much experimenting, I found that Thayer’s works best as a part of a skin care routine. It feels light, has a very small scent, and does wonders for my skin. I cannot emphasize how important it is to use a toner. Literally wash your face and then use toner and see how much gunk comes out of your face, it’s ridiculous. 

 What: Desert Essence Tea Tree Oil Facial Cleansing Pads

Price: $5.99

Where To Find: Wholefoods

Thoughts: It burns a little bit, it does, but I use this immediately when my skin breaks out. I think it’s too harsh to use as a long term product personally, but it helps with large white heads.


What: Aztec Indian Healing Clay Mask 

Price: $9

Where To Find: Most Drugstores and Beauty stores

Thoughts: You have to mix this mask with apple cider vinegar and water, so it doesn’t smell fantastic, but it’s one of the most intense masks I use. I use it once a week, all over. I literally look like Shrek. As the mask is drying, it starts to pulsate and you can feel your face and body throbbing. Once it dries and is removed, it leaves a red circle on your face (which goes away, don’t worry). I don’t see an immediate “wow” factor when I take off the mask, but the next day it feels like my skin is renewed. It’s super important to moisturize after using, but be careful because it’s a bit messy.

What: Clean&Clear Night Relaxing Detox Clay Mask

Price: $6

Where To Find: Drugstores

Thoughts: At first, I was kind of disappointed by how little was in the container, especially because I’ve bought masks for less with way more product, but this product does not disappoint. There’s something about the smell and the coolness of the mask that is super relaxing. It isn’t my go to mask for breakouts, but it does help calm both my skin and me down. 

What: Oh K! Three Step Charcoal Mask

Price: $8

Where to Find: Online, Walgreens, Various Beauty Stores

Thoughts: I would die for this mask. I wish there was some way to Costco bulk buy this mask. This is my “treat yourself” mask. It comes with a pearly type cleanser, a sheet mask, and a serum. It comes in a cute package and the product design is lovely. I find that I can use the serum and cleanser over a few days. Sometimes, I use each step on different days to have an extra shine. While the serum and sheet mask are fantastic and leave a dewy look on my skin, the cleanser is by far my favorite thing. It’s honestly magic and I want to sleep in a river of it.

I hope some of these products find a new home in your beauty shelf and that your skin feels fresh and new. Remember that perfect skin does not determine your worth nor your beauty, and that acne isn’t anything to be embarrassed about. Most of us have acne and I really don’t know why we spend so much of our time, effort, and money, in pretending that we don’t, but I hope my experience can help someone out there. Also, these products worked for my skin type and routine, they were not recommenced to me by a dermatologist and if you are struggling with your skin, I recommend checking in with a doctor if you want to take that extra step. 

Yasi Mousavi

New School '21

Yasi Mousavi is a second year at The New School. Originally from Nashville, TN--Yasi is planning on pursuing a double major in philosophy and screen studies. When she is not writing, she enjoys aggressively binge-watching T.V. shows and trying her best to become Mindy Kaling.
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