When To Save And When To Spend On Your Beauty Routine

When To Save And When To Spend On Your Beauty Routine

Our beauty expert Bethany Fulton explores where we can save when it comes to skincare

Everyone’s beauty routine is different, and it can be as complicated or as simple as you like. Whether you’re a 14-step kinda gal or more of a wash-and-go type, there are places you can save in your routine, and areas where it’s worth spending a little extra. 

First of all, what should your routine look like? When you really boil it down to basics, there are three categories you need in a skincare routine. 

  • Cleanse

  • Treat

  • Protect

Yep, that’s it! What those three categories mean for you will depend on your skin type and where your skin concerns are, but the place to splash the cash is the ‘treat’ stage. Now, let’s break it down so we’re all on the same page. 


This is your simplest step and one we should all have in our routines already. Everyone needs to wash their face at least once a day. Some beauty gurus will tell you that you have to wash your face in the morning, but as someone whose dry skin freaks out from two cleanses a day with even the gentlest of cleansers – you don’t have to. Providing you’re washing your face with something in the morning, even if it’s just water, don’t stress too much. 

However, your evening cleanse is much more important. Double so if you’ve been wearing makeup, in which case, double is the name of the game, and you should have two different cleansers ready to go. I generally try to have an oil-based and a cream-based cleanser in my routine, since my skin is quite dehydrated. However, if you’re already oily, you may prefer a milky cleanser. 

A fan of micellar water? That’s great! But if you’ve been wearing makeup, make sure you follow up with something a little heftier, like a cream cleanser. Most of all, stay away from foaming face washes. They generally strip the skin of all moisture. If your face feels slightly tight after washing it – it’s time to try something new. 

As for cost – this is a place where you can save. Providing it works for you and isn’t drying your skin out, stick to what you like. The absolute maximum you should be spending here is £35/$45, and you can easily spend far less and get a great product.


This is the largest category and the one that you’ll need to tailor most to your own individual skin. It encompasses serums, oils, exfoliating acids, masks and anything designed to tackle a particular skin problem. Ideally, you should have at least one daily treatment step in your routine, and a few occasional treatments, such as masks, that you use once a week or as needed. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the big-hitter ingredients you’ll find in many of the products in this stage.

A bit intimidated by acids? Don’t worry, there are basically only five kinds you’ll encounter. Lactic, great for uneven skin texture and works well for dry skin. Glycolic is also great for uneven texture, but some people find their skin reacts badly to it. Malic does much the same but is a good alternative if you’re reacting to the others. 

Salicylic acid is different, as it’s quite gentle but extremely effective if you struggle with acne. Try integrating this into your daily routine in the week before your period and you may find it helps combat hormonal acne.

Hyaluronic acid is completely different from the others, as it actually doesn’t exfoliate. Instead, it greatly increases how much water your skin can hold onto, meaning that when paired with a moisturiser your skin will stay hydrated for much longer. 

If you’re looking for a good all-rounder serum, go for one with vitamin C for antioxidants and brightness, ideally with some hyaluronic acid thrown in for moisture. 

Vitamin A products, or retinoids, are great if you’re getting a little older or have more general skin concerns. However, they do have side effects. They have to be used in the evenings and you must use SPF the next day. They also take time to build up to stronger doses, so start at the lowest possible percentage and gradually work your way up. However, once you’re onto the good stuff, your skin is generally smoother and plumper. 

This is where you should be spending your money. This is the stage where the ingredients are going to be doing the most work for you, and that comes at a premium. You can basically spend as much as you want to, but always read the label to make sure that whatever you’re spending your cash on actually has the ingredients you need to tackle whatever skin problem you’re stressing about. 

You don’t need to have an acid, a serum, an oil and a whole shelf of masks to have great skin – simply having one good product in this step that works for you should be enough. Pay attention to what your skin likes, and how you react to products the day after and after a few days and adapt as needed. There’s no need to overload your face with products. 


Just as everyone needs a cleanser, everyone needs a little bit of protection. As an absolute bare minimum, you need an SPF. If your skin type is oily, that might be all you need. Most SPF products are inherently creamy and may be enough for your moisture needs. 

If you’re a dry gal like me, add a moisturiser into the mix, but make sure your SPF is always the last thing that goes on your face.

Your SPF should block both UVA and UVB rays if it’s going to do its job properly, and ideally, it should be at least SPF30, SPF50 if you’re out in the sun all day or regularly using acids. This is the number one step that will save your skin in the long run – just remember to apply it to your neck as well as your face!

You don’t need to spend a fortune on SPF and moisturiser. The most expensive moisturisers generally encompass a ‘treat’ aspect as well, which if you’ve already got a nice, well-priced serum doing the job, you don’t need that £70/$100 pot of moisturiser. Focus on a good SPF, ideally from a brand like La Roche Posay, or other French pharmacy brands, that do sun cream simply but well. If you’re spending more than £30/$40 on a small tube of SPF, you’re being ripped off.

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