Living within the confines of a constant budget is BLOODY HARD, especially when one of the biggest pleasures in my life is blowing cash on makeup and cosmetics. Which, when I read that back, makes me CRINGE inside. There's got to be more to life than moisturisers, serums and lotions at upwards of £50 a pop, right? RIGHT????!!!
The past few months I've found a few actual GEMS in the likes of Boots and Superdrug - most for under a tenner...
Tresemme Split Mend Intense Recovery Masque
Buy it here for £3 when you place a total order for £10, or usually £5.75 at Boots
Replaces: Joico K-Pak Revitaluxe Bio-Advance Restorative Treatment £26.95 at Feel Unique
Rarely have I been wowed by a hair mask or conditioning treatment. After going blonde, like BLEACH blonde at the end of last year, then dying it back to brown in February, my hair was pretty much ruined. Lots of it snapped and fell out (at the hairdressers. I ALMOST cried), and the hair left was weak, brittle and damaged beyond belief. THAT'LL TEACH ME!
This is the first thing I've used that made a visible difference after just one use - and believe me, I tried just about EVERYTHING. Even the Philip Kingsley Elastacizer failed to impress, but this budget baby gave me noticeably smoother, softer, less unruly hair after the first go. It claims to actually FIX existing split ends and reduce new ones over time, and while I don't believe in hair WIZARDRY of this kind, I can vouch that it's doing SOMETHING for my poor, poor hair.
One of the first ingredients is hydrolyzed Keratin, which, for a high street product under 6 quid, is pretty amaze.
Another happy side effect from regular use is that I've noticed my hair is starting to feel a little thicker and more lustrous. It's bouncy, shinier and altogether BETTER. It doesn't tout volume as a result, but it's another happy accident, as well as locks that smell delish. Try it out, I bet you love it.
John Frieda Frizz-Ease Secret Agent Perfecting Creme
£5.59 from Boots (newly rebranded, but mine looks like this one above)
Replaces: Morrocanoil Hydrating Styling Cream £23.75 at Feel Unique
Sticking with hair, this has ALSO been a saviour of sorts. I actually think I've mentioned this on here before, and I know I've used it for years, but over the last 3 or 4 months I'm never without it in my bag.
After aforementioned hair disaster (you could definitely call it that) I've been left with lots of damaged hair, broken off at different lengths, and stupid flyaways that stick out all over the crown of my head, giving me an unattractive HAIR HALO should I be unfortunate enough to be lit from behind.
If you're not one for hair oils (I have oily skin, scalp and hair - slathering oil onto my hair is about the last thing I want to do), this is a great option for smoothing over a finished, dry style without weighing it down or greasing it up. Rub a decent squirt between hands, smooth through from top to bottom, and BOOM, flyaways be gone.
I also find that throughout the day, my ends get drier and drier so that by the evening it's absolutely desperate for a drink. Rubbing some of this through the ends refreshes it really nicely, again without overloading my hair with loads of product.
Queen Helene Mint Julep Masque
£3.25 from Amazon
Replaces: Origins Clear Improvement Mask £22 from Origins counters
I must have tried literally THOUSANDS of clay-based face masks, and this is ALWAYS the one I reach for first. A thick, gloopy, minty green mask that dries hard and does that weird cracking thing on your face if you try to move it, but honestly one of the best things ever at sooking out oil, dirt and grime from the skin. For this price, it's a STEAL, and it's super effective. It can dry out the skin a bit, so follow up with a good moisturiser, but if you've got oil issues, stubborn plooks and open pores you have GOT to give this a go.
I coaxed my bf into giving this a try last night and I THINK he gave it the thumbs up. I asked him if his skin felt any different and he said no, but when I inspected it at closer range there were definitely fewer open pores on show. SO WHAT DOES HE KNOW?!
La Roche Posay Effaclar K
£13.00 from Boots
Replaces: Paula's Choice RESIST Skin Transforming Multi-Correction Treatment £38.80
A little pricier now, but totally worth it. I, like everyone else, tried the LRP Effaclar Duo and liked it, but wasn't blown away. I found that, despite being targeted at sensitive, imperfection prone skin, sometimes it would sting, and now and again I'd get these weird dry, flaky patches where I'd used it. Plus, it didn't do what I really wanted - EXFOLIATION.
This Effaclar K lotion from the same anti-blemish range contains AHAs and very little alcohol so it gets rid of dead skin cells daily, but isn't as drying or irritating as the Duo, and I prefer its slightly mattifying effect as a makeup base for daytimes.
Over the few months I've been using this I can say that I've noticed a reduction in new scarring, and the overall surface of my skin is smoother. I'm still cursed with the odd breakout, but I find this clears things up fairly quickly and smoothes over any raised areas a peach. It's moisturising enough during the day to be used alone, but at night I slap on a cream over the top, or alternate it with oils and serums. Nevertheless, a necessary step I wouldn't be without now.
It smells weird though. Like, be prepared. It's odd...
Korres Wild Rose Brightening and Line Smoothing Serum
£9 from TK Maxx (or £26 from Amazon, £30 from LookFantastic.com)
Replaces: Caudalie Vinoperfect Radiance Complexion Correcting serum £42.75 from Feel Unique
So, this is a bit of a cheat. OK, a total cheat. RRP for this seems to be around the £30 mark online, which is why, when I spied it in TK Maxx for less than a tenner, I just HAD to get it!
It's designed for older skins - hence the anti-wrinkle claims - but of course it was the word BRIGHTENING that attracted me. On a never-ending quest to brighten and perk up my sallow, sometimes dull skin, anything that claims to do this is OK by me. Happily, this serum is a nice, creamy consistency which takes around 5-10 mins to soak in fully, and adds a lovely extra layer of moisture. I do notice that it plumps up my skin nicely, and leaves it feeling really...juicy, without leaving a sticky film. It seems to appear more nourished, and any latent redness fades quickly after massaging this in. I'm really not a huge fan of the smell though, but as it doesn't contain any artificial fragrance (or prabens or mineral oil or any of those nasties) I can't complain really.
TK Maxx often has the odd gem in their skincare section, mostly from brands like Lavera, Melvita and Korres. I've even seen a REN hand cream! Basically, you can often be lucky with a nice selection of natural/cruelty free brands usually only available online or in Whole Foods, at a FRACTION of the RRP. Definitely check one out if you can.
Avene Skin Recovery Cream
£9.37 on Escentual.com or £12.50 at Boots
Replaces: Antipodes Vanilla Pod Hydrating Cream £26.00 from Feel Unique
I KNOW I've mentioned this guy before, but he's still a total favourite I always repurchase. Now and again, despite having pretty hardy, oily skin, I'll develop the odd dry, flaky patch. LOVELY! Seems to spring up for no reason, often on my cheeks, or just under my eyes. I don't use an eye cream (though I know I should) and I just take my normal moisturiser under there and over my cheeks, and 9 times out of 10 this is sufficient, but for the days when patches of my skin is irritated, seemingly for no bloody reason at all, I ALWAYS come back to this and it sorts it right out.
It's 67% spring water and the rest of the ingredients (only 13 in total) are designed to calm inflammation and intensely moisturise. It's weird, because the second ingredient down from water is mineral oil (Paraffinum Liquidum) which I've literally JUST told you is a NASTY ingredient, causing breakouts and offering no visible skin benefits, however I can categorically say that I've had ZERO negative side effects from using this on isolated areas on my face. Quite the opposite, actually. My sore, dry skin loves it.
Burts Bees Ultra Conditioning Lip Treatment
£3.69 at Boots or £4.95 at Feel Unique
Replaces: By Terry Baume de Rose £38 at Space NK
I am a die-hard 8 Hour Cream fan for a lip balm as I just don't think ANYTHING works as well as that (although I've yet to try Lanolips and I've got a good feeling about it!), however it's pricey, and this Burts Bees alternative is ALMOST as good, and certainly better than Vaseline, or even any of the other Burts Bees chapsticks in the range.
The silver-lid variant is described as "ultra moisturising" and it definitely is. The other flavours (versions?) I've found to be too waxy to actually penetrate the skin, instead creating this thick, sticky barrier over the lips. Yes it prevents more moisture leaving, but it doesn't absorb well, or actually fix flaky lips at all. This version DOES all of that, thanks to its slippier, lighter texture which glides on much easier and really feels like it's doing something. A winner if you're strapped and can't justify the likes of the By Terry Baume de Rose or Dior Creme de Rose, or any of the rest. At the end of the day, this does the job and does it well.
PHEW. I mean, yeah, none of this stuff is MEGA cheap, but all do what they say WELL and are, for the most part, readily available. I don't know about you but there's some things I'm happy to go without when I'm skint, but skincare/makeup/cosmetics isn't really one of them. Substituting expensive products for these more affordable babies has been no detriment to my skin or hair, and a big advantage for my bank balance. I know I am the saddest person alive, but I'd rather eat beans on toast a week out the month than give up slathering my hair/face/body in good things. Is there a support group I can go to?