I saved ₹7,950 by swapping my high-end beauty products for these drugstore skincare buys
11 skincare products that will be kind to your skin and bank account
I compulsively buy moisturisers. I have a bottle for every skin type and condition – for days when my skin feels a bit congested, to when it’s dry and itchy. High-end jars of cloud-like whipped butter, to multiple tubes of drugstore skincare creams. Even though I actually went there just to pick up dal and compostable garbage bags.
Last year had us all rethinking our priorities and expenses. As prices rose, our expenditure focussed on disinfectants, supplements and other ways to keep our body and mind healthy. Indulgent skincare expenses understandably took a back seat, as finances went towards rebuilding the savings we had started to dip into.
When my regular product supply began to finally deplete, I tapped into the unexplored reservoir of pharmaceutical products and drugstore skincare available at my nearby chemist. There was one goal in mind – save money in this weird in-between time as things hopefully settle down.
It was hard to say goodbye to my lovely cosmeceuticals, beautifully bottled and packaged with love, care and research, for white tubes from chemistwale bhaiya. But in a money crunch, you can make do with these alternatives, however briefly.
Drugstore skincare products might not look or feel as lavish, but with the same or similar core ingredients, they get the job done. Surat-based dermatologist Dr Anchal Panth advises a bit of caution: “With pharmaceutical products, you need to understand your skin — what the concentration of the ingredient is, how you’re using it and whether you’re prepping your skin adequately.
For example, if your skin is dry, after using the pharmaceutical product, you need to use a moisturiser. She adds, “Such problems won’t arise with high-end cosmetic products because most are formulated to balance the active ingredient with others to protect your skin.”
For those feeling a pinch in their wallets, these drugstore skincare products can be the perfect stand-ins in your routine. Maybe even permanent players.
Drugstore skincare products that will save money and are kind to the skin
The Face Shop Rice Water Bright Rich Cleansing Oil, ₹999 (150ml) for Garnier Skin Naturals Micellar Cleansing Water, ₹175 (125ml)
Money saved: ₹824
There’s something very satisfying in the act of manually massaging the day’s grime and makeup off your face and washing it for a cleaner slate — especially a double cleanse with oil.
The Face Shop oil has been a long-time favourite because it washes off easily and dissolves eye makeup without stinging your eyes. I usually stay clear of fragrance in my skincare because of an allergy to Linalool and a general aversion to strong aromas. Though this oil has quite a heavy scent, I (and many dermatologists) don’t mind fragrance in quick contact, wash-off formulas.
In a quest to save money, the Garnier micellar water stepped in. I suggest using reusable bamboo facial pads instead of multiple disposable cotton pads.
COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser, ₹850 for Simple Kind To Skin Refreshing Facial Wash,₹325
Money saved: ₹525
The CORSRX face wash works well without drying out the skin. It’s an excellent pick for people with acne-prone sensitised skin, as it balances the skin’s pH and prevents irritation with its stellar Korean formulation. But that comes at a price, especially for a product you’re going to use so much.
Previously only available on online platforms, Simple is now being spotted at local beauty and general stores. The foaming gel version works in a similar fashion to the COSRX one.
You’re getting what you paid for here, a standard face wash effective enough to do the job without causing irritation.
The Body Shop Aloe Soothing Day Cream, ₹1,295 for Aquasoft FC Advanced Facial Moisturizer, ₹287
Money saved: ₹1,008
Creams, on creams, on creams. But the Aloe Soothing Cream from The Body Shop has always remained on top of the list. Gentle and light on the skin for hot and humid days, it’s got a mix of humectants, emollients and oils with skin-soothing ingredients like aloe leaf juice, bisabolol and oat kernel extract.
The entire Aloe line by The Body Shop is free of fragrance, dyes and drying alcohols, aimed at those with allergy-prone and sensitised skin types.
There was only so much product I could scrape off the bottom of this jar. Eventually, I had to give in, and repurpose it as a box for my earrings. Then I turned to my fail-safe Aquasoft.
It’s fragrance- and frills-free and does the job of a moisturiser, with Vitamin E and medium-chain triglycerides. It’s a light lotion which will work very well for those with oily and combination skin.
Avene Day Protector UV Cream SPF 30, ₹1,450 for La Shield Sunscreen Gel SPF 40, ₹790
Money saved: ₹660
After trying about 20 sunscreens, I finally landed on Avene as a slightly expensive but ideal sun protector for my combination and dermatitis-prone skin. Free from fragrance and drying alcohols, it works as a moisturiser and sunscreen on summer days when your skin doesn’t need added moisture.
The La Shield sunscreen isn’t very moisturising but has broad-spectrum protection and minimal white cast that can weather the sweat of summer without streaking all across your face.
It is silicone-based for those with sensitivity to the ingredient and those with very acne-prone skin. You’re going to want to properly cleanse your skin after this to prevent any residue possibly clogging your pores.
Bioderma Atoderm Intensive Baume, ₹680 for Physiogel Calming Relief AI Cream, ₹476
Money saved: ₹204
Over-exfoliation after getting too excited about new products? Guilty as charged. To soothe the redness, dryness and irritation, I’d often turn to the Atoderm Intensive Baume by Bioderma.
It’s a repairing cream that soothes atopic itching, especially when I had a dermatitis reaction to, well, most things. It calms and repairs the skin barrier with a lipid-restoring and moisturising formula. It was also a perfect moisturiser for dry cold north Indian winters.
It’s often sold out and a dermatologist suggested I try out the cheaper and more easily available Physiogel Calming Relief AI Cream. The anti-itch cream has been a saviour as a calming balm. Redness, itchiness and dryness – this cream dealt with it all.
Earth Rhythm 10% Mandelic Acid + Hyaluronic Acid Intensive Renewal Serum, ₹999 for Glyco 6% Cream, ₹170
Money saved: ₹829
People with darker skin tones and sensitive skin are often advised to opt for mandelic acid over glycolic acid for chemical exfoliation. Mandelic acid is gentler (but effective) on the skin, while glycolic acid in high percentages can make the skin prone to hyperpigmentation.
But when your options are limited, as is your bank account, Glycol 6 will make do.
The Earth Rhythm serum comes with exfoliating mandelic acid, and hyaluronic acid and glycerin to hydrate the skin. The addition of salicylic acid makes it an exfoliator for the top layers of your skin but also one that can go in and clean out your pores.
The Glycol 6 cream, on the other hand, is a single-ingredient AHA cream. It works on the top layer of your skin to slough off dead cells. It evens out skin tone and dark spots. But we also need to be a bit careful with this as it contains more than the recommended 5% glycolic acid for people of colour.
I’d use this as a mask instead of a leave-on treatment cream and wash it off after 10 minutes.
Dot & Key AHA Exfoliating Sleeping Mask 12% Lactic + 2% Hyaluronic, ₹995 for Moisturex Cream, ₹230
Money saved: ₹765
The Dot & Key exfoliating sleeping mask has great ingredients; lactic acid hyaluronic acid and grape seed extract, which I love. But the scent was just too much for my face. So, I used it on my legs to deal with the ingrown hair and razor bumps. It worked splendidly.
Gentle, moisturising and effective, but given the size of it, it was bound to run out fast. And the price tag didn’t make me want to pick up another just for my legs. I swapped it for the Moisturex cream I found at the chemist.
Moisturex is an emollient, humectant and keratolytic cream with urea and lactic acid which moisturises and smoothens dry skin and alleviates the rough scaly bumps of keratosis pilaris (those pesky red bumps that make your skin look like chicken legs).
Sesderma Azelac Lotion, ₹1,800 for Aziderm 10% Cream, ₹222
Money saved: ₹1,587
Azelaic acid is the hot new skincare ingredient, but experts have been using it in formulas and prescribing it to people for ages, especially for those with rosacea.
People have now discovered this underdog’s antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that are great for those dealing with acne and hyperpigmentation.
For the occasional breakouts on my face and the annoying ones on my bum, this lotion would come out. The price tag made me heave, but this bottle lasts for a very long time. And Sesderma’s quality of products can’t be questioned.
Aziderm, on the other hand, isn’t as cosmetically elegant but it’s got the core azelaic acid we need. Most chemists stock Aziderm, it can easily be incorporated into your daily routine. Do a patch test on your neck, right behind your ear, to test for any possible adverse reactions 48 hours before you apply it on your face.
Klairs Freshly Juiced Vitamin Drop, ₹1,570 for Envita C Gel, ₹715
Money saved: ₹855
Klairs’ vitamin drops serum is beloved globally, especially by those just starting off using vitamin C. I had an issue with the clear bottle which barely protects the unstable vitamin C from the sun’s rays which can speed up oxidization of the product. But the efficiency of the product can’t be contested.
The problem arose when I became a paranoid shut-in who didn’t want delivery packages in the house, and my serum was running out of stock.
Envita C Gel was recommended by a Reddit user while I was trawling through comments and it turned out to be a wonder in a tube.
The creamy texture was easily absorbed. L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C in its purest form for skincare) and Tocopheryl Acetate (vitamin E) make a great combination. You need just a pea-sized blob to dot all over your face — 20% is a high concentration for new users so incorporate it slowly into your routine.
Minimalist Hyaluronic Acid 2% + Vitamin B5, ₹595 for Hyalu Gel, ₹225
Money saved: ₹370
Hyaluronic acid is the superhero humectant you’ll find in a lot of new skincare products. Don’t make the mistake I made at first and apply to dry skin, it can dehydrate your face even more. Used on damp skin, it hydrates your skin by holding onto water, plumping it up and leaving it silky smooth.
Minimalist has entered the Indian market as a locally-made answer to everyone’s favourite skincare brand The Ordinary. Controversies aside, their formulas are good and price point even better.
But if you want to save even more, then try the Hyalu Gel that’s available at pharmacies.
You don’t need a lot of product, more could actually do more harm than good with this ingredient. Cleanse your face and pat down a bit with a towel (but not fully dry) and go in with this product before you moisturise.
Alternatively, you can go in with a hydrating toner beforehand and then top it off with this for an added punch of hydration for very dry skin.
Avene High Protection Lip Balm SPF30, ₹750 for Sebamed Lip Defense With SPF30, ₹427
Money saved: ₹323
I’m certain that there’s a vortex somewhere holding all the lip balms we’ve lost over the years. Adding up the money spent on these balms alone could fund a new skincare routine.
One lip balm I’ve always held on to for dear life is the one by Avene which has SPF30 for sun protection. The skin on our lips is as delicate and thin as the area under our eyes and requires sunscreen as much as the rest of our face. Sun damage can cause pigmentation on the lips, dry them out and destroy the skin’s collagen.
A great alternative to the higher-priced Avene is the one by Sebamed. It’s super moisturising with castor and jojoba oil, rice bran wax and bisabolol. Its price is still higher compared to other lip balms but with the added sun protection factor, it’s worth it.