By the time I took my last shower in my packed-up Brooklyn apartment, there were about three squirts left of my Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser and one last swipe of my Erno Lazlo toner. I had decided it was time to leave New York City. Listen, I’m a Sagittarius; I’m restless. So I boarded a plane to Los Angeles with the kind of skin you would’ve thought needed its own suitcase. I was glowing. My pores = tiny. I was feeling good about how I took care of my skin and the results. But in the name of less stuff to pack, along with the reflection of a tight budget that left no room for new product binges, it was time I built myself a new, stealth skincare shelf—for under $100. An arbitrary number, but I felt good about it.
Budgeting for a move and hustling for new work gigs meant a beautiful Tata Harper cleanser in a glass bottle wasn’t in the cards for me. Instead I opted for skincare essentials in travel size: a cleanser, toner, face lotion, and SPF. This way I had smaller, cheaper products I could use at home or bring with me when I traveled. I could worry about larger products in a month or so. And if you didn’t think I’d use this opportunity to try cheaper, smaller versions of very expensive products, well, I’d like to introduce myself. I bought a sample size of Eve Lom’s cleanser, and I do regret this. This is the perfect cleanser when you have the time to give yourself a mini spa treatment, but not when you’re on the run. It wasn’t what I was looking for at the time. $24.
Thankfully, the Peter Thomas Roth Facial On The Go set ($22) included their Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel that brightens and gives me that quick, refreshingly clean face that I love. And it also introduced me to their Cucumber De-tox Bouncy Hydrating Gel—a new favorite. On days I came back from a long day in the LA sun to dryness and breakouts, I slapped this on my face and didn’t wash it off. It helped to lock in moisture and also soothe my skin. I love the sheerness and moisture of my Cane & Austin SPF so much that I brought it with me from NYC and put it in a travel size bottle when I needed to. Free.99.
All of this was holding me over. But travel sizes don't last forever, and I was plotting my next full-size purchase. Since moving, my skin hadn't been prepared for LA’s dry weather. My next products needed to retain my natural oil barrier.
With that in mind, I turned to two new brands: Beauty Pie and The Ordinary. I tried out their Double-Phase Daily Deep Rinse-off Facial Cleanser. It turns to cream when water hits your face and it smells amazing. Most of all, it doesn't strip my skin. I also opted for their Super Healthy Skin Ultimate Anti-aging Cream. I could tell this was a heavier moisturizer I could slap on my face at night and wake up with plump, moisturized skin. I was right. Best of all, it’s not greasy and still absorbs pretty quickly. In total, that’s $37.95.
Now, The Ordinary. A darling of the skincare world whose founder's questionable behavior online and recent firings and resignations have been making the news of late. But I bought their 100% Plant-Derived Squalane which “is a saturated and stable hydrocarbon that is found naturally in the skin.” I’d use squalane at night, letting it sit on my face for a few minutes, before patting on my Beauty Pie moisturizer. That rang up to $12.89 (with shipping!). I do plan on using this one until it’s gone, at the very least.
That’s a total of $96.84. My biggest, most direct piece of an advice for anyone looking to rebuild, revamp or rethink their skincare shelf would be to be an intentional as possible and do research. Write down your goals. Connect them to product results. Any questions? Ask in the comments section. I’ll be there.
Photo via ITG.
Darian Symoné Harvin is host of the podcast 'Am I Allowed to Like Anything?' and a news curator obsessed with skincare.