Skincare Secrets: Where to Save and Where to Splurge

By Kira Culotta Semple

As a beauty junkie and former manufacturer of cosmetics, skincare is an important part of my life. It’s an investment in mind and body. With that said, skincare need not always break the bank. So, if you are wondering where you should invest or save your money skincare wise, listen up! I’m spilling it all today. The answers may surprise you

beauty-products-to-invest-inWhen friends and family ask me for a product recommendation for a facial cleanser, they are surprised when I recommend a $3 bar of soap. Same goes for facial lotion. I use the basic lotion from Trader Joe’s. It wasn’t always the case, as I mistakenly thought that expensive = better. Boy, was I wrong. I don’t know about you, but that makes me (and my wallet) happy.

Here’s a helpful guide to skincare essentials where you’ll learn if you should save and/or invest.


Here’s the deal, I’ve never found a pricy cleanser worthy of its price tag. Nothing has truly impressed me, so I always go back to my childhood favorite and always dependable, Neutrogena Bar Soap. Also to note, my dermatologist even recommends drugstore brands. Why? Because they cleanse just as well as their pricier counterparts. Cleansers are designed to remove dirt and impurities- to keep your face clean. They don’t need to possess magical qualities that prevent aging or wrinkles. Leave that work to other skincare products.


First, you might be wondering why you need two types of cleansers. Find out why here. And you may be wondering why you can’t simply use oil. You can. And if you like oil straight up, then by all means, cleanse with it. But I find that a blend of oils usually works best for my complexion, as opposed to just one. Also, oil based cleansers typically have emulsifiers and solvents that improve the product’s consistency and break down makeup and dirt. Try both options and see how your skin feels after using each.


The debate is out whether toners are good or bad for our skin. Many toners are alcohol based, which can be drying. I personally like to take the extra step with toning to ensure my face is deeply clean, but only on days I wear makeup. With that said, I wouldn’t invest in an expensive toner. Here’s the deal: you can use witch hazel or apple cider vinegar to get the job done. They are both available at the grocery store and are very gentle yet effective.


Invest your money in serums. They are the most powerful and concentrated products on the market. They target specific concerns, so you can cater to your individual skincare needs. No other products treat issues as well as serums. Nor can any other product sink into your skin as deeply. Buy a high quality serum and use it each night. This is the place to splurge, so conduct research, read reviews, and ask for samples at the store before you take the plunge!


As I mentioned earlier, I’m all about TJ’s facial lotion. It’s natural, scent free, and effective. A moisturizer need not be expensive. Its purpose is to seal moisture in- that’s it. You don’t need a fancy product to do that. Remember, serums are what will truly give you results, not moisturizers. If you are buying a $50+ facial moisturizer, you may be wasting your hard earned money. Save it!


Invest in a high quality, gentle exfoliant. Keyword: gentle. None of that apricot business from the drug store. Large granules are abrasive and can damage your delicate skin. So look for fine granules, beads or my favorite type as of late: powder exfoliants. They are made of finely milled rice, corn, and peas and are activated with water. Bonus? They are great to travel with. I have had great results with Tata Harper, One Love Organics, and Nude Skincare exfoliants.

Exfoliating can also be done with chemicals like AHAs and BHAs. I was curious, so I got a glycolic peel at the spa- something I highly recommend before purchasing an at-home version. These types of products are so powerful. For now, I’ll leave the deep exfoliation to my aesthetician.


So, masks can go both ways. There are tons of masks on the market that target certain things, be it a moisturizing mask or a detoxifying mask. I admit, I’m not a big mask girl. However I am in love with Tata Harper’s Resurfacing Mask, which is gentle but yields glowing, happy skin. I don’t mind the $55 investment.

Masks can easily be made at home, too. I’m a fan of clay, which you can purchase online or at the health food store and simply mix with water and honey. I swear by my own concoction of turmeric powder, chickpea flour, and milk. Turmeric is a detoxifying and brightening herb that’s great for your complexion. You can also make masks out of other kitchen staples like greek yogurt, avocado, and oats. Invest if you like but who knows, you may like crafting up your own more.


Oil also goes both ways. Buying it straight from the grocery store is for sure, an affordable option. Many like coconut oil and avocado oil. I myself find them to be a bit heavy, so I prefer to purchase facial oil blends. I like the mixture of multiple oils and essential oils. Some favorites are Nude Skincare’s ProGenius Oil and Cuadalie’s Overnight Detox Oil.


Cheap tools yield inferior results. I can’t tell you how much healthier my hair became when I purchased a Mason Pearson Hairbrush. Plastic brushes always lead to breakage, excessive tugging and pain. The bristles on Mason Pearsons are designed to stimulate the scalp, which in turn beautifies hair. Plus it feels like a massage! It is a $50+ plus investment but it lasts a lifetime. Justifiable, in my book.

For makeup brushes, it’s not so much about price as it is quality. I have a fabulous set of middle of the line brushes from itCosmetics (a special Holiday edition set of 6 for $50.) Such a bargain compared to M.A.C. or NARS (I did my homework and held out for the holiday pricing!) You also need to decide if you prefer synthetic or animal derived bristles. I prefer synthetic- I find them easier to maintain plus they don’t shed as much.

It’s all about mixing and matching products high and low. Keyword: balance.

What are your skincare must haves? Do you typically save, splurge or land somewhere in the middle? Do you ever craft up your own treatments at home? We’d love to hear!

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21 Responses to Skincare Secrets: Where to Save and Where to Splurge

  1. Great post! I tend to splurge more on my makeup, especially on my foundation, because I have problem skin. For the most part, I use Neutrogena for skincare needs, and Aveda’s Outer Peace Cooling Masque (worth the price, in my opinion!) once a week to calm my skin. I like the idea of making my own mask at home!

  2. Annaliese says:

    Hahaha this made me laugh because right now I am totally using one of those “apricot exfoliants from the drugstore.” Lol! I should probably look into a more high end product for my face! In the past I have been a big fan of Alba Botanica’s all natural products for cleansing and acne care. Thanks for sharing about some new great options!

    xoxo A

  3. Mikayla says:

    I’ve always have been skeptical if I should save or splurge on a few of my skincare items. I have been looking into high end moisturizers and toners, but now I am definitely going to go for a more drugstore version.

    Mikayla | A Seersucker State of Mind.

  4. Morgan says:

    I totally agree with your suggestions! The one I do differently though is moisturizer .. my mom told me that its the foundation for my make-up every day and that you want to start off on the right foot per say.

    How 2 Wear It[]

  5. Ashley says:

    Balance is so key! You have to make sure that you don’t over do it! I definitely found a moisturizer that looks the best for me during the summer and during the winter!

    I might have to check some of these out though! My skin is finally starting to act like an adult, and need new ideas!


  6. Nicole says:

    I am always looking for new skincare secrets! As I get older, the more obsessed I become with making sure my skin looks its best, so the more inside tips I can get, the better. Thanks for sharing babe! x Nicole |

  7. Brittany says:

    This is such a great list! I’ve always splurged on all my beauty products, it is really nice knowing that isn’t important!

  8. Jenny says:

    There are some I splurge on and some I don’t, like you.
    I spend more on serums as well.
    But buy my cleanser and toners from the drugstore.
    It’s definitely all about balance and finding which products work for you so you aren’t always splurging when it’s not necessary.

    xoxo, Jenny || Breakfast at Lillys

  9. Alessandra says:

    This post makes so much sense! I really have been meaning to move away from certain drugstore products but I was never ever sure which items were worth splurging on. Reading this now, it does make a lot of sense to invest in brushes and exfoliants. I’m glad to hear that I can keep my cleanser though (I use neutrogena as well)!

    Alessandra | The PumpUp Blog

  10. Ashley Mason says:

    This post is SO helpful! I’m always looking for great skincare items to make my skin better, but I never know if I should spend a lot of money on some products or save my money. Definitely bookmarking this!

  11. Love this post! I’m huge into skin care and it’s always hard knowing when to splurge versus save!

    Pick Your Beau

  12. Ashley says:

    This was such a helpful post! I definitely need to invest in some good brushes ASAP!

    xo Ashley

  13. Ally Gagliardo says:

    Ohmygosh. I definitely needed this! I tend to go “cheap” on many of my products (even though I know I should’t) and I think my skin is taking the hit on that. This is perfect because now I know exactly where I should be spending my money especially since I don’t want to just blow all of my money on products!

    Ally |

  14. Lauren says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I’m currently breaking out and freaking out because of it 🙁 I think there are things you definitely need to splurge on, for sure. I have really great products but of some reason I think the stress just overrides all of that and I break out!

    The Fashionista’s Diary

  15. Kayla says:

    This post was so insightful!! I’m at such a loss whenever it comes to anything related to cosmetics. I usually try to buy the cheapest stuff possible lol. I assumed that I wasn’t doing anything right but this post made me feel better about saving money on the majority of my skincare products!!

    Kayla |

  16. What a great post! I didn’t even realize that you should use 2 cleansers! I splurge on masks and my organic cleanser – sensitive skin. This is a great reference!

    xx | Steph @ The Lovely Essentials & Jenssen’s Designs

  17. What great advice! I’ve known to invest in serums, so I’m more okay with splurging on that. I never really considered that I didn’t have to splurge on the moisturizer too though! Also, LOVE It Cosmetics brushes!!

  18. Danielle says:

    I definitely agree with you. I have invest in my serums because I have extremely oily skin and the only ones that control this are the pricer brands. My mom has always told me to invest in my brushes because you can’t beat their longevity.

    xoxo, Danielle

  19. Some of my favorite moisturizers are all drugstore, and I swear by them! Skincare is definitely a mix of save and splurge for me, but I think it’s moreso about finding the right products for *your* skin and skintype and then rocking those for all they’re worth!

    Coming Up Roses

  20. Sarah says:

    Thanks for these tips! I love splurging on skincare products and then saving with makeup… my mom works at Lancome and they have some of the best skincare products around that I can’t go back! 😉


  21. This is such a helpful post! I am looking to invest in a new skin care routine, so this couldn’t have had better timing 🙂

    XX, SS || A Little Seersucker Sass

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