In this guide, I will be aiming to create the ultimate drugstore morning and night skincare routine on a budget with some of the best skincare products you can find over the counter!
I am a true believer that price is not always a reflection of the quality or effectiveness. If you stick with me, you’ll be able to find these hidden gems at your local drugstore that are just as good (if not better!) than the pricey ones.
My focus will be on women in their prime, concerned about aging, dry skin and maintaining a youthful glow. I am talking about us gals in our 50s, but many women in their 60s, 70s or even 80s are still struggling to find the right products for them. I think each of you will find value in this article, no matter your age.
Here is a list of my favorite drugstore skincare products; with them, you too can build a stellar daytime and nighttime routine! I’ve addressed aging signs, sagging skin, firmness and elasticity, and everything in between.
Please remember these prices were in place when this guide was created, so costs may vary over time, but from my experience, these will always remain really affordable – you can also watch me apply them in the video below:
Drugstore Morning Skincare Routine for Aging Skin
When speaking of morning skincare routine, always make sure photoprotection is your top priority. I mean sunscreen year-round and antioxidants that boost it by fighting free radicals. I’ve included hydrating products for the whole body and different cleansing products, so you’ll find everything you need in the following list.
Bliss Bright Idea Vitamin C+ Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting & Brightening Serum
We start our morning list with an excellent serum – Bright Idea Vitamin C+ Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting & Brightening Serum by Bliss. It helps protect your skin from free radicals caused mainly by sun exposure, so the best way is to use it in the daytime. It also gives a brightening effect, reduces dark spots, providing a more even overall look.
You can apply the serum directly to your clean, dry skin, then put on your regular products, finishing with the board-protection sunscreen. The texture is very light, so it layers beautifully under makeup; since it’s not sticky or greasy at all, it goes on smooth.
This vitamin C serum has an impressive ingredient list: ascorbic acid, the purest, most potent form of vitamin C; then come the emollients (such as squalene or jojoba oil), vitamin E, and bisabolol (a very soothing agent). Licorice extract is an excellent addition to this list since it helps with discoloration, working together with vitamin C.
It’s also worth mentioning that Bright Idea Vitamin C+ Tri-Peptide Collagen Protecting & Brightening Serum is free from parabens, SLS, SLES, and it’s vegan and cruelty-free. You get all that at a very reasonable price, so be sure to give it a try.
Cerave Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum that Locks in Moisture
It’s essential to lock in moisture for the upcoming day, so you need to add layers that provide just that. The following serum is one of the best that you can find at the drugstore.
Cerave Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum has two important humectants – hyaluronic acid and glycerin; both work together to attract water particles and lock in moisture, so essential to keep our skin looking fresh and plump.
The serum also includes three ceramides – an ingredient naturally produced by the skin, which keeps the skin barrier healthy and intact. It also has panthenol (vitamin B5), a very soothing and repairing agent that further strengthens that protective skin layer. All of these ingredients work together to give a very restorative effect.
Texture-wise, Cerave Hydrating Hyaluronic Serum is very light, almost gel-cream-like; it absorbs very quickly and gives you that instant smoother, softer skin. It is perfect underneath makeup since it doesn’t leave a greasy film at all.
This hydrating serum is fragrance and paraben-free. It’s also highly unlikely to clog pores because of the light texture. Give this one a try; no matter your skin type, your complexion will thank you!
Cerave Eye Repair Cream that Reduces the Look of Dark Circles & Puffiness
Cerave brings another great drugstore moisturizer, this time meant for the eye area – Eye Repair Cream That Reduces the Look of Dark Circles & Puffiness. Speaking of dark circles, how many of you know what a pain in our existence they can be?
I always get them because I sleep very low on a cervical pillow, so there’s no elevation to help depuff that under-eye area.
Of course, dark circles are a complex matter that has to do with many factors, such as genetics, allergies, lack of sleep, bone structure, or aging (the lower eyelid starts to get saggy, and the lack of volume makes the area look dark). The under-eye site also gets puffy because of water retention or sometimes a pocket of fat within that area.
The product I am showing you today helps with the appearance of dark circles and depuffs those bags, leaving the skin looking brighter. It also has three ceramides that help restore that significant skin barrier, and hyaluronic acid, giving you a more plump and hydrated look.
You apply the eye cream twice a day, and you only need a tiny bit. It goes on very smooth, looks great under makeup; I found it very effective, I really saw results with this Cerave Hydrating Serum.
The product is fragrance-free, allergy-tested, and non-comedogenic (it’s not likely to clog pores, but you’ll have to test that for yourself).
Lansinoh Soothe & Protect Those Sore Nipples (or Lips)
The following product is a favorite of mine, featured on my channel since 2014. Soothe & Protect Those Sore Nipples (or Lips) is a thick cream from Lansinoh.
Its main purpose is for those cracked nipples that new mothers get from breastfeeding. But as I like to joke, from the nips to the lips, and you can’t beat it, lanolin cream, it smooths and protects.
This cream is 100% natural lanolin – a waxy ingredient coming from sheep, that protective layer they have on their wool, so they keep dry. The result is a very emollient byproduct that soothes and protects dry, cracked skin.
La Roche-Posay Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Mineral Tinted Sunscreen
Since we are talking morning routine, a good sunscreen on this list of budget beauty was mandatory. It is essential to protect our skin daily from those harmful UV rays and the free radicals that accelerate the aging process.
But finding a good sunscreen with a broad spectrum and great finish is not easy at all. The ingredients used as filters give products a thick, greasy consistency and often leave a white cast. So not the most flattering look, but so necessary to wear every day in a generous layer, nonetheless.
This is where La Roche-Posay Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Mineral Tinted Sunscreen comes into play. It has a tint to it to counteract that white cast effect and look more natural on the face; it’s also a primer, having a mattifying effect. That helps so much because makeup tends to not sit well on the more greasy, heavy sunscreens, but this one layers beautifully.
It is suitable for sensitive skin, non-comedogenic, fragrance-free. And of course, it has that broad-spectrum UVB and UVA protection we’ve talked about, so you can’t go wrong with this one; it’s one of those hidden gems at the drugstore.
Palmer’s Coconut Oil Body Lotion for 24 Hour Moisture
I thought I would include a body lotion here, too, because skincare means keeping all of your skin hydrated and protected. This next product is Coconut Oil Body Lotion for 24 Hour Moisture, a very hydrating yet light cream from Palmer’s.
I love the smell on this one – you know me, I am a coconut kind of girl, if I can get transported to a beach somewhere, sipping a cold drink, I’d be really happy. The formula absorbs beautifully, has no greasy residue, and goes on smoothly. So it’s perfect as a day-to-day moisturizer for your body; it won’t bother you when you put on clothes for the day.
It’s formulated with ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients, fair trade coconut oil; also, no parabens, no phthalates, no mineral oil, no gluten, no sulfates, no dyes, no nothing. A very clean and overall great formula, at a very low price.
Pacifica Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Mineral Bronzing Sunscreen
Speaking of sunscreen, protecting our body from UV rays is just as important. So here is a body spray from the drugstore that does just that – Broad Spectrum SPF 30 Mineral Bronzing Sunscreen from Pacifica.
This is a spray-type bottle, so the application is easier than your regular lotion, including harder-to-reach places. The formula is clean, has mineral filters only, no chemical ones, and is 100% vegan and cruelty-free.
The other exciting thing about this product is that it has a bronzing agent to it. The sunscreen sprays beautifully, you can see the tint immediately on your skin, and it doesn’t leave any greasy residue. It absorbs quickly, has an almost matte finish, and it’s great under your clothes, with no stickiness at all.
The sunscreen also has a coconut fragrance, an excellent complement to my Palmer’s body lotion. So there you have, your body protected from UVB and UVA rays, with a pretty tint to your skin and smelling like a tropical holiday; what more could you ask for?
Affordable Nighttime skincare routine for mature skin
Let’s switch things up a bit and go into our evening routine. Of course, it has different characteristics because there’s no need for sunscreen, and there is the element of removing all the makeup. The list of fantastic beauty buys at the drugstore continues, so keep reading to discover what my nighttime routine entails.
Eucerin Hydrating Cleansing Gel
When it comes to cleansing the face, you would believe things are very simple and straightforward, and any cleanser will do. But this is the first step, and an essential one, in making sure your skin is protected.
Our skin has a natural barrier that keeps it perfectly balanced; it has a natural hydration and nourishment level and normal flora. Also known as the microbiome, the natural skin flora is made up of microorganisms that maintain a balance at the skin’s surface, protecting it from disease or infection. All of these make up the normal protecting skin barrier.
When you use a cleanser that is too harsh, with aggressive detergents and a very high pH level (the skin has a slight acid one of 5.5), that barrier is compromised. This exposes the skin to all sorts of complications – it can become red, irritated, very dry and flaky, with excess sebum to overcompensate, and even with micro-lesions that can lead to serious problems.
Choosing the right cleanser is essential to start things off on the right note. Hydrating Cleansing Gel from Eucerin does just that – it’s very gentle and feels hydrating. It’s non-comedogenic, fragrance-free, free of oil, alcohol, soap, and parabens, dermatologically tested.
I don’t feel the need to cleanse my skin in the morning, so I only use it at night. The Hydrating Gel removes makeup and impurities accumulated throughout the day, but it feels very gentle, not stripping; your skin is left feeling hydrated and replenished. This one is an excellent addition to your routine at a stellar price!
Neutrogena Makeup Removing Wipes
If you wear a lot of heavy makeup during the day, you probably need an extra step to take it all off at night. I noticed that when I wash my face at night to get rid of that war paint from television, there is always a little bit of makeup left.
So I use Neutrogena Makeup Removing Wipes to get rid of that residual makeup, so the skin is a blank canvas, ready for all the great products coming. They are very gentle and effective, good to have around.
Garnier Micellar Water
Another great option for removing waterproof makeup is Garnier Micellar Water. It’s a cult favorite, a great option from the drugstore. The product is very gentle and fragrance-free, suited even for the most sensitive skin types.
The Garnier Micellar Water does a great job of removing stubborn makeup. I put a bit on a cotton pad and keep that on my eyes to start dissolving the makeup without rubbing that very sensitive eye area. This is also a great option if you are on the run and need to cleanse your face. Again, an excellent value for money, so be sure to check this one out.
La Roche-Posay 10% Glycolic Acid Dark Spot Corrector
The following product is exciting, one I was surprised to find at the drugstore. Glycolic Acid Dark Spot Corrector from La Roche-Posay has a 10% concentration of glycolic acid – and AHA exfoliator. It includes panthenol (vitamin B5), a very soothing and repairing agent, to balance it out and help that skin barrier stay intact.
Another two great ingredients in La Roche-Posay Dark Spot Corrector are tranexamic acid and kojic acid, both contributing to that lightning effect. Tranexamic acid is derived from an amino acid, and it helps lighten the skin by inhibiting pigment production; this helps fade dark spots, whether caused by sun exposure or acne hyperpigmentation. Kojic acid has a similar action on the skin, fading those oh-so-annoying spots.
The ingredients mentioned above work together (though differently) with glycolic acid that exfoliates the outer layer of the skin. The result is a very impressive product that helps lighten and even out your complexion, making this a true gem.
Sky Organics Organic Rosehip Oil Nourishing Face Oil for All Skin Types
For extra nourishment, I like to use facial oil at night, I’ve become a fan of them lately. A favorite of mine is this organic one from Sky Organics, called Organic Rosehip Oil Nourishing Face Oil for All Skin Types.
It is a 100% pure and cold-pressed organic rosehip oil with no add ons from an organic source that will give you an extra boost of hydration and nourishment. This oil has great benefits for the skin, has anti-inflammatory properties, and evens out your skin tone.
It is often recommended for acne-prone skin because it helps with breakouts and hyperpigmentation, especially being a dry oil, meaning it’s unlikely to clog pores. But all skin types can benefit from those soothing and lightening properties.
The Sky Organics oil feels great on the skin; it absorbs quickly, with no greasy residue, leaving the skin feeling replenished and smooth. I always love using this product after more potent actives, like exfoliants or retinoids.
Retinol vs. retinoid
We couldn’t talk about nighttime routine without mentioning the royal family of skincare – vitamin A derivatives. A stellar class of ingredients, retinoids are probably the best things you could ever do for your skin. And very suited for nighttime use since they are unstable and degrade quickly when exposed to light.
They have truly impressive anti-aging properties, being the only ingredients with solid studies to back that claim. A retinoid goes deep in the skin layers and increases cell turnover, meaning your cells reproduce faster and in a younger, more healthy way. This leads to a more even and glowing complexion, with fewer dark spots and discoloration; they also smooth and prevent fine lines and wrinkles.
There are many vitamin A derivatives out there, some of them are prescription medicines, and some can be found at the drugstore. It all depends on the potency of each ingredient, but that is directly related to their irritating potential. So starting with gentler forms and working your way up is a rule of thumb because skincare is a marathon, not a sprint.
There is always a confusion of terms regarding this subject – what is the difference between retinol and retinoid? The short answer is that retinol is a prescription-free form that you can find at the drugstore. It still gives excellent results, so don’t underestimate the power of this incredible ingredient.
Retinoid refers to the class of ingredients or prescription retinoid – usually tretinoin or Retin-A. You can get it only in pharmacies, with a prescription from your dermatologist. It is a very potent form of vitamin A, used mainly for acne breakouts but with excellent anti-age results.
For an in-depth article on retinoids, their amazing benefits, and how to introduce them to your routine, check out our article retinol guide where you will find the best retinol creams on the market, at all price points!