The Best Inexpensive Skincare Routine for Dry Skin

What is self care? Across social media, users have been posting tips and sharing threads about what is the 'right' and 'wrong' way to approach self care. The thing is, the same strategies won’t work for everyone.

At the end of the day, your method is entirely dependent on who you are and what you do. Even though there’s no set secret for self care, there is one thing I’ll argue is a good fit for just about everyone out there. What is it, you ask? SKINCARE! An affordable skincare routine is one productive way to procrastinate your problems, and practice self care.

affordable skincare routine

Not to get scientific, but your skin is your largest organ. It’s also one of the easiest ways to track your health. So why is it that people so easily abandon it? Think about the last time you moisturized. Did you take time to hydrate everywhere? And what about your daily approach to skincare?  Do you tailor your routine to your skin type, or do you buy the first face wash you notice on the shelves? Hey, we have to ask ourselves the important questions.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links through Amazon Associates, meaning if you purchase through the link I may receive a small fee at no additional cost to you. These links help maintain The Messy Life.

Once upon a time, I was the girl who bought products based on commercials, without doing much research to see how they would work for me. If you’re wondering how that turned out, my skin hated me and I hated my skin.

Now, I’m more careful about how I spend my coin and which products I use on my skin. Diet and stress related breakouts aside, I think I’ve discovered an affordable skincare routine that works pretty well for my needs.

I have dry skin, so if you do too then you’re in luck. If you have oily or combination skin, some of these products may still work for you. Don’t know your skin type? Take Nivea's short quiz to figure it out. Alright, ready to learn a really affordable skincare routine for dry skin? Now it’s time for me to share my secrets with you.

Step One: Cleanse

Cleansing is key. If you don’t do anything else, you should at least wash your face once or twice a day. I aim for every night, and then I’ll tone in the morning to refresh for the day. If you wear makeup, be sure to remove it with either wipes or a cotton pad and remover. It makes the process much easier, and ensures you’re concentrating the best benefits of your skincare goodies directly on your skin.

Over the past year, I have experimented with a few different cleansers. Now, I rotate between a few. The first, and my favorite is the ACURE Facial Cleansing Creme. I believe they’re rebranding, so now it’s called the Radically Rejuvenating Cleansing Cream, but they’re the exact same thing. A few others that I keep in rotation are the Beauty Without Cruelty (BWC) Herbal Cream Cleanser and Trader Joe's Facial Cleansing Oil.

skin care - self care
Patrick Coddou | Unsplash

I love the BWC Cleanser for nights when I’m using other harsh products, because it has very basic ingredients. The Trader Joe’s Oil is also amazing, but if you have oily skin i would recommend double cleansing.

For all my dry-skinned babes, notice that most of these cleansers are cream formulas. I’ve noticed a huge difference in my skin since switching over to hydrating face washes with simple ingredients.

To wash my face, I either use my hands or my Soniclear face brush. It’s an investment but it’s a great one. After the first week or two of using it, my skin showed a noticeable change in both breakouts and brightness. The face brush beeps to let you know when to move on to another part of your face, so you don’t overcleanse. It also retains a memory to adjust to how long you usually take to wash your face. Safe to say, I love it.

Step Two: Tone

When I was younger I had no idea what toning meant. I thought it was an extra step thrown in there so skincare companies could sell more product.

Now, I realize it’s not just a scam. I’ve noticed that toning actually helps me get rid of any traces of makeup, cleanser, or general dirt, left on my face after cleansing. This is especially great if I’m washing with my hands alone, instead of my facial brush.

At this point in the routine, I’ll let my face air dry (or I’ll dab with a towel or cotton t-shirt if i’m in a rush), and then apply either glycolic acid or witch hazel. It depends on what I plan on doing for the rest of the routine, but I only apply glycolic acid at night because it makes the skin more sensitive to sun exposure.

Witch hazel is good for mornings and routines when you’ve already exfoliated with a non-chemical exfoliant.

The toners I use almost everyday and highly recommend are T.N. Dickinson's Witch Hazel, which is pretty inexpensive, and Thayers Witch Hazel Alcohol-Free Toner in Rose Petal, which is a bit pricier but smells lovely. You can also get the Thayers Rose Hazel in a bundled two-pack (or three-pack!)  to save money.

For glycolic acid, I use the Pixi Glow Tonic, which is AMAZING. I can always see the results in the morning. I’ve recently bought a replacement bottle of glycolic acid from The Ordinary, so I can share my observations about that acid after I start using it.

If you don’t know about glycolic acid, it a chemical exfoliant that removes dead skin and reveals a renewed outer layer. It’s super gentle, and I never experience any irritation or redness. Still, if it’s your first time trying a chemical exfoliant you may want to start with something even gentler, like Lactic Acid.

Step Three: Treat

Now that your face is squeaky clean, it’s time to treat your skin. This is the part of the routine that will vary greatly based on your skin type. You can take this time to directly treat pimples, to target dark spots, or to apply a general “feel-good, do-gooder” type of product that works all over the surface of your face.

skin care - treat
Christin Hume | Unsplash

At this point, I apply The Ordinary’s Niacinamide + Zinc treatment. It’s meant to helps with clearing redness, scarring, or blemishes though it is not intended to treat acne. From my experience, it definitely boosts the progress of my skin when recovering from a flare up or getting rid of dark spots from acne scars or irritation. The best part about this product is it’s a vitamin, so it can be used along with glycolic acid without irritating the skin.

Sometimes I also bust out my favorite Caffeine Solution to treat the circles under my eyes. These bags may be designer, but I’m not a big fan of brand names. Some people were hesitant about this product, but after using it, I can attest to the fact that it ACTUALLY WORKS. A gem, a miracle.

Another thing I’ll do to treat my face is mix The Body Shop tea tree oil with witch hazel when I use it in the evenings. I can practically feel my skin being cleansed and treated. Combining the steps like this shortens your routine, and is really handy if you don’t have problem skin.

Step Four: Hydrate

HYDRATE!! This is my favorite step and it’s easily the most important for dry skin. There are so many ways to add hydration to your routine.

Tanja Heffner | Unsplash

First, I use rose water after toning to replenish moisture, and then I apply The Ordinary’s Squalane, which is an amazing product for sealing hydration into your skin. I enjoy the rose water from Heritage Store. I used to get their Rosewater & Glycerin, which I think works even better for trapping and sealing moisture. However, I’m cheap so the Rosewater without Glycerin is fine for me.

If you're a fan of Mario Badescu, his spray also works but I like the value I get with Heritage Store because it's a bigger size for the same price.

In the morning, since Squalene can be a bit oily looking, I use The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, also from the Ordinary, to seal in moisture without looking like I’ve soaked my face in moisture. Please, please, please don’t sleep on these products. They’re all under $10 and they last for months, even with daily use.

When I stay at my friends apartment, I use her aloe soothing gel from Nature Republic which is one of the funnest products I’ve encountered to date. I want to buy a tub for myself, because when I use it under my makeup, it makes my skin look like a dream.

Step Five: Moisturize

We’re almost done with our routine! Now it’s time to be sure your skin stays moisturized all day long. If you have dry skin, then you'll find this key to any affordable skincare routine. I’m currently trying the Simple Rich Moisturizer which I like for how light it is, and how simple the ingredients are. Again, because I'm all about a good deal, they also sell the moisturizer in a two-pack on Amazon.

In the morning, I mix this with Aveeno’s Positively Radiant Moisturizer to add SPF. With chemical acids, it’s important to protect your skin from the sun. At nights, I mix it with Rosehip Oil which thickens the consistency and always makes my skin look (and feel) amazing.

One thing I will advise is that you find the right oils and hydrators for your skin. For instance, a few months ago I was using Sukin Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin with Rosehip Oil, and while the combination worked fine, I find that my new mix is a lot more effective for my skin.

This is especially relevant when searching for new products. Just because a product is highly rated and work for hundreds of people, doesn’t mean that it's the right product for you. Keep track of your skin when you introduce a new product to your line, and take note of what changes. Sometimes a product might work at first and then your skin stops responding.

If you find a product you love, be sure to rotate it with other good products to prevent your skin from adjusting to it.

Bonus: Exfoliators & Masks

Isabell Winter | Unsplash

My only recommendation for physical exfoliation is ACURE’s Brightening Facial Scrub. Amazing. It smells like earth, which makes me feel that much better about using it on my skin. I also like that the grains feel effective, without being too harsh on my skin. Like the cleanser, this one also has a new name: Brilliantly Brightening Facial Scrub, so look out for new yellow packaging on the tubes for this goodie.

Masks TBD: I don’t have a favorite face mask yet, though there are at least 5 I can recommend not to get. If you guys have any favorite facial masks please let me know in the comments, because your girl is searching for a blessing. An inexpensive one to fit into my budget themed affordable skincare routine.

Speeding Up Skincare

There you have it! That is my affordable skin care routine, and it’s part of the reason I feel comfortable without makeup most days (the other part is absolute laziness).

This may all seem like a lot, but I can do the entire routine in under five minutes, and so can you. Catch me at 3am in my most exhausted state, and I’ll have all the products slapped on my face in under a minute.

If you ever find that you want to skip your routine, just imagine what you'll have to deal with in the morning. Waking up with the face of a glowing goddess is almost always worth losing the two minutes of sleep.

Marketing Student - Comfort-obsessed, plant-loving mess. Always trying. Continually coming to be.


  1. Bee @
    April 2, 2018

    I used to think adding these extra steps to my skin care routine would be tiresome and time consuming, but not only are they quicker then you’d think, they’ve become on of my daytime regiments! Feels like you’re pampering yourself every time!

    1. Ashleigh
      April 2, 2018

      YES! Exactly. You get into the habit of applying everything and you’re motivated by the results, so it is as easy as 1-2-3.

  2. Cristina
    April 2, 2018

    I cleanse, tone and moisturise every day but haven’t tried the extra steps! Will check out the products

    1. Ashleigh
      April 2, 2018

      Treating specific issues or flare ups will make a world of difference! I hope they work as well for you as they do for me!

  3. Deola
    April 2, 2018

    Was just thinking of researching on new skin care products to try, so this is very timely. I will give it a shot. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Ashleigh
      April 2, 2018

      Great! I really hope they help!

  4. Corina Sulit
    April 2, 2018

    Hi! OMG Ive been looking for new cleansers and toners! Thank you for the recommendation! I can’t wait to try them! Ordering through amazon…NOW! lol Thank you for the tips!

    1. Ashleigh
      April 2, 2018

      Haha! Awesome, no problem. I hope you love them as much as I do!

  5. Angela
    April 1, 2018

    I will really look into this. Sounds time consuming but I’m sure it’s worth it. Right now I do cleanse my face and moisturize daily. I also do masks every so often. I will look into toning and hydration. I’ve heard great things about witch hazel. Great post!

    1. Ashleigh
      April 2, 2018

      Yes! Witch hazel is amazing – natural, affordable, and you can see real results! I’m glad you enjoyed it <3

  6. Marya
    April 1, 2018

    Hey girly!! I loved Your post so much it made me realize I need To up my skin care game!!! If you ever want to collab or be blogging sistas I’m totally down I love making new friends xox-rya

    1. Ashleigh
      April 1, 2018

      Haha, thanks!! Ya it took me a while to get around to finding new products that worked well for me. I’m down to be blogging friends! What’s your twitter handle?

  7. Klaudia
    March 31, 2018

    Your friend with the apartment and the aloe gel sounds really cool! Anyway, I love washing my face! I really like the ordinary’s aha peel as a mask, it’s a chemical exfoliant and it’s red so it looks kind of like blood 😛 lol !!

    1. Ashleigh
      March 31, 2018

      She totally is! And I’m glad you like the AHA, maybe I’ll try it.


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