I Replaced My Luxury Skincare Goods With Drugstore Finds — & Here’s What Happened

Courtesy of Anna Buckman
The drugstore skincare routine I swear by has helped my dry, red skin stay hydrated and calm

Like many, my first drugstore skincare routine was somewhat lacking. If I remember correctly, it consisted of an apricot scrub (if you know, you know), a salicylic acid face wash, and some salicylic acid pads, all of which were absolutely ravaging my skin and, I'd guess, probably contributed to many of the skin qualms I experience today. Thankfully, I've come a long way since my clumsy foray into skincare, and I'm happy to say that I've created a drugstore skincare routine for my dry skin that I'm actually pretty proud of.

However, the road to this point was a long one. After many years of struggling with acne and seeing very few results from the solutions I tried, I became convinced that affordable products were the problem, instead of the combination of products I was using. Obviously, I was wrong. But, instead of realizing this, I turned to expensive treatments. And as my skin turned from oily and full of pimples to very, very dry (thanks to a long round of Accutane), I remained convinced that only luxurious creams and wildly expensive serums would solve my problems.

Until, that is, the persistent redness in my cheeks set in. Because as anyone who's experienced any level of rosacea knows, it doesn't matter how expensive the moisturizer — that dry, patchy redness isn't going away. And when I started doing my research after a few years of fruitless product testing, I discovered that, too. Instead, it seems, it's all about simplicity and protecting the skin barrier. And that took me straight back to exactly what I'd been avoiding: drugstore products.

One of the first things I searched for in my quest for gentle, redness-reducing products was face wash, because nothing is worse than having a good, calm skin day only to step out of the shower with a beet-red face thanks to your cleanser.

A clear winner, among the thousands on the market? Neutrogena's Ultra Gentle Hydrating Creamy Facial Cleanser, an $8.29 find that was recommended to The Strategist by both David Lortscher, a board-certified dermatologist and CEO of Curology, and dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. "The technology in this cleanser prevents the cleansing ingredients from compromising the integrity of the outer skin layer,” Zeichner told the publication in August 2018. And, spoiler alert: It's amazing. I use it every night before I go to bed, and it never inflames my skin or gives me that horrible taut-skin feeling.

Another frequent recommendation from derms that I discovered was La Roche-Posay's Rosaliac AR Intense serum, a French drugstore find that further convinced me that affordable products could, in fact, be great. While it costs a little more than the average drugstore treatment, it's worth it in my book for its ability to soothe and calm inflammation. I've made this a daily part of my routine, and I always see improvement when I put it on after cleansing.

After nearly a year of research and testing, I've whittled down the many recommendations I've found to a simple, affordable lineup, much of which I'm able to buy at my local Walgreens. Ahead, the drugstore skincare routine I swear by to keep redness and dryness in check — on the cheap.

Face Wash