If you’re trying to save money on your skincare but don’t want to compromise on the quality of your routine then I have some good news for you: I’ve rounded up some of the best budget cleansers and they’re all products I happily use (and repurchase) on a regular basis.
I’ve set the “budget” threshold at ten pounds and under for this skincare favourites post. I realise that the word budget means different things for different people – and also that there are cheaper cleansers out there – but I think that the products I’ve picked offer some of the very best quality for the price.
Five budget cleansers that’ll satisfy all skin types – there’s something here for everyone, whether you have oily skin or sensitive skin or, indeed, oily and sensitive skin. The packaging might be rather more pared-back than what you’d get wrapped around a more spendy cleanser but all of the formulations are utterly lovely, cleanse really thoroughly yet won’t strip your skin or leave it tight.
The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser, from £5.50 at Space NK*
This brilliant cleanser from The Ordinary is great for absolutely all skin types and is a particularly good choice if you just want one cleanser to do all jobs; it removes makeup, including eye makeup, has enough slip to really massage into the skin and then leaves the skin hydrated once it’s removed with a washcloth. I don’t need a separate makeup remover when I use this – it’s fresh in feel (a gel cream texture) but mighty in performance.
It’s probably my overall top pick just because it suits everyone, is conveniently packaged and has that silky cream-to-oil texture that I usually associate with far more expensive products.
Cerave Hydrating Cleanser, £8 at Cult Beauty*
Again, a suit-all choice, but this errs on the side of a wash that you can splash off rather than a more unctuous balm or cream that you can luxuriously massage in. It comes in a big bottle so is the sort of product you could leave out in the shower for the whole family to use. Cerave are all about strengthening and protecting the skin barrier so it’s brilliant for those with sensitive skin.
Superfacialist Rosehip Creamy Cleanser, £6 at Amazon*
For those who prefer a cream over a more balm-like product, this tube of rose-scented cleanser is outstanding. I’ve loved it for many, many years and I’m so pleased it’s still in existence. So many things I love get discontinued! This has the feel of an old-fashioned cold cream, in a way, but it’s handily packaged in a tube and has a beautiful smell. Like the Squalane cleanser, I’d massage this in and remove with warm water and a washcloth/flannel rather than trying to splash off like a wash. It’s very satisfying seeing all of your makeup come off onto a flannel – if you’re not cleansing with a cloth then bring one into your life immediately! The regular, gentle exfoliation it gives is a big enough perk but you’ll find that your cleansing is so much more thorough and effective.
Buy Superfacialist here*
Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm, £8.79 at LookFantastic*
Another cleansing balm at a very good price; Inkey List’s Oat one is far more a traditional balm texture than the Squalane, which is a lighter sort of gel-cream. Or cream-gel. Same thing. In my opinion, the more balm-like it is (sort of like a gritty butter or solidified goose fat texture, for want of a more appealing description) the better the cleanser is at removing eye makeup. Because you can melt it down into an oil over the eyes but it takes longer to turn liquid than other forms of cleanser and so you really get stuck in over the lashes and lids. Great stuff.
Those with oilier skin might not like this so much as it instinctively feels as though it might add oil to the skin and maybe clog pores, but it doesn’t. It washes off (with a cloth, again!) completely clean and doesn’t leave a residue. I’d say it’s good for all skin types but dry will particularly love.
Aveeno Calm + Restore Oat Cleanser, £5.30 at Amazon*
A great option for sensitive skin, as with the Cerave. Aveeno’s Calm + Restore range contains Aveeno’s prebiotic oat, something existing fans will no doubt be familiar with as the products are so popular for their soothing effect on sensitive skin. Again as with the Cerave you can rinse or splash this one off, but I genuinely think that nearly every cleanser is made more efficient when you add a flannel into the mix!
I work with Aveeno making content around this skincare range and so I know it inside out and I’ve used this cleanser loads; it’s a great option if you have oilier skin and want a “fresh wash” sort of texture but also have sensitive skin and don’t want anything harsh or aggravating.
Do you have any other suggestions to add into the best budget cleanser broth? Let me know in the comments! Here’s a short and sweet video chatting through my own favourites:
Disclaimer: Ooph, this “If I Could Only Buy One” series is a risk, isn’t it? Firstly, it’s almost impossible to choose a singular favourite from a given category, even if it’s a category with very little competition. My decision-making process feels marred by the thought of all of my other favourites being left out in the cold – if I don’t mention them then do they even exist? And what if I like three things equally? How does one ever choose?
The second big problem with this series is time: favourites change. Do I keep on coming back to update? Or do I leave the original post and then make a new one with the successor? It’s all very complicated and I feel as though I could be updating and adding to it until I’m seventy, when nobody is even still reading blogs and instead experiencing life through their VR headsets. Who’ll need beauty then? Nobody will leave the house! Food will be in a supplement shake that you drink through a tube connected to the VR headset and sex will be with robots.
But it’s supposed to be fun, so let’s keep it light. There are thousands of products I love and that I’d buy over and over again so if something’s not mentioned it doesn’t mean I’ve changed my mind about it, it just wouldn’t be in the spirit of the game if I then included a load of caveats. (I have actually added a “cheater’s list” to the bottom of the page with a few alternative options. I mean it is, quite literally, cheating at my own game, but I found it impossible to pick without knowing I could leave it there!)
We kick off this series with the one luxury cleanser I’d buy if I could only buy one luxury cleanser for the rest of my life. Many of you will have guessed at the brand for this one, but perhaps not the specific product, so prepare to be mildly surprised.
A winning luxury cleanser, in my opinion, needs to be silky and wonderful to massage in, but easy to remove with no waxy or greasy residue. I want it to have the most glorious smell – a smell that transports me to far-flung and exotic places, and this smell should be heady and “of nature” rather than something that smells a bit like posh aftershave. The texture should be a joy – a rich balm would be the obvious choice here – but I’d also like it to be a cleanser that’s not too faffy to use.
The obvious choice would be Emma Hardie’s Moringa Balm*, written about extensively here and here over the years, but I’m going to turn the tables and blow your minds and actually go for the Moringa Light Cleansing Gel*, fully reviewed here.
And I’ll tell you why. (This was a tough call.) Firstly, the pump-action packing is more convenient than a pot. Secondly I feel as though this is the sort of cleanser you’d use for a quick cleanse as well as a more lengthy, sit-in-a-warm-bath sort of cleanse and thirdly, I actually think that the gel texture is utterly beautiful and – weirdly – slightly more hydrating than the balm. It’s also suitable for all skin types – whereas I think oilier people might balk at the idea of the richer balm – and slightly more cost effective, because I find I pump out less product from the bottle than I’d scoop from the pot.
So same unbelievably lovely scent, same cleansing prowess, but a little more convenient to use.
If you want more of a detailed run-down then read my review post – you can find the supremely luxurious Moringa Light Cleansing Gel here* or in all of the places detailed below, it’s £34, which isn’t horrendously expensive as far as luxury cleansers go! I feel I’ve been distinctly restrained…
Tune in next time for If I Could Only Buy One…Tinted Moisturiser.
The Cheater’s List
Because I couldn’t do this “one thing” decision without namedropping some others:
For a silky balm cleanse with utterly gorgeous Rose scent, the Elemis Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, £44 for 100ml here*.
The best-smelling balm cleanser in the world, don’t @ me, but it’s incredibly pricey and so more of a treat, Darphin’s Aromatic Cleansing Balm, £35 for 40ml at SpaceNK here*.
The second best-smelling cleanser in the world and absolutely magical before bedtime – also great for oily/combination skin if you fret about using rich balms – Neal’s Yard Remedies Frankincense Cleanser, £21 here*.
Oh this is an excellent buy if you’re after a hard-working cleanser that won’t break the bank. It’s a true all-rounder that can genuinely be used by all skin types, even sensitive and – please sound the bargain klaxon! – it’s one of the most budget-friendly cleansers out there.
The Squalane Cleanser from The Ordinary is exactly what it says it is – a cleanser with squalane. Of course there are other ingredients in the mix, but squalane is the hero here and a mighty and worthy hero it is too. Squalane is a powerful skin moisturiser that also has antioxidant benefits – it boosts suppleness and helps to prevent moisture loss and generally goes about its business in a very efficient and effective way. As a key ingredient in the Squalane Cleanser, it’s light enough for oily skin, provides instant relief for dried-out skin and does a thorough-yet-sensitive job of makeup and grime removal on all types of skin.
The Squalene Cleanser feels like an oily cream-gel when you squeeze it out of the (incredibly handy, very lightweight, perfect for travelling) tube. I realise that “oily cream-gel” covers just about every base when it comes to texture, but it’s an accurate description – it looks like a cream-gel, has the lightness of a cream-gel, but on application you instantly feel the gorgeous oily slip. Perfect for properly massaging in, especially over eye makeup, it quickly turns into a more liquid oil and then rinses off clean.
There’s nothing to dislike about this product, really – I suppose if you were very oily or acne-prone then the texture might be off-putting, but there’s no residue at all after rinsing. There’s also no tightness whatsoever, which is a problem with even some of the oiliest-feeling balms out there! Skin just feels cleansed and balanced. Can’t ask for much more than that…
To use it, apply to dry skin (at least I do, to get maximum oily massage opportunity!) and then rinse after you’ve really worked it in and broken up the dirt and makeup. You can use it twice, of course, or even thrice if you’ve had a day of it or you’ve been on one of those army training simulation courses where you have to crawl through the mud beneath nets and then hide in a cave, or if you’ve been playing Widow Twanky in the panto and caked yourself in greasepaint.
Squalane Cleanser is £5.50 for 50ml (find it at Cult Beauty here* and FeelUnique here*) but you can get a whopping 150ml tube (as photographed above) for £13.90 at LookFantastic here*. Personally I feel as though the 150ml should be the widely-available size – 50ml is great for travel but I get through it too fast!
UPDATE: Deciem have a 23% sale on at the moment which makes the 150ml cleanser £10.70. You can find the Deciem website here*.