High-end vs affordable skincare: What’s worth it?

Words by Lydia Crist

Some products are worth investing a little extra coin in. Here’s what we suggest.

Let’s talk about expensive skincare.

For most high-end pricey products, you’ll find plenty of positive reviews claiming said moisturiser/cleanser/serum did wonders for customers’ skin, and how “it’s expensive but it’s so worth it”.

But is it worth it? Are you paying for the brand, or is it actually going to work for you? It’s a modern-day dilemma.

In a world where the dewy, glass-like, perfect-without-makeup look is plastered all over our screens, it’s hard not to fall for the logic of big promises equalling big price tags.

The beauty obsession is truly upon us. Australian company Mecca has grown to be one of Australia’s biggest retailers, stocking over 100 global beauty brands.

Personally, I’ve never cared much for expensive make-up. But, back in 2018, I experienced a year of skincare obsession. I lived for trying out hyped-up skin products. In fact, I tested so much new skincare during that year I went from joining Mecca’s beauty-loop to its top level in a matter of months.

Now, as we enter 2020, I can safely say that I have outgrown this obsession – to an extent.

I still believe in the importance of a good skincare routine. But I’m now armed with the knowledge of which products are actually worth my money, and which I could afford to spend a lot less on.

Your routine doesn’t need to be exorbitant, but it should make you feel good and help you care for your largest organ: the skin.

Below is a list of expensive skincare products I continue to purchase, as well as a few affordable products I’ve found that work just as well.


Personally, I prefer to use a gentle cleanser. I have normal to combination skin, and this prevents it from being aggressively stripped of oils or becoming irritated. Gentle cleansers in particular can be very affordable.

A favourite of mine, and no doubt of many, is the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser. Praised by dermatologists, it is recommended for most skin types including those prone to acne, eczema and sensitivity. It is incredibly affordable at $19.99 for one litre, and can be used all over your body (cya bacne).

When it comes to makeup removal, I prefer to use an oil or balm before regular cleansing instead of makeup wipes. Not only is this better for the environment, it also prevents tugging on the skin which can be unnecessarily harsh. However, this is an area where I’ve noticed a difference between cheaper and more expensive options. My favourite oil cleansers are the Tatcha Pure One Step Camellia Cleansing Oil ($73 for 150mL) and the Eve Lom Balm Cleanser ($35 for 20mL).

Both are incredibly smooth and do not leave an oily residue on your face. I’ve tried cheaper alternatives but unfortunately, nothing has matched up yet. Coconut oil is a popular makeup remover, but it doesn’t wash off as easily as other oils and can leave a greasy layer on your skin, clogging your pores.


When it comes to exfoliators, chemical ones are always better. They avoid creating micro-tears in your skin like physical ones (think walnut scrubs) can, and gently but effectively refresh your complexion by breaking down dead skin cells.

When it comes to chemical exfoliators there are a lot of good options. My favourites are the Go-To Exfoliating Swipeys ($46 for 50 wipes) which are cotton pads soaked in AHA (a gentle natural acid) exfoliators, Pixi Glow Tonic ($28 for 100mL) and The Ordinary Lactic Acid ($12.70 for 30mL). All three are easy to find and come with a low to mid-range price tag. It’s important to read the instructions when using acids like these and limit use to once or twice a week.

Face oil

While there are several expensive face oils available that offer a range of benefits, deep hydration is a pretty easy and affordable goal to meet.

Any good health food store will stock a range of face oils, but the most important thing to look at is the ingredients. When choosing a face oil, I tend to go for jojoba or rosehip. The best formulations will be 100 per cent cold-pressed oil. These will intensely hydrate you and sink into the skin without making you look overly oily.


Throughout my skincare journey, I have found my ultimate serum: The Drunk Elephant T.L.C Framboos Glycolic Night Serum ($138 for 30mL). It’s a bit of a mouthful and pretty rough on your wallet, but wow, does this stuff work. Designed to only be applied at night, it uses AHAS and BHAS, which are gentle chemical exfoliators that clean your pores and break down dead skin cells to keep your complexion clear and bright. I am on my fourth repurchase of this serum because it keeps my skin in check, preventing any annoying little bumps.

Bonus: it also works as a spot treatment.


There a million moisturisers I find amazing, both high end and affordable. Whatever your budget, with a bit of research you’ll be able to find a fantastic one to suit your skin type. But these are my favourites.

Weleda Skin Food ($14.95 for 20mL) is affordable, has incredible nourishing ingredients and is organic. It’s amazing. Adored by thousands around the world, you have probably heard of it and it certainly lives up to its name. Nourishing dry skin like no other and now available in a light version, it can be used all year round.

My higher-end choice is the bareMinerals Butter Drench ($58 for 50g) and Bare Haven ($54 for 50g). Not crazy expensive, these two are my go-tos. Butter drench is amazing for the very cold months, whilst bare haven, a lighter version, is amazing all year. They sit beautifully under makeup and feel heavenly on the skin.

It is important to note that everyone’s skin is different, and it is always a good idea to read the ingredients and patch test before use. 

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