The 20 Best Drugstore Skincare Products For $20 Or Less

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Creating a skincare routine on a budget can actually be a bit of a tall order. With products that may run $20 or more, it can be hard on the wallet to purchase everything you may want for a comprehensive routine. This can lead you to have to decide which are essential and which are not. Then comes the unfortunate realization that some products may actually be a waste of money because they don't do what they claim they will. Talk about a headache.


There are, however, plenty of brands determined to offer simple, quality products at more affordable prices — you just have to know where to look. You can find plenty of inexpensive gems in the drugstore skincare section and at retailers such as Sephora and Ulta Beauty, if you look beyond the glittering new releases from celebrity skincare brands and the guilt-inducing clean beauty competitors. 

So, whether you're looking for an acne treatment or a no-nonsense moisturizer, this collection offers plenty of high-performing, dependable products that all come in at $20 or less.

How we selected products

Choosing products to recommend, of course, started with their prices, and the quality you get for that price. Even the drugstore carries $30 skincare products now, but not all of them are of good quality. We wanted to stay within the $20-and-under range and dig up some star products that will give you that glowing, healthy skin on a budget. We also poured through customer reviews, additional beauty articles, and science-backed information on different active ingredients in order to give you a comprehensive routine that fits your wallet. 


All the products are listed in order of application — from thinnest to thickest consistency — but you can mix and match your skincare products however you see fit. For example, some people prefer to apply retinol after their moisturizer to reduce any dryness or irritation, some prefer face oils that are thicker than others, and most people don't wear sunscreen at night. Don't get too hung up on the "right way" to skincare, just be excited that there are this many inexpensive options still lurking around Target, Amazon, Ulta Beauty, and more.

Best micellar water

The Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water is a classic, no-fuss first-step cleanser. Removing 99% of makeup, this simple cleanser gently eradicates particles and other pollution from the surface of the skin (via Bioderma Laboratoire Dermatologique). It has no harsh fragrances, doesn't sting the eyes, and does not have to even be rinsed away, making it great for when you are on the go or while traveling.


Purchase Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Water for $16.99 from the Bioderma website.

Best balm cleanser

The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm is a thick makeup-removing cleanser that breaks down dirt, oils, sunscreen, and makeup. An Allure Magazine Best of Beauty winner in 2020, this oat kernel oil and colloidal oatmeal product is a comforting first step in your skincare routine (via The Inkey List). It features a host of natural actives to help benefit your skin, especially if your skin concerns include irritation and redness.


Purchase The Inkey List Oat Cleansing Balm from the brand's website for $10.99.

Best overall cleanser

The Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser is a super simple, but dependable, drugstore option for anyone looking for a basic cleanser that does what it says it's going to do. Cetaphil is available everywhere from Walgreens to Ulta Beauty and always comes with an accessible price tag.


This particular product comes highly recommended by skincare experts as well. "It hydrates while cleansing the skin and also strengthens the skin's moisture barrier," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marina Peredo told The Everygirl. "I like that it is fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, and does not clog your pores."

Purchase the Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser from Ulta Beauty for $11.99.

Best chemical exfoliant

The Ordinary's Salicylic Acid 2% Solution is a great affordable chemical exfoliant option. It's a staple ingredient for anyone with oily and/or acne-prone skin. Salicylic acid is a BHA (beta hydroxy acid) that goes deep into the skin, penetrating the pores, oil glands, and hair follicles to help break down any unwanted build-up, dissolve dead skin cells, melt away excess oils, and help to prevent the development of acne in the future (via AcneSupport). 


The Ordinary's affordable option averages 4.3 stars on and has received some pretty positive reviews from customers seeking relief from hormonal acne and rough, textured skin. One buyer wrote, "It just takes a tiny little dab to dramatically decrease a breakout's size and redness overnight. I never have luck with pimple patches or most other spot treatments, but this never lets me down."

Purchase The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution from Ulta Beauty for only $5.90.

Best toner

The Good Molecules Niacinamide Brightening Toner is a drugstore-priced watery toner that promises to help diminish the appearance of pores, even tone, reduce any dullness in the complexion, and soothe the skin (via Good Molecules). The brand also proudly highlights the product as being vegan, alcohol-free, and never tested on animals.


Purchase Good Molecules Niacinamide Brightening Toner for $14 from the Good Molecules website.

Best hyaluronic acid serum

Good Molecules' Hyaluronic Acid Serum is a simple, basic hydrating serum for less than $10. Why pay a high price for such a common ingredient? You shouldn't. This affordable option does the trick with its thin, water-comparable consistency, sinking into the skin and working to draw outside moisture into those upper layers (via Good Molecules). It isn't fancy, but for anyone seeking some much-needed hydration during the drier fall and winter seasons, the Good Molecules' Hyaluronic Acid Serum is a great affordable antidote for any parched face. 


Purchase Good Molecules' Hyaluronic Acid Serum from the Good Molecules website for only $6.

Best niacinamide serum

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% serum is a lightweight texture, which is great for a multitude of skin types. When tested by the brand in a clinical stud, it was found to heighten skin radiance and luminosity, increase hydration, and improve the skin barrier in just one week, with smoother skin reported after eight weeks (via The Ordinary).


The popular serum also receives plenty of positive customer reviews on the brand's website, with one reviewer writing, "Yes Yes Yes! This product should be in everyone's bath! It is well absorbed, the skin becomes smooth, and it is good to fight redness and age spots. I have combination acne-prone skin and this product works wonders!"

Purchase The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% from the brand's website for only $6.50 for the 30ml size.

Best retinol

The Inkey List Retinol Anti-Aging Serum is a great beginner-friendly retinol that will hopefully reduce your chances of anti-aging product-related dryness and irritation. The Allure Best of Beauty winner comes formulated with RetiStar Stabilised Retinol at a 1% concentration and Granactive Retinoid at a 0.5% concentration (via Sephora). It also features squalane, a moisturizing oil that occurs naturally in our skin (via INCI Decoder).


Retinol comes from vitamin A and is the pinnacle of skin cell turnover and anti-aging, according to Sephora. This 'hero' ingredient helps to target and reduce fine lines, wrinkles, and even blemishes. The brand itself is proudly cruelty-free and promises that this cream-textured product smooths without irritating as much as other heavy-duty treatments.

Purchase The Inkey List Retinol Anti-Aging Serum from Sephora for $10.99.

Best moisturizer for oily skin

The Honest Beauty Hydrogel Cream is a vegan and cruelty-free moisturizer great for anyone looking for some lightweight hydration. The hydrogel formulation makes this product burst on the skin like water, allowing the moisture to sink in without leaving the surface of your skin feeling slimy. 


Formulated with squalane and two different variations of hyaluronic acid, the award-winning cream is supposed to soften the skin and reduce the look of fine lines (via Ulta Beauty). One satisfied reviewer wrote, "I love how it moisturizes my skin without making it feel oily. It's gentle and works wonders!"

Purchase Honest Beauty's Hydrogel Cream for $20 from Ulta Beauty.

Best moisturizer for dry skin

CeraVe's Moisturizing Cream is a total drugstore staple. Available at Amazon, Target, Walgreens, and more, CeraVe is one of the most accessible dermatologist-approved brands on the market. The brand's claim to fame is its use of three essential ceramides in each product. "Ceramides prevent transepidermal water loss, moisturizing the skin and maintaining its barrier — and a strengthened barrier helps to protect the skin from microorganisms, pollution, and other external aggressors," aesthetician Kemi Fabusiwa tells Harper's Bazaar.


The texture of this particular product is quite thick, which could be a positive for some, and a deal breaker for others. For board-certified dermatologist Claire Chang, this occlusive property is definitely a selling point. "During the dry winter months when I need extra hydration, I switch to a thicker cream that contains ceramides like CeraVe Moisturizing Cream," she said (via Harper's Bazaar).

Purchase CeraVe Moisturizing Cream from Amazon for $16.89.

Best night cream

Another CeraVe hit is the PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion. This product is marketed to those with more normal to oily skin. It's oil-free with a lightweight consistency — not what you'd usually expect from a night cream. But with its signature ceramides, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid, this non-comedogenic cream locks in moisture to ensure a soothed and protected skin barrier (via CeraVe).


"While more sophisticated medical grade products exist, CeraVe has made ceramides affordable and adapted their formulations for different skin concerns with packaging that's easy to understand — it does what it says on the box!" aesthetic doctor Dr. Amiee Vyas tells Harper's Bazaar. CeraVe is a no-nonsense brand that produces products to actually perform the functions they're promising, and this nighttime hydration cream is no different.

Purchase the CeraVe PM Facial Moisturizing Lotion from Target for $17.79.

Best facial oil

Good Molecules' Pure Cold-Pressed Rosehip Seed Oil is a vegan and cruelty-free option for anyone looking for high-quality facial oil. It's formulated with 100% Chilean Rosa Rubiginosa Seed Oil and is meant to brighten and moisturize for plumper, happier skin — especially as the weather changes (via Ulta Beauty). The brand is committed to offering affordable prices for products that actually work, so even though this isn't technically an available-at-the-drugstore item, Good Molecules' accessible science-backed philosophy is perfectly in line with a skincare-on-a-budget journey. The brand also uses sustainable packaging.


Purchase the Good Molecules Pure Cold-Pressed Rosehip Seed Oil from Ulta Beauty for $10.

Best eye cream

Another CeraVe favorite, the Eye Repair Cream is a fragrance-free, ophthalmologist- and dermatologist-tested, hypoallergenic eye cream. This under-$20 option, like other CeraVe products, is ceramide-packed and prepared to deliver on whatever the box promises. "Cerave is a brand created with and recommended by dermatologists," Dr. Kemi Fabusiwa tells Harper's Bazaar. "It's a shining example of what a skincare brand should look like in 2022: low cost but the high value that strips skincare right down to the ingredients that you actually need."


Purchase CeraVe Eye Repair Cream from Target for $16.99.

Best sunscreen

Even in the fall and winter, we need sunscreen. Yes, you should still be wearing it when it's cloudy. Just because you can't see the sun, doesn't mean it isn't there. The Pipette Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 is an affordable and moisturizing skin protector that will prevent skin damage all through the winter.


Ulta Beauty's comments section is full of shoppers happy to report that this vegan, kid-friendly, and cruelty-free option doesn't sting the eyes and leaves the skin feeling nourished. One happy reviewer wrote, "The best sunscreen I've used so far. It blends in so easily and doesn't pill like other ones I've tried. Leave my skin glowy and primed."

Purchase Pipette's Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 from Ulta Beauty for $12.

Best lip treatment

Aquaphor finds its home in grocery store checkout aisles and next to giant jars of Vaseline. If you spot it at your local drugstore, know that you've stumbled upon a do-it-all product. 

"This product is a major multitasker," New York City-based dermatologist Rachel Nazarian tells Byrdie. "It also works well to prevent loss of moisture in dry environments so can be used nicely as a lip balm or on fingertips and cuticles to keep them hydrated throughout winter." Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marina Peredo upholds Nazarian's praises of the protective product. "Aquaphor's Healing Ointment is ideal for those who suffer from dry, cracked skin," she tells The Everygirl. "It helps restore the skin to be smooth and healthy."


Purchase Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment from Amazon for $9.11.

Best pimple patches

Another Allure Best of Beauty 2020 Award-winner is the Hero Cosmetics Mighty Acne Pimple Patch. A hydrocolloid sticker made to lure the gunk out of pesky breakouts, these helpful little patches reduce picking and speed up the blemish-healing process (via Hero Cosmetics). 


The patches themselves are also quite small, and their translucent quality helps them blend into the surrounding skin so even you might forget you have a breakout.

Purchase the Mighty Acne Pimple Patches from Hero Cosmetics for $12.99.

Best acne and spot treatment

A classic when it comes to effective over-the-counter acne treatments, Differin Adapalene Acne Treatment Gel comes recommended by medical experts across the internet. The product works to unclog blocked pores and help correct sun damage, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Mullans (via PureWow). A strong topical treatment, ishe recommends carefully applying it in targeted areas and/or only a few times per week (via PureWow).


Michigan-based dermatologist Dr. Fatima Fahs also suggests using it to treat comedonal acne, those little bump breakouts that tend to form (and stick around) on the forehead and chin (via The Everygirl).

Purchase Differin Adapalene Acne Treatment Gel from Target for $15.99.

Best body wash

Dove's Deep Moisture Foam Body Wash is a much more affordable body care option that promises a lightweight lather and lasting moisture (via Target). It's free of sulfates, parabens, dyes, fluorides, and aluminum, and is cruelty-free, so you can be sure that this fluffy body wash won't strip your skin in the shower. Connecticut dermatologist Deanne Robinson recommends the drugstore cleanser, telling Today, "This lightweight foam is a gentle but effective cleanser for the body." 


Dove has also recently committed itself to plastic reduction as part of a previous 2025 commitment statement and is now working to eliminate 20,500 metric tons of virgin plastic every year by creating recyclable bottles and permanently altering some it's packaging to eliminate plastic entirely (via Dove).

Purchase Dove's Deep Moisture Foam Body Wash from Target for $8.89.

Best body moisturizer

The Aveeno Sheer Hydration Daily Moisturizing Lotion is a nourishing but lightweight body moisturizer that sinks right in and soothes the skin. As the weather starts to get even colder, itchy skin after bathing is becoming a bit of a nuisance. Having a dependable body lotion to slap on without laboring over the cost of each pump is a must for winter.


Dr. Joshua Zeichner advises those with dry skin to "apply Aveeno's Daily Moisturizing Lotion within five minutes of getting out of the shower for optimal penetration and effectiveness (via Byrdie). "Light lotions are easier to spread and don't feel heavy or greasy."

Purchase Aveeno Sheer Hydration Daily Moisturizing Lotion on Amazon for only $8.49.

Best unconventional product

Not every skincare product has to be used for its actual intended purpose. The Ordinary's Glycolic Acid 7% Exfoliating Toning Solution, for example, might not be right for your face (glycolic acid can be harsh), but it could be perfect for your body. Have breakouts on your back, chest, or butt? This 8oz chemical exfoliant could be your solution.


Exfoliators like this can also be used as a deodorant. And while board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick tells Today that it won't actually reduce sweating, it can help to keep BO to a minimum and reduce ingrown hairs and hyperpigmentation. By sloughing off layers of dead skin cells, and also decreasing PH under the arms, this formidable AHA sugarcane derivative creates a less hospitable environment for odor-causing bacteria.

Purchase The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Exfoliating Toning Solution from Ulta Beauty for $10.