Budget Anti-Aging Skin Care Haul: Retinol Cream, Vitamin C Serum and Niacinamide Night Cream (Each $30 or Less!)

neutrogena vichy 1
A little TLC from Target

If you need me, you can find me buried under all the things I unintentionally bought at Target while under pandemic duress. 😭

DUUUUUUDE. It recently occurred to me that there is much room for improvement in my skin care routine. With everything going on right now (it looks like Marin County is going under lockdown again, and very soon), it’s been a struggle to do the things that were once second nature, like maintaining a consistent skin care routine. I’ve been doing the very minimum it takes for me to function lately — moisturizing face wash, zit cream, moisturizer, sunscreen on most days (when I can remember it).

Anyway, I looked in the mirror last weekend at my bare face and said to myself, “OH MY GOD, WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING” and thought to myself, “Hmm… I could do a better job of proactively using anti-aging products every day.”

So, after watching these these very detailed skin care videos by a couple of different dermatologists on YouTube, I couldn’t resist grabbing some things on my weekly trip to Tar-ghay.


Go in depth on retinal with Dr. Dray.

Dr. Maren Locke walks you through the drugstore products she recommends to her dermatology patients.

Vichy Vitamin C serum

Both the derms in the videos had high praise for the Vichy vitamin C serum ($28.50), and so I’m super excited about it. I used the famous Skinceuticals CE Ferulic for a short time a few years ago and had great results with it evening out pigmentation, but I couldn’t deal with the price tag — $166 for one ounce! — so I’ve been looking for a replacement ever since.

vichy liftactiv
Gimme all the vitamin C.

This one by Vichy isn’t exactly budget; a small 0.33-oz. bottle is $28.50, which works out to $85 an ounce, but that’s easier for me to stomach. Both the Skinceuticals and the Vichy serums contain 15% vitamin C, and both are also owned by the same parent company, L’Oréal (which often means the brands share similar technology and resources), so I’m hoping the Vichy serum works well.

From Vichy.com:

A Dermatologist-grade Vitamin C serum that combines 15% pure Vitamin C and Natural Origin Hyaluronic Acid for brighter and firmer skin in just 10 days. LiftActiv Vitamin C Serum is pure yet potent, with a minimalist formula of only 11 ingredients that is paraben-free and fragrance-free. The perfect addition to your daily anti aging routine.

Skin Type: All Types
Skin Concern: Fine Lines, Dryness, Dullness, Loss Of Firmness, Uneven Skin Tone

Ingredient: Formulated with only 11 ingredients of natural origin – as they retain more than 50% of their molecular structure after being processed from a natural source. INGREDIENTS: AQUA / WATER • ASCORBIC ACID • ALCOHOL DENAT. • DIPROPYLENE GLYCOL • GLYCERIN • LAURETH-23 • NEOHESPERIDIN DIHYDROCHALCONE • SODIUM HYDROXIDE • TOCOPHEROL • HYDROLYZED HYALURONIC ACID • PINUS PINASTER BARK/BUD EXTRACT. Code F.I.L.: B199063/1

Ready for some retinol?

Another product that the docs raved about is Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Regenerating Cream ($30), so I grabbed a jar of the Fragrance Free version, too.

neutrogena retinol sa
I got the fragrance-free version.

It’s supposed to be an effective collagen builder and moisturizer because it also has hyaluronic acid, which I’m all for (dry skin, here!). I’ve started and stopped retinols a few times because my skin always gets so, so dry, so I’m hoping that this one, coupled with an additional moisturizer on top, will be something I can stick with.

From Neutrogena.com:

Rapid Wrinkle Repair® Regenerating Cream, Fragrance-Free regenerates visibly younger-looking skin in just one week. This rich fragrance-free moisturizing cream delivers hyaluronic acid and the highest concentration of Accelerated Retinol SA, the fastest retinol currently available, deep into skin’s surface. It works quickly and effectively to smooth the look of fine lines and instantly plump with moisture rich replenishers. Skin is left looking visibly smoother and younger in just one week.

Accelerated Retinol SA
Fade the look of deep wrinkles, including crow’s feet
Brightens skin tone
Smooth fine lines & texture

Ingredients: Water, Pentaerythrityl Tetraethylhexanoate, Glycerin, Dimethicone, PPG 15 Stearyl Ether, Stearyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Glyceryl Behenate, Ceteareth 20, Isohexadecane, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Cyclopentasiloxane, Polyethylene, Sodium Polyacrylate, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Crosspolymer, Polyacrylamide, PTFE, C13-14 Isoparaffin, Chlorphenesin, Polysorbate 20, Hydrolyzed Myrtus Communis Leaf Extract, Retinol, BHT, Sodium Hyaluronate, Disodium EDTA, Sodium Hydroxide, Laureth-7, Ascorbic Acid.

Speaking of moisturizer, I’m also waiting on an order of CeraVe Skin Renewing Night Cream ($19.99) to be delivered to my doorstep. It has ceramides (ooh!), hyaluronic acid (ah!) and niacinamide and peptide (oh!).

I’m also toying with straying from my current go-to sunscreen, Elta MD, with La Roche Posay Anthelios 50 Mineral Ultra Light Face Sunscreen ($42) because I like the idea of being able to pop into a store to get one off the shelf if I need to. We’ll see if a bottle falls into my basket next time I go back, hahaha!

Have you found any budget anti-aging gems lately? Do tell.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,

Karen