7 Amazing Alternatives to Big Brand Skincare

7 Amazing Alternatives to Big Brand Skincare

Big brand skincare is convenient, and it’s familiar. We know brands like Clinique and Estee Lauder. We’re prepared for what we get with Neutrogena and L’Oreal. But do we actually experience the firmer skin and wrinkle reduction we’re promised on the label? Do we see visibly diminished dark spots in just 4 weeks?

Obviously, that’s a subjective question. This post isn’t about hating on the big brands. I mean, my favorite face wash is Clean & Clear Deep Action Cream Cleanser. It’s oil-free, goes on smooth, has a cooling effect, and works. For me, at least. That’s why I’m not going to sit here like a keyboard vigilante and tell you that big brand skincare is a load of shit when my whole bathroom is full of it. If you’ve got a good thing going with your big brand products, keep at it. Everybody’s skin is different. Do you.

But if you’re like me, there comes the point when you get super sick of buying overpriced, over-hyped products just because they’re there. Just because they’re convenient, recognizable, and they pack no surprises.

I feel about these skincare lines the way I feel about the Billboard Top 100. There’s some quality stuff, but mostly it’s just okay and pretty underwhelming. Then there’s the garbage that so obviously sucks, it should be discontinued immediately, and we keep buying it (Olay Total Effects Anti-Aging Moisturiser for $26.99, Ed Sheeran, all drugstore “dark spot correctors,” Chris Brown ft. Drake). Get. In. The. SEA.

So if you’re in the market to try out some new skincare products, here’s a list of affordable alternative options. They can all be bought online, and most are conveniently located on Amazon. All have been tested in the lab of my face and can be applied from the comfort of your home.

Essential Oil Moisturizer

Specifically, my own sweet little combo of Tea Tree + Rosehip + Rose Geranium. I won’t get too deep into specifics here because this is my number one face serum, and in my skin-salvation-bible, it is second only to drinking 3L of water a day. This essential oil moisturizer combined with daily water tracking is so important to my life that they each require their own separate post. You can find all the details about this nectar-of-the-gods essential oil combo here, and my post about water being the holy grail next week. So hold onto your wagons, guys.

Note: when using essential oils on the face, always check if what you’re using requires carrier oil before you slather it all over your skin and melt it off. Also, buy quality products if you’re putting it on your skin or ingesting it. In my experience, USDA approved organic essential oils are pretty reliable, so I would start there and check reviews.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid (hyaluronan) is a natural substance produced by your body that functions primarily to retain water and keep tissues hydrated. It’s a popular skincare method that can be applied to the face as a serum or taken orally as a supplement. It’s also used in cosmetic dermal fillers like Juvederm. I’ve had Juvederm lip fillers before and let me be very clear: they are everything.

Users of hyaluronic acid report wrinkle reduction, increased elasticity, suppleness, firmness, and brightness. Since introducing hyaluronic acid into my skincare regime, I’ve definitely noticed the dark circles under my eyes lessen, and the overall suppleness of my face improved. There is some scientific evidence to indicate hyaluronic acid’s benefit in anti-aging, wrinkle reduction, and moisturizing.

My preference is to apply it as a serum. I’ve used Cosmedica Skincare Pure Hyaluronic Acid Serum for almost two years now. It’s natural, organic, vegan, paraben-free, oil-free, and has no dyes, fragrances, or fillers. So, there you go. It’s the purest purity a madgirl earth goddess is going to find without extricating it straight from another person’s watery tissue matter with a syringe.

Margarite Tinted Zinc Cream

Yall. I’ve been using this religiously for like six years now. You can buy it on Amazon here.

You will buy it on Amazon there.

When I break out, the first thing I want to do is slather on the concealer and forget all about it. Out of sight, out of mind, out of memory, out of the eyes of anyone else. But I know – I know – you’re not supposed to do that, just like you’re not supposed to pop zits no matter how satisfying it would be. I know the rules, so back off.

What makes this cream so great is that it’s an acne treatment, but it’s also the texture and tint of concealer. So, instead of worsening acne with makeup, you can cover it with zinc cream and also be treating it. I mean, if that’s not the American dream…

The active ingredient is 4% sulfur. In terms of acne treatment, sulfur works similarly to benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid in drying the skin surface to soak up the excess sebum. See uuuuuuu.

Beauty Nymph Spa Home Facial Steamer

No really, that’s what it’s called. This is the beauty nymphs’ gift to humankind, and their chosen distributor is Amazon. You can check it out here.

Basically, this is a humidifier that you can stick your giant face into like Harry Potter sticks his giant face into that memory bowl in Dumbledore’s office. Y’all know what I’m talking about. Don’t play.

It’s called a Pensieve, and you can’t afford it. Move on.

So, what can steam offer besides a 10-minute treat-yo-self session? Turns out, quite a bit.

Benefits of Steaming

Photo by Artem Mizyuk on Pexels.com

Steaming cleanses the skin by opening pores and removing excess dirt and grime accumulated throughout the day. This is especially great if you live in a city or a town, or a suburb, or basically anywhere that has air and isn’t a rainforest. Oh yeah, we’ve got a pretty dire air pollution problem. Whaaat.

That’s right. Air pollution is so terrible and widespread that 91% of the global population lives in places that exceed the World Health Organization’s air quality limits. Remember in 2017 when London reached its legal annual air pollution limit within 5 days of the new year? Again, that’s annual legal limit. In 5 days. LOL. No wonder I developed asthma and had to wear a surgeon’s mask over my face. Currently, I live in Houston, TX. which is ranked 9th in the nation for ozone pollution.

Cute, cute, cute, cute, cuuuute.

So yeah, wherever you are, there’s a veil of pollution forming over your face right now. Obviously, this is doing wonders for your skin, so wash your face, then steam the remnants of that grimy shit off.


Steaming can improve acne by clearing away impurities, trapped sebum, and acne-causing bacteria. Add a couple drops of tea tree oil to the water for the added antibacterial benefits.

Hydration & Moisture

Steaming hydrates and moisturizes skin. It increases permeability allowing for greater absorption of topical ointments and serums, and it promotes collagen production, which is the key to youthful skin.

Allergies, Sinuses & Respiratory Health

Steaming is great for clearing sinuses and congestion because warm water vapor helps loosen mucus and soothe inflammation in the nasal passage, throat, and lungs. This makes it a handy device to have around when you catch a cold or any other upper respiratory infection, as well as when allergies flare up.

I use my steamer when I feel an asthma attack coming on, and add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to help soothe my airways and aid breathing.

Note: I am NOT saying that a plastic steamer from Amazon can act as a substitute for inhalers or cure respiratory infections. Please chill.

And remember to be safe, not stupid.

The Beauty Nymph steamer comes with a nasal mask and a facial mask that twist on and off easily. Just make sure you secure the mask into the locked position before lifting or carrying the steamer while it’s on. Trust me. That water is boiling. You may think this obvious since it’s a steamer, but some of us forget and end up carrying those burns with us as permanent reminders of our stupidity.

To reiterate, never lift the Beauty Nymph steamer without ensuring the mask is in the locked position.

Dermal Face Masks

I’m not going to lie to you. These are Korean face masks, but I promise the fad is warranted. They’re great. It’s like laying a sheet of hyaluronic acid on your face for twenty minutes. You can get a 24-pack for like $14, and it comes with a variety of masks that have names like Rose, Apricot, Aloe, Cucumber, Royal Jelly, Vegetable Placenta, Snail, and SYN-AKE. So, they’re pulling no punches. You know exactly what you’re getting with these babies.

To prep my skin, I like to use the Beauty Nymph facial steamer for 10 minutes first, then apply the mask and lie on my bed for 20 minutes looking like Leatherface.

SKINovative Microdermabrasion Exfoliating Skin Scrub

Exfoliating (in moderation) is a crucial part of skincare routines because it helps remove dry and dead skin cells and that sweet layer of grime.

Now, this is a serious exfoliating scrub. It’s what they use in marine training camps to toughen up new recruits (it’s not). If you’ve waxed any part of your body or been run over by an eighteen-wheeler, you’ll breeze right through this. Just imagine rubbing your face with a gloop of mud that has tiny crumbles of gravel in it. That’s all this is.

And now that I’ve sold the shit out of this product, you can go ahead and buy it here.

Honestly, it’s a good scrub. I wouldn’t use it more than once a week, but my face feels flawless as silk after I do. Probably because I’ve shed an entire layer of skin like a reptile, but that’s what it takes to be reborn.

Microneedle Derma Roller

More specifically, Sdara Skincare Microneedle Derma Roller .25mm. This was the first brand of dermaroller I ever bought, and it really was a win on the first try. Since you’re supposed to discard the rollers after about three months, I ended up trying three other brands before realizing Sdara > everyone and everything.

If you’ve never tried microneedling, you can read more about it here. Basically, you roll the spiky wheel over facial areas you want to smooth, brighten, or firm, and it creates little puncture wounds that stimulate collagen production. Sounds fun, I know, but of all the skincare approaches I’ve ever tried, I’ve never seen such immediate visible results.

Listen, I don’t want to bullshit you. I have no motive. It’s not like I work for these companies, and I’m not getting a commission, unfortunately. So believe me when I tell you that jade rollers are a joke, but dermarollers are king.

I use the dermaroller on my lips, forehead, and under eyes. Within 24-hours, the shadows and bags are gone from my eyes – I mean gone – and the creases in my forehead are noticeably smoother. I have an overall facial appearance that is just brighter and healthier. Make sure you use some sort of serum with a dermaroller, like the hyaluronic acid serum or a Vitamin C serum like this one. Never roll spikes over a dry face, my gaad. After microneedling, I like to apply a touch of Neosporin ointment, so nothing gets into my tiny wounds. Then I wait a bit before nourishing my face with the gift of Palmer’s Cocoa Butter. Delish.

Note: for a few hours after application, your face will be red and sensitive, so I wouldn’t recommend microneedling an hour before your boss’s gallery opening charity gala benefit ceremony. You’ll look rough. Also, don’t get carried away. Put at least two weeks between each use. Give your poor skin a break.


Hopefully, there was something in this post that you don’t already use, and that managed to intrigue you. As I mentioned before, I don’t work for these companies so you can be sure I actually believe in the products. My sole motive for sharing is the hope that something on this list might benefit you on your road to health and beauty.

Mainly because I don’t want to look at your ugly faces.

Homemade Essential Oil Moisturizer that Benefits Every Skin Type

Homemade Essential Oil Moisturizer that Benefits Every Skin Type

You knew this was coming. You can’t read posts about skincare and not have essential oils shoved in your face. Not in this day and age. And while my life’s work is to avoid being basic in every way, the truth is…I’m basic. I have a pair of grey Uggs that aren’t even real Uggs. They’re some random knock-off brand that look and feel shitty. My point is, I ride the essential oil train with the rest of them. Know why?

  1. I’m basic
  2. Essential oils are fucking fantastic.

That’s right.

Essential oils are fantastic.

Come on. They smell good, feel good, address certain ailments, improve your skin, and some even taste good. You can wear them as a perfume, mix them into your lotion, or add a few drops to your humidifier or vaporizer to freshen up your home instead of burning overpriced and potentially harmful candles.

Plus, essential oils offer a whole host of wellness gifts. Aromatherapy has been shown to support healthy moods, minimize stress, and help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression (but, like, don’t get carried away – you should definitely call up your doctor if you’re thinking of tossing out your antidepressants because you bought some lavender oil at Whole Foods).

All I’m really trying to say is that essential oils are fantastic, okay.

But you didn’t come here for a comprehensive overview of all the ways essential oils RULE. You came here for fabulous skin, and you’re going to get it.

Essential Oil Moisturizer Combo

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Okay, so this is a special gathering of the essential oil skin society because everyone is welcome. Dry skin, oily skin, normal skin – doesn’t matter. Whether you’re looking to improve elasticity, reduce wrinkles, clear acne, smooth blemishes, or just give your skin a sweet blast of hydration, you’re in for a treat. This recipe has something for everyone.

Because essential oils are fucking fantastic.

Tea Tree + Rosehip + Rose Geranium = Bliss

Tea Tree

Tea tree oil is antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory – so, basically the AR-15 of essential oils. It’s great for acne and irritation, and better for eczema than zinc oxide. And guess what? It works for dry skin and oily skin. I tend to be an oily-skinned grease monster. If you have oily skin like me, then you may have thought it best to steer clear of putting oil on top of oil on top of oil. But actually, tea tree oil reduces oiliness and pore size. It really is an elixir straight from the clouds of Mt. Olympus (no source for that, but I know what I know). Tea tree oil should never be applied directly to the skin, so unless you want to end up like Viserys Targaryen, you’re going to need a carrier oil.


Rosehip oil is the color of sun drops and the most beautiful flower dew mountain of carrier oils. It actually comes from the fruit of a rosebush (who knew rose bushes produced edible fruit? Not me). My face goes through some sort of Benjamin Button transition after I apply it because I swear I’m momentarily made of baby skin. Rosehip is packed with hydrating fatty acids and antioxidants, with Vitamin A and anti-inflammatory properties. In 2015, a clinical study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging reported that 8 weeks of treatment with rosehip oil “showed statistically significant improvements”[2] in wrinkles, crows-feet, skin moisture, and elasticity. And, like, it does. Trust me. I mean, if the science wasn’t enough to convince you.

Rose Geranium

Rose geranium oil is extracted from rose-scented geranium plants. Studies have shown it to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce eye puffiness and signs of aging. It also has anti-fungal properties. And it gives off a great fragrance meaning you can wear this sweet three-oil moisturizer as a perfume too.

But honestly, the rose geranium is disposable. I just like it. I think it adds to the recipe, but you can toss it if you only want to pay for two oils. Tea tree + Rosehip = done deal.

What to buy

I use Zongle Therapeutics Tea Tree and Rose Geranium oils. Previously, I used their Rosehip Oil too and would totally recommend it. Recently, I switched to Teddie Organics Rosehip Oil because I’m a child of the Millenial revolution, and when I ran out of my most recent bottle, I wanted the new bottle to arrive with Prime delivery speed. I wanted it now, okay. So, after scrutinizing what Amazon had to offer, I settled on Teddie and never looked back.

Of course, there are tons of quality essential oil brands out there. There’s also a lot of garbage. In my experience, USDA approved organic brands tend to be reliable, so I would start there. Both the Zongle tea tree and rose geranium were extracted using steam distillation, which is fine, but if you’re looking for something as close as possible to the chemical composition of the plant from which it was extracted, look for essential oils that use CO2 extraction. Cold-press extraction is great for fruits, particularly citrus peels. Both the Teddie and Zongle rosehips are cold-pressed. You can find out more about extraction methods here.

A final perk of using essential oils as a moisturizer is that they last so long. I bought my rose geranium six months ago, and I’ve only used about half – and that’s in the small 15 ml bottle. You buy a 4 oz bottle of tea tree oil, and that’s it. You’re done. Set for life.


Drop the oil straight into your palm and swirl in around with your finger. Don’t get fancy with a Petri dish. It’s not worth it.


6-7 drops rosehip

3 drops tea tree

2 drops rose geranium

Rub into face.

Note: if you’re putting on makeup straight after, good. It makes it look so much better. However, since the oils are so fresh, you could look a little shiny, so it might be worth investing in a softening, anti-shine primer. My favorite is Revlon Photoready Perfecting Primer.


5-6 drops rosehip, 3-4 drops tea tree, rub into face.

5-6 drops rosehip, 2-3 drops rose geranium, rub into face.

Keep rubbing until your skin feels as smooth as a Benjamin Button.

Note: you may need to alter the number of drops depending on what brands you use and what suits your face.


That’s it. That’s all I wanted to tell you. Combine tea tree, rosehip, and rose geranium, and you’ve got yourself a great moisturizer. Probably could have told you that in 50 words or less. But where’s the fun in that?

Anyway, I hope you’ll try this out so we can share the benefits of having Aphrodite-Apollo sunstar face skin. Otherwise known as the curious case of Benjamin Button.


[1] Phetcharat, L et al. “The effectiveness of a standardized rose hip powder, containing seeds and shells of Rosa canina, on cell longevity, skin wrinkles, moisture, and elasticity.” Clinical interventions in aging vol. 10 1849-56. 19 Nov. 2015, doi:10.2147/CIA.S90092