A Complete Acne-Prone Skin Care Routine For Under $45

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Dermatologist appointments and a lot of trial and error can make taking care of acne-prone skin both time-consuming and expensive. And while it can be frustrating at times, the most important thing to keep in mind when dealing with irritated or problematic skin is to be consistent and keep it simple. 

With so many skin care brands available claiming so many different things, it can be easy to believe the notion that the more you pay, the better the results will be. But this  isn’t always the case. In fact, you can find great results with affordable skin care; it’s  making a decision while standing in front of the endless supermarket and pharmacy aisles that’s the hard part. 

That’s why we’ve done it for you. We’ve outlined the key ingredients to look for, and even broken down the costs involved for an acne-friendly skin care routine that won’t send you broke.

What are some of the best skin-clearing ingredients to look out for?

Salicylic acid: a BHA that dissolves oil buildup on the skin’s surface while acting as an anti-inflammatory.

Niacinamide: the active form of vitamin B3, it is one of the most well-tolerated and versatile active ingredients there is. It is best known for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that aid in clearing up mild to moderate acne conditions.

Zinc: Zinc has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which can soothe the most inflamed acne lesions. 

Hyaluronic acid: Hyaluronic acid is incredibly effective at boosting the natural hydration of the skin. 

Our $45 acne-prone skin care routine

Cleansing: CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser

Cleansing your skin is arguably the most important part of any skin care routine. If you have oily skin or if you experience frequent breakouts, consider a cleanser with salicylic acid, like the dermatologist-approved CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser.

The daily face wash clarifies and exfoliates pores in order to help combat acne, excess sebum and inflammation. Reducing excess oil production will leave your skin clearer and less prone to breakouts without it feeling stripped or tight.

CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser 236ml $13.39 at Chemist Warehouse


Serum: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% 

Formulated with, you guessed it, niacinamide and zinc, this powerful serum from The Ordinary is your cheap ticket to reducing redness and inflammation. One to two drops daily will take the anger out of breakout patches and contribute to minimising excess sebum production.

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1% 30ml $9.90 at Adore Beauty

Moisturiser: CeraVe Facial Moisturising Lotion 

So far we’ve killed bacteria, unclogged pores, reduced inflammation and minimised excess oil production. And now, it’s time to hydrate and support the skin barrier – without clogging it. This is where the CeraVe lotion comes in. Packed with ceramides and hyaluronic acid, it works to repair, reduce inflammation and quench thirsty skin. 

Believe it or not, the key to treating and avoiding breakouts is to make sure your skin stays moisturised, which is an important step that many acne sufferers overlook. In order to compensate for its lack of moisture, dry skin tends to overproduce sebum, which means that skipping moisturiser to avoid excess oil, clogged pores and acne is actually counterintuitive and will only make your skin produce more oil to compensate for its thirst. 

CeraVe Facial Moisturising Lotion $17.39 at Chemist Warehouse

Spot treatment: COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch 

On top of keeping your pesky fingers from popping active pimples, K-beauty brand COSRX created their patches with hydrocolloid, a wound dressing that draws out pus and other nasty stuff from deep inside your pimple. Try putting a few on before bed, or while you’re watching TV, and each patch will help to speed up the pimple’s lifecycle, fend off scarring, and prevent further bacteria from entering the site.

COSRX Acne Pimple Master Patch $3.88 at Lila Beauty

Total cost = $44.56 

What we didn’t factor into the cost was an SPF. Why? An SPF should be a no-brainer and already on hand, no matter your skin type! If you’re looking for acne-prone SPF recommendations, check out our roundup here.

Main image credit: @mandymadd

What’s your go-to affordable acne-fighting product?

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Comments 45

  1. I’ve never tried any affordable ones but am all for it, I get hormonal breakouts had acne as a teen and at 34 I thought this stage in life would be over. Going to give these a go 🙂

  2. Thank goodness that I have been using Niacinamide in both Serum and Face Moisturiser as well, I am so happy that I don’t get many pimples at all. But occasionally I do every now and then.

  3. S-P I have to answer your question up here because I tried a couple of times to answer your question by hitting the ‘reply’ button but it didn’t work.

    So to answer your question SP, no, there wasn’t any skincare products that worked for me back then – my skin got so bad I needed to take oral tablets (roaccutane) which did work thankfully. ahh the relief!

    Nowadays, if I get the odd spot I’ll use the Dermalogica spot treatment and it tames the spot overnight.

  4. I can’t live without salicylic acid in my cleansers! Also good ol Clearasil Extra Acne Treatment Cream! Have been using it since I was a teenager and always have a tube in the bathroom. Dab that on a pimple and it’s gone overnight!

  5. My solution that fixed it for good: diet change. Cleared everything that is processed and not designed for human metabolism (animals etc). Do get a pimple here and there, whiteheads….when not properly cleansing or overusing actives. Simple skincare routine is best.

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