Hey guys!

Back again with yet another broke student’s guide, this time about skincare. As mentioned many times, I was relatively late to the skincare game, and a big part of this was lack of awareness (social media has kind of, shoved the whole skincare thing in our faces these days hasnt it?) and lack of money (my impression of skincare my entire life? Expensive.) But recent years have led me to recognise the importance of skincare, and also love the routine, and I kind of wish I had started earlier if only I’d known the budget skincare options available to me back then!

I really believe that preventive is way better (and cheaper) than remedial when it comes to skincare, which is why you should start young. You dont even need that much stuff in your sub/early-twenties. It’s totally possible to have a sustained skincare routine on a budget. The most important steps are cleansing, moisturising, and sunscreen. I currently follow a more comprehensive 10 step routine, but I think if youre a student getting started on skincare, you only really have to stick to the three steps of cleaning, moisturising, and sunscreen.

Disclaimer: I am not paid via cash or product to write anything in this post, and I dont earn from any clicks or referrals, etc. Photos here which dont have my face are grabbed off Google’s Image Search.

Okay! Lets get started:



Micellar waters are really great for cleansing thoroughly and gently without leaving gunk on your face. I use them as a first step in double cleansing, before a dedicated face wash, but many people just use them on their own. They normally go for pretty decent prices and in big bottles – Loreal does a giant 400ml bottle of its Biphase Micellar water for $20, Garnier and Simple does it for $15, and most brands have their own variation of the Micellar water too. Those are retail prices but drugstores frequently run promotions and you can often get them for much cheaper – I just checked the Watsons site and the Simple Micellar water is on sale for ten bucks. And if you’re willing to pay a bit more, I have heard very good things about the Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micellar Solution ($41.90). The greatest advantage of Micellar waters is how it removes waterproof makeup while still being really gentle, and one bottle can technically last you a pretty long time because it depends on how often you wear make up etc. Most Micellar waters also come with some additional skincare benefits, and you will be able to find micellar waters that are suitable for specific skin concerns too.

I did an ad for the Loreal BiPhase Micellar water in March, it’s August now and Im not even halfway through the bottle yet

Garnier has a series of multitasking face washes. Garnier is actually an excellent drugstore brand for cleansing, and their latest Micellar gel face wash is great for removing make up and cleansing the skin in one wash while not tugging at the skin. It’s just been released but their UK Amazon page already has over 300 really good reviews.

– If you have sensitive skin, you can check out the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser, which is something I grew up with and used whenever I had onsets of heat rash. It’s so gentle that you definitely need to use a make up remover prior to this because it wont cut through heavy make up, but it’s perfect for people who dont wear make up or who have sensitive skin/acne/eczema. Ten bucks from iHerb! Cetaphil in general is a great basic skincare brand for younger people because of its budget and specific catering to gentle skincare, but when you get older you might want something with active ingredients in it for that extra oomph.


– I would spend some time in the Muji Skincare dept, which is really a very underrated section in Muji. Their cleansing oil is a pretty decent dupe for anyone who cant bear to shell out more than a hundred bucks for the Shu Umeura cleansing oils, and their toning water is light and very hydrating, supposedly also doubling as a day moisturiser. Really nice for Singapore’s weather too, when you dont necessarily wanna be slathering oils or creams on your face before heading outdoors. (I tend to favor gel, water, or jelly textures for day moisturisers in SG)


Hada Labo is another really underrated brand that does great skincare for awesome prices. They have a day cream and night cream. I’m particularly inclined towards the Hada Labo Super Hyaluronic Acid Water Gel, 50g for $25.90 – one of the more affordable Hyaluronic Acid products – and great for combination skin. It’s also a good dupe for the Belif Aqua Bomb. Often on sale at Guardian online, now it’s going for $17.35!

– If you have sensitive skin or heat rash issues, look at Curel, which is a Japanese derm brand and focuses on ceramide care. I’m using the Curel Face Lotion 2 which goes for $28.80, and their Moisture Milk which goes for $32, both of which are lightweight textures catered for southeast asian weather. I also gave a Curel moisture cream and face lotion to a friend who had perpetually red cheeks because I suspected it was due to a low level allergy to his skincare (he insisted it was just his skin), and it cleared right up, so he’s a Curel Convert now. Haha.
You can find it in Watsons or Lazada.

A post shared by Jemimah James Wei (@jemmawei) on

I have also endorsed Curel several times before, as well as interviewed a dermatologist for the brand

– You can get the Vaseline Petroleum Jelly Original for $4, and it’s great for both wound care and lip care.



– Sun damage is the worst, so sunscreen is super important! In Singapore’s humid weather I personally favor watery textures, so Biore’s UV Aqua Rich Watery Essence SPF50+ PA++++ 50g ($18.90 for 50ml) or Sunplay Skin Aqua UV Watery Gel Daily Sunscreen SPF50+ PA++++ ($18.90 for 80g) are my favorites. They are also very affordable options, compared to the skincare brands that do their own sunscreen.
PS. I actually featured in an ad for the Biore product last year! So you can see how it lasts through the day, video wise.

Look at the online stores for discounts. Watsons Online often has bundles that make your purchases cheaper, like right now I think if you spend $50 you get a $10 coupon off your next purchase. Guardian Online has 10% off your first order, and also runs sales – now the Sunplay sunscreen is going for $13.90 instead of 18.90 – AND free next day shipping for orders above $40.


– Another way to save money is to get sunscreen that also doubles as a primer or sheer base. L’oreal actually does a pretty decent one, it’s the L’Oréal Paris UV Perfect Even Complexion SPF 50 PA++++, and it goes for $20.90 ($16.70 at Guardian now on sale). For a more high end option, there’s Supergoop’s mineral matte sunscreen, which has zero white cast and is really nice! They’re not going to replace your foundations, but they’re good for just evening out skin tones and giving sheer coverage.

PS. My friend who works as a makeup artist doesn’t recommend Banana Boat, because he says it doesnt absorb properly into the skin.


– If you’re into Korean Skincare, online retailer Hermo often has slashed prices for Korean beauty brands, and it has free shipping for orders above $25, which isnt hard to hit at all! EG. I just did a check and the Cosrx pimple patches are going for $4 from the original price of $10. The only thing is, you have to wait for shipping times, and popular products sell out really quickly, especially when Hermo puts them on sale. Hermo also has products from non-korean brands but the prices arent as attractive.

– The Loreal clay mask series is very affordable, as is the Innisfree ones (but I’ve not tried those yet). If you dont mind waiting for shipping to arrive, I’ve also recently heard about the Aztec Secret — Indian Healing Clay which you can get on iHerb, an online health retail website which carries a lot of discounted or affordable items, for TEN BUCKS per nearly 500g.


Tea Tree Oil works wonders for drying out acne as long as the surface of the skin is unbroken. It’s one of those products that works super good as long as you know what youre doing – it’s a very powerful spot treatment, so do not spread it all over your face or mix it into your moisturiser. And DONT use it with skincare that has active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, retinols or Retin-A, salicylic acid! I use it on occasional pimples, mosquito bites. You can also use it on fungal infections like ringworm or nail fungal infections (dunno what its called). My house has always had at least one bottle of the Thursday Plantation brand oils around, but The Body Shop does a potent one as well for $15-20 depending on your online retailer.

If you’re travelling soon or have friends who dont mind helping you purchase stuff on their travels, look out for the following products:


The Ordinary, a UK based brand, produces really great little bottles of skincare for super affordable prices. Just do your research though – it’s formulated for mainly european weather, and some of the products have ingredients that arent as effective in Singaporean humidity. I personally like the Caffeine eye solution for periods of late night work, but the value of The Ordinary really kicks in when buying their acids and oils, which can be pretty pricey from most other brands. The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5 retails for £5.90, the Kim Kardashian endorsed Advance Retinoid 2% goes for £8, and the 100% Plant-Derived Squalane which can be used for face or hair goes for £5.50.

– You can get many things cheaper just across the border – including Biore make up removing wipes, which I bought for a third of the retail price in Singapore. Watsons Malaysia truly is a wonder to behold.

– Brands are normally cheaper in their home country, which means La Roche Posay and Avene are cheaper in Europe, Biore is cheaper in Japan, etcetera. Just take note if you’re headed to those places!

– Korea has lots of great drugstore cult brands that go for great prices, and Cosrx is a popular one. Their Cosrx Snail Mucin is said to be a dupe for the SK II facial treatment essence (as is the Missha Time Revolution Essence). Korea is such a skincare-obsessed place that if youre headed that way, definitely do a search online beforehand of the brands and products to look out for so you dont get overwhelmed while in town!


You can start shopping the minute you touch down too, at the Lotte Duty Free store. I was in Seoul in March filming for Lotte and they have a pretty good, upmarket range. Brands like Laniege, Sulwhasoo, Mamonde, all go for significantly cheaper there.

– Glossier only ships within the US and canada, so if you’re headed there, take the chance to check out their pH balanced Milky Jelly Cleanser that goes for US $18.00/177ml. I’ve tried it while staying at a friend’s place and it leaves your skin feeling great, and even works to remove make up – though only non-waterproof ones. For waterproof make up you still need a proper makeup remover!



Aight guys, hope that was a helpful boost to get you started on your skincare routine – and I hope it also proved that you dont need to wait till youre earning big bucks to get started on a decent skincare routine! Although there are many premium products on the market that do amazing things to your skin, there are also many drugstore products that will get you on an effective and sustainable skincare routine. Remember, good skin is awesome, but so is not being bankrupt. All the best, guys! x