Skincare Essentials, My Favourite Luxe products and their cheaper drugstore alternatives

This has to be one of the hardest blogs I have ever had to write because I am skincare obsessed so narrowing down my favourites was so hard.  Skincare can be difficult to recommend and critique because everyone has different results depending on their skin and concerns. For this reason a lot of research went into this article and I consulted with other skincare specialists and makeup artists to get their valued feedback as well. I love my luxury skincare but let’s face it I don’t like the price tag so it was fun to try some fantastic cheaper alternatives for when I need to tighten the purse strings. Remember we all have different skin and if you have reactive skin you should definitely do a patch test first. There are so many products I haven’t had a chance to try so please comment with your favourites if you don’t see them here.

I will be publishing this blog in two parts. The second part which I am still thoroughly researching will contain Exfoliators, Eye Creams, Oils and sunscreens.

Quick note – if you haven’t seen it already I suggest reading my popular “makeup essentials, luxe versus drugstore” blog:

Makeup remover

Yes you do need to remove your makeup before cleansing. Foaming and cream cleansers simply don’t get all of your makeup off so it is important to do both steps especially if you don’t use a toner. The exception is a cleansing oil, they remove makeup but some can leave a residue on the skin which may need to be removed with a cleanser or toner.


Drugstore – Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water. It’s 1/5 of the price of Bioderma it’s luxe competitor and it is nearly as good. It quickly and gently takes off all makeup. It does feel a little soapy in comparison to the no residue bioderma but that doesn’t matter as your cleanser or toner will remove any residue. It removes even stubborn waterproof eye makeup. I often pick mine up on special at Priceline for as little as $6. I use this on myself at night and Bioderma in my kit before I start a makeup application as I don’t want residue on the skin when I am going to do a makeup.

Luxe – Bioderma Micelle Solution. If you simply can’t get your head around an oil or don’t want to spend the time massaging it in then Bioderma Makeup Remover is for you. It is a backstage favourite at fashion week because it takes off makeup in seconds and leaves the skin residue free ready to moisturise. To summarise it is quick, gentle, effective at removing all traces of makeup and unlike most it does not leave an oily residue. It is available at Priceline but I recommend buying it from Hub as they sell the large size for $50 which is more cost effective than the smaller sizes at Priceline. This is by far the best, most gentle remover I have used. Shu Uemera may be the most luxe and nourishing but when it comes to removing makeup I want quick and easy so Bioderma wins for me.

Luxe – Shu Uemura Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil. This falls under makeup remover and cleanser so yes it is a 2 in 1 but personally I still recommend doing both to give your skin a deep cleanse and remove all residue especially if you are oily and where a lot of makeup. Many people are afraid of oils but ultimately oil is the best performer at removing makeup. Shu Uemura cleansing oils are considered the God father of oils, 1 is sold every 7 seconds. My favourite in the range is Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil because it doesn’t contain mineral oil and instead it has a combination of 8 nourishing botanical oils. Surprisingly, once you massage it onto your face, and then add water to turn it into a milk before rinsing off there will be no residue at left on your skin and not a hint of makeup either. Verdict – yes it’s worth the price tag because it’s one of only a few removers that actually removes makeup properly and nourishes the skin at the same time. If you are lazy at night and want one product that does it all then this would be my recommendation for you because it will treat your skin, not just clean it. $125 for 450ml from David Jones, yes it seems expensive but the bottle is huge! You can buy a small travel size if you want to test it before committing to the bigger size.



Drugstore – Cetaphil cleanser. I have listed cetaphil because it is a firm favourite with Doctors and dermatologists. This is due to it being suitable for even the most sensitive of skins types including people with Eczema and Psoriasis. It comes in a regular or a oily skin option so choose the one best for your skin type. I have tried both and found them both gentle but I really don’t feel clean after using it and you definitely need to remove makeup first. If you are sensitive or have a dry skin then I think you will like it but not so much if you are on the oily side. If you like natural products or want to be paraben free then this isn’t for you but natural skincare isn’t a concern for many people and so this continues to be one of the most popular cleansers around. I have to be honest this really isn’t my favourite cleanser because I don’t like the ingredients they use. However, I will still continue to recommend this product to people with a sensitive or dry skin or whom simply don’t want to spend much money on a cleanser because it is an effective no frills cleanser that doesn’t strip your skin unlike many other supermarket alternatives.It is $23.99 for a massive 1L bottle so that in itself makes it very appealing.

Luxe – Purity cleanser by Philosophy. This is my absolute favourite cleanser ever and believe me when I say I have tried literally a hundred. It thoroughly cleanses your skin without stripping it of its natural oils and so it is suitable for all skin types. Skin feels so soft after use, not tight and dry like many cleansers that contain sodium laureth sulfate.  It has been voted best cleanser year after year by many publications including Allure since its release. I team it with my Clarasonic for the ultimate cleanse which I will elaborate on when we discuss exfoliators. Purity is stocked at David Jones, Mecca Maxima and Sephora and ranges in price depending on the size. I buy 480ml for $46 and it lasts me for about 3 months at least (my husband and I use it every morning and night religiously).

LuxeEve Lom Cleanser. I was debating for a while about whether or not to include this product as I don’t personally use it as it made me break out. I decided it should still make the cut because I break out from so many products so my opinion doesn’t always count and when it comes to luxury it is said to be the best according to Vogue and many celebrities the world over. It literally has a huge cult following. I used to love using it on my clients with dry skin when giving them facials as it makes the skin feel sensational. It removes makeup, cleanses, exfoliates (with the muslin cloth), tones and hydrates all in the one. It is a favourite with beauty editors too. The down side is it isn’t cheap (ranging from $68-$172 depending on the size) and it does take a few minutes to use as you have to apply it before getting in the shower, massage it in for two minutes and then remove it with the cloth. The plus side is it leaves you with the cleanest and softest skin. My verdict, Shu Uemura Ultim8 is better (as it doesn’t contain mineral oil) but many people will probably disagree with on that especially if they have a very dry skin. Available at Mecca Cosmetica.



Drugstore Mario Badescu – I love all Mario’s toners as they are all effective and gentle. I would say they have the drugstore price tag with the luxe results. Toning is one of those things that is currently out of fashion in skincare as hydrating waters have replaced them. If you are oily opt for a toner, I really like Mario Badescu’s Glycolic toner to give me a gentle exfoliation daily. If you are dry opt for a hydrating spray such as Mario’s hydrating facial spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater. Please whatever you do, do not use Witch Hazel as a toner, I know this was recommended 10 or more years ago (I was told to use this at makeup college) but it will dry your skin out and produce more oil as a result. Mario’s toners are available at Kit Cosmetics and Mecca Maxima.

Luxe – Lancome Tonique Douceur – Forget what you have heard about toners being harsh and stripping, this toner is so soothing, cooling and nourishing. It is a pleasure to use as its smells divine because of it’s ingredient rosa flower water. It is so soothing a skincare guru friend of mine (hi Jacob) recommended I use it as an eye compress too and it was fantastic. I love a two in one! Available at David Jones, Myers, Sephora and Mecca Maxima.


Skincare essentials cheaper alternatives

Drugstore – Nude by Nature Miracle Serum. What a bargain in a bottle. This serum is so hydrating, it makes the skin feel silky smooth straight after use. It is also good for redness. It contains all the usual goodies found in good anti ageing serums such as green tea, vitamin C (derived from Kakadu Plum) and hyaluronic acid for a really affordable price. $29.95 direct from Nude’s website or at Priceline and other pharmacies.

Luxe – Chantecaille Biodynamic Lifting Serum. I have a dear friend who calls it her “botox in a bottle” (hi Rach), and I have to agree with her. A little goes a long way, it hydrates and plumps the skin beautifully to minimise those ageing fine lines. Skin looks instantly better after using it which is rare for skincare as it’s normally about long term use. It is even suitable for an oily skin type which isn’t common with good anti wrinkle serums. $264 from Mecca Cosmetica. I know it is super expensive but I had to include it because no one does luxurious, botanical, great performing skincare like Chantecaille and hey it’s cheaper than botox. I really wish I never tried it because now I know how good it is I can’t live without it. The good news is the next luxe serum on the list is more affordable…

LuxePerricone High Potency Evening Repair. This is a brand not for the faint hearted. Forget the pretty packaging and nice scent, Dr Perricone’s focus is the science and performance, not on making his products look and smell pretty. Dr Perricone is a recognisable name as he has written 7 New York Times best selling books on diets and slowing down ageing. He has many devoted high profile fans such as Oprah and many, many more that don’t admit to using it due to being the faces of other well known brands. He is responsible for the famous “Face lift in a fridge” diet which is all about eating antioxidant rich and anti inflammatory foods such as Wild Atlantic Salmon, blue berries and green tea. Anyway back to his serums, it was hard to choose which one of his serums to list as he has many depending on your concern. In the end High Potency Evening Repair won with me because it has retinol in it which I adore. It also contains his famous DMAE and Alpha Lipoic Acid. To cut a long story short it will resurface your skin and help lines, pores, skin tone and hydration, so yes it practically does everything.  If you are going to use his skincare I suggest you buy one of his books and try and adopt his diet too as we can’t rely on skin care alone to look good (although we all wish otherwise). Perricone is an American brand so I used to tell people to stock up on it over there but now it has gone down in price here, it is now $130 at Mecca Cosmetica.



I  really struggled to narrow down this list so here are a few of my favourites:

Drugstore -Embryollise Lait-Crème Concentré 24 Hour Miracle Cream. To put it simply it has the luxe feel and performance with the drugstore price tag. It might not be as active in terms of anti-ageing ingredients as the luxe competitors but this moisturiser really does hydrate well and ultimately that is the most important aspect. It contains a blend of essential fatty acids and vitamins to protect and nourish the skin. I must admit I normally always favour the luxe option when it comes to skincare but in this instance I have to say Embryollise is fantastic and I highly recommend it for just about any skin-type (although if you are really oily or really dry they do have other options better suited to your skintype). $35 for the 75ml size. You will have to buy it online, there are only a few stockists, I order from

Drugstore – Moo Goo Anti-Ageing Cream with Resveratrol. This cream doesn’t have all of the fancy peptides and vitamins of many luxe brands but it is extremely hydrating, antioxidant packed and it is fantastic for sensitive and reactive skin. It is Australian made and owned and is around $35 from or Priceline.

Drugstore – Olay. Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Cream. I’m sure you have heard of this cream as it is often featured in magazines and everyone seems to know someone that has used it and loved it. After leaving mecca and my wonderful staff discount goodbye I decided to try cheaper skincare products as I was spending a fortune on my skin. I have to say I was amazed by the results of such a well priced cream. It contains an amino peptide complex to improve elasticity but honestly forget the science and just concentrate on how it feels. I find my skin feels amazing, as it’s really hydrating but it absorbs into the skin quickly so it doesn’t feel greasy and my skin appears brighter after use.

Luxe – Chantecaille Biodynamic Lifting Cream at $364 my clients bank accounts hate me for getting them hooked on it but they absolutely love me for how it makes their skin look! This cream embodies everything about luxe as it feels sensational on and has all of the best ingredients. It is suitable for sensitive skin but it is still really effective at treating wrinkles, loss of density and elasticity due to the ingredient Hexapeptide  and it is really hydrating and plumping due to Imperata Cylindrica plant extract. It really does make the skin feel so supple and soft and it certainly makes the skin look more youthful. Everyone I have spoken to that uses Biodynamic lifting cream absolutely adores how it has made their skin look. I must confess although it is the best cream I have ever tried (I use the oil free version) I don’t use it all the time simply because of the price. Available from Mecca Cosmetica

Luxe – Perricone Face Finishing Moisturiser (combination, normal skin) or Perricone Nourishing Moisturiser (dry, sensitive skin). Perricone has made my luxe list due to it’s performance. It doesn’t have the pretty, luxurious packaging as Chantecaille but who cares when it is so results driven and under one third of the price. Face Finishing is light weight yet still very hydrating so it is perfect for normal and combination skin especially in the heat of summer. It contains free radical fighting anti-oxidants and it contains  Dr. Perricone’s three most celebrated patented ingredients Alpha Lipoic Acid, DMAE and Vitamin C Ester. Dr Perricone’s Hypoallergenic Nourishing Moisturiser is a richer moisturiser designed for sensitive, dry skin. It contains ultra hydrating extracts from the Olive fruit and plant that can make the driest of skins feel soft and hydrated. Available from Mecca Cosmetica for around $90

**Are you surprised you didn’t see the famous Creme De La Mer on the luxe list? I was debating listing it due to it’s reputation of pure luxury however after asking many people about this cream we all agreed that whilst it feels rich and decadent we think there are better contenders on the market.

I hope you enjoyed the blog, Gem x

Part two coming soon.

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Gemma Nichols Makeup Artistry is a mobile makeup and hair styling service in Sydney that will pamper you & your group to perfection for all occasions. Gemma also specialises in television as well as commercial & corporate print & film.