This is a budget acne regimen where you spend less than Rs. 500 per month on your whole skin care routine. Product recommendations include a full set – face wash, moisturizer, sunscreen, acne cream, exfoliating cream and de-pigmentation cream, all suitable for acne prone skin.
This acne regimen is designed for relief from whiteheads, pimples and to a large extent cystic acne (acne vulgaris). It is suitable for moderate to severe acne depending on the products you choose (explained later). It is also designed to fade away reddish and brown spots left behind by pimples to reveal a smooth, even-toned skin.
The Budget Regimen is a complete skin care routine. You do not need to add a toner or face mask or scrub or facial or any other treatment. If you continue to use extra products on the side, it is possible that some of them are pore-clogging. Then you will wonder why this regimen is not working. Ideally, you would stop using everything else and switch completely to this regimen to see the full effect.
The products mentioned here have been carefully selected for acne prone skin from the most budget-friendly options. Avoid the temptation to replace them with either cheaper or costlier alternatives unless you know what you are doing.
If budget is not an issue and you’re facing stubborn acne, check out the Starter Regimen with some of my best recommendations and stronger products. For teenage or mild pimples, check out the Basic Regimen.
Budget Regimen products
Even though the market is flooded with face washes, it is insanely difficult to find a budget face wash that does not have any comedogenic ingredients. Here are some options that you may try. You will have to experiment a bit with these and see which one you like best. With these options you will be spending maximum 50-60 Rupees per month.
- FabIndia Tea Tree Face Wash Rs. 165 for 120 ml which will last 3 months. (water, sodium lauryl ether sulphate, cocoamidopropylbetaine, sodium chloride, tea tree Oil, salicylic acid, guar gum, turmeric extract, citric acid)
- Vedic Line Neem and Brahmi Disinfecting Face Wash Rs. 125 for 120 ml which will last 3 months. There is a smaller 50 ml pack for Rs. 70. (water, neem oil, brahmi / gotu kola, tea tree oil, camphor, sodium lauryl ether sulphate, sodium chloride, sodium benzoate) Another variant is Vedic Line Charcoal Disinfecting & Face Wash.
- Himalaya Purifying Neem Face Wash Rs. 50 for 50 ml, Rs. 90 for 100 ml and Rs. 125 for 150 ml.
You can find these facewashes in supermarkets, Health & Glow stores, New U, medical stores and online shopping websites.
The acne cream of choice in this regimen is Sebonac Gel which is 1% salicylic acid (BHA) in an aloe vera gel base. I’ve included salicylic acid in this leave-on gel instead of a rinse-off face wash because it comes in a soothing base unlike BHA face washes which often leave the skin dry and irritated.
Salicylic acid at 1% is not really prescription strength, so you should be able to walk up to a medical store and ask for this gel. Sebonac gel ingredients: salicylic acid 1%, zinc gluconate, magnesium aspartate, copper gluconate, alpha bisobolol (natural), allantoin, aloe vera, hydroxyethyl acrylate, sodium acryloyldimenthyl taurate, propylene glycol, DCCB – 3031 fluid, fragrance.
Apply Sebonac all over the acne prone areas in a thin layer. Say you get pimples on your forehead and cheeks. Then apply a thin layer covering your whole forehead and cheeks, leaving out the chin and nose areas. It is not just a spot treatment, it is an acne-prone-area treatment. Remember to apply a very thin layer to prevent soreness and redness.
In the beginning, maybe keep it on for an hour or so at night and wash it off with face wash. Slowly, increase the duration till you are able to keep it on overnight. You might notice some dryness and peeling in the beginning. That is normal, don’t freak out. Just use sunscreen every single day, otherwise you might notice darker skin.
You can also use it as a spot treatment for new pimples. During the day, dot a tiny amount of the gel over a pimple and let it absorb. Then apply sunscreen over it.
The price of Sebonac gel is around Rs. 200 for 30 ml. This should last you about 2 months.
If you notice redness or small, white pimples (whiteheads) from using Sebonac gel, try mixing it with aloe vera gel (mentioned later in the post). If that doesn’t help, try using Sebonac only every alternate night. Salicylic acid based products like Sebonac can potentially irritate sensitive skins even at low concentrations and cause whiteheads. But if your skin is able to tolerate Sebonac, you’ve found a winner, so try different ways of using it before throwing it out. It is powerful, but sometimes too powerful for sensitive skins.
Even though there are tons of inexpensive sunscreens in the market with big claims, you need to use one that provides the claimed sun protection without causing breakouts.
Many of the cheaper formulas are too thick and horribly pimple-causing. They make the skin shiny and sweaty. Many do not list the percentage of sunscreen ingredients, so you don’t even know if you are getting the claimed sun protection.
When using acne creams, you must use a sunscreen every single day. Otherwise the skin will darken more than before. That’s because acne creams make the skin very sensitive to the sun. Apply sunscreen generously.
A budget pick is Zoray Aquagel SPF 30 Rs. 211 for 60 gm. It provides both UVA abd UVB protection. It will last you about 1 and 1/2 months of daily use. That comes to Rs. 140 per month.
If your skin only feels tight or dry without any obvious flaking, use a lightweight moisturizer Aloe Veda Aloe Vera Gel (inexpensive at Rs. 90 for 120 gm).
If you need to use a moisturizer during the day, apply sparingly on top of the sunscreen, 15 minutes after applying the sunscreen.
If you notice very dry, stretchy or flaky skin, you could use Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture for Combination Skin (not the SPF 15 one, get the one for combination skin which is without SPF). This will last you up to 6 months. It costs Rs. 299 for 118 ml. It is not entirely non-comedogenic, but should be alright if you have major dryness issues.
Including a de-pigmentation product in your skin care routine will ensure that your dark brown spots from pimples fade away faster. Learn more about fading dark pimple spots here.
The de-pigmentation cream used in this regimen is Kojivit Gel at Rs. 200 for 15 gm. Kojivit Gel contains kojic acid dipalmitate 2% w/w, arbutin 1.5%, morus alba extract 1.5% – all good ingredients for lightening dark spots. – will last 3 months since it has to be dotted only on dark spots. It is available at medical stores.
Budget Regimen costs
|Face Wash (also shaving cream)||Any face wash from the list e.g. FabIndia Tea Tree Face Wash Rs. 165 for 120 ml||Rs. 55|
|Moisturizer||Aloe Veda Aloe Vera Gel Rs. 90 for 120 gm will last 2-3 months easily||Rs. 45|
|Sunscreen||Zoray Aquagel Sunscreen Rs. 211 for 60 gm. Should last for 1.5 months.||Rs. 140|
|Acne cream||Sebonac Gel Rs. 200 for 30 ml should last for 2 months||Rs. 100|
|De-pigmentation product||Kojivit gel Rs. 200 per tube of 15 gm, will last 3 months since it has to be dotted only on dark spots||Rs. 65|
|Total||Expenditure for the first time – Rs. 165+90+211+200+200 = Rs. 866||Rs. 405|
Budget Regimen steps
- Men shave using the face wash itself (read which razor, how to lather up etc.)
- Wash face with face wash
- Apply sunscreen, wait for 15 minutes
- Dab moisturizer lightly on top only if skin is dry or peeling off
- Wash face with face wash if needed
- Reapply sunscreen if outdoors
Evening / night
- Wash face with face wash
- Apply acne cream all over the acne prone areas in a thin layer. Dab moisturizer lightly on top if needed. Skip nights in case of dryness or irritation.
- Dab de-pigmentation cream on the dark spots after 15 minutes
Starter versus Budget Regimen
How does this acne regimen compare to the Starter Regimen people are raving about?
Each one has its place depending on the budget and product availability.
The Kaya Skin Clinic Soothing Cleaning Gel mentioned in the Starter Regimen is not there because it sounds posh, but because it cleans very well without breaking out or drying out acne prone skin.
Similarly, Triacneal, a non-prescription retinoid product has been suggested in the Starter Regimen not because expensive is better, but because it has in-built protection against skin irritation that is commonly noticed by people using retinoids such as adapalene or Retino-A. Triacneal has been recommended by world’s top doctors.
This is not to say the Budget Regimen won’t be effective. It will be and you should start to see results in 2-3 weeks. Starter Regimen products pose less risk of skin irritation and are hassle-free.
Know that this regimen is just information, not a guarantee. If you decide to follow it, you have to take responsibility for your skin. Keep an eye on what effect each product has on your skin. If anything aggravates breakouts, stop using it for a week and see.
For stubborn cystic acne (severe acne)
Sebonac works well for mild to moderate acne without much swelling. If your pimples are cystic, under-the-skin, hard bumps with a wide spread, Sebonac may not be enough. Also, salicylic acid based products don’t work the same way for everyone. So you need an alternative.
Retinoid based acne creams work well for moderate to severe acne. Since retinoids such as adapalane and tretinoin (Retino-A) come with their own risks, you need to get a prescription from a doctor. The risks include redness, swelling, hyper and hypo-pigmentation (darker or lighter spots of skin), sun sensitivity etc. They are best used under the guidance of a dermatologist.
If Sebonac isn’t enough for you, go to a doctor and get a prescription for Retino-A cream or Adeferin gel. Or consider switching to the Starter Regimen which is designed for moderate to severe acne but without any prescription products.
Adapalene gel, available in India under brand names Adaple, Deriva, Adeferin and others costs approx. Rs. 90 per 15 gm. It is made by many companies and it is the same ingredient in every brand, so you can choose the cheapest one available at the medical store. Retino-A 0.025%, a tretinoin cream, costs Rs. 113 for 20 gm. Since you only need a very thin layer, either of these creams will last a month.
If you decide to use Retino-A or adapalene, consult your doctor before using any products from this regimen.