Valerie Monroe
Photo: Patrik Andersson
Q: I'm trying to save on skincare; what do I need most?

A: You can get excellent skincare at reasonable prices; a simple regimen is all you need. Choose a mild cleanser (like Olay Professional Pro-X Restorative Cream Cleanser, $19 ). Then look for a hydrating product that gives you lots of bang for your buck, says Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, clinical professor of dermatology at New York University Medical Center. Try a moisturizer containing sunscreen, hyaluronic acid (good for temporarily plumping out fine lines and wrinkles), antioxidants like green tea and vitamin E, or alpha hydroxy acids. (Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisture SPF 30, $14, is a good multitasker.) A tinted moisturizer, or one with dihydroxyacetone (the self-tanning ingredient), will give you both hydration and a touch of color. If you're prone to acne, use a cleanser or moisturizer with salicylic acid; for relief from redness, look for lichochalcone or hydrocortisone. For nighttime, use a retinol cream, which helps smooth skin, fade brown spots, reduce fine lines and wrinkles, and increase cell turnover. (SkinCeuticals Retinol 1.0, $58, is an excellent one.)

Keep in mind: Because the ingredients found in creams and lotions for the eye, neck, and décolletage are essentially the same as those in face creams, you don't need to spend on site-specific products.

Ask Val a question or find out the difference between pricey and inexpensive skincare products