I have a theory about self-care. Taking it for granted that yes, self-care is important, and that yes, self-care is often also unfairly dismissed, you’ve got to wonder why this is—and I think I have an answer.
In the past few years, the concept of self-care has been all but absorbed into the beauty industry. When we hear the term "self-care," we're likely to think of spa nights, doing face masks and manicures, with the success of the endeavor marker by how look once it's done. While self-care can definitely encompass these things (and I'm certainly a fan of a nice face mask and manicure), I'd argue it's more complicated than that. Caring for yourself requires a balance of inner and outer wellbeing, and that might not have to do with appearance at all.
Self-care is a personal thing, and it manifests differently for everyone. No two self-care practices will look the same—but to get you started, we put together a list of some of our favorite products under $30 to help your body and mind feel nourished from the inside out.
1. A fragrant spray to make any room into an oasis© Thistle Farms Some reviewers like using this spray along with oil diffusers to create a fresh and great-smelling atmosphere
Most of us have been spending a lot of time at home lately—which means that our general enjoyment of our days is suddenly seriously affected by how relaxed we feel in our homes. As someone who does not self-identify as a homebody, I’ve really had to learn how to enjoy being at home this much, and one of the biggest keys, for me, has been making sure my space is both nice-looking and nice-smelling.
This natural, botanical room spray from Thistle Farms will give your home a nice fragrance immediately, without fussing with an oil diffuser or worrying about a candle catching the drapes on fire. It’s easy to direct, so if you have a slightly less nice-smelling area of your home (litter box, anyone?) you can take care of it head-on. This spray comes in four all-natural aromas: Eucalyptus Mint, Lavender, Citrus Wood, and my favorite, Vanilla Vetiver. If you’re looking for ways to turn your work-from-home (or just stay-at-home) life a little more relaxing, this one will go a long way.
Get the Room Spray from Thistle Farms for $12.50
2. Our favorite value foot spa, for some end-of-day pampering© Conair For a simple, cheap, and easy-to-clean foot soak, this spa can't be beat
If the line outside of my local salon is anything to go by, it’s safe to say people have been missing their pampering. But being stuck at home or on a budget is no reason to give up on these small luxuries. You can relax after a long day (or in the middle of a long day, who am I to judge) with our pick for the best value foot spa of 2020.
The Conair foot spa offers an intuitive, easy-to-clean foot bath with bubbles, gently warming water, and a vibrating massage. We found the water heating element somewhat underwhelming, but otherwise enjoyed the Conair as a solid, relaxing spa. Reviewer Snicks is with us here, writing, "I am extremely happy that I bought the Foot Massager! It really makes a big difference. Very easy to use and clean!"
Get the Conair Body Benefits Vibration & Heat Foot Spa from Amazon for $29.99
3. A cleansing mud mask that’s as pure as you can get© BARE Soaps This fan favorite mask is made entirely of material from the mineral-rich Dead Sea
There are endless face masks out there that use “pure” and “natural” as appealing buzzwords, but there’s really no beating this fan-favorite from BARE Soaps. The Deep Cleanse Mud Mask is literally exactly what it says on the tin—nothing but mud from the Dead Sea, which is incredibly rich in minerals that can draw toxins from the skin. Because of this mask’s purity and simplicity, there’s a hugely reduced risk that it will cause any irritation.
Reviewers agree resoundingly on this one—they claim it does an incredible job soothing the skin and calming breakouts. Katie H. writes that she’s noticed an improvement to her skin in only a few weeks, calling it the best mud mask she’s ever tried. “I can trust all of the ingredients,” Katie writes, “my slightly sensitive skin can get clean without a reaction and it does double duty by exfoliating as well. It dries fast as well unlike other masks so I don't have to worry about accidentally getting goop on everything.”
Get the Deep Cleanse Mud Mask from BARE Soaps for $24.99
4. This trendy tool that actually helps your skin regain its health© Sdara Skincare Dermal rollers might sound scary, but when used correctly they're a painless and proven way to heal damaged skin
If you’ve never seen a derma roller before, this might look a little intimidating—but don’t be scared. This tool features a roller with a series of microneedles, which, when rolled gently against the skin, can stimulate blood flow and help the skin regain elasticity. If I didn’t explain that perfectly, sorry, I’m not a scientist—but I know the results are in, and people say this little guy works.
Derma rollers can help combat a number of skin issues, from acne scars to psoriasis. One reviewer writes that despite her initial skepticism, she’s found this tool surprisingly effective at helping hyperpigmentation fade. Other reviews specifically mention how helpful this is for surviving lockdown, as many of us are experiencing more breakouts from having our skin stuck under a mask. I know that’s true for me!
Get the Derma Roller from Amazon for $18.97
5. A relaxing herbal tea that may also help your complexion shine© Eve Milanny Sipping any cup of tea can be soothing, but this one does double-duty as a skin-clearing product
Ever since bidding farewell to my daily commute, I’ve had to come up with a new routine to start my day and give myself the chance to wake up slowly. For me, a cup of tea has become the lynchpin of that routine. I might not always do morning yoga, or get out of bed early enough to read—but I always make time for tea.
This caffeine-free herbal tea of Red Raspberry Leaf, Blue Vervain, Spearmint Leaf, and Red Clove can be a sweet addition to your morning, or a nice way to wind down. Taking the time to enjoy a cup of tea is, in my opinion, always an act of self-care (assuming you’re not more of an iced coffee person). Devised by the skincare experts at Eve Milan, this tea is perfect whether you’re just trying to cut down on caffeine, or if you’re hoping for a potential solution to hormonal acne.
Get the Skin Claritea from Eve Milan NY for $7
6. These skin-smoothing patches that actually work© SiO Beauty If you're interested in a mask that will temporarily plump and smooth your skin, we've had good luck with SiO beauty patches
Here’s what I think: if you have smile lines, it’s a sign you have been smiling. If you have crow’s feet, it’s a sign you have been alive. Aging is a beautiful process, even as seeing our bodies change can be strange and sometimes disconcerting. Those changes, ultimately, are just the side effects of living a long and full life.
But if you’re interested in occasionally reducing wrinkles and fine lines, or if you’re looking for a hydrating mask to help your skin feel plump and smooth, check out our review of the SiO beauty patches. Although the effects are only temporary, we were pleasantly impressed with their performance. Unlike so many products with similar claims, we found that some of the SiO patches actually deliver.
Get the SiO Eye & Smile Lift (2 Pk) from SiO for $14.95
7. A whipped body lotion so tender, you’ll want to eat it for dessert© Beneath Your Mask This nourishing skin soufflé brings deep moisturizing to hands, feet, and body
Fans of Beneath Your Mask have great things to say about their entire line of skin, lip, and hair care products, but it all started with their very first product: this nourishing vegan, GMO-free whipped skin soufflé. The soufflé is formulated to act as a full-body moisturizer, promoting skin elasticity while also offering antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The whipped texture means the product melts easily into the skin, without leaving behind any greasy residue.
If you’ve been searching for a lotion that’s gentle, reparative, and great smelling, this might be it. According to reviewer Yumeko T., it absolutely is. Yumeko writes, "I work with my hands and am constantly washing them and disinfecting them. With the recent pandemic I have had to wash my hands more often and they were started to get very chapped, cracked and dry. I am a huge fan and have told others at work about it who are having the same issue. Thank you for an amazing product."
Get the Heal Whipped Skin Soufflé from Beneath Your Mask for $28
8. An aloe vera jelly, to keep your face feeling bright and happy© Base Butter Infused with soothing aloe vera, this jelly both moisturizes and gives the face a glowy look
During lockdown, my face has been oscillating between two less-than-ideal states: stuck under a mask, or getting slowly sunburnt during the rare occasion I get to be outside in a secluded spot and then refuse to move for hours on end. Both of these states are pretty damaging, but both of them can be helped with a little balancing aloe vera gel.
This face jelly from Base Butter isn’t just a tube of sticky aloe cream, though. Balanced with evening primrose, tea tree, and lavender, it also helps the skin stay strong, clean, and oil-free. It’s a lightweight moisturizer that allows all the good stuff to sink into the skin, without clogging the pores. Reviewer Teonna is a huge fan, saying that the concentration of the formula means even a small jar will last for months, and that the consistency is soft as a cloud: “I wanted a product that would be moisturizing but not make my face oily. Down from the heavens came Base Butter!”
Get the Radiate Aloe Vera Face Jelly Moisturizer from Base Butter for $21
9. A seaweed bath soak, because if you can’t get to the beach, the beach can come to you© Seaweed Bath Co. With this pure seaweed soak, you'll bring a bit of the seashore into your home
If you’re expecting a glitter-filled, multicolored bath bomb... this isn’t it. Depending on who you are and what you’re looking for, it’s something better—pure, organic bladderwrack seaweed. This is a type of seaweed is absolutely loaded with nutrients to help soothe and feed the skin. This soak comes with the seaweed itself and a mesh bag, allowing you to load up as much seaweed as you want—basically steeping your bath water, like a huge cup of salty, vitamin-rich tea.
After a soak, you can actually let the seaweed dry out again and reuse it up to four times. User Desiree A. explains her experience with the soak, writing, “After about the second to third use, the seaweed will start to break down naturally and will sometimes leak out the bag, but it's not difficult to clean up.” She goes on to say that the smell isn’t too strong, and that while she can’t comment on the detoxification.
Get the Whole Seaweed Detox Bath from The Seaweed Bath Co for $12.99
10. A month’s subscription to Skillshare to reinvigorate your sense of curiosity© Skillshare Skillshare's huge library of lessons will get you started with just about any new endeavor
One of the most critical ways I am taking care of myself in lockdown is by investing time (or at least, trying to invest time) into learning skills I don’t usually have the time to pursue. I’ve loved pursuing language learning and spending time cooking new meals, but it was my desire to hone my creative skills that drove me to try out Skillshare.
Skillshare is a massive library of online lessons, in everything from business and money habits to music and fine art. If you’re having a hard time self-motivating to learn something new, but you know a kick in that direction would make a big difference in how you feel each day, Skillshare could help you thrive through this weird, disruptive time.
I’ve been enjoying my Skillshare courses in drawing and illustration—but I’m also lucky enough to have access to LinkedIn Learning, which has proven to be a really great resource. Looking for a similar service, but hesitant about signing up? Try Skillshare’s two-week trial, for sure—but it might also be worth checking if your job, school, or community center offers access to one of these programs. You might already be lucky!
Sign up for a free two-week trial of Skillshare here
11. Face wipes that do more than clean off old makeup© Lauren Napier Beauty These facial wipes remove makeup, but they also actively fight acne with the help of guava and vitamin C
I never knew that face wipes could have a passionate following until I happened upon Lauren Napier’s product line. These individually-wrapped wipes label themselves as “pro-aging,” not only cleaning off grit and makeup, but also imparting nourishing Vitamin C, guava, and selenium to help skin stay strong, healthy, and clear. If you think of face wipes as just a quick way of getting rid of smudged makeup, it’s time to up your standards.
Reviewer Saint Jegnist loves the feel of these wipes, saying, “It has the right consistency in terms of the texture to remove products or just refresh... I like that it’s travel friendly, and it helps to cleanse your face on-the-go and maintain your face’s moisture level.”
Get Flaunt Facial Cleansing Wipes from Lauren Napier Beaut for $23
12. A month of Headspace, to clear your mind© Headspace Headspace is one of the best apps available right now to introduce newcomers to meditation
Recently, I’ve been giving the much-praised meditation app Headspace a shot—and despite some initial skepticism, I’m hooked. When I imagined using an app to learn to meditate, it seemed counterintuitive and kind of ridiculous—shouldn’t I be getting as far away from my phone as possible? Wasn’t looking at the screen too stimulating? Well, yes, but Headspace understands this, and works around it.
Headspace Premium offers a huge library of meditation exercises and visualizations, almost all of which are just audio—no staring at the phone screen after all! You can browse categories, focusing on topics like anger management, work stress, and attaining deep sleep, or you can make your way through Headspace’s beginner course, which grounds you on the essentials of meditation. One month of Headspace Premium comes in under $13, and gives you ample opportunities to learn—but better yet, anyone unemployed or working in healthcare can get a full year of Headspace for free, to help ease the tension of this difficult time.
Get a month of Headspace for $12.99
13. Recovery gel for overused and under-used muscles© Yuni Muscle care is an important part of any exercise routine, but it's especially important to take care of muscles that haven't been used much in a while
After weeks of making “binging Mad Men” my lockdown activity of choice, I finally decided to gout my running gear on and wake up my muscles. I think I woke them up a little too aggressively, though—what would normally be a pretty chill workout for me left me aching. If you’re in a similar position (that is, prone on the couch, but thinking about getting off it), you might run into similar bumps in the road. Luckily, you can learn from my mistakes. Take care to warm up, cool down, stretch—and keep some muscle gel on hand.
Users say it’s light, non-greasy, no-mess, and that the cooling effect feels great. Tina, a user who received the gel as a gift, says she can’t go without it now. “The cooling sensation is amazing, almost ‘numbs’ the feeling of soreness and fast tracks the recovery process,” Tina says. “I can also see it being useful for people who are starting out at practice to help recover and keep motivation up." Formulated with just arnica, peppermint, and green tea extract, this is muscle recovery without any weird ingredients to research.
Get the CHILLAX Muscle Recovery Gel from Yuni for $17
14. A rustic wax melt to add a little coziness to your home© Bed Bath & Beyond A wax melt like this one will give you the fragrance and relaxation of a lighted candle, without the danger of burning the house down
I became aware of wax melts through the best possible endorsement: the passionate enthusiasm of a friend. If you’re not familiar, let me explain the concept. A wax melt is a device that (as its name suggests) gently melted scented wax, letting off a fragrance similar to a scented candle. The difference is that there’s no flame. You don’t have to worry about leaving it on when you leave the room, and you’ll never have to search for a lighter or a match.
There are lots of reliable wax melts on the market, but I love this affordable one from Bed Bath & Beyond. The glass jar design is a perfect addition to any room decorated with a rustic or farmhouse style. Reviewer Bearlvr calls it "Absolutely adorable!” and says, “I love that it melts the tarts quickly also.” Some reviewers disagree, saying the melting occurs too slowly—but maybe it’s a matter of perspective. If you’re planning to stay cozied up inside all day anyway, does it make a difference?
Get the AmbiEscents Happy Edison Bulb Plug-In Wall Wax Warmer from Bed Bath & Beyond for $24.99
15. A journal, for both emotional and professional balance© Papier These notebooks come in enough designs to match with any personality
When I was a kid, I wrote in my diary every day. It’s hard to imagine having the focus to do that now, but recently I've felt myself longing for the sense of self-reflection and peace I could get from a few minutes of writing about my day. So now, I'm doing the obvious thing, and trying to get myself back into that habit as an adult.
Having a few nice journals on hand isn't just good for emotional balance—it's also been helping me to stay organized at work, which gives me a peace of mind I can only call self-care. This collection of gorgeous, customizable notebooks works for both professional and personal use. You can add your name or other text to the cover, and decide if you’d prefer lined, unlined, or bulleted pages. Take time to journal, or just use them to tick off your to-do list. Either way, you'll be giving yourself the gift of mental space and clarity.
Shop Hardback Notebooks from Papier for $26.99
16. A yoga mat to introduce some gentle movement into your day© Reviewed / Bethany_Kwoka It doesn't take much to start a yoga practice, but this cushy mat will help you start off on the right foot
It’s almost cliché to say at this point, but there’s really nothing that does a better job of keeping me grounded, happy, and present in my own body than even the tiniest bit of yoga. Since lockdown started, I have been doing my best to get up each morning and do even ten minutes of yoga before starting my day, either on my own or with the help of YouTube (I’m partial to Yoga With Kassandra, myself). On days when I do this, I really notice the difference in how alert, energetic, and positive I feel.
One of the great things about yoga is that it is relatively accessible, both financially and physically. Your practice can make you sweat, or it can just get you stretching your stiff limbs. And unlike many physical activities, it doesn’t require much equipment or space. All you really need is a mat—and this affordable, one from Amazon is our very favorite choice for yoga beginners. We loved its non-slip surface, and its extra-thick cushioning that protects sensitive knees. Yoga isn’t everyone’s thing, but if you can find something to make you feel present, satisfied, and grateful, hang onto it—that is exactly what self-care should do.
Get the AmazonBasics 1/2-Inch Extra Thick Exercise Yoga Mat from Amazon for $19.49
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