During a recent conversation Emily and I were having, we found ourselves on the topic of how expensive it has become to maintain yourself these days. There are costly workout classes, cosmetic procedures/ injectables, bee venom facials, lasers that do it all, the list goes on and on. I, myself, have always been up for saving for the big stuff, not spending on the small money wasters or trendy product fads. But in todays billion dollar beauty market, how do we know the difference?

Something I've learned through my 15 years experience in the skin care industry is that it's better to have a slimmer selection of products. You're better off dumping the majority of your budget into a few good quality items. Moisturizers, face oils or serums are a great place to start because they remain on the skin the longest. I'm a huge fan of a great face oil. They typically cost less than a serum and given their natural structure they can travel deep into the skin transporting key nutrients. Exfoliants should be your next investment piece whether it be manual or enzymatic. Since the action is to create a controlled abrasion to the skin, it is important to choose wisely and consider the appropriate method for your skin type.

While I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for in skincare, over the years I've learned a few helpful tips about ways one can skip the empty promises, maximize their beauty budget and even a few products you may already have at home. I have found by focusing on your personal areas of concern and limiting the steps in your routine is the best way to boost results without spending a fortune. It can also be financially beneficial to reach for items easily found in your pantry and I've always been a fan of using food as skin care.

Here are a few of my favorite beauty steals and at-home items, and how to properly use them.

Pai's Rosehip BioRegenerate Oil ($40): This oil tackles it all by refining the appearance of damaged skin and fine lines. It is high in Omegas 3, 6, 7, & 9 which regenerate the skin without causing irritation. What sets Pai's rosehip oil apart from others on the market? They use not only the seed of the plant, but the entire fruit which gives the product it's vibrant color.

Herbivore's Blue Tansy Mask ($48): Besides this mask just being beautiful in color, it provides gentle resurfacing while reducing redness and soothing irritation. Blue Tansy is naturally high in Azulene which gives the mask it's energetic hue while providing natural anti-inflammatory benefits. Pairing this mask with Herbivore's Lapis face oil, our clients have noticed a remarkable difference in skin congestion.

Drunk Elephant's Umbra Sheer Physical Defense ($38): Most importantly this is a broad spectrum SPF that is formulated without chemical sunscreens that commonly lead to irritation. It's loaded with powerful antioxidants that help in the prevention of cell damage and photoaging caused by free radicals and the sun. I particularly love that it comes in an almost 4 oz tube so I don't feel guilty about using a little extra on my hands, shoulders, and de'colette'.

Coconut Oil: My favorite, Nutiva (around $16) - Serves as a great make-up remover, facial cleanser, body moisturizer, etc. Coconut oil is high in antioxidants, including rare lauric acid, which help to protect against aging and free radical damage. It has a low chance of causing irritation and is naturally anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antimicrobial making it an excellent cleanser for all skin types, including acneic. It is also great to soothe a sunburn. For the face, I find it's best used as a cleanser and removed after use.

Chamomile Tea Bags: Any non-flavored organic variety will do - A favorite beauty trick of mine. After steeping the tea in your favorite mug, soak a few cotton rounds in the luke warm tea. Apply to the eye area, sit back, relax and enjoy your cup of tea. Chamomile tea has been used medicinally for centuries and has proven health benefits which include reducing inflammation, soothing tired eyes, and calming irritation.

Written by guest contributor Caci Thompson DiRusso.

Meet Caci.

Caci Thompson DiRusso is the owner of Toccare Day Spa. She lives in Charlotte, NC with her husband and their rescue dog Argo. She enjoys traveling abroad, great food and hosting dinner parties.

Images by Candice Lanning, www.thebeautifulmess.com.