Confession time!

Remember how I told you that in my recent past life as a magazine beauty editor, I lied in print and said that a lot of makeup was good when it wasn't?

I also lied about skin care. Mainly expensive skin care, and particularly creams in beautiful jars with French names endorsed by wildly famous women whom I very well knew relied on Botox, lasers, personal umbrella handlers, $1,000 dermatologist peels and the odd cycle of Accutane to maintain their gorgeous glows -- not a $200 pot of moisturizer.

And -- two issues later -- the accompanying $140 booster serum with the new gimmicky ingredients that I said were miracle workers? They're not. They're just goji berries, and again, I am very, very sorry.

I told you to blow your money to get results. You so don't have to. These are my favorite cheap-but-wonderful products from the drugstore (and I want to hear all about yours, too):

Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser for Normal to Oily Skin
Boring, right? Keep reading, though -- it's actually sooo not! I never used to use Cetaphil just because EVERYONE told me to use Cetaphil and I resented their boring unanimity. As a magazine beauty editor, I used to have to interview a dermatologist or makeup artist or facialist like every four days and get product recommendations from them, and it was always the same: Cetaphil cleanser, Cetaphil cleanser, Cetaphil cleanser. "Mmm-hmm," I would murmur politely and pretend to write it down, but really I was thinking how annoying it was that no one ever endorsed a face wash that was Parisian-pharmacy-chic or glamorously packaged or any of the other things I liked the products I put in my stories to be.

Then I quit my job at the magazine and got real. The $56 cleansing milk full of algae and lipids in the fancy bottle that I got free for years wasn't coming anymore, and besides, it never really cleared up my acne-prone skin anyway. When I ran out, I resigned myself to the bottle of Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser for Normal to Oily skin under my sink. (Again, I have acne issues. If you don't, go with the classic Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser for all skin types.) And I'm glad I did: Between this and my beloved Proactiv (more on that in another post), my skin is clearer and softer than it ever was when I was using wildly expensive products. Swear to God.

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Blemish Cream
The entire range of Healthy Skin products has an enormous cult following; not quite as massive as that of Bare Minerals, but big. Here's why: These are transformative creams. The key ingredient in all of them is retinol, i.e., the purest form of vitamin A. That's the same stuff that's in Retin-A and Differin and all that, only these aren't as intense and are non-prescription and are thus especially perfect for those of us who don't have health insurance. (I'm working on it, OK?!) That said, if you are on a prescription retinol, I probably wouldn't use two retinol products together. Fine, I would, but I'm crazy; YOU should ask your prescribing dermatologist.

The product I love best from the entire line is Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Blemish Cream, which has salicylic acid and retinol to treat fine lines and acne. Beauty cynics like me (and -- as I garner from your most excellent and insightful reader comments on past posts -- many of you) might think that the appeal of this product is due to its fantastic name: Healthy Skin! Anti-Wrinkle! Anti-Blemish! Seriously, what more could you want? But no, it's not all hype. It works, and clears up your skin, and makes it significantly glowier in about a month. Google it if you don't believe me, and read some message boards.

And while this awesome product does have one of the only few crucial ingredients known to actually prevent wrinkles -- retinol -- it does not have THE most important one, sunscreen. Which is why Healthy Skin is better as an overnight moisturizer, and which leads me to my next product.

Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturize SPF 35
... which is also by Neutrogena. Blasphemous! OK, seriously, not to beat a dead horse here with the ex-editor anecdotes, but including two products by the same brand -- or even products owned by the same company (e.g., Neutrogena/Almay/Purpose, all owned by Johnson & Johnson) -- in one story (hell, in one ISSUE) is almost unheard of in Magazine Land. So much so that I wasted a good 20 minutes on the Internet looking for other simple SPF moisturizers by other brands that I liked as much until I realized that I could just REPEAT a brand and my Lemondrop editor wouldn't even care. She isn't trying to make 90 different advertisers happy every second of her life (God bless my poor former employers) -- she just wants my expertise. Blogs are brilliant!

Anywayyyy, what was I talking about? Neutrogena. Right.

So, Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisture SPF 35 has sunscreen, which is why it's an ideal counterpart to a retinol product that you use at night. It is also fragrance-free and hugely gentle. Most crucially, it won't clog pores. I see in the comments section that many of you are obsessed with your pores, particularly with ... magically not having them. That isn't gonna happen, but unclogged pores are the least visible kind. So, even if you're not typically acne-prone, an oil-free and non-comegenic (that's beauty-speak for non-pore-clogging) daily moisturizer might be the way to go.

There is also an oil-free SPF 15, which is basically the exact same product but with less sun protection. I like that one just as much, and in truth use it just as much, but I'm endorsing the higher SPF because it's better for you and I'm trying to be more of a square. Squares have better skin.

Olay Regenerist Microdermabrasion and Peel Kit
Are you scared of peels? Don't be. For those of you who haven't tried them, peels make your skin glowy and clear and firm. They work on everything from fine lines to acne to discoloration. Oh, and they can even make your pores look smaller. I know you're into that.

And the "peel" part isn't as gory as it sounds. At-home peels are much more superficial -- that is, less harsh -- than what you'd get at a dermatologist's office ... and cheaper! This kit by Olay is great. It comes with an ultra-fine mircoexfoliant scrub -- and I'm a BIG advocate of anything microdermabrasion -- plus a curiously appealing warming/foaming serum that you rinse off. Weird, but just go with it. That's why we're not the scientists.

Your skin feels tight (in a good way) and super-smooth after you use it. If you use it once or twice a week for a few months, you really get results. It's not super-inexpensive -- I found it on the Web from $22–$30 -- but the best ones at Sephora start at $80, so whatever. Good peels are sexy, complicated products, and sexy and complicated ain't cheap.

OK! Since I've rambled on long enough (and surely left some fantastic products out), I want to know about the drugstore skin-care products that you guys are all totally devoted to and that I'm stupidly missing out on. There are probably like six-thousand. Comments section, go!


Cat Marnell was a beauty editor at a big-name magazine before becoming a blogger. She loves to talk about skin care. Obviously. Her last post was on the one foundation makeup four out of five facialists swear by.