TBN: Budget Beauty Edition- When to Splurge, When to Save
What a great time to be a beauty consumer. Back in the old days, the rule was set in stone: cheap products were bad (or meh), expensive ones were better (but not necessarily good). That's a thing of the past because now you can get good, or even great, quality on the high street. Company patents have expired and high quality ingredients have trickled down to the mass market. The drugstore has never looked this good.
Where to save?
Skincare: This has been democratised like no other beauty sector. You can find all the steps of your general, or targeted, beauty routine in low-priced, high-quality formulas. My favourite skincare products are serums. For great serums look no further than The Ordinary (you can find the recent article on my favourite products here), The Inkey List (available here), Garden Of Wisdom (available here), Good Molecules (available here).
SPF: A good, lightweight face SPF was very hard to find but now Avène and La Roche-Posay offer sophisticated formulas at low prices that play well with makeup on top (you can find my favourites here).
Masks: Most drugstore beauty brands have now come up with their own masks lines but not all are effective or even good for your complexion. In reality, many are way too harsh for the skin. I see bead scrubs galore on the super market shelves and I shudder with fright. Garnier masks are brilliant, though, and I recommend them for their efficient, non-irritating formulas. Their sachet and tissue masks are divine, especially for the price, but I really wish they came out with their masks in glass pots. I hate producing so much waste for just one mask application so I have stayed away lately. Every little helps.
Cleansers: The way you cleanse is THE most important step toward good skin. No joke. On one hand, there is no need for expensive eye makeup removers nowadays. Micellar waters are so good, Bioderma and Garnier especially so. Just don't forget to ALWAYS rinse them off or they will dry you out. For the second step, new formulas ensure every last bit of makeup and grime comes off, caring for your skin in the process. Avoid harsh cleansers like the plague and go for gentle, non-drying formulas like Avène's Trixera and the Body Shop's Camomile Silky Cleansing Oil or Butter.
Lipsticks: These are very tricky to get right for me, because I like a perfectly comfortable feel on my lips. The best liquid lipstick formulas are the Unlimited Touch by Kiko Milano (not only in the affordable category but ANY liquid lipstick formula). For matte formulas head to Catrice for their Ultimate Matt range. For a classic, satin finish you can't go wrong with H&M- apart from the formula, their colours are beautiful too.
Foundations: Ooooooh this my best drugstore playground. Never could I imagine, just five years ago, how many great formulas would flood the budget market. Cheap foundations were rubbish back then but things progressed impressively. No matter your budget, you're covered. Wet n Wild, Bourjois, L'Oréal, Maybelline all do great ones- you can read about all my favourites here.
Concealers: A notoriously difficult product to get right, at any price point. I have found beautiful, affordable products that have saved my serious money lately. Catrice Liquid Camouflage and Revolution Conceal & Define are my winter faves, the Bourjois Radiance Reveal is my summer go-to. Many swear by the Maybelline Age Rewind but it's awful for my undereyes. Go figure. Trial and error is the only way to find your own affordable alternative.
Mascaras: Along with concealers, the other very difficult product to get right. Beyond quality, the results and desired effect are entirely subjective. I like a long, voluminous, curled lash. The bigger the better. For me, the best are Maybelline's Lash Sensational for the first coat (it separates and lengthens in a natural way) and then the L'Oréal Unlimited for the second coat (for dramatic length and volume). I also discovered one from Essence, the Volume Stylist, that costs 3 euros and is very, very good for its price (review coming soon with a few tricks for good application). Many adore the L'Oréal Lash Paradise but for me it doesn't provide nearly enough oomph and dries up fast. It's worth considering, though, due to its popularity.
Face Powders: This is a pick-n-mix from different brands. No one does them all well. I love Max Factor for bronzers, L'Oréal and BH Cosmetics for blushes and Maybelline for setting powders.
Brushes: Brushes make ALL the difference in your makeup look but I promise you will never need to buy an expensive one to get a beautiful result. My top are Real Techniques (available here) and for great, cheap round buffers go to Morphe (available here)
Hair: I'm going to be honest. Cheap, good hair does not exist yet. Your colour and cut need to be done by an experienced profesional and you pay for that experience. And, so far, there's been little progress in drugstore haircare. Products are mediocre, at best, and often irritating to the scalp. Professional-grade products are the best way to take good care of your hair. If you buy them in large, salon-size bottles, the price per ml is actually the same as the drugstore! You just need to invest in the big sizes but it's worth it; they will last you for months. The best, more affordable, salon brands for me are Wella, Schwarzkopf and L'Oréal Professionel.
Where to splurge?
You do still get what you pay for in some instances:
Perfume. An excellent, affordable perfume is next to impossible to get right. My biggest fragrance favourites range from really expensive to ridiculously expensive. Lately, however, I've been enjoying the Korres Emerald Oud and Amethyst Oud. They are both sophisticated compositions at a surprisingly affordable price (online you can find them significantly discounted). All other fragrances I love are at a pricepoint where I need to plan and budget for; to me it's worth it.
High-strength retinol. Although there are affordable tretinoin formulas available at the pharmacy, my skin is not a fan. Which is a shame because all my skincare idols that are in their 60's have been using these for decades (and let's be honest, beauty advice is only 100% legit if you have very mature skin and look great). That is just my skin, though; you should give affordable tretinoin a try before you rule it out. Beyond my unlucky skin that only loves expensive retinol, I do believe that expensive formulas help immensely with the downside of retinol because they are packed full of peptides and amino acids, so you get a multi-faceted treatment. Cheap formulas don't do that.
Eyeshadows. The only affordable eyeshadows I really liked were by Wet N Wild but I tested their new ones and they are bad. Save up and invest in a great multi-pan palette by Charlotte Tilbury, available here, or Nars, available here. They will last you about two years and you'll always look immaculate for any occasion.
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