Budgets & Beauty, When To Save & When To Splurge On Makeup

Image: Corbis

When it comes to makeup, I am admittedly horrible at bargain hunting.  Everything I own is a department store brand.  That said, I don’t wear a ton of makeup, so I don’t need to replace anything often.  But, as The Budget requires, I have looked into cheaper, drugstore products that I consider to be the best value.

It’s tough recommending makeup, because everyone is so different about their likes and dislikes, their products they simply must buy and what part of their face they like to highlight (if any).

In general, my philosophy is this; like clothing, buy anything trendy at the drugstore.  Or, test it at a cosmetic counter.  If you must budget, buy anything with pigment at the drugstore – eye shadow, blush, lipstick and lip gloss.  It’s a better use of your money to splurge on face coverage, if you need it.  Otherwise, I say splurge on the items you use the most.  If you have great lips and absolutely love Shiseido lipstick, knock yourself out, by all means.

MY TOP PRODUCTS

These are the products that I would prefer to not live without.  I could give up every other product in my makeup bag and be happy as a clam with my favorites.  These are not budget-friendly.  But, I promise, I will dive into value makeup later in the post.  In fact, you’d better read my recommendations, because I threw down $35 and a good hour hanging around my local Long’s in the name of “research.”

Clarins Beauty Flash Balm & YSL Touche Éclat

Back in 2002, I was living in London.  One dreary day, I was milling around the vast cosmetic/perfume floor in Harrods when a sales clerk at the YSL counter approached me.  We started to chat and he soon offered his recommendation for the “dark circles” under my eyes.  If you have this problem, you know it’s a bitch and a half to remedy.  Virtually impossible, in fact.  “There are just two products you need,” he informed me.  “YSL Touche Éclat and Clarins Beauty Flash Balm.”  I’ve been using them ever since.  In fact, I just replaced the Beauty Flash Balm this year; my first bottle lasted for nearly 6 years.  I will never give them up, they are MAGIC.

YSL Touche Éclat – $40, Clarins Beauty Flash Balm – $43

Laura Mercier Face Coverage

When it comes to skin coverage, no brand touches Laura Mercier, in my humble opinion.  I’ve tried Clinique (good, but not great), Chanel (too much perfume) and countless other brands.  I first heard about the Secret Camouflage and gave it a try.  I soon added the Foundation Powder and Tinted Moisturizer to my makeup bag.

Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage – $28, Foundation Powder – $40 & Tinted Moisturizer – $42

Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler

You can tear my Shu Uemura eyelash curler from my cold, dead hands.  I know, I know….you want to resist because it’s so popular and it can’t be that great, right?  It is.  Just don’t get me talking about how they were once $13 and they are now $19.

Benefit Benetint

Do you know the origins of Benefit’s Benetint?  It was developed in San Francisco back in the 70’s for an exotic dancer.  I heard it was for her nipples.  Upon more thorough research on the Interwebs, I’ve discovered that it was used for her lips and cheeks.  Believe what you will.  Personally, I prefer the nipple story.

You will never, ever, create a more natural flush with anything else.  Of course, there are now countless products that compete with Benetint, but it still stands head and shoulders above other brands.  Plus, it’s made with rosewater so it smells delicious.

Benefit Benetint – $28

Rosebud Salve, Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 & Vaseline Lip Therapy

For basic lip balm, I use the original Rosebud Salve.  It’s my favorite and I feel that it’s reasonably priced.  The only downside I have found is that when summer rolls around (and it’s gets HOT here in California), it tends to melt and become goopy.  At that point, I swap to Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 or Vaseline Lip Therapy.

Rosebud Salve – $6, Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 – $6.50, Vaseline Lip Therapy – $1.99

Penny’s Favorite Products

BUDGET-FRIENDLY PRODUCTS

As I said above, there are plenty of excellent deals to be found in drugstore makeup aisles.  You just need to choose carefully.

CLASSIC FAVORITES

Your grandmother may very well have used these two products, and both are excellent.  Coty Airspun Loose Powder is ideal because it’s translucent and provides a matte finish.  It’s also ideal for women who don’t like to wear a lot of makeup but want either a tiny bit of coverage or something to combat shine.  Maybelline Twin Eye & Brow Pencils are AWESOME.  I highly recommend this product for your eyebrows and eyeliner.  You also get two to a package.

Coty Airspun Loose Powder – $7


Maybelline Twin Eye & Brow Pencil – $5


FOR THE EYES

I am, admittedly, entirely confused by eyeshadow.  Put me in front of the eyeshadow display at the MAC counter, and I just about have a panic attack.  There are so many damn eyeshadow shades, it blows my mind.  I can see how some people become addicted to collecting them.  I own maybe 6 or 7, and I rarely use more than 2.

Unless you are totally obsessed with eyeshadow and have a brand you love, buy these from the drugstore.

Ditto with mascara.  Although, I might be the only woman on Earth who does not care for Maybelline Great Lash Mascara.  It’s too heavy and wet and makes my eyelashes…..sag.  But, I am adding it to this list because I know it’s the top value for most women.

Revlon 12 Hour Shadow – $6.50

Probably the most popular eyeshadow of the drugstore set.  And a steal at $6.50 for 4 colors.

L’Oreal Hip Shocking Shadow Pigments – $12

From what I can see, L’Oreal is attempting to compete directly with MAC with their Hip line of cosmetics.  And, it seems to be working.  These are very popular, most certainly among those who love eyeshadow.

Rimmel Color Rush Eye Shadow Duo – $4.50

A good basic eyeshadow duo with a bit more shimmer.

Maybelline Expert Wear Eye Shadow (Singles) – $6.50 & Revlon Matte Eye Shadow – $5 (No Image Available)

I like to use these two brands as a base.  The Maybelline for more shimmer and Revlon for matte.

Maybelline Great Lash Mascara – $4.50

Not much to say about this product.  It’s popularity speaks for itself.  I don’t like it, but you should definitely give it a try if you haven’t already.

L’Oreal Full Definition Voluminous Mascara – $7

By far my favorite drugstore mascara.  It goes on light and has a nice, large brush.  It is easy to layer and does not weigh down my lashes or make them look goopy.

Rimmel Soft Kohl Eye Pencil – $3


In my opinion, kohl pencils are the only eyeliners that should be used.  They are soft and great for creating a smoky eye.  Rimmel’s pencil is excellent, and a steal at 3 bucks.

FOR THE FACE

Physician’s Formula Bronzer – $12

Usually cheaper bronzers give you a nice, orange flush.  But this bronzer is subtle and lovely.  It’s not exactly cheap, but it’s the best drugstore brand I’ve used.

Maybelline Dream Mousse Blush – $7.50

This blush is a DREAM.  It is whipped as light as air, goes on smooth and quickly turns into a matte powder when applied to the skin.  I am accustomed to using Benetint (as mentioned above), Stila Convertible Color and NARS blushes.  This product stands alongside my others as a truly excellent blush option.

Cover Girl Outlast Liquid Makeup – $10

I’ve said before that I don’t much care for drugstore brand skin coverage products.  However, this item was called out my Allure as a great deal and seems to be popular.  It is sheer, however, so if you are looking for a good deal of coverage, it’s not for you.

FOR THE LIPS

Bonne Bell Lip Smackers – $2

If you are between 12 and 40, you’ve probably used these at least once.  They’re great!  I prefer the flavors that don’t color my lips, bubble gum is my favorite.

Maybelline Shine Seduction Lip Gloss – $4.50

I love lip gloss, but I am damn picky about it.  In the past, I’ve used Lancome Juicy Tubes or Stila Lip Glaze (quite possibly the most horribly overpriced makeup product in existence).  But, I have converted.  There are countless drugstore lip glosses that are plenty fabulous and loads cheaper.  My favorite is Maybelline Shine Seduction.  I love the applicator and it’s not too goopy OR shimmery.

Neutrogena Lip Soothers – $7.30

If you’re looking for a product more comparable to Lancome’s Juicy Tubes, give Neutrogena Lip Soothers a try.  They are a similar consistency but are not too shimmery.

L’Oreal Hip Jelly Balm – $9

Those of you looking for a lip gloss with more pigment, try L’Oreal’s Hip line of gloss.  I don’t wear darker shades, but I was immediately drawn to them at the store.  Upon further research online, I’ve read that they are comparable to MAC’s Tendertones.

Makeup Bag Add-Ons

Brushes

I hate to say this, but investing in decent makeup brushes is ideal if you can.  You don’t need many, just a blush and slanted eyeshadow brush will suffice.  If you can’t afford high-end brushes, check out an art store for natural hair painting brushes.  They are cheaper and often work just as well.

If you must purchase brushes from the drugstore, look for Eco Brushes.

Other Applicators

Don’t bother spending lots of cash on these.  Pick up sponges, tissue and Q-tips at the drugstore.

Other

Buy eyeliner sharpeners and makeup storage at the art store.  An Art Bin is ideal if you have a ton of makeup.

ROUNDUP

When To Splurge

  • Concealer
  • An Eyelash Curler
  • Makeup Brushes

When To Save

  • Eyebrow Pencil/Powder
  • Facial Powder
  • Mascara

The Must Haves (In My Opinion)

  • Concealer (if you need it)
  • Blush
  • Eyebrow Pencil/Powder
  • Eyelash Curler (if you need it)
  • Lipstick (if that’s your thing)
  • Lip Balm
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7 Responses to “Budgets & Beauty, When To Save & When To Splurge On Makeup”

  1. Britni Says:

    I still swear by Maybelline Great Lash and I, too, love the Maybelline cream blush. I also like Loreal’s HIP line which comes in really bright, vivid colors that stay on well and are fun to play with, despite being cheap

    http://www.lorealparisusa.com/_us/_en/default.aspx?#page=topnav|media:_blank|overlay:_blank|diagnostic|main:brandpage:hip|userdata//d+d//

  2. wrap around curl Says:

    I am a hugeeeeee fan of the e.l.f make up. Most all of it is a buck and it’s amazing. I swear by their all over color stick in lilac petal and smells a bit like lemonade. Their mineral make up is nice too, the booster is just like the Bare Esscentuals mineral veil. And their brushes are surprisingly wonderful.

  3. pennyplastic Says:

    Thank you for the recommendation! This brand was not at my drugstore and I am hoping others weigh in with their opinions and recommendations…

  4. Sukie Says:

    I splurge on the eyeliner. $20 for Laura Mercier’s eyeliner and about $20 for the brush (that lasts forever) is really a great deal. The eyeliner is dry but you add water to turn it into a liquid liner and use the brush to apply it. Nothing gets between the lashline like it. I can create a thin line or a thick, mod line. The pot lasts about three times longer than a liner.

    I don’t know the fancy name for it but it comes in a compact container.

    Just wonderful. I don’t leave home without it (or mascara).

    And I will be taking this info to the drugstore. Thanks!

  5. Melissa Says:

    I hate Maybelline Great Lash. I recommend Ulta’s cosmetics. Their eyeliners go on smooth and don’t sweat off and their eyeshadows come in tons of fun colors. They’re always having buy one get one free sales on their website.

  6. Le Berri Says:

    Thanks for the tip on the L’Oreal mascara. I bought it a week ago and love it! My eyelashes are finally clump free!

  7. pennyplastic Says:

    Hey girlie! I love it too!

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