With so many makeup options out there, it’s easy to go on a spending spree and wind up with things we didn’t exactly need, no matter how good our intentions. It’s much harder to know what’s really worth the money, especially once the financial damage is done.
The trick to getting the most beauty bang for our bucks is being a strategic makeup shopper. Makeup brands all claim to offer the perfect products, but the price can be far from perfect. What’s really worth what often depends on what you’ll use the most often.
And knowing when to splurge and when to save can make all the difference.
Foundation and Concealer
Splurge on: both.
The makeup artist’s general rule of thumb is this: the bigger the surface area, the more you should spend on the product.
There are decent foundations and concealers at your local drugstore, but if you’re looking to get that perfect blend, finding your exact shade will probably be an issue. For one, drugstores lack testers. On top of that, the color options are more limited and generalized.
Year after year, way too much money goes into buying the wrong shades of foundations and concealers in an effort to save a buck. If you can afford it, splurge on this one. There are products to suit everyone, from lines that wider variety of colors, clean beauty lines, and products that are created to be gentler on the skin.
There’s an overwhelming amount of foundations and concealers to choose from. Luckily, there’s always a makeup expert nearby ready and willing to help you on your quest for the perfect skin tone match and formulation.
When it comes to makeup shopping, I tend to avoid department stores. While you might be tempted to go to the M.A.C. or Estee Lauder counter, you’re better off going to a store like Sephora or Ulta. These stores offer a wide variety of makeup brands, including those mentioned above. The makeup experts are more likely to tell you what’s really worth your money, rather than trying to sell you on one line.
Pro-tip: Try out travel sizes first to make sure it’s what you’re looking for. They’ll be significantly cheaper.
Eyeshadow and Eyeliner
Splurge on: eyeshadow.
Save on: eyeliner
Applying eyeliner is not the easiest part of a makeup routine. The right product can simplify the process, but you can find decent eyeliners for reasonable prices. Some makeup experts say that while it might seem unnecessary, spend a little more money on this one if you can. But don’t splurge. Just know what to pick.
Your average drugstore eyeliners are made of wax and, inevitably, they’re going to smudge throughout the day. If you want something that glides on smooth, easily creates the perfect cat-eye, and stays on, consider gel eyeliner.
It costs a fraction more, but it certainly won’t break the bank. Ultimately, you’ll save lots of money when you don’t have to reapply it as often or smudge your first attempt.
As for eyeshadows, quality is everything. Higher-end eyeshadows are known for staying on all day and being more visually dynamic. In contrast, cheaper palettes don’t last very long at all. If you put it on first thing in the morning, chances are, it’ll be almost fully faded before lunch.
A primer will help cheaper eyeshadow stay on, but a better quality eyeshadow will stay on without any extra step. Also, eyeshadows that cost more tend to be more pigmented, softer, and made with finer ingredients, giving you the most out of your money.
Eyebrow Pencils, Brushes, and Gels
Save on: all three.
If you want perfectly shaped and natural-looking brows, it doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. It’s all a matter of knowing where to look. And I recommend looking at your nearest drugstore!
e.l.f. beauty is a brand I cannot say enough good things about. It’s affordable, durable, and almost all of its products compete with the quality makeup brands that cost significantly more. It’s also easy to find in Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, and Target.
While all e.l.f. products are absolutely worth a try, their extensive line of eyebrow makeup products is a step above the rest. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how well they work, how long they last, and how many brow compliments you get.
Best of all, these wallet-friendly products will only run you between $3-$4.
Lipstick and Lipgloss
Splurge on: lipstick.
Save on: lipgloss.
No matter how nice a lip gloss might be, you’re going to have to reapply it throughout the day. In turn, they’re rarely worth a splurge. The basic lipgloss options at your average drugstore will do the trick. Look into Revlon, L’Oreal, and e.l.f. for some high-quality, but low-cost glosses and lip scrubs. But know your gloss priorities.
While a splurge is not necessary, those who prefer a colored gloss tend to say this one is worth paying more, both due to a wider variety of colors and softer, less sticky feels. If you prefer clear gloss, you’re better off saving for sure.
With lipsticks, the formulation matters. If you’re looking for longevity, lipstick is worth the splurge. Of course, there are plenty of decent long-lasting lipsticks for a cheaper price out there. However, duration isn’t the only factor to consider with your everyday lippie.
Honestly, cheap lipsticks are not a bad choice once in a while. But when you factor in how much lipstick unavoidably gets in our mouths over time, having a formulation with ingredients you trust is key.
Mascara and Eyelash Curlers
Save on: both.
Spending tons of money on mascara is never necessary. You just need to find a quality line that meets your needs and apply it with finesse.
Maybelline New York Great Lash ($7) is forever deemed a favorite by beauty magazines, beauty bloggers, and eternally satisfied customers. As noted by Byrdie, the inexpensive mascara is dubbed “the best drugstore buy of all time” every year. Max Factor is considered a close second.
If you’re looking to try something that costs a little more, I highly recommend NARS Climax Mascara ($24). It’s converted many people who were endlessly loyal to their drugstore brands, present company included. However, I always opt for the travel size ($12), and it lasts a surprisingly long time.
Lately, it seems celebs are endorsing extremely expensive eyelash curlers as makeup must-haves, but we must take their billion-dollar budgets into account. There are cheaper options out there that work just as well. Many claim the Tweezerman Great Grip Eyelash Curler ($10-$14) works even better.
Blush, Bronzers, and Powders
Splurge on: All Three.
Dermatologists, makeup artists, and those who’ve done the legwork will tell you the same thing. It’s best to splurge on anything in powder form, especially if you’re using these products all over your face consistently.
If you frequently use cheaper brands, you’ve likely already noticed that after a while, your skin is not as happy as it used to be. As with eyeshadow, much of this goes back to the formulation. Do some research. You’ll quickly find that on annual “best of” beauty product round-ups, blush, bronzers, and powders rarely make the cut, if ever. And this is not by accident.
Higher-quality powders tend to be crafted with more care. They’re softer, more blend-able, and finely-milled. They tend to stay on more seamlessly. Spending more money, you’ll also have the option of cleaner lines, better for your skin and the planet, like Milk, Honest, Bare Minerals, and some Glossier products.
Splurge on: Makeup Brushes.
It’s not hard to find cheap makeup brushes that work just as well as expensive ones. For instance, e.l.f. has some of the best and cheapest brushes you’ll find anywhere, and they’re definitely worth looking into. With that said, cheap brushes don’t last nearly as long.
Most have synthetic bristles, which is a plus. They’re easier to clean and easier for applying wet makeup when compared with more expensive natural bristles. But again, they’re not going to last. With makeup brushes, the trick is striking a performance-pricepoint balance. Invest in something budget-friendly, but not the cheapest of the cheap.
By doing so, you’ll undoubtedly get a quality brush that you won’t be replacing in a month. Start your “happy medium” brush search at Target.
The only time you should opt for a high-end makeup brush would be for small touch-ups. Go to your nearest department store or Sephora. You’ll want a tiny brush to carry around with you and ensure your makeup has a flawless finish. The nicer the small brush, the easier that will be.
Save on: sponges
There are countless sponges out there to choose from. Differentiating between a great sponge for a great price and a great sponge for a not-so-great price can be pretty difficult. After all, they all look about the same.
Luckily, there are some very reasonable deals for quality sponges out there.
Target often has beauty sales you should check out ASAP. Nine times out of ten, they’ll have value packs of quality sponges so you can cut down on how much you’re restocking.
Many people swear by the Beauty Blender, but there are more affordable equivalents to this $20 sponge. This $3 sponge on Amazon has great reviews, with most claiming it’s comparable to the beloved BB sponge. So why not try it out?