I Have Access to the Most Expensive Products in the World—14 I Love Under $40

The privilege of being a beauty editor is not lost on me. I have access to an entire world of beauty products, some from luxury brands that I might not have had the opportunity to try otherwise. It’s a real dream for this lifetime beauty lover, and one that I will never take for granted. And while I have a number of pricer go-to products in my beauty routine, I don’t believe you have to spend a ton of money to get really amazing, quality products that are effective. As there are many expensive beauty products I swear by, there are also more affordable and drugstore options that I consider my ride-or-dies. 



If you’re looking for a particular product to add to your makeup, skincare, or hair routine, but don’t want to spend a ton of money, I’ve got you covered. Ahead, you’ll find out about some of my favorite finds that are under $40, from luxury foundation dupes to drugstore lipsticks and the liquid eyeliner I can’t put down. Keep scrolling!

Primers are non-negotiable for me and my pores. While I love trying new ones from every price point, I always go back to my tried-and-true E.l.f. Cosmetics Poreless Putty Primer. It goes on easily, makes my skin feel hydrated (thanks to the squalene), and creates the perfect base for my foundation. It’s also super easy to travel with. No messy or clunky bottles to worry about!

Everyone knows I take my liquid eyeliner seriously, so congrats to my Filipino brother Patrick Starrr, whose eyeliner is my current favorite! But seriously, I have been using this one every day for the past few weeks. It doesn’t smudge, is super black, and is easy to hold, making a cat eye easy as pie. 

I’ve been wearing this mascara from Thrive Causemetics a ton lately, which is particularly interesting because it’s the first tubing mascara that I’ve worn consistently. I love how it elongates my lashes without ever clumping and smudging (as long as I apply carefully and with a lash shield since I have somewhat hooded lids). It’s also incredibly easy to wash off at the end of the day—a huge plus since I hate when I’m left with raccoon eyes from hard-to-remove mascara.

We should make a drinking game any time I mention La Mer Soft Fluid Foundation ($140), aka my 2022 foundation holy grail, on this website. I’m clearly obsessed but am also having fun searching for affordable dupes. This one, from Physicians Formula, is a pretty good option so far. It has a similar wear and feel and contains skincare ingredients like Chinese Wu-Zhu-Yu extract, hyaluronic acid, and an antioxidant blend of vitamins A, C, and E.

Overnight lip treatments are a necessity for me, especially during winter when my lips get dried out from the cold weather and indoor heating. I love a lip mask, and this one from Flower Beauty (props to my forever crush, Drew Barrymore) is the one I’ve been using every night. I love how it comes in a tube, not a tub, so I don’t have balmy fingers before bedtime. Thank you for making this especially for me, Drew.  

Disclaimer: I usually get my nails done professionally with Aprés Gel extensions and intricate nail art (shout-out to my nail artist queen, Gina Marie!), but the Lisa Frank and Orly collaboration is one of my favorite team-ups in the past year. The gel wraps are incredible, so I was super excited that they released new designs recently. If you’re into nail art but want something easy and affordable, get these strips. I’m even planning on getting them done on my extensions. 

Eye shadow sticks are a favorite of mine for a few reasons: You just swipe it on your eye and blend, the pigment is usually pretty great, and if you don’t feel like packing a full palette when you travel, these are so easy to carry. These Shadowsticks from Halsey’s beauty brand get a lot of use from me (a lot of their products do!); I am crossing my fingers for even more colors! 

I have the kind of hair that doesn’t keep a curl too long, which can be frustrating when I want a more dramatically curly look. (As celeb hairstylist Clayton Hawkins recently said about me to me, “She is not a beach waves girl.”) Also I was born in the 1980s, aka the era of big hair, which means I have an intrinsic appreciation for hair spray that does not move. This strong-hold hairspray is exactly what I need for my high ponytails and retro-inspired ringlets. 

Everyone should have a neutral palette in their kit. The good thing is you can get some pretty great eye shadow palettes without having to spend a ton of money. I’ve been having a lot of fun playing with Makeup Revolution’s shadows (it did both Clueless and Powerpuff Girls collections that were amazing!), and this neutral-toned palette is a great under-$20 choice.

“Eye” love eye creams and admittedly use a ton of high-end ones, like La Mer The Eye Concentrate Cream ($260) and Sunday Riley Auto Correct ($65). Kinship is one of my forever favorite skincare brands, and I love its eye cream just as much as my luxury ones. It’s a regular part of my #empties, as many of its items are. Brightwave (cute name) contains red algae for hydration and brightening, the antioxidant vitamin C Ester, and last but not least, chaga mushroom (I love mushrooms in skincare) to help depuff and energize the skin around the eyes.

Don’t sleep on Sephora Collection, especially the Cream Lip Stain. I’ve used this product (and this particular shade) for years, and it remains a favorite. Just soft, lightweight, and pretty! The secret to its smooth application and hydrating feel is avocado oil. There are also loads of color options, from goth black to Barbie pink. 

I’m always in the market for a long-wear lipstick that won’t budge whether I’m eating a burrito or wearing a mask. While I’m still head over heels for Haus Labs Atomic Shake, I have been on the lookout for any drugstore alternatives. Superstay Vinyl Ink is amazing. Similarly to Atomic Shake, you’ll want to shake the lipstick before you apply it and wait until it dries. While it’s not as shiny as Haus Labs’, it is transfer-proof and light. If you’re looking for something softer in the shine department with impressive staying power, you must get it. 

When I’m good at doing a skincare routine that uses exfoliating pads, my skin is at its best. While I will always be loyal to the Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel Pads, these ones from Pixi are my favorite alternative and cost at least $50 less. They use 20% glycolic acid to exfoliate dead skin cells away for brighter, more even-toned skin, and contain vitamin E and aloe vera to soothe and calm. 

When you’re a lipstick wearer, you need to have a removal product that’s just as strong. This waterproof micellar water from Garnier’s iconic line is no joke. It removes my bulletproof lipsticks and hard-to-remove eyeliners painlessly.