My parents have always kidded me about my expensive taste, which has historically manifested most deeply in terms of my beauty routine. (I've loved luxe brands like Clé de Peau Beauté and Chantecaille since I was in the ninth grade.) My friends and family have learned to love and accept me anyway, my wallet… not so much. This year I've tried to do better, hunting and scouting for the best budget-friendly beauty products that don't sacrifice durability or finish but are ever so slightly easier on my bank account. Remember the time I whittled my $436 makeup routine down to less than $100?!
Due to my nitpicky nature when it comes to choosing and recommending hair, skin, and makeup products, I've been asked by multiple people to put together a list of the best cheap (or at least cheap-ish) beauty products I actually use and swear by. Ahead, 18 of my top picks spanning from $3 to $32. Keep scrolling! From one beauty lover to another, your wallet will thank you.
Skin & Nails:
Sure, French drugstore brands like Bioderma and La Roche-Posay get a lot of attention, but Collosol is the under-the-radar French skincare staple that still flies (super unfairly!) under the radar here stateside. Every beauty editor I know on either coast is obsessed with this brand, and this makeup remover is the dreamiest, gentlest, and most effective way to remove your makeup in just a few seconds flat. I keep it at my desk at all times since I'm constantly swiping and swatching new products.
(Oh, and in very new news, the brand just launched the heavenly formula in wipe form! You can grab them now on Amazon, here.)
Recently, I've been working with celebrity esthetician Vanessa Hernandez to help transform my perpetually congested skin. The past couple of months I've undergone a "boot camp" of sorts where I go in for regular extraction-heavy facials followed by a back-to-basics at-home maintenance plan, which pretty much consists of just three or four products. (So refreshing as a beauty editor!)
I'd never heard of this super-simple cleanser before Vanessa had me go home with it, but I can honestly say it's one of the best I've tried despite its affordable price tag and bare minimum ingredient list. It's not fancy, but it works. Isn't that the whole point?
Up until I tried this game-changing zit cream (another rec from Vanessa!), I was 150% convinced spot treatments and zit creams were completely bogus. However, this one works. Sulfur is the main bump-busting ingredient, so prepare yourself for some scent, but it's quite honestly the only spot treatment that has banished my active breakouts with zero irritation. Plus, it's tinted and seamlessly adjusts to the color of your complexion so you're able to diminish the annoying redness and inevitable inflammation par for the course when it comes to battling blemishes.
One parting tip: Just make sure to shake it really, really well before you apply it!
Truth be told, I have a lot of expensive lip products and treatments. And out of all of them, there are only two or three that actually do a great job of keeping my lips moisturized and chap-free. I've been using this balm since high school and you'll still find a chic little gold pot in every bag and atop every surface of my bedroom and bathroom. I come back to it again and again, plus it smells like strawberries, which is lovely in its own right.
Toners are one of the most underrated skincare products, and according to every dermatologist and esthetician I pepper with questions, it's truly one of the most important steps in your clear skin routine. This formula from S.W. Basics is super-simple, super-affordable, and my go-to whenever I'm trying to save money without wanting to sacrifice the well-being of my skin.
For years, finding the perfect top coat that maintained shine and chip-free durability was a tough case for me to crack. Until Essie came out with this gel-inspired top coat, that is. It's so good that I've actually started just doing my nails at home instead of investing in manicures since the shiny manicure-esque results of this formula usually last longer anyway!
I struggle to spend a lot of money on dry shampoo purely for the reason I go through it so damn fast. Not only does this grease-erasing formula from OGX smell amazing (you'll get so many compliments, I swear), it's also the best when it comes to reviving limp volume-less strands. Oh, and it's only nine bucks!
I've accumulated quite the collection of hair brushes, and I still pretty much use my simple AF Conair comb almost exclusively. It saves my tangle-prone strands from breakage and stretch, and I've even started bringing it with me to the salon or blowout bar because it's just that much easier on my hair. And yeah, it will only set you back $3.
If you're still an Invisibobble virgin, we have to remedy the situation ASAP. Not only doe these cute hair ties keep hair in place with zero slippage, they also don't dent, rip, or tear your precious strands. I love the O.G. show above, but the brands also make scrunchie and slim versions too if you feel so inclined.
As someone with fine blonde hair, having a crystal clear, high-quality hair oil is of utmost importance to prevent damage and color distortion. (Yellow oils are a no-go if you're blonde as they can actually stain and turn your hair brassy!) That said, I've turned friends and fellow co-workers with all textures and hair colors onto this small bottle of Bliss from Verb. Another perk? The moringa-infused oil costs a fraction of the price compared to other popular hair oils on the market.
As basic as this product may seem, every single person with hair needs one of these gentle hair turbans from Aquis. (IMHO, at least.) Sure, it might look pretty similar to your ho-hum towel, but wrapping my damp strands with it cuts my dry time by half, preserves my color, and reduces the unwanted potential for fuzzies and breakage.
My previous length-resistant strands have grown at record-breaking speed ever since I started popping two of these tasty nutrient-packed gummies per day. They're so delicious that I'd probably eat them regardless, but Hum's strategic ingredient composition boasting zinc, biotin, vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Para-aminobenzoic Acid (PABA), and Fo-Ti has worked wonders on how fast (and healthy!) my hair has grown in.
I'm the type of person who has no middle ground when it comes to my makeup aesthetic—either I'm completely made up or I'm completely barefaced. That said, this is the only makeup product—I repeat—the only product I'll wear even when I'm not wearing anything else on my face. It drenches lips with smooth hydration and adds a subtle boost of color that's so insanely pretty and flattering. I also appreciate the high-quality organic formula!
My apologies, but anyone who says this isn't the best liquid eyeliner of all time is straight up lying. Not only does the smudge-proof water-resistant formula come in tons of pretty colors, it also has a perfectly sized tip and is easy for even the most inexperienced of liquid liner novices to maneuver.
My fellow beauty editor friend (and previous boss at Byrdie!) Hallie Gould and I are both obsessed with our lashes and are both obsessed with this mascara from Glossier. Just a few layers build to long, fluttery length with a really natural payoff that makes you look like you're wearing extensions. (For just $16!) I try new mascara formulas weekly, but this affordable pick is still in my all-time top three.
This has been one of my favorite makeup launches of 2019, and I just can't stop talking about it and applying it. Unlike so many highlighters, it doesn't look fake, greasy, or powdery, and after it dries, it stays put through water, sweat, and any other imaginable hazard.
I've kept this multitasking concealer close at hand for years (since college), and it's still one of the most important items in my makeup bag. It's been around forever, and when a previous co-worker (who as a rule hates drugstore makeup) tried it in a desperate pinch, she exclaimed, "This sh*t's amazing!" Truly, it is. I use it anywhere on my face where I need to mask pigmentation or even out my skin tone.
Sorry, but I'll just never be able to recommend any blush more passionately than these cult-classic black compacts from Nars. The colors are gorgeous, stay put, and apply so smoothly. The colors I recommend to everyone on repeat are Orgasm (duh), Sex Appeal, Outlaw, Seduction, and Desire.