There's a lot to love about high-end makeup: the luxurious packaging; the chic look of those brand-name palettes and tubes sitting on your vanity; the trend-forward, high-quality shades and formulations. Of course, not all pricey makeup lives up to its price tag, but for makeup gurus on a budget, it can be significantly more challenging to find cheap products that re-create the high-end feel of more expensive favorites.
Here at Who What Wear Beauty, we've put our makeup snobbery to good use, holding under-$20 products to the same standard as the highest-end foundations, blushes, mascaras, and more that we try. The result? This list of 15 cheap makeup products—both brand-new launches and tried-and-true classics—that cost as little as $1 apiece but feel expensive thanks to their packaging, color payoff, staying power, and shade selection. Keep scrolling to see our picks.
This holy-grail foundation's studly packaging, genius doe-foot applicator, blendability, staying power, and satiny finish rival that of foundations three times as expensive. It's our associate editor Erin's go-to, and she says it earns her more compliments on her skin than any luxury alternative.
ColourPop offers some of the most trend-forward colors and formulas on the market, making it seem way pricier than it is. For example, jelly-textured makeup is having a huge moment right now, and this affordable brand is already ahead of the curve with these super-fun eye shadows, which come in cutting-edge shades like Morning Light, a corally rose gold, and Foxes, a shimmery mustard.
This instant beauty-editor favorite has everything you'd want in a volumizing mascara: a dense brush that even coats each lash with product for a falsie effect that won't weigh your lashes down or mess with their curl. Also, the packaging is adorable (and very reminiscent of a different, cult-loved $24 mascara).
So many celebrity makeup artists we've talked to have named this cruelty-free, nontoxic pick as one of their all-time favorite lip products (drugstore or not) for a lovely, subtle wash of matte color.
Wet n Wild's brushes go for as little as $1 each, which you would never guess from their dense yet soft synthetic bristles and chic pink-and-white color scheme. The eye shadow brushes are my personal go-tos. I find myself reaching for them over any of my pricier picks.
Another makeup-artist fave is Nyx's setting powder, which blurs pores, softens fine lines, and sets and mattifies makeup much like the best high-end powders. Not to mention a tiny bit goes a very long way, so that $10 price tag is even more of a steal.
Not exactly a makeup product per se, but Sonya Kashuk's incredibly stylish makeup cases deserve a shout-out. They're available at Target in so many cute styles. I'm also obsessed with this Lovely Ladies print.
More jelly makeup. What can I say? I have a thing for dewy finishes. This new formulation from E.l.f. leaves the sort of glowy, luminous finish you might find in a $30 highlighter for just six bucks.
Milani's iconic Baked Blush formula is one of the most popular on the market for a reason—namely, the high-quality gold packaging and almost upsettingly pretty selection of super-pigmented matte and shimmery shades, including Rose d'Oro, a taupe-pink, and Luminoso, a coral hue.
Maybelline's makeup artist–beloved ColorTattoo cream shadows are now available in stick form for even easier application, and I am obsessed, especially with its Lavish Lavender shade.
We always find Ardell's Wipsies in makeup artists' kits. The flexible strip and subtle flutter of the lashes render spending more than five bucks on fake lashes totally unnecessary.
Arguably the best coverage for your buck comes courtesy of Revlon's concealer. The formula is blendable and long-lasting but not chalky.
It's an all-natural formula that creates a super-subtle, extension-esque effect with tons of separation (read: no clumps ever). It's also super waterproof but will actually budge when you go to remove it.
Sephora Collection's easy-to-use, flexible brush tip and stay-put formula make a cat eye foolproof for just $12.
This brand-new release from Physicians Formula keeps the skin matte but not scarily so—providing an orb-like glow that lasts all day. It also doesn't make your makeup pill on top, and a tiny bit goes a long way.
Do you have more cheap makeup recommendations? DM them to me @amanda_montell!