13 Beauty Editors on the Affordable Products That Rival Expensive Buys

If you're lucky enough to know a beauty editor, then they're probably your go-to person for quick-fire questions on everything from the best fake tans to how to apply SPF properly. With the enviable job of testing and reviewing a seemingly endless supply of beauty products, beauty editors really are the people you can rely on for honest and thorough product recommendations and skincare advice.

Amongst the questions we're most frequently asked are things like 'what are the best affordable beauty products?' and 'is there a cheaper alternative to this expensive product?'. Naturally, no one wants to spend money they don't need to spend on luxury beauty products when they could get a cheaper alternative that works just as well.


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Fortunately, these days, there are plenty of beauty brands out there trying to make beauty products affordable and accessible to all. Brands like e.l.f., CeraVe, Rimmel London, and Revolution Skincare are known for bringing budget beauty products to market that perform just as well as (if not better than) their more expensive counterparts.

As beauty editors, we try both the budget beauty and the luxury launches, so we know when a product is (or isn't!) worth its price tag. Scroll down to discover the best affordable beauty products according to these beauty experts.

1. Eleanor Vousden, Beauty Editor, Who What Wear UK


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"My lips are forever dry. In wintertime, they suffer during the cold weather and wind and during the summer, office aircon strips them of any moisture that they are desperately trying to cling on to. I've tried everything from the very cheapest drugstore lip balms to the most expensive £50+ treatments, but the most effective I've tried so far is Rhode's Peptide Lip Treatment. At £16 might be considered steep for a lip balm, but nothing else has kept my lips as hydrated and shielded from the elements as this. It has a cocooning texture that feels like a lip mask and leaves lips with a glossy sheen too. Plus, a little goes a very long way and it lasts for ages on the lips too, so one tube will last you for a while. My favourite is the Salted Caramel, but there is also Watermelon Slice for those who prefer a fruity balm and an unscented version too if you don't want anything fragranced."

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2. Grace Lindsay, Junior Beauty Editor, Who What Wear UK


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"I have tried my fair share of foundations over the years, from drugstore favourites to some of the most luxurious brands on the market, and this Rimmel product always comes out on top. If you like a natural, glowy base, but still want some coverage, then I couldn't recommend it enough. Not only does it look great on the skin, but it's also super hydrating thanks to ingredients such as vitamin E and aloe vera. At only £9.99, I will be repurchasing it time and time again."

2. Grace Day, Beauty Contributor, Who What Wear UK


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"The thing about eye creams is that they promise the world, but there's not a formula out there that can target dark circles, fine lines, puffiness, and dry skin all in one go—despite what the marketing jargon would have you believe. If there's one thing I've learned in my years of testing beauty products it's that the best eye creams are the ones that stick to doing one thing and do that one thing well, which is exactly what Revolution Skincare X Sali Hughes' Ringlight Creamy Illuminating Eye Balm does. Targeting dark under-eye circles, it instantly brightens (thanks to light-reflecting particles which quite literally wipe out blue tones) and does such a good job that recently I've been skipping concealer altogether. I'm rarely impressed by an eye cream, and when asked for eye cream recommendations I tend to stick to the same tried and tested few—none of which are less than £40. So to find a good one for just a tenner really is quite something."

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3. Mica Ricketts, Beauty Contributor, Who What Wear UK


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"When asked what my favourite affordable beauty product was for this piece, there was one that immediately sprung to mind—La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo+. This cult moisturiser is a French pharmacy favourite that my oily skin can’t get enough of. I’ve dealt with acne since my teenage years and am still prone to breakouts, and I always have a tube of this on hand for when I’m in the midst of a particularly spotty period. Essentially, it’s a gel moisturiser packed with niacinamide to soothe skin, salicylic acid to exfoliate skin and ease pore congestion and zinc to keep excess oil in check. Within a few days of using it, my skin always looks calmer and clearer and with long-time use it has helped to drastically reduce pigmentation and scarring left behind by old spots. Seriously good stuff."


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4. Tamara Corin, Beauty Editor, The Handbook



"I'm obsessed with CeraVe's Hydrating Cleanser. This budget-friendly cleanser washes away all my makeup (including the waterproof varieties) and doesn't strip my dry skin from oils or leave an uncomfortable tight feeling. Plus it has skin-loving ingredients that give a massive boost of hydration and the bottle lasts forever. I could go on and on..."

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5. Jacqueline Kilikita, Acting Beauty Director, Refinery 29



"This Garnier sunscreen is among a handful of affordable SPFs on rotation in my skincare routine. As the name suggests, it's featherlight, and the texture is more like a milk rather than a cream, so it's great for oily skin. It makes mine feel comfortably matte to the touch and I love that it sits well under makeup. Aside from how it feels, it boasts very high protection against UVA (the UV rays which result in premature ageing and skin cancer) and UVB (these rays are responsible for sunburn). My bottle is currently sitting upside down on my bathroom shelf because I want to get every last drop out of it!"

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6. Kelle Salle, Freelance Beauty Writer


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"My favourite affordable beauty product is the NYX Cosmetics Epic Wear Long Lasting Liner Stick. I love NYX's products because they are good value for money and the quality is really good. When it comes to makeup, none of my looks are complete without a good, black eyeliner. I came across this gem a few months ago and I can't get enough of it. I have almond shaped eyes which I like to draw attention to by applying eyeliner on my waterline for a softer, yet defined look. When I was in my teens and early twenties, I'd apply a lot of eye liner on my top and bottom lid and I always cringe whenever I see pictures of myself because it was so OTT. What I love about this eyeliner is that it's super pigmented, so you don't need to go back and forth with it to get some colour. Also, it doesn't smudge and it lasts all day long. If I struggle to get colour from it, I put a little bit on the back of my hand first to warm it up. The formula is really smooth and buttery so this works every time and the colour payoff is even better. This eyeliner is a very welcome addition to my makeup bag - I love everything about it! A bonus is that a little bit goes a long way and as long as you don't overdo it with the pencil sharpener, it will last long." 

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7. Zeynab Mohamed, Freelance Beauty Writer


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"Naturally I have quite full brows, and often I find that brow products add to the fullness of my brows and it can look quite a lot, think two huge dark hairy bugs. For that reason, I’m always on the look out for brow products that can help me tame and style my brows, so they don’t look quite as scary. The e.l.f. Brow Lift Gel has quickly become the only brow product I use. It’s easy and fuss free, it makes doing my brows so much easier and quicker because let’s be honest I don’t have the patience to even get looking like cousins. It’s not super thick or gloopy or sticky, just the right consistency, it helps me shape and style my brows, and you can certainly get them looking fuller if that’s what you’re after. Most importantly no white flakes, it’s a dream and priced at £6, it’s a steal." 

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8. Tori Crowther, Freelance Beauty Editor


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"I'll be honest, I was underwhelmed when Rimmel's Kind & Free Mascara landed on my desk, mostly because of the "clean" formula language, which isn't something I believe in. But that aside, this is one of the best mascaras in my makeup bag and I've repurchased it at least three times. I have long lashes so my mascara choices are different to those with short lashes, so bear that in mind! Because they're long, I find that lots of traditional formulas clump up my eyelashes and make them look quite false. This gives one of the most natural, barely-there finishes and I can really layer the coats on without it looking OTT."

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9. Mollie Burdell, Beauty Contributor, Who What Wear UK


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"Vieve Skin Dew is quite literally liquid gold. You can wear it under makeup, on its own or––how I like to use it––mixed in with your foundation. It makes my skin look glowing and healthy thanks to the golden light-reflecting pigments and squalane, which contains hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties. Buy it and you won’t look back."

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10. Nateisha Scott, Deputy Beauty Editor, Harrods


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"My absolute affordable favourite beauty product has to be Rhode’s Peptide Lip Treatment. As someone with high standards when it comes to lip products, this one from Rhode blew me away. Hydrating, moisturising and long lasting, my lips remain soft and supple for hours. Not only that but packed with peptides, your lips feel nourished and restored. Finally you can’t beat its make-up hybrid qualities, it’s a gloss and balm in one."

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11. Becki Murray, Beauty Editor, Citizen Femme


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"I’ve struggled with hormonal breakouts since my teens, but it wasn’t until both a dermatologist and a cosmetic scientist recommended this Acnecide gel in quick succession that I curbed the urge to move onto the ‘latest spot remedy’ every month. Inside its rather unassuming tube, you’ll find the active ingredient benzoyl peroxide - one of the best ingredients we have at our disposal for safely killing P.acnes – the bacteria on your skin that can contribute to acne. What I love most, aside from the product’s ability to keep breakouts at bay, is that unlike so many acne ‘solutions’ I’ve tried before, it doesn’t require you to compromise on skin quality. Some people report experiencing some light peeling and you do need to wear SPF daily as it can increase sun sensitivity, but I’ve actually found that my skin’s redness and radiance (as well as my spot count) has significantly improved through using it. What’s more, it’s only £9.99 and available from both Boots and Superdrug, so I just pop out to the high street at lunchtime when I need a top-up.”

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12. Jenny Brownlees, Freelance Beauty Editor


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"I love finding an affordable beauty buy that rivals a high-end brand, and in terms of blush and bronzer I haven’t found better than e.l.f.'s Putty range. An absolute steal at £6, the Putty Bronzer melts into the skin, is beautifully blendable and has great staying power. I’m super-pale and often struggle to find a product that helps me mimic a sun-kissed complexionbut have found this offers smoothing, buildable colour that is glowy but never greasy. It adds a gorgeous warmth without any hint of orange and a little goes a long way. Plus, thanks to the infusion of argan oil and vitamin E, it’s skin-nourishing too. e.l.f. is killing the affordable beauty game right now the fact that this hero buy comes in under a tenner is fantastic no wonder TikTok is so obsessed with the brand."

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Next Up: 24 Products Beauty Editors Can't Stop Recommending to Their Friends

Freelance Beauty Editor

Grace Day is a beauty editor and content creator. She has over 10 years of beauty-industry experience, spanning editorial, retail, and e-commerce, which gives her a unique understanding into how people shop for their beauty routines.

While studying for a history degree (specialising in the history of beauty) and working as a beauty adviser in department stores, Grace started writing her own beauty blog in order to share the products she discovered while dealing with acne. After graduating, she moved to Beauty Bay as beauty editor and content manager. Grace is currently a beauty contributor to Who What Wear. She has also written for Hypebae and PopSugar and works as a brand consultant and copywriter.