Those of you who have been following my blog know that I’ve been in the beauty industry since the discovery of the mud bath. During that time, I’ve answered hundreds of questions about makeup and skin care products, what to look for, best brands, where to buy them, and how much to spend.
In a recent conversation with a girlfriend about makeup and skin care products, she looked over and said, “I don’t want generalized information and multiple options. I don’t have time for that. Just tell me what you use. But stay out of Nordstrom. I’m not paying to put Mrs. Lauder’s grandson through college.”
When you’re working in high-end retail, especially as a buyer and sales trainer, cosmetics companies want you to sell their products. This makes them wonderfully generous. You get lots and lots of free products to try, which can distort your definition of “expensive.”
I got very used to $175 night creams, $40 mascaras, $150 collagen serums, and $28 lip pencils. When you get it for free, or at wildly reduced prices, why not? But then I left the industry. Boom. Those days were over. Now I was paying full retail. OMG. Who pays these prices?? When Hubs pointed out that I could buy a new car for my monthly moisturizer payments, I knew something had to be done. And so the quest began.
How do I find Nordstrom products at Walgreen’s? Do they even exist? Can products work when they’re sold in hard plastic bubbles and tacked up along a wall next to the baby wipes and jock itch spray? And was I supposed to ask that 12-year-old, Proactive-needing gum chewer in the Walgreen’s apron for advice on what product will plump the wrinkles around my lips or what foundation works best on 58-year-old skin? Being an unabashed beauty product junkie who just lost her free suppliers, I was determined to find out.
A few years later, with many, many mistakes, returns (Rite Aid hates me), and giveaways to my thrilled DIL, my bathroom is now beautifully stocked with cheap versions of the products I’ve loved forever. Much to my delight, these work as well, or sometimes better, than their expensive counterparts. I have a personal “Best Of” list, and I’m going to share it with you, my readers. Because I’m generous like that. And because I love you.
Note: No compensation was provided by any of these companies. We’ve never talked, and they have no idea this post exists.
Best of (Cheap) Beauty, 2015:
Best Daytime Mascara: L’Oreal Voluminous Mascara. This has been my go-to mascara for 20 years. Even when working in the industry, this was the one I used. Great volume, no clumps. Every time I tried something new, I went back to it, apologizing for straying like a cheating wife asking for forgiveness. $10
Best Dramatic Mascara: Rimmel Retro Glam Mascara. With two quick coats, this stuff gets your lashes out to there. Think Twiggy in the 60s. (Those of you under 40, Google her. Eyelashes for days.) $6
Best Foundation: L’Oreal Visible Lift Blur Foundation. Comes in a tube, and works like a hot damn. Beautiful slip, easy to apply, and actually does “blur” the lines around my eyes and mouth. And it looks like skin. Most drugstore foundations are chalky or too “pink.” Your face should not be the color of suntanned Pepto-Bismal. But this stuff is beautiful. $12
Best Pressed Powder: Rimmel Stay Matte Pressed Translucent Powder. When it’s time to “powder your nose,” you’ll love this one. Sheer, matte, non-powdery finish that kills the shine instantly. Especially good at the end of the day, when your makeup is looking like you’ve had it on since 6:30 a.m., but you don’t have the time (or the inclination) to do it over. $10
Best Nude Eyeshadow: Maybelline Nude Beach Eyeshadow. Gorgeous true nude, with a slight shimmer. Fabulous worn either alone, or as a base with any other eyeshadows. Love, love, love this one. I wear it every day, with or without mascara. $3
Best Eyeliner: Maybelline Stiletto Liquid Eyeliner. Line your eyes like a rock star. Quick, easy, stays on until you take it off. $6
Best Eye Pencils: Almay Amazing Lasting 16-Hour Eyeliner. Glides on, so no pulling of thin eye area (At 50+, you don’t want to pull on something that isn’t going to go back). Stays on all day. Beautiful, soft colors. $7
Best Blusher: Maybelline Master Glaze Glisten Blush Stick. I love “Just Pinched” pink. These little guys are fun. One swipe on your cheeks, blend with your fingers, and you’ve got a creamy glow for hours. Toss in your purse for quick touch-ups. $9
Best Lip Stains: Hard Candy “All Glossed Up” Lip Stains. These adorable chubby crayons are sheerer, softer, and a little sexier than traditional lipsticks. The stain lasts for hours, and touch-ups are just a quick swipe. $5
Best “Nude” Lip Pencil: L’Oreal Infallible 6-Hour Lip Pencil, in Pink. Truly nude lip pencils only work for Gwyneth Paltrow. The rest of us look dead. Healthy lips aren’t beige. This soft, neutral pink looks natural and healthy, better defined, and works with any lip color. And you’ll never have that horrid VPL (visible panty line) created from dark or brightly colored lip pencils. $6
Best Daily Moisturizer: Aveeno SPF 15. It’s really difficult to find a moisturizer with sunscreen that isn’t tacky to the touch, leaves an odd sheen to your skin, and totally goops up your makeup. This lightweight moisturizer softens and smooths, with a sunscreen that leaves no sticky residue. Perfect. $17 (And for the uber-frugal, Walmart sells an “Equate” version of this that’s exactly the same, for $8. We won’t tell.)
Best Night Cream: Garnier Ultra Lift Miracle Sleeping Cream. The Mac Daddy of the list. Love. This. Product. It feels like its $150+ cousins, with gorgeous slip and yummy feel. It has all the “good stuff” that expensive anti-aging creams boast about, and deeply moisturizes without feeling heavy. This is my best find ever. $15