Any fellow cosmetics zealot can concur that stepping into a makeup aisle instigates the same giddy emotions as a child stepping into a candy store (except the receipt is probably going to rack up a lot more digits). The rows of lustrous lipstick tubes and metallic eyeshadow pigments are enough to have us frantically whipping out our wallets and sprinting to the registers. But although anyone can indulge in online swatch-stalking and makeup-daydreaming, sometimes our bank accounts just can’t justify high-end beauty spending. Do we really need to drop $50 on a lipstick tube? Does that foundation jar from the dollar store really work? Fortunately, not all your makeup items are fated to cost an arm and a leg. To figure out whether you should save or splurge on your next beauty product, we asked experts to give us the scoop on what's really worth the money.
Foundation/Concealer – Splurge
JAYANNPO/ShutterstockIf there is one item that every makeup artist deemed as splurge-worthy, it was foundation with a resounding yes. Because your skin is the biggest (and pickiest) part of your face, you really want to pinpoint a formulation that works best for your skin type. According to Rick DiCecca, Global Makeup Artist for Artistry, “Foundation is an area you want to spend the money—for two reasons: the options and the technology. High quality foundations make your skin look smoother, cover dark spots better, and diminish wrinkles and fines line, while also incorporating the skin-care benefits you desire.” This process is also essential to ensuring your skin maintains all that good stuff it soaked up from your skin-care routine. “With product technology advancing, foundation is no longer your first step in makeup, but your last step in skin care. Also, luxury foundation lines tend to have more shades and finishes to choose from, most definitely splurge! One of my product recommendations is the Artistry YouthXtend Lifting Smoothing Foundation, which comes in 20 different shades.”
Eyeshadow – Splurge
Africa Studio/ShutterstockWhile we all loved those Minnie Mouse makeup palettes growing up, it may be time to upgrade to something a bit more premium for your vanity. Assuming you want the color in the pan to be what actually shows up on your lid, a higher price tag may be required to make sure the desired color is deposited. Because pricier shadows tend to be made with better pigments, they will last longer and blend better. “If you choose to wear eyeshadow, you need a product which is highly pigmented to ensure it stays on all day,” says Murat Evin, Creative Director at The London School of Make-Up. “It is best to invest in eyeshadow which offers staying power against tears, sweat, and rain; otherwise you run the risk of panda eyes.”
Mascara – Save
DreamBig/ShutterstockThere are plenty of drugstore options that produce bombshell mascara formulas—and for half the price. Because bacteria multiples easily inside those moist tubes, you should trash it after three months; if you aren’t sure, here’s how to tell your makeup is expired. Since its shelf life is so brief, it’s probably smarter to cut corners on this one. "Expensive or cheap, all mascaras tend to dry out quickly either way (usually within 3 months), so spending big bucks on mascara just isn't practical. Plus, drugstore brand mascaras work great, just make sure you layer a few coats on. With mascara, it's less about the formula and more about the proper brush,” says Cassie Durkin, Brand Educator & Salon Manager at Cherry Blow Dry Bar.
Content continues below ad
Lipstick/Lip Gloss – Save
I am Kulz/ShutterstockMost makeup experts say that pretty much the only difference of a glossy lipstick tube marked as $50 and a drugstore one is that the former looks prettier on your nightstand. While more expensive lip products can have great colors and pigments, it might not be worth it if you want to experiment with a variety of shades. Many drugstore formulas also have nourishing and moisturizing elements added to ensure your pout gets just the sheen it needs. According to Lori Leib, Creative Director at Bodyography, “Lip products are so trend-based I would rather have many options and play with color as opposed to a collection of lipsticks that break the bank. These products too have a shelf life so buy the less expensive ones and embrace color and seasonal trends.” Of course, if you want to indulge yourself in MAC lipstick every once in a while (for that signature shade), go right ahead. But if you’re grappling with extra costs, take comfort in knowing that the Maybelline tube will work just fine.
Makeup brushes – Splurge
Svetlana Lukienko/ShutterstockGetting freebie brushes in your makeup kits and glam bags may seem viable enough, but if your makeup brushes are feeling like you’re rubbing a scratchy rug all over your face, it may be wise to switch it out. Cheap makeup brushes will often shed its bristles on your face, leaving stray hairs that you have to try and pick off without ruining the foundation you just perfectly applied. “Having the right tools is everything. Investing in good brushes will ensure the best makeup application. With proper care, they can last years!” advises Celebrity Makeup Artist Lori Hamlin Penske. “I use brushes by Trish McEvoy, Shu Uemura, and for those who are interested in making conscious choices, Inika Organic.” Just make sure to clean your brushes—this is what could happen if you don't.
Bronzer/Blush – Save
Africa Studio/ShutterstockBronzers and blushes are less about the price tag and more about the formula quality. Expensive packs can easily end up making you look as ruddy as a cheaper one can; the key is finding the one that works best with your skin type. Minimalism is imperative when applying; even the greatest bronzers and blushes can make you look dirty or clownish if applied excessively. According to Murat Evin, Creative Director at The London School of Make-Up, “One blusher will do the same job as another, it's just a question of which shade you are looking for as to how much you should spend. Most people will only require a small amount of blush on a daily basis, meaning a lot of it comes down to quantity. Don't splurge a large amount of money on a small amount of blusher.”
Eyeliner – Splurge
Africa Studio/ShutterstockWhile cheap eyeliners can look the same as pricier ones when first applied, experts warn that time will differentiate the price intervals. Cheaper options tend to rub or break apart during the day, or prove so “waterproof” that you have to scrub your eyes until they’re practically raw when trying to take it off. Do your eyes a favor and opt for a gently gliding pen or pencil liner that beats the clock. “I really want my eyeliner to stay all day long and the one I have found to work the best are on tend to run pricier and are higher end, such as Smashbox Limitless Liquid Liner,” says beauty content creator and digital influencer, Mariale Marrero.
Content continues below ad
Shampoo/Hair care – Toss-up
Africa Studio/ShutterstockOpulent shampoos might feel like you’re watching your money go down the drain (literally), so we don’t blame you if you want to find a good drugstore option. However, if you’ve spent a small fortune coloring your hair, it might be wise to invest in a stylist-recommended hair-care product that ensures your locks keeps its color and texture. Whether you end up opting for high or low end, just make sure to do enough research to confirm it doesn’t contain any parabens and sulfates. “Go for the good stuff and the safe stuff when it comes to hair care. Be wary of the word natural as it doesn't always mean what it says. Performance is also important. When we shampoo, we are letting this product run down our body's largest organ, and it covers most our skin’s surface so this is my splurge,” says Corrie Gallant of The Beauty Barn Spa. “One tip is to look for the word “fragrances” on the ingredients list if it's there avoid it as it may refer to hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals. Hair-care manufacturers are not required to divulge the contents of their scents.” This is how to get gorgeous hair without expensive products.
Perfume/Fragrances – Splurge
NIKITA TV/ShutterstockCheap perfumes are often made with harsh chemicals that can give you (and your neighbor) a hefty headache. Keep your scents delicate and subtle; while having a signature scent is great, you don’t want to give off the impression that you bathe in the stuff. Only spritz to your pulse points such as behind your ear, on your wrists, inside your elbow, and behind your knee. The whole “spray-and-walk-through-it” is not only ineffective, but can easily get you a mouthful of alcohol. According to Ashli Carnicelli, makeup artist and esthetician at Bella Santé Spa, “There is nothing better to finish off your outfit and your makeup than a gorgeous scent. It makes you feel luxurious and put together and can even lift your mood. Skip the drugstore brands and pay for the good stuff. Drugstore brand perfumes are typically filled with synthetics and alcohol, so not only are they more likely to give you and others around a headache, they don't last. Eau du parfum is the best option for a long-lasting olfactory impression.” Here’s what your perfume says about your personality.
Nail polish – Save
279photo Studio/ShutterstockAlthough those enticing ads for the latest Deborah Lippmann nail polish collection are tempting, your nail polish shouldn’t cost more than your dinner. As gorgeous as those colors are, nail polish will always chip quickly, and it’s more worthwhile to purchase a great top coat if you're changing your polish every few days. “Spending more money on nail varnish doesn't necessarily mean it will last longer, or that it will be a better color,” says Murat Evin, Creative Director at The London School of Make-Up. “Some of the best nail varnish I have seen has come from very reasonable and modest brands which are available at great prices. My advice with this product, is to just buy the exact shade and color you want for the best price you can find.”