Beauty is pain... for your wallet. I've yet to meet a woman who hasn't woefully spent a couple weeks' worth of grocery money at Sephora at least once. Luckily, this isn't always the case. Sometimes you find an incredible beauty product that improves the condition of your skin and budget at once. It's a blissful feeling, the beauty jackpot, and it happens far too infrequently.
Without further adieu, here are my budget-friendly beauty picks that have made my face and bank statements more beautiful.
1. Kat Von D Everlasting Liquid Lipstick
Liquid lipstick is the stuff of Instagram pipedreams. Every cosmetic brand has its own line, but none as long-lasting and wonderful as Kat Von D’s. Without any prep or liner, it grips your lips and does. Not. Move. In fact, my coworker bought this set of 8 after watching my lip color stay put through a 12-hour trade show where I ate, drank, and talked nonstop.
I have this lipstick in 9 colors and without exaggeration, each time I wear one, someone stops me to ask what I’m wearing (especially Plath. The people love Plath). My personal favorite is Nahz Fur Atoo, a deep(ly flattering) crimson tone.
2. Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler
Curling your eyelashes can be scary, but Shu Uemura made it simple and painless with this cult-favorite curler. Its curved design is the perfect shape to get extremely close to the base of your lashes without clipping an eyelid, guaranteeing a natural, glamorous curl that stays put. It was a splurge for me in high school—I’d buy it again today 10 times over.
The curler doesn’t look innovative or special, but it makes harsh angles and crisscrossed, unevenly bent lashes a thing of the past. Try it once and you’ll wonder how you ever let yourself bat an eyelash without the Shu Uemura.
3. H&M Nail Polish
After years of shelling out serious bucks for OPI and Essie nail polishes, I was shocked to find that H&M’s inexpensive, proprietary brand of polishes looks better and lasts longer than any of the expensive brand names. The highly pigmented formula goes on smooth, and two coats lasts at least a week and stays super shiny without a drop of top coat.
4. Dove Gentle Exfoliating Beauty Bar
You know that gross sensation after you use bar soap and emerge from the shower feeling bound in plastic wrap? Dove is the only bar soap I’ve tried that avoids that tight feeling, rinses clean, and doesn’t strip my sensitive skin of moisture. This exfoliating bar is made with ¼ moisturizing cream and microbeads that are just abrasive enough to buff away dead skin. The slightly scratchy bar of soap is soothing on dry spots, always leaves my skin feeling soft, and has a mild, squeaky-clean scent that I never tire of.
5. Elizabeth Arden Beautiful Color Brow Shaper
The number one compliment I get: “You have great eyebrows.” This is thanks partially to genetics, and mostly to this Elizabeth Arden brow filler. My grandmother used it, my mom uses it, and I’ve been using it for a decade. The color is a perfect match, the formula blends seamlessly, and the result is full and natural-looking—like your brows, only better. One of these cakes will last you forever. Seriously: I’m still using my mother’s from the ‘80s (I’m gross—but my brows look great).
5. Unrefined Coconut Oil
My favorite use for do-it-all coconut oil is as a fast-absorbing moisturizer. Don’t be fooled into thinking that putting pure oil on your body will make you feel greasy: Your skin drinks in the hydration like a sponge. In fact, the oil absorbs so quickly that it’ll make you kind of sad when you realize how desperately dry your poor, neglected skin has been. I press it into my face to gently melt away residual makeup (adios waterproof mascara). Plus, each time I use it, I can’t believe how good it smells.
7. Dr. Dan's CortiBalm Lip Balm
If you have a collection of rogue chapsticks floating around your bag, you probably need an appointment with Dr. Dan. My practical dad pointed me to this decidedly unglamorous product, and it effectively cured my chronically chapped lips. It’s now the only chapstick I own.
With 1% hydrocortisone, it soothes dry or swollen lips almost immediately. One swipe lasts hours and really, truly makes a difference after one use. A single tube lasts months, and it’s made with just 4 simple ingredients: Beeswax, petroleum jelly, mineral oil and hydrocortisone. Stock up.
8. Sephora Smoothing & Brightening Concealer
Gals with dark circles know the struggle of finding a natural-looking concealer that's also pigmented enough to camouflage tired eyes. I spent years bopping between brands and formulas, but this is the first product that I repeatedly purchased (I’m on my fourth tube).
This concealer is cost-efficient but has the staying power of a pricier brand, and the pen brush design eliminates the need for a separate brush, making this tube compact enough to toss in any small purse. The formula is just slightly luminous to reflect light and brighten, and it’s loaded with nourishing hyaluronic acid to hydrate your delicate under eyes.
9. Tweezerman V-Cuticle Nipper
I keep this tool in my bag at all times and I’m shocked at how much I reach for it. I can’t go anywhere without it. It’s so much better than the models that look like mini pliers and have a tendency to dull quickly and tug at sore skin instead of neatly clipping it off.
The nipper's skinny blades and pointy tip get right to the base of any tiny hangnail. It’s perfect for those weirdly painful hangnails or bits of dry skin around your cuticles. It comes in a compact protective case, and when the edges begin to dull, fear not. Tweezerman will sharpen any tool free of charge at any time.
10. CHI 2-inch Ceramic Flat Iron
OK, so this flat iron is well above $25, but it’s one of those tools that's well worth the investment. Gifted to me on my 12th birthday, this iron has made it through a dozen moves, puberty, college, some seriously cringe-worthy drops, and still to this day presses my thick, curly hair pin-straight in no time. You can’t purchase the extra-wide iron anymore (#vintage), but this newer, slimmer version gives mine a run for its money and makes strands so glossy you can practically see your reflection.