Beauty On A Budget – To Splurge Or To Save?

Wanna look a million bucks without spending that much? Check out the following list to see what products you should splurge and save on.


Products Worth Splurging

* Foundation, concealer and powder. Since you do need a perfect match for a flawless complexion, you are better off heading to a department store where you can try out different colors and formulas. Brands like Prescriptives even offer custom blending to help customers find their right match.

* Makeup Brushes. We all know the importance of brushes when it comes to makeup application. High-end brushes from Shu Uemura and MAC are usually made from denser, softer hair and will last longer so they are definitely worth the investment.

Products Worth Saving

* Mascara. Mascaras need to be replaced every 3 months, so why spend over $20 when you can buy one for a few bucks at the drugstore? Check out my mascara reviews to learn more about my favorite drugstore mascaras.

* Eyeshadow. When it comes to eyeshadows, trends come and go all the time. You are better off experimenting with different colors and textures with drugstore and mid-end brands. NYX, Milani and MAC all make eyeshadows in a variety of colors with decent pigmentation.

* Blush. Just like eyeshadows, you can find decent blushes from drugstore and mid-end brands like Milani and MAC.

* Lipstick/Lip gloss. From my personal experience, the biggest difference between high-end and drugstore lip products lies in their packaging. The texture and color are pretty much the same.

* Nail Polish. Nail polishes have a short shelf life plus brands like OPI and CND offer the same if not better, quality than luxury brands like Chanel.

Related Entries
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Phyllis Li is the Founder and Editor-in-chief of Makeup For Life, one of the top 50 beauty blogs that focuses on celebrity makeup breakdowns, product reviews, makeup tutorials and all things beauty. Having lived and traveled in North America, Europe and Asia, she was exposed to different techniques and products at an early age and hopes to put a global perspective towards beauty. Phyllis won the Best Content Award by Total Beauty in 2008 and has been featured in various publications and websites including ELLE, Glamour.com, Yahoo Shine!, AOL Stylelist, Nylon Korea, VOGUE China, Ming Pao Daily (Canada) and Shanghai Weekly. In 2010, she was appointed one of the nine Real Women Ambassadors in the United States to take part in the Latisse® Wishes Challenge, working with Hollywood celebrity Kathy Ireland and raised over $400,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation to grant wishes for approximately 54 children. In 2012, she teamed up with luxury skincare brand TATCHA and released a limited-edition 3-Piece Set of her favorite beauty products. Phyllis currently lives in Chicago, US. She is a regular contributor to Shanghai Daily's StyleHai Magazine and a member of the Glam Beauty Network.

28 COMMENTS

  1. can you recommend some drugstore lipstick/lipglosses? and you’re so right about the mascara! i spend $20+ every 2-3 months on it :[ so i will definitely be checking out those mascaras you recommended

  2. can you recommend some drugstore lipsticks/lipglosses? and you’re so right about the mascaras! i spend about $20+ on mascaras every 2-3 months :[ so i will definitely check out the mascaras you recommended

  3. I TOTALY agree. My foundation/concealer/powder splurge was soooo worth it. That has to be perfect or it throws everything else off.

  4. I agree. High quality foundation (and concealer) that matches to my skin tone comes with a higher price tag. Besides foundation, blush is the only makeup product I have spent more so far. Love $1 Jordana eyeshadows and less than $2 Jordana lipgloss! The most money goes into basic skin care products more than makeup in my case :)

  5. You’re absolutely right.
    Foundation and foundation brushes make me look good even when I don’t have anything else good.
    The only problem is, I stil haven’t found my HG foundation :(
    Next up LM powder foundation!

  6. thanks for the tips! i agree that any face/base makeup should be splurged on since it has to match as close as possible and any colored makeup such as blush & eyeshadow you can save by buying drugstore brands. i disagree about the makeup brushes though. there are cheaper yet soft and durable brushes online, such as Coastal Scents and other mineral makeup companies. I spent less than $50 for a kabuki, long-handled kabuki, long-handled baby buki, and a 7-piece set at Lumiere Cosmetics.

    btw. I have thin, sparse, straight yet long lashes. what mascaras would you recommend other than the ones you've already mentioned on this blog entry. thanks a bunch!

  7. I totally agree with the high quality brushes. Once you have good, CLEAN brushes you can acheie excellent results with just about anything.

  8. hihi, i just subscribed through your feeder although i already have you in my google reader.

    i’m excited about the personalized sweetpstake, b/c you are always so on point with celebrity break down and your review of each category of makeup is so thorough and accurate. I love the foundation post, that’s how i found you! now I’m hooked on GA.

    keep up the good work!

  9. Thank you for the tips, I usualy splurged in mascara, (lancome defincils) but is good to know there are chaper alternatives. And brushes, yes! totally worth every penny, I love your blog, thank you for the handy information.

    Question though, have you tried L’oreal’s Bare Naturelle marcara?

    I always look for definition and lenght vs. volume with mascara. Thank you in advandce!

  10. I totally agree with you. The best mascaras I have found have all been “drugstore brands”. My current fave is a DS brand from Japan!
    As far as the US brands, my HG for a long time has been Loreal Voluminous…

  11. This is a really helpful post. I’ve never tried out department store brand foundations, but I’ve passed by the Prescriptives counter many times. I really like the idea of custom-blended make-up.

  12. Can you recommend a good concealer? I am of east indian decent and as you can imagine I have VERY dark undereye circles. I’m currently using a MAC concealer and all that is doing is graying out the area? I love your posts, very helpful!

  13. a friend told me to keep nail polish in refrigerator (i know it sounds funny), but it works really good!! i have nail polishes from like 2 years ago, and its still smooth like its brand new!

  14. Hi i have a question- I’m having a wedding soon and I’m wondering if I should do the airbrush foundation or regular foundation? Which would you recommed for a wedding?

  15. thanks for this post and i couldnt agree more with wat u said about face products! but then i actually splurged on a dior mascara BUT i really liked it! :)
    and for makeup brushes, u can actually find really good basic ones like sonia kashuk (which i REALLY love)! though for advance brushes, u do have to splurge on them cuz mostlikely only the higher end brands carry them. :(

  16. Thank you for this info. You are correct especially about the glosses. I am a gloss junky and can’t see myself splurging on big buys as much as I purchase them.

  17. Great post. My two splurges are Imju Fiberwig, because it NEVER smudges, ever! and Estee Lauder Individualist. I also use EL Tender Blush, but I think I’m going to use your advice and take that sucker down to CVS and compare it to a Milani product when it’s getting to the end of the pan.

  18. Thank you so much for your tips.
    Thanks to you i’ve been looking differently to make up (brands)
    yes i do have a dior mascara, but that’s because my eyes start to hurt when i use cheaper brands.
    Although i have one from Victoria’s Secret which is perfect it gives me volume and the length my eyelashes don’t have.
    I have my nailpolish from a really cheap brand called essence, it’s about 2 dollars. I admit it doesn’t stay beautiful as long as my opi ones. But at a fifth of the price i don’t care.
    I now have a perfect excuse for changing my nailpolish more often.
    So thank you for your excelent advice..!!

  19. Totally agree with you, great topic.

    I think there are a lot of people that think you have to pay premium for everything. One thing that I never pay premium for is mascara. I have bought the most expensive to the least expensive and barely noticed a difference.

    However, foundation and brushes really do make a difference as you said. I freaked out the first time that I recently bought my 1st “expensive” brush.

    I bought a foundation brush and used it to put on my foundation instead of a sponge or a cheap brush. What a difference! It looked like a makeup artist put it on. Now I just have to save up for my next big brush purchase. lol

    Oh and thanks for the contest too, I can’t wait to see who the winners are. :)
    Jen

  20. Great entry!

    I completely agree. OPI and Essie are great quality nail polishes! Actually, Bourjois nail polish is also one of my favorites–and it’s on sale now at Sephora (hope it’s still on sale atleast) for around $6-$7 depending on the type.

    And mascara’s the same way. I really like some of CoverGirl’s and Maybelline’s mascara, and I can’t really tell the difference between those and say, Dior Show. (Actually Dior Show mascara was wayyy too clumpy for me.)

  21. Thanks for this post! It is really helpful. I love knowing what people Splurge vs. Steal on. There are just so many products out there. But I completely agree with you on the foundation and brushes thing – we need a good canvas to start!

  22. A newbie in the world of make-up. I really don’t have time to fix myself (I am a doctor), and I have little knowledge about make-up. But I belive a good foundation makes a lot of difference that’s wht it’s a must to look for the good that fits your skin tone.
    I hope that wou will feature some blogs on how to do basic, everyday make-up on Asian women, particularly Oriental ones (that’s how I came across your blog). Thanks a lot for the tips! I will certainly be visiting this page often.

  23. I totally agree. Normally I buy expensive foundation and brushes and cheaper eyeshadows and mascaras but lately im noticing the more expensive stuff is worth it. Like high end mascaras do so much more for my lashes than drugstore.

  24. Phyllis, nail polish never ‘expires’! Don’t throw ANY of your nail polishes once they seem to be thickening – just add nail polish thinner! Nail polish can last a lifetime. I really hope you haven’t thrown any away…

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