Trying to Buy “Cheap” Beauty, When You Love Expensive ****

“Save your marriage, and buy that someone special Revlon Colorburst. You’ll be glad that you did.” 
― Anthony T. Hincks

The thing about high end makeup and beauty products is…sometimes they really, actually are better. The pigments are more stable, the powders are more finely milled and therefore easier to use, the formulas have more potent (and therefore expensive) ingredients.

But as I’ve tried to restrict my beauty spending this year (and owning up where I fall off the wagon), I’ve been slowly trying confront where I spend money because it gets me a better product or experience…and where I’m paying more money but not getting anything more out of it than feeling fancy. There are an awful lot of beauty products out there where you are paying top dollar for little more than than the brand, a logo on a package, or a case of some kind that probably cost to much to make and may not be recyclable in the end.

Part of my new spending goals include nearly a year of not buying any beauty or skincare items that isn’t a replacement pf something I’ve used up, replacing as much as a can like for like or from the drugstore rather than a boutique or high street shop. Luckily I’ve been unofficially doing the research for this for years now and I can tell you exactly where I think you should spend money in putting together a beauty or grooming routine.

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This is a caveated category, but we need to talk about drugstore lipsticks. My love for lipstick is VERY well documented at this point and it is a product where the quality of the ingredients matters to its application. But I’ve noticed a distinct trend of improvement in drugstore lipsticks over the past few years. Gone are the chalky, sticky bullets of my teenage years; what you can buy at your typical Boots or CVS is a much better, quality product. In fact, it’s incredibly rare for me to buy a “designer” or high end lip product, when a lot of what you’re paying for is fancy packaging and a brand name. Most of my formulas are considered “mid range,” and I think that’s because of this overall trend towards improved formulas at lower price points. I simply don’t see the need for most designer lip products when I can find the same colors in good formulas for better prices. Now listen, you will pry those mid range lipsticks I do have from my cold dead fingers, but I’ve started rediscovering my love for drugstore brands this past year and want to ensure that I buy from them much more.

Basic skincare. Similar to drugstore makeup, a lot of basic skincare has gotten much more effective at lower price points. The No 7 brand at Boots, for instance, is something I only got into this past year and it’s been revelatory. Once I used up more expensive cleansers, for example, I decided to see if I could get at least as good results at a lower price point and presto. Ditto with micellar waters, eye creams (which are a “disputed” product when it comes to effectiveness), and makeup wipes (which you should try to avoid using regularly as they aren’t great for your skin and are definitely not great for the environment). Save money on the basics and spend more on an “active” product like a serum, SPF, or treatment with much more potent ingredients that will help treat your trouble spots or maintain your skin health against sun, pollution, or chronic issues like acne.

Mascara. Some people swear by their designer mascaras but I am convinced they are the most ridiculous waste of money. The recommendation is to use up an entire tube of mascara in three months (which I have never once done in my life) or toss it to avoid it becoming a breeding ground for bacteria (again, advice I have never followed, but whatever). If you are spending more than a handful of dollars or pounds on a tube that’s designed to be perishable within 90 days, you are nuts.

Hair care. Again, fight me in the comments if you must, but I have yet to meet the shampoo or conditioner that is worth more than what I will pay at Boots. I’m sure that there are some styling products worth the coin and I am open to evangelizing on this point, but hair is decidedly Not My Thing and spending anything more than drugstore prices on it would be a silly choice for me. The bigger lesson is, if [insert a beauty/grooming routine step here] is Not Your Thing, do not be duped or pressured into spending your money on it.

Nail polish. Chanel may be iconic, but I say: save your money. Nail colors are easy trends to follow and incredibly cheap compared to the constant churn of fashion trends (which Instagram has spend up to light year speeds). Spend a handful on some seasonal or fun colors from the drugstore and save yourself the tears when liquid dries up, you drop the bottle, or you just get bored with it and want to chuck it. Enjoy double the savings if you paint your nails regularly yourself instead of paying someone else to do it for you (again, something I refuse to do).

 

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If you wear foundation and concealer, it is worth spending some money on. If you have found a brilliant drugstore product that you love, suits your skin, and looks the way you want it to, YOU ARE A HERO TO ALL OF US AND SHARE YOUR WISDOM. But I personally have found the best performing products on my skin tend to be more expensive. I’m fine with this. The trade off I make is that I own only one foundation and have to replace it only one every couple of years, which feels reasonable.

Powder products. See my comments at the start of this post; things that take more work to produce generally cost more and this is particularly applicable for powder products which have to be milled and blended and often pressed several times during production to achieve what’s considered a high quality. Like unto lipstick, drugstore brands are getting better at these, but I still prefer the quality I find higher priced brands. Also like unto lipstick, I have found very little quality difference between mid-high ranged brands and designer brands. Therefore, I say be willing to spend money in this category, but don’t pay silly prices for just packaging or a logo.

Active skincare products and lipstick. As discussed. Worth the money if you find a high performing product that treats a specific condition (rather than is just generally expensive lotion you smear on your face with indeterminate results), but be conscious about where you can find an equivalent at mid or even low range. The Ordinary is a range that’s made waves for providing skincare formulas at very low price points. The efficacy can vary but it’s worth experimenting to find what suits you, which also frees up other budget for more expensive products that you can’t duplicate.

Perfume. This may be a tad personal, but it is a rare cheap perfume that lasts long enough, smells good enough, and feels “exclusive” enough for me. I am an unrepentant snob about some things and I enjoy wearing clothes and perfumes that aren’t mass marketed. I wore Coco Chanel for years and loved it, but eventually gave it up because it was 1) expensive and 2) ubiquitous. The first wasn’t enough to stop me but the second was. However, in general, I think a perfume is a good place to spend your “luxury” money, whatever that means for you personally. Formulated well, a scent should last on you all day and therefore a bottle should last you at least a year. Find one that you adore and make it the finishing touch of your beauty or grooming routine to feel luxe. Even if everything else on your body or face is cheap as chips, the one thing that will literally encase you and float about your presence all day will be fancy AF, as the kids say.

3 thoughts on “Trying to Buy “Cheap” Beauty, When You Love Expensive ****”

  1. I agree about fragrance. I love my picks and rarely smell them on others — current rotation includes O de Lancome (summer), Chanel No. 5, Bal D’Afrique by Byredo (splurge!) I love Tiempe Passate but it’s almost impossible to find.

    I did spend $$$ for a Chanel nail polish (only one) and have to disagree with you — the quality is notably better than almost every other brand I have.

    VERY annoyed at buying a MAC blush that is so poorly formulated (!???) my brush doesn’t pick up any color. What a waste of $$!

    1. I am completely in love with Frapin fragrances (a French cognac house with a fragrance side business) and own two from them that are my signature scents for summer and winter. they are pricey but at some future date I’m probably going to get a third because I love them and have never smelled them on other people. However, I’ve got several samples that I’m trying to use up and a side flirtation with Jo Malone’s Wood Sage and Sea Salt fragrance, which Jeff bought me as a present.

      Maybe the problem is with my nails, but I simply can’t fathom spending Chanel prices on them. I suppose if you have a “signature” color, though, it may be worth it.

      I’ve never purchased a MAC blush, but I own several MAC lipsticks which I really recommend.

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