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Fabulous Beauty Buys on a Budget

Updated on August 15, 2017
Beautiful makeup can brighten up your day and make you feel fabulous.
Beautiful makeup can brighten up your day and make you feel fabulous. | Source

Don't Underestimate the Power of Great Makeup

Why do I adore makeup so much? It's easy to explain. Makeup is a universal mood lifter, whether from a swipe of sumptuous lipcolor or a generous dab of brightening blush. The transformative power works best when you find the most effective products for you. I've tried it all - from the high end cosmetic counters to the bargain bins at drugstores - and I can happily report that I've finally found the items that work best, at my current life stage. The best part? They are accessible and affordable products, and you may discover that they work for you too!

Which must-have items should you stash in your beautifying arsenal? The winning lineup can be quite individualized, based on personal preferences, season, occasion, and skin type/color. Age should also factor into makeup choices; as we get older, skin tone tends to become duller and more uneven, and colors that looked great on our younger selves may no longer flatter us. How much is too much? Also an individual choice - some women feel most confident with a "full face", while others feel best with minimal makeup, preferring the pared down look of a great lengthening mascara and beautiful lip gloss.

I've detailed below my favorites in the makeup categories that I rely on the most; included are brand names and approximate prices, as well as the qualities that I feel make these products fantastic (and affordable - all under $10 in US dollars) beauty buys.

For reference, I am in my early 40's, with typical skin aging issues. I have uneven pigmentation on my face, some expression lines and "crows feet", mostly dry and sensitive skin (but combination in the "T zone"), and my skin tone is fair/light. I use the following makeup items for creating everyday looks, and not for special occasions like weddings.

Eyeliner

Essence Long Lasting Eyeliner, approximately $2.49

A nearly obsessive, years-long search has finally led me to my beloved Essence liner. Eyeliner is my "desert island" item, and as such, requires stricter standards than any other cosmetic in my bag. An eyeliner must offer many great qualities to earn a spot as my must-have product. Essential factors include pigmentation or "color payoff", lasting power, ease of use and color choice. Price is important as well.

This retractable liner (not to be confused with the Essence waterproof gel pencil or kajal pencil) offers lasting power like no other liner I've ever used. It stays on all day, even through heat, humidity and sweaty workouts. I use the Hot Chocolate shade, which shows up as a nice medium brown on my blue eyes. This liner gives great pigmentation without being too intense, and there is no need to go over the line multiple times to get a detectable line (that is one of my complaints with a lot of the waxier feeling pencil liners). The best part? If you wear contact lenses or have sensitive eyes, you'll probably find this product non irritating and easy on the eyes. I've found it's gentle enough to use for tightlining and even on the waterline. This beauty of a liner can be found at stores like Target or Ulta for an unbelievable price - around $2.49. The bonus? Retractable liners, like this one, don't need sharpening and are fuss free.


A quality eyeliner, like this Essence eye pencil, delivers intense and long lasting color.
A quality eyeliner, like this Essence eye pencil, delivers intense and long lasting color.

Mascara

Maybelline Colossal Big Shot Mascara in Very Black, approximately $5.99

Looking for one item that can dramatically transform your look in seconds? Go for a volumizing mascara. Many women have a favorite, but I strongly recommend you give this Maybelline formula a try. Quick to apply and very inexpensive, it's a great budget buy. I usually apply two coats. With a couple swipes, I get a nice sooty black color, with great volume and added length. A few clumps may be inevitable with multiple coats, but have an eyelash comb ready and you can blast them away. Don't forget to always use an eyelash curler, whether you think you need one or not. As I'm getting older, I'm dismayed to see my puny lashes get more and more sparse. An eyelash curler makes all the difference - it really helps to open up my eyes. I use the waterproof formula of Colossal Big Shot, which doesn't budge until you attack it with a tough makeup remover.

A bold mascara, like this Maybelline Colossal Big Shot formula, can add instant intensity to your eyes.
A bold mascara, like this Maybelline Colossal Big Shot formula, can add instant intensity to your eyes.

Concealer

Rimmel Match Perfection 2-in-1 Skintone Adapting Concealer & Highlighter, approximately $4.99

Once I hit my mid 30's, concealer quietly became an everyday staple in my makeup bag. My undereye circles and uneven tone desperately needed the coverage, but I tried many before finding one I absolutely loved in every way. This Rimmel concealer is so fantastic, I've totally stopped wearing foundation and use only this concealer on my face. It's that good. Coverage is medium to full, and color quality/shades are excellent; I alternate between the cooler light shade (245) and the more yellow based fair/light neutral (240). The formula is neither matte nor dewy; it has just a slight but very flattering glow to it. On the tube description, it is listed as a concealer and highlighter, so my guess is that the slight illuminating glow is the highlighting feature of this product. Lasting power is excellent, especially if you use a primer underneath. I've found that it consistently lasts all day, even in hot weather. Best of all, the tube lasts a long time and is readily available at most drugstores and superstores.

A great concealer can eliminate the need for foundation. This Rimmel Match Perfection delivers extra benefits with its highlighting powers.
A great concealer can eliminate the need for foundation. This Rimmel Match Perfection delivers extra benefits with its highlighting powers.

Blush / Bronzer

Milani Baked Powder Blush in Luminoso (05), approximately $9.49

Nothing can wake up your skin like a good blush or bronzer, and this budget priced gem from Milani can do the job of both. Infused with just a subtle shimmer, this nifty little blush (complete with pop up mirror) is a rosy bronze hybrid that really perks up the skin without too much intensity. As with other Milani blush products, this one really lasts and lasts with no touchups required. I use this shade year round, and I think this color could suit a wide variety of skin tones. The Milani cosmetic line is a bit harder to find than the others listed; I know that CVS carries their products, as well as some Walgreens and Rite Aid stores.

Perk up your skin with a flattering blush or bronzer, like this Luminoso powder blush shade from Milani.
Perk up your skin with a flattering blush or bronzer, like this Luminoso powder blush shade from Milani.

What is your one "must have" beauty item?

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Only the Essentials

So many categories of cosmetics are out there - eyeshadow, lipcolor, gloss, foundation, highlighter, powder and many other items to help you put your best face forward. The products I've reviewed above, though, are my "can't live without" items. I always enjoy hearing from others about their essential items and why they love them. I welcome your thoughts on makeup must-haves - whether or not they are budget friendly!

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