Figuring out what beauty products to splurge on and which ones to save on is all about the hunt and testing. This month I’ve asked the Beauty Experts to dish what they splurge and save on to help you in your beauty buying efforts. I think it’s helpful to go off recommendations from people who use more beauty products in a month than most people do in a year! So hopefully you’ll find some good recommendations in this post!
I definitely have some drugstore finds in the save category! Burt’s Bees Vanilla Bean Chapstick is hands down my favorite chapstick, and I also love the Vaseline Lip Therapy Lip Balm Tin in cocoa butter. I’ve been using Physician’s Formula Multi-Colored Powder Palette in the color Healthy Glow Bronzer since high school. A new product I just picked up and was immediately obsessed with is Dove Foaming Body Wash in the Shea Butter and Warm Vanilla Scent. It’s AMAZING. I have a foam obsession.
I recently bought a Wet Brush and I’m OBSESSED with it. Because my hair is fine, thin, and fragile, I’ve been using a pick every since I can remember. My mom always used one — never a brush — so that’s what I’ve used. The only brushes I had for years were just for blowing my hair out — never just a brush for actually brushing my hair. So being able to use the Wet Brush on my wet hair without damaging my hair just feels so good on my scalp.
There are some non-drugstore items that are still super affordable. One entire line of affordable products is a new company called Beauty Pie. Learn how it works here, but basically you become a member, and then you can shop the products at cost. I’ve tried a few of their products and my favorite so far is the Liquid Luminizer. It’s less than $3 if you are a member!
I definitely have some products that are splurges, but I’ve tried so many other products and none can ever beat them. Splurge is also something you have to define for yourself. Anything that is going to stay on my skin all day, or actually help with anti-aging and help keep my skin young — is worth it to me. I just started using a few products from SkinCeuticals, which is definitely a splurge, so once I’ve used them for a while I’ll let you know what I think but I’ve only heard amazing things about them, plus it’s one of the only brands that actually has the science and studies to back up what is in the products.
One splurge item that I haven’t been able to find a cheap replacement for so far is Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray. I just can’t find anything as good, long lasting, and that smells as lovely as this product. My Skin Savior Wonder Balm lasts so long and is so high quality, I don’t know if it’s really a splurge but it’s worth every penny. Another splurge-worthy product is the Perricone MD Cocoa Moisture Mask.
Now let’s see what the beauty experts splurge and save on!
Lara Ramos // Founder of The Glossarie and Senior Account Executive for COVERGIRL
I’ve always taken a high-low approach to filling my beauty bag. There are so many hidden gems coming from mass brands — and some of them even outshine the prestige products that they were inspired by. I tend to invest in things that I use frequently (like my flat iron), things that stay on my skin for a long time (like moisturizer), or things that touch sensitive areas of my face (like under my eyes). I splurge on classic, everyday items (like foundation) and save on fleeting trends (like iridescent lip toppers and foil shadows).
I recently had a nasty allergic reaction to lipstick and was contemplating a $70 lip balm to calm things down. Thankfully, my sister in law was here over the weekend and leant me some of her go-to from Aquaphor Healing Ointment. A giant (and I mean giant) tube is less than $7. Seven. Dollars. You’re welcome.
I didn’t know any better, but using cheap flat irons to flatten my natural curls was frying my hair to the point of near irreparable damage. After chatting with my stylist a couple of years ago, I got a ghd Platinum Styler and never looked back. It smooths my hair in fewer passes and leaves things shiny, never frizzy.
If I buy one more spendy tube of mascara that leaves me with ho-hum lashes, I might scream. The Super Sizer Mascara is a $6 delight from COVERGIRL and it has been in my life since 2015 because it’s just that good. It works better than the best tubing mascara from the department store, but it also lengthens and volumizes, plus you can build and layer for lashes that never quit. At the end of the day, it rinses off with warm water.
At the tender age of 35, I do not mess around when it comes to eye cream. Tata Harper’s team sent me my first bottle of Elixir Vitae Eye Serum and secured a customer for life. I’ve bought two bottles since and will happily stock up my basement if she ever decides to discontinue this formula. My under eyes drink it up and it brightens dark circles, making me look like I’ve had hours upon hours of sleep — when I really average about 6 per night.
You will never find me at home scrubbing my makeup brushes. I’m not exactly proud of it, but I’ve found that a churn and burn approach (i.e. buy, use, toss) works best for me — so I buy this BS-Mall Makeup Brush Set a few times per year. They are shockingly good quality — and while I probably could wash them to stretch the buy even further, I’m saving myself tons of time while also keeping bacteria at bay and my skin stays clear.
Sometimes beauty buys defy logic. Such is the case for me with Tom Ford Boys & Girls Lip Color. The tube is impossibly tiny for $36, but I absolutely had to have two shades — one called Lara (nothing ever comes in my name!) and one called LouLou (my daughter’s nickname). $72 in lipstick is a bit insane, but I smile every single time I wear them, making the splurge worth every penny.
Laurie Leopold // Founder of 312 Beauty, former Beauty Editor at Clementine Daily
I’m not committed to following hard and fast rules around beauty spending – I’ve been known to splurge on cotton pads – but I do think there are some things you can easily save on and some things you can feel justified in splurging a bit.
First and foremost, you can absolutely save on makeup brushes. Of all of the brushes I have, my most used are from Real Techniques. They blend makeup like a dream and all have multiple uses. The Expert Face Brush brilliantly is awesome at blending in in cream bronzer or blushes and I also use the Setting Brush to apply highlighter.
You should also be hitting up the drugstore for mascaras. It has such a short shelf life and there are many good formulas that perform just as well as their much expensive counterparts. My favorite is Maybelline Lash Sensational and I’m also really into L’Oreal Lash Paradise, which just came out this year.
I’m picky with lip balm – I like a higher quality ingredient list that isn’t waxy or filled with artificial ingredients. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend more. John Masters Organics Lip Calm – only $6 — is filled with citrus oils and moisturizing butters.
I splurge on my skin care. I think having a few high powered serums in your arsenal will do more for you in the long run than a shortcut with less effective ingredients. I’ve worked up to this though, I’m 35 now, I started with Clinique in my teen years. I will continue to buy the highly active Vintner’s Daughter Botanical Serum because I see the difference it makes in my skin. Clears up bumps, plumps, soothes. It’s intense and worth the splurge.
I also tend to splurge on bronzer. First off, it lasts forever – I think I had my last NARS Laguna for more than three years — and I find a better color match. I’m forever a Laguna girl.
I also am a believer in splurging on tools you use every day. My Surratt Eyelash Curler is one of my most beloved items – it’s sleek with black matte and works better than anything I’ve tried in the nearly 20-year history I’ve had curling my lashes.
Claire Ashley // Makeup Artist and Beauty Vlogger
When it comes to eyeshadow I believe less is more. I think investing in a palette like the LORAC Pro Palette will take care of your makeup needs for day-to-day and for a dramatic night out. The eyeshadow colors are highly pigmented and have a great range of color.
I like to shell out the extra cash for face makeup like the Makeup Forever HD Foundation. It’s a buildable coverage without ever looking or feeling cakey. If it’s something you put all over your face I feel like you can justify the cost!
This might be my second time mentioning the Kevyn Aucoin Eyelash Curler, but it’s worth it! This eyelash curler versus drugstore eyelash curler is no comparison. If you want a real difference in your eyelashes looking longer and more curled, go for this curler.
I have not purchased a mascara that’s not been from the drugstore in 5 years. My favorite is the Maybelline Falsies Mascara because the bushy wand and the incredibly inky black formula. It is a great drugstore dupe for a lot of high end brands for a fraction of the cost.
The amount of makeup sponges in a month on myself and clients I go through is absurd — I never buy Beauty Blenders because they get gross very quickly and become really expensive to repurchase. I cannot live without the Real Techniques Miracle Sponges. They are so affordable and help my makeup look flawless!
Tara Foley // Founder of Follain
I save on manicures. I haven’t gotten one at a salon in years. I don’t love the smell, the ingredients or the chipping of nail polish. Instead, I have a simple manicure kit and tenoverten nail oil that I use at home regularly!
Rather than continuing to buy my favorite products in travel size, I save by refilling my travel size containers over and over — with whatever products I’m using at the moment. A great way to try a bunch of clean beauty travel sizes at once is with this intro kit.
I much prefer a body scrub with a lot of oil, so that I don’t have to apply anything after getting out of the shower. If I’m in a bind (i.e. out of body scrub) I’ll even use plain organic coconut oil from my kitchen in the shower. Oils absorb really well into damp skin! So I save on body moisturizers.
I splurge on anything applied to my face for long periods of time, especially foundation. I’m currently obsessed with the cream-to-powder consistency (and super clean ingredients) of Kjaer Weis’ foundation. And you can imagine how much I love that their compacts are so luxe and refillable, too! I use the color illusion.
I also splurge on vitamin C serum for brightening and firming skin. I love the modern radiance gel serum by La Bella Figura. It’s not super moisturizing — so requires a moisturizer on top — but my skin looks so much better when I douse it with vitamin C like this each night!
I always splurge on nighttime face moisturizers — all these years later I’m still so hooked on the blue cocoon, which is a balm that melts into oil once it hits your skin. It has blue tansy to calm redness and soften lines, cacao to stimulate circulation, and it’s just the right amount of hydration. A little goes a long way!
Dr. Naina Singla // Doctorate in pharmacy, experience in dermatology and facial aesthetics
When it comes to beauty products I find that I end up splurging on most my makeup, skincare, and hair products. I am a huge fan of using products that are high quality and usually that means they cost a little more. But when I do save I tend to stick with reputable and well known drugstore brands like Cetaphil, Aveeno, Oil of Olay, and Neutrogena. Here are a few of my favorite splurge and save items.
The eye area is so delicate and sensitive and mine are dry as well so I always buy the highest quality products when it comes to eye creams and eye serums. Noelle Sherber, a well known dermatologist here in D.C., recently recommended this Verso Super Eye Serum to me and I am so hooked. Also it takes a lot of science to create the tiny molecules in serums that will penetrate into the skins deep layers. The cheaper ones will contain fillers and molecules too big to penetrate the skin on a cellular level.
YSL Touche Eclat Le Teint is the by far the best foundation I have ever used and this new advanced formula is even better and creates flawless coverage. I have sensitive skin and so to prevent breakouts and sensitivity I always splurge on foundations and BB creams that have the highest quality ingredients. Also the better foundations tend to last longer and feel so much better on my skin.
Cle de Peau Beauty Concealer delivers long-lasting full coverage while correcting the appearance of dark circles, spots, imperfections, and uneven tone. It is so worth the splurge! Also a little goes a long way so even though I use this every single day one tube lasts me several months.
Moisturizer:Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream () You definitely don’t ever have to spend a lot of money to get a high quality moisturizer. A simple drugstore cleanser is perfect for everyday moisturizing and it gets the job done. Cetaphil Moisturizing Cream comes in a large tub and I love slathering it on after a hot shower. It is a great inexpensive brand and so many of my dermatologist friends recommend and use it. I also the Cetaphil gentle cleanser as well.
For sunscreen I usually switch between Oil of Olay and Aveeno Ultra Calming Daily moisturizer. They both are great and as long as my daily moisturizer has sunscreen in it I am satisfied. I especially like the Aveeno ultra calming moisturizer because it is gentle, inexpensive, and is good for extra sensitive and irritated skin.
When I travel I like to simplify a little so I leave behind the Cetaphil cleanser and my eye makeup remover and pads and I just take these inexpensive Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes. I usually buy a small travel pack and its compact and best of all liquid free so there are no hassles at the airport. Also this particular one contains no artificial dyes, perfumes, or harsh chemicals that can irritate your skin.
Nadine Matar // Hairstylist at PR at Partners K Street in Washington D.C.
The beauty of BEAUTY is that you can experiment with it, no matter what your budget is. I am constantly trying new products and have learned that price does not necessarily equal quality. Here are some of the products that I think are worth the splurge, and a couple that have changed my daily life for under $7.
A lot of people talk about Good Genes by Sunday Riley and for very good reason. I applied it to only one of my smile lines for two weeks and have seen DRASTIC difference in wrinkles on the side I’ve focused on. It also comes in many sizes at Sephora, so you can try before you invest in the big size.
I’ve mentioned this mascara before, but as my daily go-to, its earned a second mention. L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Original Mascara has topped all high end mascaras for me. And they just started making it in an electric blue, which I bought recently and can not WAIT to use.
I’m a curl product connoisseur. I air dry my hair nearly everyday and am constantly integrating new products into my daily cocktail. The Oribe Curl Gloss is a bit pricey, but it gives me the softest and most beautifully defined curl and it smells like the south of France in August. I can’t live without it.
St. Ives Apricot Scrub is probably the longest relationship I’ve had with a beauty product — we’ve been together for at least 15 years. The formula gets better every time they change it, never over exfoliating and always leaving me soft and hydrated.
I received the last Marc Jacobs 20 shade holiday eye shadow palette last year, and knew that I’d have to invest in his big palettes in the future. $99 is steep for an eyeshadow palette, but the shades are unbelievably pigmented, unique, wearable, blendable, long lasting, I could go on and on and on. They aren’t always available and many of the shades are limited edition, so get them while you can and prepare for eyeshadow compliments.
Have a good question for the beauty experts to answer? Leave it in the comments or email it to hello@with BEAUTY EXPERTS in the subject line.
Top photo by Luke Wright