Experts Say These 35 Cheap Beauty Products Actually Work As Well As Expensive Ones

Cheap has never looked so good.

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Nearly everyone wants to look after their skin and use high-quality beauty products, but sometimes that can come with an unrealistic price tag. And while it may be tempting to splurge on high-end items, thankfully it’s not always necessary. Below, you’ll find 35 beauty products that are heartily endorsed by experts in their fields that you can stock up on ASAP.

Dermatologists, hair stylists, makeup artists, and even plastic surgeons have all weighed in to deliver their go-to picks that stand up to pricier brands costing hundreds of dollars. So breathe a sigh of relief: affordable beauty that actually works really exists. Whether you’re in the market for a long-lasting concealer, a detangling hair brush, glossy lip finishes, or more, you’ll find it here. And better yet, the majority of these items are in the $20 range.


A Liquid Foundation That Makes Your Skin Look Like Velvet

Kerrin Jackson, makeup artist and creator of The Makeup Refinery, tells Bustle this liquid foundation is her best-kept secret. Aside from the velvety finish, Jackson appreciates the price point of this matte finish foundation that works for normal to oily skin types. “[It] truly does what its name suggests. Somehow it miraculously smooths your pores and makes you feel like your skin is being viewed through some magical IG filter for real-life,” she says.

  • Available colors: 39


This 2-in-1 Hydrator That’s Good For Your Skin

Jackson was quick to recommend this tinted hydrator. It has a matte finish and, according to Jackson, provides excellent coverage for a tinted moisturizer. “[It’s] packed with plant-derived squalane (one of my favorite skincare ingredients). What I love about W'N'W's Tinted Hydrator is that it’s literally looking after your skin while moonlighting as a makeup product," she adds.

  • Available colors: 8


The Mascara That Doesn’t Clump & Will Replace Your Designer Brand

If you’re in the market for a new mascara, try this voluminous mascara that Jackson recommends. She loves that it doesn’t clump or flake off underneath the eyes during wear and reports that it’s very easy to use. “Works just as well, if not better than some of the more expensive or ‘designer’ mascaras I have used in the past. Why would you [spend] $60 on mascara when you can use one as luxurious and easy to apply as Lash Paradise?” she asked.

  • Available colors: 7


A Tiny Rubber Tool That Levels Up Your Lips

Jackson describes these exfoliating lip brushes as a sleeper hit that haven’t quite hit mainstream medicine cabinet staple status. Made from silicone, they feature two sides with one set of small and one set of large nubs. Jackson advised, “If your lips just need a little help to look great again, you can give them a little buff with this tool and it will give instant life to your lips with a gentle exfoliation.”


This Soothing Lip Scrub For Really Dry Lips

Really dry lips, however, may need to level up with this conditioning lip scrub. “If you're suffering from more extreme dryness, flakiness, or peeling lips, you can pair [a lip exfoliating brush] with your favorite lip scrub for a mini-lip treatment at the same time,” Jackson counseled. This scrub is made with honey, beeswax, cocoa seed butter, and more.


A Serum That Can Make Eyes Appear More Awake

This eye serum has some major science going on behind the scenes, board-certified dermatologist Elaine F. Kung, the founder of Future Bright Dermatology, explains to Bustle. “This eye serum has everything you need for eyelid rejuvenation,” she says. Kung goes on to add that the peptides, amino acids, and flavonoids found in this product can help with dark circles, improve elasticity, and make you look and feel more refreshed and awake.


This Lightweight Serum With Hyaluronic Acid For Hydration

Dr. Danielle Marr Collins, clinical director of DERMAFACE MD SKINCARE and AEROSPACE MD SKINCARE, recommends this marine hyaluronic serum as a budget-friendly, lightweight way to add extra hydration to skin. “I think The Ordinary is a good cheap brand and is very affordable and works well and does what it says it does for the most part,” she tells Bustle. Simply use a few drops in the morning or evening before heavier creams.


A Moisturizer That’s Perfect For Sensitive Skin

If you need a cream that has lots of benefits, try this facial moisturizer. According to Dr. Yoram Harth, board-certified dermatologist and medical director of MDalgorithms, it was “specially formulated with niacinamide to help hydrate and soothe sensitive and acne- or rosacea-prone skin. Oil-free and non-comedogenic, this moisturizer uses plant-based ingredients to help with reducing irritation and fading post-acne dark spots,” Harth tells Bustle. It can even help to balance oil production in the skin and reduce redness.


A Set Of Makeup Brushes With Flexible Handles

Rachel Rose Mazza, MODA Brush Artist, believes she’s hit the jackpot with this makeup brush set. “The vegan bristles are soft, super durable, and blend products effortlessly. The thoughtful oval shape is great for all levels so even a novice beauty enthusiast can feel like a pro without breaking the bank,” she tells Bustle. Plus, the handles on these brushes have a slight bend that helps you achieve even coverage even on angular contoured areas.


The Lightweight Mineral Sunscreen Developed By Dermatologists

If you’re on the hunt for gentle, physical SPF protection, try this mineral sunscreen from trusted brand CeraVe. As Sarah Tucker, aesthetic editor, explains to Bustle, “This affordable dermatologist-developed and recommended all-mineral sunscreen contains both hyaluronic acid and niacinamide, as well as three essential ceramides. It leaves skin protected, hydrated, soothed, brightened, and with a healthy glow.” Tucker also remarks on how lightweight the formula is, too.


This Cruelty-Free Lip Liner That’s As Good As More Expensive Options

Grab yourself this expert-approved lip liner pencil with a creamy formula that won’t bleed. Cara Lovello, celebrity and bridal makeup artist, points out their economical value. "I don’t like to spend a ton on liners because I’m constantly sharpening them between every use on clients,” Lovello tells Bustle. “NYX has so many colors and there’s no difference to the more expensive ones!" Plus, they’re PETA-acknowledged as a cruelty-free brand.

  • Available colors: 10


A Long-Lasting Mascara With A Vegan Formula

Snag yourself this fluffy lash mascara with a cruelty-free vegan formula that has long-lasting wear for up to 12 hours. Lovello approves and also enjoys layering it with other Pacifica products. “This is a great mascara on its own or even better on top of the Pacifica beauty vegan lash serum,” she says.


The Eyelash Glue That Glides On Like Liquid Liner

No more fumbling with messy tubes of glue, because this strip eyelash adhesive comes with a precision brush so you can apply it just like liquid eyeliner. It has a strong hold and is infused with aloe, too. Lovello notes that it’s half the price of similar products and says she personally loves the clear formula. It’s also available in black to blend seamlessly into your lashes and liner.

  • Available colors: 2


This Moisturizing Cream That Doubles As A Makeup Primer

This lait-creme moisturizing cream includes ingredients like shea butter to deliver soft skin while also acting as a primer to prepare your skin for smooth makeup application. Lovello hails it as a makeup artist's secret and a great alternative for pricier products. “[It’s] comparable to the Charlotte tilbury magic cream at $105,” she notes. It’s paraben-free and has a light floral scent.


A Pair Of Products To Tackle Under-Eye Concerns

Michael Dueñas, celebrity hairstylist, groomer, and founder of Veluer Creative, recommends this energizing eye kit. It comes with a gel and undereye patches that use caffeine to reduce puffiness while hydrating skin. As Duenas explains to Bustle, “They are a fraction of the price of high-end brands, but work as good, if not better. They leave you refreshed and skin tightened.”


The Brushable Hairspray That’s Lightweight Yet Heavy Duty

Shelley Gregory, an artist at Mane Addicts, recommends this brushable hair spray. “I love L’Oreal’s Elnett Hair Spray,” she tells Bustle. “It’s the best way to cheat an expensive feeling hairspray. It has a flexible hold that brushes out and can be layered." Making it even more impressive, it’s humidity-resistant, sulfate-free, and safe to use on color-treated hair.


This Shampoo System That Gives Your Scalp Some TLC

If you find yourself neglecting your scalp, this micellar shampoo and scrub may be just what you need. It hydrates your scalp while exfoliating, all while making hair shinier, too. Gregory gives it a hearty endorsement, adding, "[It] feels like an in-salon treatment for your scalp that can be done at home. It helps remove buildup without stripping your hair and scalp of moisture."


A Detangling Brush That Works On Natural Hair & Extensions

If you’re looking to upgrade your hairbrush, consider this boar bristle brush. The boar bristles with nylon tips are known for gently detangling hair and causing less breakage. Gregory thinks it’s a wise investment, explaining, “The Misel boar bristle brush is a great dupe for the pricey Mason Pearson. It comes with its own cleaner and is good for all hair types.”


This Durable Beauty Sponge That Delivers The Perfect Blend

Not all beauty tools are created equally, and this concealer sponge proves it. Made from cruelty-free, vegan rubber, this sponge bounces your makeup on to provide the perfect blend. Brittany Sullivan, an artist at Mane Addicts, agrees and tells Bustle, “The e.l.f. Camo Concealer Sponge is hands down my go-to makeup sponge. Not only is it the perfect size and shape, but I also find that it’s more durable during cleaning in terms of makeup sponges, and the texture helps blend beautifully.”


The Eyebrow Tinting Pen That Lasts For 16 Hours

For natural but lush-looking brows, grab this eyebrow tint pen that works by helping you create hair-like strokes with its fine tip. Sullivan says she uses them often, explaining, “These pens ... help create a full, fluffy, natural-looking effect with precise strokes on even the sparsest brows. [...] a staple in my kit and in my personal makeup.”


An Acne-Fighting Gel For Sensitive Skin

If you’re trying to treat acne at home, apply this Differin gel made with adapalene. Vanessa Coppola, FNP-BC, board-certified nurse practitioner, aesthetic specialist, and owner of Bare Aesthetic Medical Spa, absolutely loves it. “It is an FDA-approved over-the-counter prescription-strength retinoid. It helps to prevent and treat acne breakouts and works to rejuvenate the skin for anti-aging benefits,” she tells Bustle. Plus, Coppola adds, it costs just $15 for a 30-day supply.


A Versatile Cream That Works As A Moisturizer, Balm, Hair Conditioner & More

If you’re looking for a cream that does it all, look no further than this all-purpose skin cream. It’s formulated with natural ingredients like honey, beeswax, and olive oil. It’s beloved by beauty professionals, including eyebrow expert and brand founder Joey Healy. Healy considers it an alternative for La Mer’s night balm and appreciates how multi-faceted it is. “I’ve seen people use it as an all-over moisturizer, to remove makeup, as a shaving cream, even as a hair mask!” Healy tells Bustle. “I love that it is thick, but ... not too sticky or gooey. A little dab of this cream can go a long way, which ultimately saves you product in the long run.”


The Moisturizing Cream That Won’t Leave You Feeling Greasy

Get moisture and skin repair in one with this moisturizing cream that’s made from a plant-derived formula and won’t feel too heavy or greasy. Jenny Patinkin, celebrity makeup artist and brand founder, tells Bustle it offers great value for the money. “I have dozens of amazing moisturizers in my kit, some of which are priced as high as $300, but for plain old hydration, I would put this up against any of them.”


This Soothing Ointment That’s Great For Skin Or Lips

Sometimes the classics are classics for a reason, and this healing ointment from Aquaphor proves it. While it’s great for chapped lips, it can also be used to treat minor cuts and scrapes and even soothes burns. “There's nothing better in my opinion to help moisturize dry lips,” Patinkin adds.


An Affordable Night Cream With Lots Of Powerful Ingredients

New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, MD-FAAD, breaks down the science behind why Pond’s hydrating night cream is so reliable. “[It’s] a great option for moisturizing while also delivering anti-aging benefits,” King explains to Bustle. “It's formulated with vitamin B3 and retinol complex as well as glycerin and pro-ceramides to hydrate and support the skin barrier. Vitamin B3 helps to even skin tone and smooth skin texture.”


This Lavender-Scented Pomade That Tames Flyaways Without Residue

For a hair styling product that has a little extra oomph and hold, reach for this vegetable pomade. Kacey Welch, celebrity hairstylist and founder of The Kacey Welch Method, appreciates how affordable it is. “Tancho is a non-greasy pomade that helps flyaways stay down and it doesn’t leave the residue that most pomade leaves in hair,” Welch tells Bustle. It even has a soothing lavender scent.


The Protective Leave-In Spray With So Many Benefits

Ditch your cabinet full of products and streamline your routine with this leave-in conditioner spray. “10 Miracle Leave-in Conditioner is a lightweight product that detangles your hair quickly without weighing it down,” Welch explains, but it’s also a heat protector that cuts down on frizz and adds shine. Plus, it’s safe to use on color-treated hair.


A Convenient Spray That Camouflages Grays & Roots Between Salon Visits

Welch describes this root cover-up spray as a miracle worker. “You can use it in between salon visits to spray your roots to cover up your gray. I also love it because it makes your hair feel thicker and creates a nice texture,” she says. It’s water-resistant, dries quickly, and because it comes in multiple shades, you’ll be sure to find an ideal match.

  • Available colors: 10


This Nourishing Scalp Treatment To Encourage Hair Growth

Celebrity hairstylist Cherilyn Farris at Mane Addicts raves about the benefits of rice water sprays like this hair treatment from ProBliva. “Using a rice water rinse can add shine and strength to your hair and soothe scalp irritation,” Farris tells Bustle. It helps to moisturize the scalp, too, and in so doing can help promote hair growth with the addition of ingredients like biotin.


A Bright, Vibrant Eyeshadow Palette You Can Snag On A Budget

Add some berry-hued bliss to your makeup routine with this strawberry shake shadow palette. Makeup Artist Judi Gabba considers it an excellent find, telling Bustle, “Colourpop shadows are not only cohesive in palette form but affordable and long-lasting. If you’re looking to change up your shadow look without breaking the bank, try their nine pan palettes — they give a wide range of options.” This pan comes in a range of matte and metallic finishes, too,” she said.


The Cruelty-Free Gloss That Won’t Leave Lips Feeling Sticky

For a lip product with a glossy finish that doesn’t feel sticky, reach for this butter gloss. “NYX’s butter gloss feels hydrating, smooths out lips, and can be worn solo or on top of lipstick or matte lips,” Gabba advises. “For around $5, get one for your car and your purse.” Because it comes in tons of colors, you may have a hard time choosing!

  • Available colors: 33


This Clever Concealer That Applies Like A Bingo Marker

Your makeup kit is crying out for this concealer. “Maybelline’s Instant Age Rewinder has a medium to full coverage finish and [offers hydration] throughout the day,” Gabba explains. “This is perfect for under eyes as it lifts and lasts for hours. Gabba notes that it boasts 12-hour wear. It’s also ideal for use on blemishes, too. Just dab and blend.

  • Available colors: 18


A Hyaluronic Acid Serum For Smoother-Looking Skin

Plastic surgeon Dr. Smita Ramanadham thinks IT Cosmetics serums, like this hyaluronic acid serum, are great. It uses peptides and Vitamin B5 to make skin look plumper while adding moisture and reducing the appearance of fine lines. It’s safe to use twice a day and even has a vegan formula that can be worn on any skin type.


These Acne Patches That Reduce Redness & Inflammation

Tatyana Franklin, a professional pharmacist, founder, and owner of Skin Rx-Pert LLC, tells Bustle she has been trying these acne patches out for about a month and a half now, and she’s completely smitten. “Twice I have accidentally stepped out into public while still wearing them, since my quick mirror check before exiting the vehicle revealed no signs of their presence,” Franklin said.

“The main benefit for me is that they prevent me from touching my face, which is a major contributor to breakouts. When I’m anxious, I have a habit of absentmindedly rubbing my jaw and face. When I catch myself doing that, I immediately go into the bathroom to apply them to any acne. I can now stop touching my face and just let them alone since they are so thin and stick so beautifully.”

The patches contain natural hydrocolloid that helps reduce inflammation in your pimple and treat it fast. Each set comes with 40 patches.