Beauty Experts Say These Cheap Products Actually Work So Freakin' Well

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Written by Claire Epting

One thing I’ve learned over time is that a good beauty regimen doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. In fact, using a few simple tried-and-true formulas can actually be better for your hair and skin. That’s why I’ve rounded up tons of budget-friendly beauty products that come highly recommended by experts, simply because they work so well.

For example, this wallet-conscious lip gloss is infused with hyaluronic acid — an ingredient which binds water to the skin — in order to create a plumping effect. There’s also a tinted mineral sunscreen that blocks UV rays while blending in with your skin tone (aka, no dreaded white cast on your face). Check out the rest of these beauty specialists’ go-to products, and do a happy dance when you realize how cheap they are.


This Wallet-Friendly Mascara That Delivers Serious Volume

Celebrity makeup artist Vincent Oquendo personally recommends this wallet-friendly mascara: “Maybelline Lash Sensational mascara is one of my go-tos because it gives me a full, defined lash quickly and doesn’t flake,” he says. The formula is infused with conditioning rose hip oil, and the fanning applicator delivers the lightweight formula to your lashes, adding volume without any clumping.

  • Available shades: 7


These Gentle Eye Drops That Relieve Redness In Just 1 Minute

Before applying your eye makeup, Oquendo suggests creating the “perfect canvas” by using these redness-relieving eye drops. “Red eyes on the red carpet? Not with these amazing drops,” says Oquendo. Even if you aren’t hitting up a star-studded event, priming your eyes prior to wearing makeup is a great way to nip any dryness or irritation in the bud.


These Cooling Under-Eye Gels That Firm & De-Puff

These cooling gel eye masks come recommended by celebrity esthetician Ian Michael Crumm, because they don’t slip like so many others do. “Tired of eye masks falling off of your face? These gels stay in place while helping tired eyes feel revitalized!” he says. Infused with gingko biloba, each pair of hydrating masks works to reduce puffiness and firm the skin, so it looks like you got a full night’s sleep.


The Oil-Absorbing Sheets Infused With Charcoal

Hot weather can leave skin feeling a tad oily, which is why Crumm suggests using these convenient blotting linens. Each sheet is infused with absorbent charcoal, soaking up excess oil on your face without messing up your makeup. Not to mention, they’re compact enough to bring anywhere. “They fit perfectly in nearly any bag,” says Crumm.


A Plumping Lip Cream With A Glossy Finish

“This lip cream makes the lips feel luscious while providing a slight, plumping tingle,” says Crumm. And it’s no wonder Buxom’s plumping cream really adds volume to the lips — it’s formulated with peptides, vitamins A and E, and hyaluronic acid, an ingredient which binds water to the skin. Not to mention, the cream seals in shine for a glossy finish.

  • Available shades: 14


This Intensely Hydrating Moisturizer For Dry, Irritated Skin

Those with sensitive or irritated skin should check out this fragrance-free face and body moisturizer from EltaMD. It instantly soaks into your skin, restoring its moisture barrier for at least 12 hours. “If you suffer from super dry skin this moisturizer will get it back on track!” says Crumm. Pair it with your fave UV-protective sunscreen for best results.


The Cleansing Balm That Melts Away Makeup

Simone de Vlaming, beauty blogger at Beautymone, says this cleansing balm from JUNO & Co. is fantastic for removing makeup at the end of the day. Formulated with skin-brightening pearl barley and antioxidant-rich vitamin E, the melty balm dissolves dirt, makeup, and impurities from you skin without stripping its moisture. “The thing I love the most is how it leaves my skin feeling clean and super soft,” says de Vlaming.


A Creamy Putty Blush With A Luminous Finish

From drugstore favorite brand e.l.f. comes a luscious cream blush that settles to a natural rosy glow. The velvety putty applies smoothly on your cheeks, hydrating your skin with argan oil and vitamin E. “It looks very natural on my cheeks, and has this stunning luminous finish,” says de Vlaming. Choose from a wide spectrum of sun-kissed shades.

  • Available shades: 16


This Skin-Smoothing Serum Infused With Snail Mucin

Simple yet effective, this lightweight serum is primarily formulated with sustainably sourced snail mucin. Absorbing quickly into the skin, the serum provides moisturizing, skin-smoothing benefits and works to reduce dark spots. According to de Vlaming, when applying this product, less is more. “You don't need much of this essence to receive fully hydrated skin in return,” she explains.


A Lip-Lifting Gloss That Plumps & Hydrates

Formulated with hyaluronic acid, this high-shine lip gloss gives your pout a full, lifted appearance. De Vlaming recommends this gloss because it’s a “great dupe for the Fenty Beauty glosses,” but costs just a fraction of the price. “The formula is very comfortable, opaque and non-sticky,” adds de Vlaming.

  • Available shades: 20


These Retinol Capsules For Smooth, Glowy Skin

Sarah Roberts, beauty expert and blogger at A Beauty Edit, recommends these capsules filled with retinol-based serum: “Formulated with retinol and a skin barrier-protecting ceramide, these biodegradable capsules go to work overnight so that you wake with smoother skin and improved skin clarity.” Plus, they’re easy to pack in your toiletry bag — Roberts notes, “Each pre-measured capsule provides the perfect dose and is ideal for travel or when you are on to go.”


The Lightweight Moisturizer That’s Ideal For Sensitive Skin

Roberts recommends this oil-free facial moisturizer that provides a refreshing dose of hydration to the most sensitive of skin types. She explains, “This daily moisturizer is powered by La Roche-Posay Prebiotic Thermal Water, which has been shown to improve the diversity within the microbiota of the skin. Multi-tasking niacinamide brightens and balances your complexion, and a ceramide supports a healthy skin barrier.” With a 4.6-star overall rating after 22,000 reviews, plenty of users agree it lives up to the hype.


A Mineral Sunscreen With A Skin-Matching Tint

Unlike chemical sunscreens, mineral sunscreen doesn’t soak into your pores. Rather, it creates a UVA- and UVB-protective layer on top of the skin, but the zinc oxide and titanium dioxide can often appear chalky on the face — but not Bliss’ tinted sunscreen. “This mineral sunscreen is tinted to offset the dreaded white cast that often comes along with mineral sunscreen,” says Roberts. The SPF-30 formula is easy to blend into your skin for an invisible finish.


This Heated Eyelash Curler That Works In Seconds

If your eyelashes are particularly straight, founder and editor of Australian blog Beauty Space Tara Lusk suggests using this heated eyelash curler. “Like using a flat iron on your hair, adding a heated eyelash curler helps to enhance the curve and longevity of your curled lashes,” she says. The USB-rechargeable device heats up in just 10 seconds, and it’s designed for safe us (i.e., no burning or pinching).


The Soothing Face Mask That Calms Your Skin Overnight

Formulated with alpine rose stem cells and rose water, this gentle gel mask “helps to soothe and moisturize the skin and restore the skin,” says Marisa K. Garshick, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York. Just apply a thin layer to your face before you go to sleep, and wake up to hydrated skin.


A Jar Of Multi-Use Vaseline For Parched Skin & Slugging

Sometimes it’s the simplest, most wallet-friendly products that work the best. This jar of Vaseline petroleum jelly can be applied anywhere your skin is feeling a little parched. “Great for many different skin-care concerns, this ointment works to lock moisture in and provide a protective barrier, leaving the skin feeling soft and smooth,” explains Dr. Garshick. She continues, “A favorite for slugging, it can also be great for healing cuts, helping with dry lips and dry hands.”


This Gentle Facial Toner Made With Chamomile & Rose

Blended with gentle ingredients such as chamomile and rose, this facial mist is formulated to “help tone the skin while leaving the skin feeling hydrated,” says Dr. Garshick. The addition of aloe vera and glycerin further moisturize the skin, leaving your face feeling refreshed and calm. Spritz yourself with the mist immediately after cleansing, and whenever you need a pick-me-up.


A Plumping Facial Primer That Shields From Blue Light

Dr. Garshick says, “This primer is a great option to apply prior to makeup application or can be used as a mist throughout the day to help set foundation or boost hydration,” she says. It’s also infused with a naturally derived, skin-smoothing ingredient called ectoin, this hydrating primer shields your face from blue light — which is helpful if you spend a lot of time in front of a screen during the day. Use this to create a smooth canvas before applying makeup


This Gel Acne Treatment That Also Minimizes Scars

Getting the occasional pimple is just a part of life, but luckily, there’s a way to soothe redness. Containing a retinoid known as adapalene, this gel acne treatment is helpful in calming down current breakouts, while preventing future ones from forming. You can even use it post-breakout — Dr. Garshick explains, “It can help discoloration and textural changes that go along with acne scars by evening out the skin tone and boosting collagen production.”


A Gentle Cleanser For Dry, Sensitive Skin

Although anyone can use it, the CeraVe hydrating facial cleanser is a great pick for those with dry, sensitive skin. Dr. Garshick says, “This cleanser effectively gets rid of dirt and buildup without leaving the skin feeling dry. It contains hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin as well as ceramides to support and strengthen the skin barrier.” Developed by dermatologists, the formula is non-foaming and fragrance-free.


The Root Touch-Up Spray For In-Between Dye Jobs

Got a week before your next dye job? Dr. Garshick recommends spritzing your roots with this pigmented touch-up spray. Available in eight different shades, the lightweight formula is easy to blend in with the rest of your hair without any sticky residue. It washes out with shampoo, but according to Dr. Garshick, it is “both rain- and sweat-resistant.”

  • Available shades: 8


A Moisturizing Shampoo Infused With Manuka Honey

Allyson Carter, professional hairstylist and founder of the Hair Spies blog, recommends this hydrating shampoo because it’s packed with fortifying ingredients — and it wont break the bank. “It’s sulfate-free which is always great and contains ingredients like manuka honey, mafura oil, and fig extract which really hydrate hair and give it a healthy and voluminous look,” she states.


A Deeply Conditioning Hair Mask For Dry, Brittle Strands

When you need something even more moisturizing than conditioner, Carter suggests using this hair mask infused with cocoa butter, shea butter, and vitamin B5. “I use this product as a mask on my clients that come in with hair that is damaged from heat, drying, or is just overall looking lifeless,” says Carter. Massage into your locks and leave in for up to seven minutes for best results, then rinse. The best part? Reviewers say it “smells wonderful.”


This Semi-Permanent Hair Dye With A Cult Following

Boasting over 55,500 five-star reviews on Amazon, this semi-permanent hair color has earned a reputation for providing vibrant results without costing a small fortune. “If you want salon-quality dyed hair but want to do it yourself at home, this is the product for you,” says Carter. Most importantly, Arctic Fox’s gentle formula is made exclusively from vegan ingredients that won’t cause damage to your hair.

  • Available shades: 26


These Relaxing Bath Salts Infused With Mint & Eucalyptus Oils

Blended with invigorating wintergreen and eucalyptus oils as well as clarifying mustard powder, these bath salts have a relaxing effect on the body. “This product is great when used in the bath and is used for detoxification and purification,” says New York celebrity esthetician Ildi Pekar. “You will also have the best night of sleep!”


A Gently Exfoliating Body Brush That Boosts Circulation

Pekar recommends using this dry body brush to smooth skin and promote circulation throughout the body. With a head made of soft tampico fiber bristles, it gently exfoliates the dead skin off your arms and legs, and the long, detachable handle helps you reach those hard-to-reach places.


This Witch Hazel Toner Infused With Soothing Lavender

This facial toner combines two effective natural ingredients — witch hazel and lavender — into one skin-soothing, clarifying product. Pekar says it’s great for “refreshing your skin without stripping it of its natural moisture,” and the lavender scent makes it particularly calming at night before you go to bed. Apply it with a cotton pad after cleansing and before moisturizing.


The Whipped Soap With A Fluffy Texture

Beauty expert and founder of beauty blog Style Sprinter Katya Bychkova loves this soap because it “doesn't strip your skin and lathers with luxurious foam.” Plus, made with moisturizing almond oil, this whipped soap looks good enough to eat. It comes in a wide array of scents, such as ocean breeze, peachy lemon, and strawberry mojito.

  • Available scents: 13


A TikTok-Famous Concealer That’s Long-Wearing & Budget-Friendly

Bychkova recommends this TikTok-famous concealer from e.l.f., due to its high-coverage formula that she says is a “great alternative to to best-selling Tarte Shape Tape.” Lasting for up to 16 hours, the concealer evens out your skin tone with a matte finish. Choose from over two dozen shades to find the one that matches your skin best.

  • Available shades: 27


Some Dermaplaning Razors That Save You Money At The Salon

Rather than pay for dermaplaning at the salon, you can exfoliate skin and remove fine hairs from your face and eyebrows using these itty-bitty facial razors. Bychkova notes they’re “easy to use” and don’t leave behind razor bumps or ingrown hairs. You get 12 razors in a set, each with its own safety blade cover to avoid nicks and scratches.


A Color-Depositing Shampoo That Gives Your Dyed Hair A Boost

Even permanent hair color can fade over time, which is why Jamie Mazzei, creative director at nuBest Salon in Manhasset, New York, suggests using this color-depositing shampoo in between dyeing sessions. “It uses semi-permanent direct dye in both a shampoo and conditioner, which allows you to refresh your faded color with the ease of washing your hair in the shower,” he says.

  • Available shades: 13


These Eye Cream Applicators That Can Be Used For Cold Therapy

Esthetician and beauty influencer Elena Duque suggests using these metal eye cream applicators to massage your facial products into your skin. You can even keep them in the freezer in between uses for a blast of cold therapy:“This helps reduce dark under-eye circles and reduce puffiness,” she says. The rounded head can be used to apply the cream, while the flatter head can massage it into your skin.


A Multipack Of Playful Animal-Inspired Face Masks

Infused with moisturizing and nourishing botanical extracts, these sheet masks give your skin a luxurious treat — not to mention, they’re totally adorable. Each set includes six animal designs, including a cheetah, panda, and unicorn. “These are just honestly so fun, especially for a spa night with your friends,” raves Jamie Stone, beauty blogger at Honestly Jamie.


The CC Cream That Evens Out Skin Texture & Tone

Elaine Kung, board-certified dermatologist at Future Bright Dermatology, recommends using this CC cream (the “CC” stands for color control) in place of your regular foundation to give your skin a balanced tone. “I really like the smooth silky texture of Kiko Milano's CC Skin trainer, a non-comedogenic CC cream that can function as a foundation,” she says. Working to blur uneven texture and pores, it even contains titanium oxide, which protects your skin from the sun.

  • Available shades: 4


An Ultra-Thin Pencil For Natural-Looking Brows

Says celebrity makeup artist Courtney Hart, “The NYX pencils work just as well as high end/ luxury brand pencils but are crazy inexpensive.” The ultra-thin tip on this eyebrow pencil allows you to create natural-looking strokes, filling in your brows with rich color. On the other end, a spoolie brush acts as a brow-smoothing tool.

  • Available shades: 12