I'm A Beauty Editor & Here Are The 40 Cheap Beauty Products That Actually Work

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I love a prestige beauty product as much as the next person, but unless I'm testing the latest YSL mascara or Dr. Sturm serum for work, those products aren't in my everyday budget. And to be honest, they don't need to be. There are plenty of cheaper products that are under $25 and perform just as well, if not better (we've all heard the rumors that NIVEA Creme is a solid alternative to Crème de la Mer, after all). It would be nearly impossible to put all of these less expensive products to the test, not to mention incredibly time-consuming (and just as draining to your bank account) — so take all of the hassle out of the equation, and trust me instead: I'm a beauty editor, and here are the 40 cheap beauty products that actually work.

Not only are all of these tried-and-tested beauty products under $25, but they’re also all conveniently available on Amazon Prime — an added selling point if there ever was one. On this list, you’ll find everything from cult-favorite skin care products to insider-favorite makeup from abroad, and with the stamp of approval from myself, my fellow beauty editors, and thousands of Amazon shoppers, you really can’t go wrong with anything here.


A Vitamin C Serum With A Super-Smart Formula

A vitamin C serum is to your morning routine as a retinol is to your nighttime routine (in other words, it's pretty darn important). While it's not uncommon to see vitamin C serums with a $100+ price tag, CeraVe’s vitamin C serum gives you a potent dose of 10% L-ascorbic acid (that's the vitamin C) for less than $20. By including ceramides and hyaluronic acid in the formula, the serum leaves skin feeling smooth and hydrated, while the antioxidant-rich vitamin C works to increase collagen production, fade unwanted hyperpigmentation, and protect skin from environmental aggressors.


The Absolute Best Clay Mask For Acne-Prone (& All Types Of) Skin

I don't think there's a mask on the internet with more praise than the Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay. There's a little DIY involved, as the bentonite clay needs to be mixed with equal parts apple cider vinegar (or water if your skin is more sensitive) before you apply it in a thick layer over your skin. But in as little as five minutes (and up to 20 minutes), the mask works its purifying and deep-cleaning magic, resulting in clear, bright, and refreshed-feeling skin. It’s amazing for anyone with acne or blackheads, but pretty much any skin type can benefit from being treated to this mask once or twice a month. You can use this as an all-over body treatment, too, or mix it in with your bath.


A Microfiber Hair Towel That Dries Your Hair Faster & More Gently

Long hair needs some help when it comes to post-shower drying, and as blow drying on a frequent basis can be quite damaging, that's where this microfiber hair towel wrap comes in. The lightweight towels are designed to easily wrap around your hair like a turban to hold it in place without slipping or weighing down your head, and they're made from an absorbent microfiber material that helps speed up drying time, since it’s better adept at absorbing water than traditional cotton. The material is also extra-gentle on hair, since it’s so soft, making these towels great for anyone with split ends or breakage. Best of all, you get two towels for $10.

  • Available colors: 10


This Japanese Cream Blush That Insiders Swear By

If the reason you can't get behind cream blush is that it feels too heavy on your skin, CANMAKE Cream Cheek may just be the exception. Though it can be dabbed across your cheekbones with your fingertips like a traditional cream blush, it has a gel-like texture that allows it to completely melt into the skin, leaving it looking dewy without any greasiness. It's super pigmented, so you only need a little bit of product, but the color is easy to build. Plus, the formula contains squalane to keep your skin feeling soft and hydrated as you wear it. This cult-y Japanese blush is an insider-favorite among beauty editors, and well worth stocking up on in multiple shades.

  • Available shades: 3


A French Body Lotion For Seriously Dry Skin

Dry skin can be a tough problem to tackle if you're not into applying heavy moisturizing lotions multiple times throughout the day. La Roche-Posay's Lipikar Balm AP+ Intense Repair Body Lotion was created with extremely dry and sensitive skin types in mind, and is designed to keep skin hydrated for up to 48 hours after application. So rich and gentle that it’s been approved by the National Eczema Association, this moisturizer uses ingredients like shea butter, glycerin, and niacinamide to leave skin feeling instantly smoother. The lotion also aims to rebalance your skin’s microbiome with prebiotic and postbiotic thermal spring water, the key ingredient in all La Roche Posay products.


This Brass-Busting Shampoo For Blondes

Taking care of blonde hair or even blonde highlights can be expensive, but the specially formulated products are often necessary to keep your color from turning brassy. Paul Mitchell’s Platinum Blonde Shampoo is just one part of the Paul Mitchell Platinum Blonde system, but its color-safe formula helps to tone blonde, white, gray, and highlighted hair with its deep violet tint. Designed to sit in your hair for five minutes before rinsing to neutralize unwanted brassy (i.e. orange or yellow) tones, the shampoo also contains moisturizing ingredients like glycerin, jojoba extract, and algae extract to leave hair feeling soft.


A Pro-Favorite Drugstore Mascara

While there are some seriously impressive prestige mascaras (hi, Dior Iconic Overcurl and Hourglass Extreme Lash), they aren't my go-to beauty splurge. The truth is, many drugstore mascaras match up when it comes to adding length, volume, and intensely pigmented color. L'Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara is the best of the best in my opinion, and it's the mascara I've found myself consistently buying over the years. The hourglass-shaped wand has over 200 bristles that allow you to catch and lengthen every single lash with one swipe, and the formula adds volume and helps hold a curl, but it's also buildable without getting clumpy, so you can layer it on for more drama. While there is a waterproof version for when you need something that truly doesn't budge, I've found that the regular Lash Paradise stays put all day without smudging or flaking.

  • Available shades: 7


A Cult Korean Lip Stain That Doubles As A Blush

This K-beauty favorite is great for anyone who prefers a stained lip over the precise, opaque color of a traditional lipstick. Peripera’s Ink Velvet Lip Tint has a truly velvety texture as you apply it, and it dries down to a weightless matte finish. The tint comes with a pointed applicator for precise application, but it can also be blended out for a blurred, natural-looking effect. Though these tints do appear matte, they're formulated with hydrating ingredients like jojoba oil, hyaluronic acid, and marine collagen to wear comfortably throughout the day.

Pro tip: Try dabbing some onto your cheeks on freshly moisturized skin — these tints double as blush, too.

  • Available shades: 16


A Super-Gentle Cleanser For Sensitive Skin

If you have sensitive skin (welcome to the club), Vanicream is one of the safest and most reliable brands you can use. Their Gentle Facial Cleanser is an oil-free, noncomedogenic cleanser that won't exacerbate acne-prone skin or irritate any allergies. Impressively, the formula is free from fragrances, dyes, parabens, sulfates, preservatives, and just about every other potential irritant out there, making it safe to use for those with skin concerns like eczema and psoriasis. Though it’s gentle, the cleanser still foams up and is able to remove makeup and sunscreen without leaving your skin feeling stripped and tight.


A Mess-Free Way To Self Tan

These Tan Towel Self Tan Towelettes have been around since the dawn of self-tanners, but unlike the other OG tanning products that haven't lasted, these guys are still around, and for good reason. The pre-packaged towelettes are soaked in a clear, odorless self-tanning liquid that can cover your whole body (or half of your body with the smaller size) just by wiping the towel across your skin. The resulting color develops in about four hours and lasts for several days. They're also a solid choice for tanning while you're traveling since the pre-soaked, individually packaged towelettes take up minimal space and don't run the risk of spilling in your bag and staining your belongings. In each under-$30 box, you’ll get 10 towelettes.


A Nail Treatment That Heals Bruising, Yellowing, Dryness, & More

Whether you've overdone it on the gel manicures or your nails are dry, brittle, discolored, or even bruised, Jason’s Tea Tree Nail Saver will truly save your nails. The formula may look and apply like your average nail polish, but what's inside the bottle is actually a combination of vitamin E and oils like tea tree, sesame seed, and safflower seed, ingredients that work to bring dry, damaged nails and cuticles back to their healthiest state.


A French Makeup Remover That’s Truly The GOAT

I've written about this Bioderma Micellar Water more times than I can count, but that's because it really does work. The French pharmacy staple that I've come across at fashion week shows all over the world is just as easy to find in the U.S. these days, and it's totally affordable. Though the makeup remover just looks like water, Bioderma uses micelles to clean your skin and remove makeup (even the waterproof stuff) without disrupting your skin's protective barrier. The results are skin that's completely clean and soft, without any dryness, greasiness, or irritation. Like all of the brand’s products from their Sensibio line, this is safe to use on sensitive skin.


The Best Shaving Cream Under $5

If you've ever skipped the shaving cream if and when you shave, you know how important it is for preventing irritation in the form of dry skin (if you're lucky) and intense razor burn (if you're not so lucky). The eos Shea Better Shaving Cream blends moisturizing shea butter and shea oil with soothing ingredients like aloe and oat kernel extract, a combination that nourishes and calms your skin while remove unwanted hair. Featured here is a fruity pomegranate and raspberry scent, but the brand also makes specially formulated versions of their shave cream for dry skin and sensitive skin, the latter being fragrance-free and made with colloidal oatmeal.

  • Available scents: 5


A Gel Polish That Doesn’t Require Curing Under A Lamp

Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy doing my own nails. I find it to be a relaxing activity, and it definitely leaves my nails feeling healthier than regular gel manicure appointments have in the past. However, I'll admit that it's beyond annoying when you take the time to paint your nails and notice chips on day two. Essie’s Gel Couture Longwear Nail Polish gives your nails the look of a high-shine gel manicure, but without the LED light and the dried-out, breakage-prone nails that follow. You don't need a base coat with this one either. Just apply two thin coats of your color of choice (allowing each coat to fully dry in between), follow up with the brand's Gel Couture Top Coat, and you're left with a glossy manicure that lasts for up to two weeks.

  • Available shades: 7


A Classic, Over-The-Counter Retinol Serum

Retinol is probably the most highly praised skin care ingredient out there. The vitamin A derivative is a major multitasker that's been proven to speed up skin cell turnover, boost collagen production, and do just about everything else you could want, like smooth out your skin and unclog pores. When it comes to over-the-counter retinol products, RoC has been leading the way for decades. The brand's Retinol Correxion face serum is a concentrated formula that pairs retinol with vitamin C and moisturizing ingredients like vitamin E, glycerin, and allantoin to give you results without the common irritating side effects like redness, dryness, and flaking.


These Sheet Masks From Korea’s Most Popular Skin Care Brand

This set of sheet masks is a must-have for anyone who loves to try out new skin care products. The MEDIHEAL Sheet Mask Heroes set combines the iconic Korean beauty brand's best-selling masks, each one targeting a different skin concern. There are hydrating options that are saturated in ingredients like hyaluronic acid, squalane, and jojoba oil, purifying masks that contain ingredients like charcoal and tea tree oil, and even a firming mask that uses hydrolyzed collagen, elastin, and peptides, to smooth and plump up skin in just 15 minutes.


A Liquid Matte Lipstick That Never Budges

Maybelline SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick outperforms any more-expensive liquid lipstick I’ve tried, with its rich, opaque color that last for up to 16 hours. You can always start by lining and filling in your lips with a lip pencil in a similar color to add more precision (and staying power) to your lipstick, but the tapered applicator was designed to make lining the outside of your lips as easy as possible — even without liner. Choose from over 40 bright and neutral shades.

  • Available shades: 41


This Pure Marula Oil With Countless Uses

Pure, cold-pressed marula oil is the only ingredient in this bottle. It’s naturally rich in antioxidants, amino acids, and fatty acids that moisturize skin while helping to prevent future moisture loss, too. These same properties are also why marula oil is said to add shine and moisture to dried-out hair. You can apply this oil all over your face, onto the ends of your hair, or mix a few drops in with your go-to face or body lotion.


A Korean Gel Cleanser That’s Gentle, But Thorough

This Korean face cleanser focuses on helping to keep your skin breakout-free without disrupting your skin’s natural protective barrier. The COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser includes tea tree oil, which is antibacterial, to clear away the trapped skin, oil, and acne-causing bacteria that can clog up your pores. A BHA in the form of betaine salicylate is also included in the formula to further ensure your pores aren't blocked, while ingredients like primrose oil and allantoin help keep skin soothed and moisturized. Free from common irritants like parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and alcohol, the cleanser is gentle on dry and sensitive skin, too.


The Tweezers That Everyone Should Own

I've yet to find a better pair of tweezers than those from Tweezerman (and if you've ever had a bad pair of tweezers, you know that a tool that's seemingly so simple can be totally useless if it's not made well). Made of easy-to-clean stainless steel that feels durable, not flimsy, these tweezers have a slanted tip that makes it easier to firmly grab onto stray hairs. Not only does this allow you to tweeze more accurately, but it also gets the hair at the root which will prevent it from growing back sooner.

  • Available colors: 4


These Cream Eyeshadows That Come In Gorgeous Colors

Cream shadows are more forgiving than powder eyeshadows because their whipped texture adds a dewy sheen that dry, powder textures can't compete with. This also means that creamy shadows blend more easily and are more travel-friendly because they can be swiped across your lids with your fingertips. Revlon's ColorStay Creme Eye Shadow is a long-wearing, buildable formula that comes in both shimmery and matte finishes. Each pot of color comes with its own mini brush, though the smooth texture is just as easy to blend with your fingers. Featured here in ‘Crème Brulee’, an everyday champagne color, but the shadow also comes in trendy lavender and Burgundy shades, as well as more neutral browns.

  • Available shades: 13


A Set Of Makeup Brushes From A Pro-Favorite Brand

Cover all of your makeup bases with this five-piece set from pro-favorite brand Real Techniques. For less than $20, the collection includes a foam sponge and a firm-bristle brush for blending liquid and cream foundation, a tapered brush for powder blush and bronzer, a shorter, dense-bristle brush for concealer and eyeshadow, and a fluffy-bristle brush for setting powder and highlighter. The synthetic bristles on the brushes are super-soft and won't shed or become damaged over time, as long as you treat them gently when you wash them.


The Secret To Clearing Up Maskne

Acne patches like these clear hydrocolloid stickers from Rael have become a must-have for me during lockdown. While I've always been prone to breakouts, things were pretty much under control until wearing face masks became a part of my daily routine. While they won't prevent new spots from popping up, these stickers help to combat the resulting acne (or “maskne”) in several ways. When you find yourself with a new pimple (or one that you couldn't resist picking at), the hydrocolloid bandage speeds up healing time by drawing out the fluid as the tiny, round sticker seals off the area to prevent further bacteria from getting in (or impatient fingers from touching the pimple). Though it's typically recommended that you wear one of these patches on your blemish overnight, I've found it particularly helpful to stick one over any spots before putting on my mask during the day to keep it from getting further inflamed.


A Cult-Favorite Moisturizer For Your Body & Face

The best part about NIVEA Creme is that the multipurpose moisturizer can be used on your face as well as your body, hands, and feet. The cult-classic cream includes pro-vitamin B5 and glycerin to moisturize and protect your skin, and though it does have a light scent, it smells powdery and clean. You can’t beat the price, either.


These Creamy Lip Liners From A British Drugstore Brand

When it comes to reliable drugstore brands, Rimmel London is one I know I can always count on. Their Exaggerate Lip Liner has a slanted tip that makes it easy to line (and even over line) your lips, and the creamy formula applies without skipping. You don't need to press down too hard or drag the liner across your lips to deposit color, and because it comes in a pack of two, you can leave one liner on your vanity and carry the other with you in your bag for easy touchups throughout the day.

  • Available shades: 11


An Amazing Conditioning Treatment For Curly Hair

For curly hair types that naturally require more moisture, an in-shower hair treatment might not be enough to keep your hair hydrated. This Mielle's Organics Overnight Conditioner was designed to be applied throughout your hair at night, so that while you sleep, the rich formula can work its moisturizing magic via ingredients like coconut oil, olive oil, grape seed oil, and shea butter. If you don’t have the patience to wear it overnight, you can leave it on for as long as possible after shampooing before rinsing it out. To avoid greasing up your pillowcase, simply pop on a bonnet, shower cap, or processing cap (or place a towel over your pillow).


This Classic Bronzer With A Buttery Texture

This bronzer looks like a powder, but it's packed with so many moisturizing ingredients, like skin-softening murumuru butter, cupuacu butter, and tucuma butter, that it feels creamy when you apply it. It's also the best smelling bronzer I've ever come across, with a tropical, coconut-y scent that really doubles down on the vacation vibes already provided by its warm, shimmery glow.

  • Available shades: 4


One Of The Best Things For Your Body & Hair

For anyone obsessed with the beauty benefits of coconut oil, Majestic Pure’s fractioned coconut oil is a multipurpose, liquid version of your regular solid coconut oil. Removing the long chain triglycerides is what allows this product to maintain its efficacy while also remaining in a liquid state (even at lower temperatures). The lightweight oil can be used on its own as a body moisturizer post-shower, or as a conditioning hair treatment — and as someone who has tried a lot of hair masks, I stand by the fact that coconut oil makes the best treatment for dry, damaged hair. It can also be mixed in with other products for more creative uses (try mixing some with brown sugar to create a gentle lip scrub). Another plus? The pump dispenser makes this coconut oil way less messy to apply than the solid versions that need to be scooped out of a tub and warmed up in your hands to liquify.


The Best Tinted Brow Gel Under $10

I have full brows, so day-to-day, I just stick to a quick swipe of brow mascara that adds the slightest tint while brushing my brow hairs into place. While I've found that the performance of brow pencils and powders varies greatly, brow mascaras seem to (mostly) be the same, and are therefore a great place to save a few bucks in your beauty routine. NYX’s Tinted Brow Mascara is my go-to drugstore brow gel of choice — it performs well, comes in five versatile colors, and has a very budget-friendly price tag of just $6.

  • Available shades: 5


A Setting Spray That Makes Your Skin Look Radiant

This peptide- and antioxidant-infused Neutrogena Makeup Setting Spray leaves skin feeling refreshed as it helps to lock your makeup in place. You can mist it over your face after you've applied all your makeup as a finishing touch, or generously spray a makeup sponge with the mist before putting on your foundation for a base that won't budge. It makes your skin look dewy and radiant, too.


This Cleanser & Oil Infused With Vitamin E

Keep your skin and face hydrated with this skincare set that includes a cleanser and face oil, both of which contain the moisturizing Vitamin E, which also helps reduce wrinkles and dark spots. The oil and cleanser also contain hydrating jojoba, avocado, and rice bran oils.


A Creamy Gel Blush In The Prettiest Colors

Actor and Flower Beauty founder Drew Barrymore hit a home run with these Blush Bomb Color Drops. The formula, which can compared to Glossier's Cloud Paint cheek colors, is a creamy gel that feels silky upon application and melts weightlessly into skin. Because the texture is more of a gel than a cream, it's easy to blend out and build up (though you really only need a small dot of product, as a little goes a long way).

  • Available shades: 6


A Cult-Favorite Overnight Treatment For Acne

Before there were acne stickers, there was this tiny bottle of pink magic to dry out blemishes as you sleep. A beauty editor favorite for decades, Mario Badescu Drying Lotion combines salicylic acid, sulfur, and zinc oxide to clear out the acne-causing bacteria in your pores and draw out oil. And it couldn't be easier to use. As counterintuitive as it may seem, don't shake the bottle! Instead, dip a Q-tip into the pink potion, dab it directly onto the offending spot, and sleep peacefully knowing that your pimple will shrink in size by morning.


A Tinted Lip Balm Made With Gentle Ingredients

For a sheer tint of color with a glossy, but not sticky, finish, try Honest Beauty’s tinted lip balm. Shown here in ‘Dragon Fruit’, a bright pink color, the balms also come in more neutral shades, as well as a clear version that has a gorgeous shimmery sheen to it. No matter which color you choose, all of the balms are formulated without petrolatum, mineral oil, parabens, silicones, and synthetic fragrances (in fact, they're EWG-verified), and they instead use gentle nourishing ingredients like avocado oil and cocoa seed butter to nourish and soften your lips.

  • Available shades: 7


A Boar Bristle Brush For Smoother, Shinier Hair

This brush combines the best of both worlds with boar bristles that evenly distribute the healthy oils from your scalp through your hair and nylon-tipped bristles to better untangle knots. It can be used on all hair types, including by those wearing extensions or wigs, and it works on both dry and wet hair. It even comes with its own cover bag and a separate brush cleaner to thoroughly remove any extra hair or fuzzies that can accumulate with continued use.


A Super-Nourishing (& Travel-Friendly) Moisturizer Stick

This mini moisturizing stick from Mustela was formulated with the sensitive skin of a baby in mind, but it's useful no matter how old you are. Travel-friendly and mess-free, you can swipe this stick directly over dry and chapped patches to moisturize and protect your skin, thanks to its solid formula that’s rich in ceramides, shea butter, avocado extract, and sunflower seed oil. You can apply this anywhere — onto your lips, cheeks, entire face, elbows... you get the idea. It’s especially handy during cold winters when your skin needs constant moisturizing throughout the day (making it a great gift for skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts).


These Classic Eye Makeup Remover Pads That Are Made Without Oil

On the rare occasions that I find myself wearing heavy eye makeup, I prefer to use a separate makeup remover, like these Almay Oil Free Eye Makeup Remover Pads, on my eyes. Rather than scrubbing and rubbing at the sensitive skin around your eyes, these pre-soaked pads gently break down makeup — and all you have to do is hold them against your eyes for several seconds before gently sweeping them across your skin. These particular eye makeup remover pads are oil- and fragrance-free, and use a blend of aloe, cucumber, and green tea extracts to leave skin feeling soothed, refreshed, and most importantly, completely clean from makeup.


A Multipurpose Beauty Oil That Smells Of Roses

Don't let the name fool you. This Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Moroccan Beauty Oil is packed with way more nourishing oils than just those from roses. Included in this tiny bottle is a blend of moisturizing, antioxidant-rich oils like jojoba seed, pomegranate seed, and argan kernel. In addition to applying this to your face, the does-it-all, delightful-smelling oil can also be used to nourish your hair, hands, cuticles, and nails (or body, if you mix a few drops in with your favorite body lotion).


The Secret To Less Hair Breakage

Silk and satin hair scrunchies are a beauty-editor staple for treating our hair more gently. And while some silk scrunchies can be a bit of an investment, these Kitsch Pro Satin Scrunchies get the job done at a fraction of the cost. Where elastics cause creasing and can get caught in your hair, which leads to breakage, these satin scrunchies won't mess with your blowout or rip out any of your hair. Plus, they come in a pack of five, so even if you're prone to losing your hair ties you'll always have a spare.

  • Available colors: 4


A Creamy Body Wash With The Most Divine Scent

This coconut oil-infused body wash smells like the summertime and leaves skin baby soft. OGX’s Coconut Miracle Oil Ultra Moisture Body Wash doesn't contain any harsh foaming agents (aka sulfates), but it still works into a rich and creamy lather that doesn't require using tons of product. In addition to coconut oil, the body wash also helps to leave skin smoother using ingredients like glycerin, safflower seed oil, and silk amino acids.

Studies referenced:

Safety and efficacy of Sclerocarya birrea (A.Rich.) Hochst (Marula) oil: A clinical perspective by Baatile Komane, Ilze Vermaak, Beverley Summers, Alvaro Viljoen;

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