Shopping

These Cheap Beauty Products Have Impressed The Sh*t Out Of Experts

We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.

It’s natural to be careful when it comes to inexpensive beauty products, which can seem too good (and inexpensive) to be true. Can they really work as well as their pricier counterparts? Can they really rival products that are twice or even three times the cost? Are the ingredients really effective when they don’t cost all that much? These experts say yes. There are some cheap beauty products that have actually impressed the sh*t out of them. With many of these useful essentials priced at little more than a coffee or sandwich, you don’t have to spend an entire paycheck on beauty or skin care products to keep your stash full and your looks fresh (unless you want to, of course).

These experts, which range from professional makeup artists to dermatologists, have offered up a selection of recommendations that encompass skin care, hair care, and general makeup tips. And yep, whether you prefer no-makeup makeup, or glam full faces (or something in between) there are ideas for you. Even folks who don’t wear much makeup can appreciate the versatile suggestions here. My personal favorite? Using water to refresh hair products. It doesn’t get any easier or more inexpensive than that. I also love the new twist on everyone’s favorite bathroom cupboard staple, petroleum jelly. Read on to see what I mean.

1. This Hair Treatment That Deeply Nourishes Curly & Coily Hair

Curly hair folks, this one’s for you. With regards to LIW pH Plex 3, Celebrity hair artist Kendall Dorsey divulges, “This is a treatment and performance system that saves curly and coily hair. It actually performs at the molecular level, there’s no shifting of the color or lowering the volume process in any kind of way. It does exactly what it says: ‘It's going to protect and rebuild.’” Each pack includes two sachets for applications meant for those weeks in between salon visits. Buyers endorse it as a more affordable alternative to Olaplex.

2. A Huge Set Of Disposable Wands & Lip Brushes You Can Use In Countless Ways

These spoolies and brushes are “multi-tasking miracle workers,” according to Hillary Clark, a makeup artist and esthetician with over 25 years of experience, and president and founder of Beauty HAC.

For example, Clark says, the spoolie can “tame flyways at the hairline or part... clean up mascara mistakes... and blend false and real lashes together.” A lip brush, Clark says, lets you “[c]lean up mistakes and create clean lines and angles without disturbing makeup, like a magic eraser.” She says it’s the perfect shape for applying cat-eye liner, and you can even “swipe [one] across your mascara wand and use as liquid liner in a pinch.” With a sky-high, 4.8-star average rating, you can’t really go wrong with a versatile pack like this one.

3. A Neutral Shade Of Eyeliner That Makes Eyes Pop

With neutral eyeliner, you can “[f]ake 8 hours of sleep and perfect, makeup-free skin in an instant,” says Clark. “Apply to the lower lash waterline, inner corners of eyes, across lids and around the nose ... [It’s] also great blended right above the lip line to smooth wrinkles, to keep lipstick from bleeding, and make top lips appear bigger.” Plus, a single eye pencil is slim and easy to travel with, so on-the-go touch-ups are a breeze.

4. This Multi-Purpose Skin Cream That Can Handle (Almost) Anything

If you’re looking for a makeup bag staple, look no further. Clark says you can count on this this all-purpose skin cream for countless things: it can tame flyaways or be used as a mask in hair. It can go on cuts, scrapes or burns, serve as a makeup remover, eyelash treatment, or top layer when slugging. Apply it to lips and eyes, or cuticles, or mix with powder blush to make a lip or cheek color. It’s even good for cracked nipples when nursing, or soothing an itchy pregnancy belly. The brand offers even more suggestions, and enthusiastic buyers confirm that it’s deserving of the “magic” moniker.

5. A Tried & True Mascara That Works For Subtle Or Striking Looks

“Mascara is arguably the most important beauty product in an artist’s kit,” says Bruce Grayson, celebrity makeup artist and 2022 Oscars Makeup Department Head. “I like using Maybelline New York Lash Sensational Sky High Mascara because it quickly adds volume and definition to lashes.” Grayson explains that since the wand is super sleek, it accurately builds from the base, adding length to lashes that need it most — even the tiniest ones in the inner corners. He adds, “Best of all, the price point is super affordable.” It comes in five versatile colors, and boasts more than 55,000 perfect 5-star ratings.

6. An Eyeliner With A Super-Thin Point For Bold, Precise Looks

Grayson says, “Behind the scenes at The Oscars, an extremely talented make-up team may work on 40 dancers, 50 musicians and touch up 30 celebrity presenters all in an evening. It’s no joke. I like ordering beauty products for our team that I know work! Urban Decay Perversion Waterproof Eyeliner Fine-Point Eye Pen lays down an awesome solid black eyeliner and the brush is ultra-thin so it’s great for detailed work for a bold cat eye.” The formula is paraben-free and cruelty-free, with a semi-matte finish.

Bonus Tip: Simple & Easy Blotting, At Home Or On The Go

Did you know the humble tissue is a powerful tool for controlling oil? “I like separating two-ply tissues into a single ply to blot the face,” Grayson shares. “Because a one ply tissue is thin, it absorbs oil off skin more efficiently than blotting linens without lifting foundation.” And don’t worry, it’s as easy as it sounds. He suggests separating two-ply Kleenex tissues starting at the corner. Then, “once apart, lay it on the forehead or cheeks and push it into skin with a flat brush or make up sponge to lift excess shine.”

7. These MVP Makeup Remover Wipes You Can Also Use For Tidy Makeup Application

Scotia Boyd, film, TV, and celeb makeup artist, offers a professional makeup tip for eyeshadow that uses Neutrogena Cleansing Makeup Remover wipes. She says, “Hold the wipe flat against the face and use it to carve out a precise line under your eye shadow where it goes up towards the temples. This will create a clean, expert eye shadow look that will help to lift your eyes. It also removes any fall out from your eye shadow so that you don’t ruin your foundation.”

8. A Trusted Lip Balm With Moisturizing Properties & A Subtle Tint

“Strangely enough, I have a lot of experience with lip balms. I’ve used all of the different kinds out there!” Boyd says. “Hydrating, matte, expensive, inexpensive. This lip balm is the only one that all of my actors love without fail. It makes your lips soft and plush without being too shiny or slippery, and it doesn’t dry them out if you stop wearing it. I like the pomegranate shade because it has seriously the most minuscule tint that will just give your lips a healthy-looking color.” Buyers of this Burt’s Bees set tend to agree, since it’s earned a whopping 4.8-star average from over 4,000 ratings.

9. These Individual False Lashes To Create A Variety Of Looks

Boyd says that these Ardell Individual False Eyelashes are a go-to for many makeup artists. The set comes with 112 lash flares, so you can apply as few or as many as you want. As Boyd puts it, “You just plop three of four of these on each eye into your own lashes and no one will ever be able to tell! No tacky, visible band that’s going to start popping off at the edges by the end of the night.”

10. This Lip Moisturizer For Easy & Effective Exfoliating

You may already be exfoliating your skin, but don’t stop there. Nechami Tenenbaum Founder & CEO of Karmela Cosmetics, recommends that you exfoliate your lips, too. It’s an easy, inexpensive process that takes just a few minutes. “You’ll need a washcloth, hot water, and lip moisturizer,” she explains. Aquaphor ointment... work[s] well. Simply apply a generous amount of moisturizer and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Then, wet your washcloth with hot water, and move the cloth in back and forth motion to remove dead skin. Your lips will thank you.”

Bonus Tip: Make Facial Masks At Home With Ingredients You Have

When it comes to homemade masks, Tenenbaum says, “[Coffee is] my favorite ingredient hands down! I always make sure to add instant caffeinated coffee to my masks to help reduce dark circles and bloating. Coffee also has anti-aging and calming effects and is a natural skin brightener.”

An easy recipe Tenenbaum suggests utilizes simple ingredients like lemon juice, honey, cocoa, olive oil, and coffee. “Mix 2 - 3 tablespoons of either coffee or cocoa powder with a few teaspoons of any of the above-listed liquids to achieve your desired result. ... Add enough liquids to achieve a paste-like consistency. You can always add water if need be. Apply it and leave on for 20-30 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.” And don’t forget to enjoy your results.

11. This Retinol Cream You Can Use All Over Your Body

NYC-based commercial and editorial makeup artist Lindsay Kastuk has a recommendation that goes beyond the face. “This retinol body lotion is AMAZING paired with a dry brush — my skin’s texture has changed in a week. I dry brush before getting in the shower every other night and apply this lotion.” If retinol isn’t your preference, the brand also offers coconut, collagen, probiotic, or vitamin C formulas, too.

12. A Dry Brush For Scrubbing, Cleansing, & Exfoliating

As Kastuk points out, a dry brush can be a great addition to your routine. This exfoliating body scrubber is made with durable wood and boar bristles, and features a sturdy canvas strap that makes scrubbing easy and relaxing — and allows you to hang it up between uses. It also has a lacquer coating for water-resistance, so you can use it in the bath or shower.

13. This Multitasking Body Lotion That’s A Beloved Facial Moisturizer, Too

Kastuk gushes that Weleda Skin Food is “An absolute MUST have for makeup artists.” Among the many uses, she lists that she uses it on her own face at night for a super hydrating sleep mask and on clients with dry skin who want a dewy makeup look. She says it’s also amazing on elbows and heels. It has a cult-like following among buyers too, with many agreeing that it lives up to the hype. It features ingredients like bee pollen, sunflower oil, and pansy.

14. An Effective Moisturizer That Can Repair Over-Exfoliated Skin

Mistakes happen with skincare and Nga Dinh, Founder at SONATAP skincare, can sympathize. “If you accidentally over exfoliate your skin (happens at least once for active users), this is the inexpensive yet super impressive moisturizer that will help repair your damaged moisture barrier effectively.”

She explains that not only is the SoonJung moisturizer elegant in its finish, but it’s also very effective at promoting healing of a damaged skin barrier thanks to its ideal 5.5 pH level. According to Dinh, this is pH level is “such a rare find for a cream or moisturizer.” Plus, the short and basic ingredient list eliminates extras that can be potential irritants, too.

Bonus Tip: Scale Your Routine Way Down When Skin Is In Recovery Mode

Dinh has another suggestion when it comes to soothing over-exfoliated or otherwise healing skin. She recommends, “minimize your skincare routine to a super basic 2-step routine ... just cleanse and moisturize.” You can also reapply moisturizer throughout the day, and try to avoid the sun and sunscreen if possible, “so you don’t have to double cleanse at night.”

15. These Unusual Stipple Sponges That Double As Brushes

Geneva Fong, editorial makeup artist based in Toronto and New York, and Creative Director of dome BEAUTY, tells of an old theatre and movie makeup trick with stipple sponges (that have a textured, open weave). “You can use this sponge for a number of different makeup hacks, from cleaning brushes by removing dry pigment, to creating faux freckles ... [and it] holds product really well and can act as a brush.” If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, Fong also note that artists use it to create stab wounds or other special FX makeup.

16. A Sumptuous Oil To Treat Hair Roots & Support Growth

To care for hair and lashes, Fong recommends tried-and-true Jamaican Black Castor Oil. “Massage it into your scalp or use a spoolie to apply to your lashes,” she suggests. A host of enthusiastic reviewers echo the endorsement, praising how well it does at softening and strengthening hair. Fong adds, “it does get a bit drippy, so make sure you do it a few hours before you go to bed so it’s not running all over your face.”

17. This Cleansing Water That Makes A Light & Effective Makeup Remover

“When it comes to cleansing, experts agree, you don’t have to shell out lots of dough because the product gets rinsed down the drain,” says Lisa DeSantis, Deputy beauty director of REAL SIMPLE. Of Garnier’s micellar water, she says: “[Y]ou still want something that actually works; enter this non-greasy water-like fluid. I used to use the pricey French pharmacy version, but this one works just as well and with a much more wallet-friendly price tag. I put some on a reusable cotton round to remove stubborn eye makeup as the first step of my double cleansing routine.”

18. A Dry Shampoo That Absorbs Oil & Protects Color

DeSantis shares, “I’m not a huge dry shampoo-user, but I make an exception for this miracle multitasker.” A range of shades are available to suit a variety of hair colors, though DeSantis’s experience is with Brilliant Blonde. “I recently went blonde and have realized just how much maintenance it takes to keep it looking fresh. I’ve found that a lot of root touch-up products make my hair feel tacky, so instead, I’ve been using this dry shampoo that imparts a blonde cast. I’ll even use it on freshly blown-out hair that doesn’t need the oil-sopping benefits, just the color enhancing ones!”

19. A Trusty Shampoo That Works Well With Wigs & Weaves

Cosmetologist and co-founder of AfroLovely, Dasia Franklin is an expert on all things hair. “We do a lot of reviews on wigs and weaves and the best products to use on them. When we think of shampoo, you imagine it's a basic decision but if you have a weave, you need to be selective in the product you choose to keep your weave long-lasting. We LOVE OGX Brazilian Keratin Therapy shampoo.” The formula includes keratin protein, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and avocado oil, among other powerhouse ingredients.

Bonus Tip: Use A Spritz Of Water (Yes, Water!) To Revive Products

“Never underestimate the power of product,” Franklin says. “It can be expensive, so why waste it? By spritzing your hair with a little water, you are able to reactivate the product you've already applied on day one. Not only do you save money on products, but you also avoid weighting down the hair.” A light, inexpensive, simple way to refresh and revive hair — and the products in it? Yes, please.

20. A Travel Makeup Brush Set You’ll Reach For At Home & Away

Makeup artist Clinton Brock knows that planning ahead for touch-ups when out and about is key. “One of my must haves for on-the-go is a travel makeup brush set,” he says. “I love this set from MODA. It includes six brushes that get the perfect complexion anytime, anywhere. These are great to throw in any travel bag whether staycation, work bag, weekender and more. These brushes are made with vegan synthetic filaments that do not shed which is a huge plus.” The selection of brushes includes Powder, Angle Blender, Diffuser, Shadow, and Smokey Eye.

21. These Mini Bottles That Make It Easy To Take Your Products Everywhere They Need To Go

When you want to bring your favorite products with you, consider a set of silicone travel bottles. “One of my most necessary must-haves is a travel set of products. I cannot stand carrying big bulky skin care everywhere, especially on set or on a trip,” says Brock. “These silicone travel bottles allow me to pre-pack my skincare and be ready to go. Plus it contains a variety of shapes and sizes for any different types of products you may have.” Even better, since buying skin care in small bottles and minis is often way less cost-efficient than the large versions, you won’t lose money by buying travel sizes.

22. A Liquid Concealer In A Wide Range Of Shades

Pedro Gonzalez-Curiel, celebrity makeup artist and the in-house makeup artist at LUXIE Beauty, loves this liquid concealer from Maybelline New York. He says, “The formula fits all types of skin and has an amazing shade range for all. It gets the job done!” Buyers tend to agree, as its garnered more than 32,000 perfect 5-star ratings, with consistent approval for its ease of use and value.

23. An Ice Tray Perfectly Shaped For Soothing Eye Cubes

Does your freezer have a shelf dedicated to skin care? If not, you may want to clear some space. Gonzalez-Curiel says, “This ice tray is the ideal shape to help minimize under-eye bags. The half-boat shape fits perfectly on the eye contours.” Freeze water on its own, or consider adding cucumber, tea, or other ingredients of choice to reap the benefits.

24. A Jumbo Pencil That Can Go From Lids To Cheeks To Lips

Not only does this eye pencil double as eyeliner and eye shadow, but there’s more to it. According to Gonzalez-Curiel, “I love this four-in-one because you can use it as an eye shadow, lips liner, nose contour, and spot highlight on your face and eyes.” Even better, it’s available in a rainbow of 23 colors from neutrals to bright and bold, so you can create a variety of looks with it (check out buyer photos if you want to be inspired). Plus, it promises not to pill or fade.

25. An MVP Moisturizer That Easily Blends With Other Products...

“One of my favorite beauty hacks is taking a cheap [highlighter] and adding it to your favorite lotion for a beautiful body glow that completes any look!” says Beck Wainer, Nashville-based celebrity makeup artist. “My favorite lotion for this is CeraVe body and face moisturizer.” CeraVe is also a favorite of dermatologists and buyers alike, so even when you’re not using it as a vehicle for product, you can enjoy its hydrating formula and powerhouse ingredients.

26. ...Like A Shimmery Highlighter For A Pop Of Glow

If you opt to try Wainer’s recommendation to blend body lotion and highlighter, she recommends the popular Wet n Wild MegaGlo Highlighting Powder. Her go-to is neutral shade Precious Petals, but there are five others to choose from. Plus, it’s blendable and buildable, so you can use it for a variety of looks when you want to venture beyond the lotion tip.

27. A Sleek & Shiny Lip Gloss You Can Use To Fake Fuller Lips

Wainer informs, “One thing many people want but don’t want to splurge on are fuller lips. A great tip for achieving a plumper looking pout without the high price tag would be to grab a light-colored, shimmery gloss, and put it right in the middle of that pout ... I love using the NYX Mega Shine Lip Gloss.” Wainer loves the Baby Rose shade, and there are 29 other options available on Amazon.

28. This Brow Gel That Offers Volume, Texture, & Tint

Koko Slunjski, Miami-based makeup artist and content creator at KokoBeaute, recommends this Easy Breezy Volumizing Brow Gel from COVERGIRL. She shares, “I used this brow gel for years ... I have naturally defined brows, so I use this gel to keep my hairs in place. I love the Light shade to give my brows more dimension and add color in any sparse areas.” A clear version is also available, she notes, along with Medium and Dark tints. Plus, the formula promises to be long-lasting and waterproof.

29. A Glowy Blush That Doubles As Shimmery Highlighter

Slunjski crowns this Milani Luminoso baked blush as another makeup bag staple. “I love that it has a built in highlight,” she says. “It reflects the light beautifully which gives a fresh glowy look. It comes with a brush and a mirror which makes it a perfect ‘on-the-go’ product. I also like to apply it as an eye shadow.” Plus, she adds, the formula is vegan and cruelty free so it doesn’t contain unnecessary ingredients that might irritate your skin (which may be of particular note if you opt to try it on your eyes). It’s available in 12 different shades.

Bonus Tip: Use The Same Product In Multiple Ways

“When it comes to beauty on a budget, my best advice is using products in multiple ways,” says Slunjski. For example, she offers ideas like lipstick as blush, bronzer and highlighter as eye shadows, and lip gloss as a highlighter (if it’s non-sticky). She even says that eye shadows can double as liquid liners (“wet your eyeliner brush with micellar water, and dab into your eye shadow.”). You don’t have to stop there; the possibilities go on.

30. This Natural Cleansing Clay With A Cult Following

In case you haven’t heard of Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay, Amber Rose Johnson, Esthetician, Skin Expert and Founder of Facial Lounge, sums it up: “Great detox cleanser for skin, face, feet, and even baths.” It comes in powder form, and you can mix with your choice of water or apple cider vinegar to create a quick and easy paste for masking, soaking, or even treating bug bites. One buyer said, “It was so awesome and my face feels so clean and and free of oiliness. Also my skin looks brighter and smooth, not bumpy. This stuff really pulls the gunk out of your skin.”

31. A Coconut Lip Scrub For A Soft & Smooth Pout

Johnson also recommends this vegan coconut lip scrub. With 1.23 ounces in each jar, it’s a great deal since she notes, “a pea size will do wonders once a week on your lips.” With ingredients like jojoba and avocado oil, it promises to gently exfoliate and polish lips. Two flavors are offered: coconut sorbet and matcha latte.

32. An OG Tub Of Petroleum Jelly That’s Also A Treat For Lashes

Perhaps you’ve used petroleum jelly for skincare before, but did you know it’s also good to include when curling your lashes? Dr. Azadeh Shirazi, California-based dermatologist at La Jolla Laser Derm, explains, “Applying Vaseline (petroleum jelly) allows for more effective lash curling that also lasts longer. It makes the lashes appear fuller and smoother. Why? As an occlusive, it forms a barrier to moisture enhancing and maintaining your lash curl.”

33. A Hair-Spiking Gel That Keeps Brows In Place

Maegan Griffin, nurse practitioner and founder of skin care brand Skin Pharm, dubs this budget friendly hair gel as substitute brow pomade, calling it a “makeup bag must-have! Apply to your brows and pair with your favorite SPF for an easy, effortless look.” Reviewers have heard the tip too, with many praising it for how well it held their own eyebrows. It’s less than 6 bucks for two, or you can get five tubes for just under 13.

34. These Dermaplaning Tools So You Can (Carefully) Take Exfoliating To The Next Level

“Dermaplaning has become a very popular at-home treatment,” Griffin says. “I enjoy dermaplaning as a form of physical exfoliation — it helps rejuvenate your skin, creates a smooth base for makeup application and helps products absorb better, too. These multipurpose dermaplaning tools make it easy to not only shave off peach fuzz, but also remove dead skin cells to leave your skin healthy and glowing.” Thousands of shoppers agree, as they’re a best-seller with more than 100,000 (not a typo!) 5-star reviews.

35. These Deep-Cleansing Pads Packed With Powerhouse Ingredients

Licensed esthetician and clean beauty expert Catie Wiggy loves these therapeutic cleansing pads for a quick and easy deep clean. “These clarifying treatments exfoliate, rid the skin of excess oils, calm redness and help tighten pores,” she says. It’s the ingredients, however, that make them game changers. Wiggy explains, “Salicylic acid stimulates skin renewal and helps unclog pores, Niacinamide is a B vitamin that communicates with cells to help reduce discoloration from prior breakouts, smooth texture, and relieve redness, and Sodium PCA helps encourage natural moisture factor production to balance skin hydration and helps counteract irritation.” With 50 pads to a container, you’ll find yourself reaching for one constantly.

Bonus Tip: Use Honey As A Sweet & Sumptuous Skin Care Tool

“I’m obsessed with honey,” says Celebrity esthetician Ildi Pekar. “If you’re looking for an easy, affordable and natural treatment mask, honey is your best solution. It’s a great antioxidant, has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and pH balancing properties, and also makes the skin super hydrated, soft and glowing.” This sustainable, New Zealand Manuka honey can be added to your smoothie and your favorite mask recipe.