Two weeks ago, I wrote an exhaustive list of my all-time favourite makeup products. It was an honest admission, but admittedly mostly full of products that would be considered luxury brands. Working in beauty means I am (very fortunately) granted access to the vast majority of what exists on counters, but I am also (hand on heart) a beauty girl – in the same way people love fancy wine, feel emotional about designer fashion or have a thing for shiny sports cars.
But my first ever job was at a Priceline store in the cosmetics aisle. I worked there for almost six years, and it was in this timeframe that I developed a strong affinity towards drugstore makeup. Cheap(er), cheerful products that deliver on pigment and glow and coverage while faring slightly better on your purse strings – a love affair that’s lasted well into my journalistic career. It’s like Newton’s third law: for every $50 blush powder I rate, there is a more accessible option with similar colour payoff and longevity. And this really is the great thing about beauty – you can splurge or save and still end up with something quality.
So this – my second list – is all my favourite makeup products under $25. Keep in mind these are personal choices, so seek out more reviews if you’re considering adding to cart.
Maybelline Fit Me Dewy + Smooth Foundation, $22. SHOP NOW
An early discovery I still use today, Maybelline Fit Me Dewy + Smooth Foundation is luminous and light and makes me feel polished but not too “done”. It’s super malleable and I find fingers work quite well to blend it in really well around the nose, mouth and eyes. Finish off with a damp sponge and a lick of highlighter and you’re golden!
The Ordinary Coverage Foundation, $13. SHOP NOW
This is a super innovative product because I find the coverage is quite full but the texture feels more like a tinted moisturiser. A little goes a long way, and it has a natural-looking finish that fares well on oilier skin (like mine) but won’t feel powdery or dull on dry skin. I apply in the centre of my face and work outwards with either fingers or a buffing brush. Alternatively, a drop or two in moisturiser will act as a DIY skin tint. For the price, it’s pretty revolutionary.
Revlon Photoready Candid Glow Foundation, $25. SHOP NOW
It’s hard to find full coverage that feels fresh but this Revlon pick seems to nail all of the above and then some. This, to me, is a special occasion foundation – when I want to feel done up or maybe I’m having my photo taken. It’s quite luminous, so if it’s the latter, a light dusting of translucent powder will work a treat.
Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Concealer. $20. SHOP NOW
This is by far one of the best under-eye concealers I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. It’s bright and slightly dewy and feels hydrating, almost like a skincare product. I like to apply with the sponge applicator around my eyes and on my forehead before blending. It moonlights as a highlighter/contour stick, too.
Revolution Matte Base Concealer, $6. SHOP NOW
This is super thick and matte so great for when you want targeted coverage – like the marks left after a blemish or a small scar. It dries really powdery so won’t move around, plus comes in a wide shade spectrum, something many drugstore concealers seem to be lacking.
Maybelline Cheek Heat Gel Cream Blush, $17. SHOP NOW
I actually bought one of these on sale after I saw Gigi Hadid use it during an Instagram makeup tutorial and I was so, so impressed. The gel texture is cooling and feather-light so I found it a really easy way to wear cream blush (sometimes they can be intense). I actually found it a pretty close dupe for Gossier’s Cloud Paint (another firm favourite of mine).
The Balm Blush Travel Size In Hot Mama, $14. SHOP NOW
PSA: This is an extremely close shade to Nars Orgasm – slightly more peachy but the glow and shimmery finish are the same. It’s a powder, so looks done but still natural – like the flush you get from walking to the bus stop on a cold day. I also find powders have better staying power than creams or gels (if that is important to you). The travel size comes in at a neat $14, too.
Bourjois Little Round Pot Blush, $20. SHOP NOW
These are so special for so many reasons. Firstly, the tiny pots are fantastic and make for the perfect purse-sized mirror compact once the product itself is finished. Secondly they’re baked, so the product applies to the skin seamlessly with the accompanying cheek-shaped brush. Lastly, they smell like rose. In short, they’re divine.
Mecca Max Wet Look All Over Gloss, $16. SHOP NOW
This do it all gloss gives an incredible glassy sheen without feeling overly sticky. I love it on eyelids and the top of cheekbones… or dolloped on the centre of lips for a full, Paris Hilton-esque pout. It’s actually really amazing dabbed onto bare skin with a lick of red lipstick too (very Lara Worthington).
Nyx Micro Brow Pencil, $18. SHOP NOW
I love slim brow crayons and this one is as good as any other. It’s waxy so adheres well to the skin, and the fine tip means you can get natural-looking hair-like strokes without too much fiddling.
Pears Soap, $6. SHOP NOW
Who even needs brow gel when you can use soap? Makeup aficionados are privy to this cheap trick and now, so are you. Just use a clean spoolie to fluff upwards and outwards. A clear bar like Pears is best. Who knew?
Schwarzkopf Taft Full On Glued Hair Gel, $8. SHOP NOW
Ashley Graham is a gift and I highly recommend her Instagram as a place for beauty inspiration. On a live the other day, she explained she uses sticky hair gel in lieu of clear brow gel – a trick she learnt from Katie Jane Hughes. I tried this using my partner’s hair stuff and it absolutely works. Like the soap, use a clean spoolie and buy something clear – whatever is on sale at Woolies. While using it in your actual hair feels a little NYSNC*, I assure you it’s actually perfect for finishing off a smooth, sleek ponytail or bun. Very KKW. Thank me later.
Mecca Max Single Shadow, $8. SHOP NOW
These single shadows only launched a few days ago at Mecca but already I’m a fan. Pigmented but not in a way that causes fall out, they apply easily and come in so many wonderful shades. I love this matte lilac.
Nyx Foil Play Glitter Cream Pigment, $15. SHOP NOW
Nyx is a gold mine of cheap but brilliant makeup products. This eye shadow is something you might pull out on a Saturday night – it feels creamy but looks like a densely-packed glitter on the lid. It dries down quite a bit too, so won’t smudge all over your face or spill onto your perfectly highlighted cheeks. Wear it alone or with an inky black wing.
Revlon So Fierce Mascara, $22. SHOP NOW
This is what I would label a natural-lash mascara. It has a spiky comb wand so separates and fans lashes without depositing too much product. Think long, lean and defined. I think it’s worth me mentioning that if you’re into a high/low mix of makeup, mascara is often a good place to save (if it were my call, I’d spend on foundation and concealer instead). You can even hold onto your expensive mascara wands, wash them and re-use in a cheaper formula – half the time, it’s the brush that does the heavy lifting.
L’Oreal Lash Paradise Mascara, $25. SHOP NOW
Too Faced Better Than Sex I love thee but L’Oreal is like my mistress in mascara land. It gives a pretty similar finish: big, bold, fluffy lashes that hit your sunglasses which is annoying but who cares because your lashes look incredible. I just clean any excess off the wand before applying so it doesn’t get messy.
Revlon Super lustrous Matte lipstick in Desert Escape, $25. SHOP NOW
Super Lustrous is an icon when it comes to makeup. The normal formulas are quite creamy and mostly opaque, so they give a proper lipstick finish without being too difficult. The matte options are also beautiful – punchy without being too drying.
Frank Body Lip Tint in Cherry Bomb, $12. SHOP NOW
I remember when this Frank Body tint launched – I was enamored. And still am! At $12 it’s the perfect tint/balm hybrid with a joyful pop of cherry red. Sheer enough to wear all the time, bright enough to make you smile.
Lanolips Tinted Balm, $15. SHOP NOW
Lanolips might just be the best $15 you can spend on a beauty product. All of the lip range is made on a base of lanolin, or the oil from sheep’s wool. It’s semi-permeable and semi-occlusive, meaning it actually goes into the lips to properly moisturise before sealing all the good stuff in. The tinted versions are more or less like makeup/skincare hybrids to me: supremely moistursing with a hit of colour. Dry skin could tap excess into cheeks as a dewy blush, too (I wouldn’t recommend this for acne-prone skin though as the lanolin might congest pores).
Maybelline Color Sensational Shaping Lip Liner, $14. SHOP NOW
Finally, a nude lip liner that costs less than avocado on toast. These are waxy and long lasting, plus come in a range of shades to suit different lip hues. I like sketching Beige Babe around the perimeter lightly, focusing on the lower centre and cupids bow.