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.

Best Affordable Makeup
GRAZIA Beauty Editor Emily Algar

Complexion 

Best Affordable Makeup

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!

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

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CHeeks 

Best Affordable Makeup

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).

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

Best Affordable Makeup

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).

Brows

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

Best Affordable Makeup

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?

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

 

Eyes

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

Lips 

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

Best Affordable Makeup

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).

Best Affordable Makeup

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.

thoughts?