How often do you cringe when you see the “Best Makeup” awards in magazines and look at the prices? They sound fab, of course, but can you ever justify that $65 foundation?
That’s why I’m here to give you an unbiased look at the best makeup products around…and their cheaper alternatives. Because there are times that $25 lipstick is worth it (your wedding day, that black tie affair, a romantic getaway), but there are plenty more opportunities for that almost-just-as-good $7 lipstick.
To do this right, we enrolled the help of two beauty experts to give us their best cheaper alternatives to your favorite makeup products. Karuna Chani is an internationally-recognized, New York-based makeup artist, image and skin care consultant. Annie Lawless is a beauty blogger who has been named a New York Times Best Selling Author and a winner of the Forbes “30 Under 30” award.
Without further ado, here are your top 10 favorite makeup products, and their cheaper alternatives.
Your favorite: Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer, $44
If you’re going for the naturally beautiful, I’m-not-wearing-any-makeup look, then Laura Mercier has you covered. It has sodium hyaluronate to hydrate skin, SPF 20 protection, plus Vitamin C and E.
Our alternative: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Aging Perfector, $14
With sheer coverage that’s moisturizing and blendable, plus an SPF 20 protection, the Neutrogena Perfector is pretty darn close to Laura’s oh-so-popular blend. Chani gives this one her nod of approval.
Yves Saint Laurent/Maybelline
Your favorite: Yves Saint Laurent, Touche éclat – radiant touch, $42
This concealer is a makeup legend. It’s creator, Terry de Gunzburg, is known as the Steve Jobs of the beauty world, according to Forbes. The first of its kind, she created the Touche eclat by mixing foundation, hydration and toner with a flat, small brush. It became Yves Saint Laurent’s best seller.
Our alternative: Maybelline Dream Lumi Touch Highlighting Concealer, $8
So creamy, so blendable, and covers without caking. This one is so popular that both of our beauty experts agreed that this was the best “cheaper alternative” concealer on the market. The benefit of the Maybelline Dream Lumi concealer is that it illuminates while it conceals. Lawless can’t get over the similarities. “It’s just the same thing,” she says. Chani says it’s great for on-the-go, as it conceals and highlights. A two-for-one!
Your favorite: Dior ‘Rouge Dior’ Lipstick, $35
This is Dior’s most popular lipstick ever. Sixteen hours of comfort, no streaking, incredible moisture. What’s not to like? Well… the $35 price tag is tough to swallow.
Our alternative: Milani Lipstick, $6
Incredibly impressed with Milani’s pigment and last-ability, this product comes highly recommended from Chani. It’s infused with vitamins A and C, making it soft and moisturizing. At $6 a pop, it’s hard to NOT give it a try.
Your favorite: Illamasqua Powder Blusher, $28
Known for their ever-lasting, beautifully pigmented color, the $26 Illamasqua Powder Blusher is no-doubt a well-made product. They aren’t just for rosy cheeks — they also have the ability to sculpt your face, if you may be so bold.
Our alternative: NYX High Definition Blush, $7
If you’re looking for something that still has great blendability without breaking the bank, Chani says NYX powder blush is your girl. They have a wide range of colors for all skin tones and styles, plus, they’re paraben-free. Bonus!
Your favorite: Lancome Hypnose Mascara, $28
When Elle beauty editors were asked what their favorite mascara was, Lancome Hypnose jumped to the top of the list. Julie Schott, Senior Beauty and Fitness editor, claims that her lashes are not fake — but this thickening, lengthening formula makes it look like they are.
Our alternative: Maybelline Great Lash, $6
Who can argue with a classic? As Chani says, “It’s the number one mascara year after year for a good reason!” Easy-to-apply, lengthening, and most importantly, very affordable.
Your favorite: Urban Decay Naked Ultimate Basics, $54
The Naked collection is Urban Decay’s most prized possession, with nude and brownish shades that go with every color palette. Using their proprietary Pigment Infusion System, the formula is velvety, rich and blendable.
Our alternative: NYX Dream Catcher Shadow Palette in Golden Horizon, $15
Ten awesome colors for only $15 — you can’t beat that. With really blendable, soft pigments, Chani likes to call it the “palette of your dreams.” She says it could go both ways — everyday glam or a sultry smoky eye for a night out.
Your favorite: Chanel La Vernis Nail Colour in Dragon, $27
Chanel is known for their high-gloss, high-class reds. But their most popular is the Le Vernis Nail Colour in Dragon. This high-coverage nail polish may be gentle, but it’s bold. Plus, it has a thin brush for accuracy and an ergonomic cap for easy use.
Our alternative: Essie Nail Polishes
Chani sings the praises of Essie’s nail polish. “I would never splurge on a Chanel nail polish… Essie has a great formula, and comes out with on-trends shades every season!” she says. If you’re looking for a bigger commitment, they now also have 7-day and 14-day gel options.
Your favorite: Mac Lipglass, $16
Though Lawless doesn’t discriminate too much when it comes to lip gloss, there is something extra “glossy” about this one. Unlike a lot of the competitors out there that are very pigmented and thick, the Mac Lipglass has a super glossy effect.
Our alternative: NYX Buttercream glosses: $5
We all know how easy it is to misplace your lip gloss. It goes from your purse, to your coat pocket, to your clutch, and before you know it, you have no idea where it is. This makes it extra hard to splurge on a $16 lip gloss, no matter how gorgeous it is. Enter NYX Buttercream glosses. The NYX has the same glossy texture that earns it a nod of approval from Lawless — but with a beautiful $5 price tag.
Your favorite: Benefit Gimme Brow Volumizing Fiber Gel, $24
This product is not just another eyebrow pencil. It’s a brush-on gel with tiny microfibers that actually adhere to skin and hair to mimic the real thing. Lawless was always happy to recommend this product to her readers as one of her favorites. She says there is no need to fill in your eyebrows with this gel. It gives the illusion of plumper, bushier eyebrows all on its own.
Our alternative: Essence Make Me Brow Eyebrow Gel, $3
Of all of Lawless’ recommendations, she says that this cheaper alternative is the furthest in price, but the closest in results. In fact, Lawless is so impressed with the similarity, she thinks it might as well be the exact same product. A whopping $21 of savings? Our brows are raised!
Your favorite: Bobbi Brown Sheer Finish Pressed Powder in Pale Yellow: $40
Although the yellow color can be a little off-putting at first, Lawless swears by it. She explains that it actually has a brightening effect on your skin, blending right in to your natural color. Because it’s so lightweight, it doesn’t sink into any fine lines. And it keeps it creaseless all day without adding heaviness to your concealer.
Our alternative: NYX HD Finishing Powder in Banana, $10
Lawless was shocked to find that the NYX HD Finishing Powder has the same effect as her former favorite Bobbi Brown Powder. “It is such a lightweight, finely-milled, silky, velvety powder that just melts right into the skin. She loves it so much that she’s replaced her favorite Bobbi Brown with this $10 steal.
Make Up For Ever/L’oreal
Your favorite: Make Up For Ever Mat Velvet + Foundation, $39
When Lawless knows she’s in for a long day of filming or attending a special event, this is the product she depends on. It has the ability to keep up with her oily skin and last the whole day through — not an easy task. She likes to call it her “event foundation.”
Our alternative: L’oreal Infallible Pro Matte Foundation: $13
Of all the drug store foundations, this is the best one Lawless has ever found. Both of these foundations are oil-free, they’re both mattifying, and believe it or not, Lawless thinks the L’oreal foundation feels a little bit lighter than the Make Up For Ever. The one caveat is that the Make Up For Ever does have a wider range of colors.
Consult the community
It’s so easy to walk into a department store and get swept-up in high-definition, flawless application makeup that looks so good — and costs so much — you think it must have flecks of gold in it. It’s much harder to take a gamble on a drugstore foundation when you have no idea how it will look or feel on your skin. Thank goodness for beauty bloggers, Instagrammers and YouTubers out there like Lawless and Chani that are willing to do all the heavy lifting for you. So next time you’re looking for a new blush or lipstick, consult the beauty community first. Your smile — and your wallet – will be glad you did.