The backlash over Kylie Jenner's defective lip kit is proof, if any was needed, that hype and a huge Instagram following does not always equal quality, nor does a hefty price tag. In fact, some of our favorite makeup buys of all time are cheapies you can find at Target, Ulta or the average corner store.
I've previously written about this makeup-artist-beloved mascara, which builds lashes up to create impossibly long, thick fringes without clumping using some kind of black magic. I'm writing about it again because I had been cheating on my Carbon Black (a true black that doesn't have any blue-black undertones) with a sample mascara I'd been given from Gucci and decided to compare the two. The Gucci version is only okay and costs $34; the Voluminous is effortlessly better and costs around $8.
I picked this up in Orange Ya Glad on a whim because I was looking for a wearable orange lip color to mimic this Keira Knightley look—and discovered one of my favorite lipsticks of all time. Described as a matte pencil, it goes on smooth and delivers a ton of pigment with no stickiness or shine. The other tip has a rubber eraser than can be used to blur the color for an ombre lip look but I've never really used it. I just love having a bright, matte lip that does not budge or kiss off, like, at all. It's now my go-to summer lip look, always on hand because it's easy to apply and lasts all day. Did I mention it costs under $8?
I was #blessed to find this amazing product because it debuted around the same time that I discovered the miraculous power of highlighter. Twist the tube a few dials to get the liquid into the brush, draw a triangle under your eyes, then pat to blend. Voilá, no one at work has to know how late your rolled into bed last night. I'll also use whatever liquid is left on the brush to draw half moons over my eyebrows and a line down the center of my nose—highlighting works similarly to contouring but requires much less effort and looks more natural. This $11 stick frequently gets compared to the holy grail of highlighters, YSL's Touche Éclat, which retails for $42. So yeah, that's a win.
Now that I'm in a relationship I've mostly put away my lip glosses and thick lip creams, because it's only occasionally funny to kiss my fiancé and watch him frantically paw the stickiness off of his face. Plus I know that the more lipstick ends up on him, the less I have left on my face, where I want it. Thus this matte balm is a lifesaver. It looks like one of the Clinique chubby sticks from the '90s, and goes on smooth—it really does feel like a balm, but with more pigment. I wear Audacious, a coral-ly red, when I want bright lip color that doesn't have to be front and center—it looks natural despite of the hue because the texture of your lips shines through—and Mischievous for the ultimate 'my lips but better' nude. At under $7 a pop, there's no reason not to buy a handful.
It pains me to admit this, but the Achilles' heel of my makeup game is eyeliner. I just don't have the skill to pull of the perfect winged cat eye with a liquid liner brush, especially not if I'm trying to get out the door in the morning. My savior is this eyeliner, which has the precise edge of a pencil yet goes on with the creamy texture of a gel and stays put like my dog when I call her to take a bath. It's also under $5, making it a superhero and a steal.
Bonus Hair Product: Batiste Dry Shampoo
I had always used expensive dry shampoos from brands like Oscar Blandi and Drybar until I saw a travel-size Batiste dry shampoo in Emma Watson's make-up kit. I figured if it's good enough for Hermione, it's worth a shot, especially since a full-size bottle starts around $8. Honestly I like it as much as, if not more than, the versions I was paying twice as much for—it blends into my hair easily, doesn't create excess buildup, and has versions with a hint of color to match your hair tone, which are particularly awesome for brunettes.