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If you have fairly normal skin, cleansers are where you can really go back to basics. Our dermatologist told us she recommends Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser to a fault. It’s gentle, it gets the job done and it costs less than $8. Bonus: It also removes makeup in flash.
What most people don’t know is that you need to be a little more careful with exfoliators. Cheaper scrubs with harsh granules can actually damage your skin. We’re big fans of this exfoliating mask from Marie Veronique that uses lactic acid instead of beads to stimulate the exfoliating process. It's so smooth, it feels like you're putting on moisturizer.
Marie Veronique ($90)
Speaking of moisturizer, when it comes to day cream, the single most important ingredient is sunscreen (SPF 20 or above, please). Plenty of drugstore brands meet this requirement. However, keep in mind that an inexpensive brand really only works if treating dry skin is your M.O. If you’re dealing with skin that’s already sun-damaged, you may need to upgrade to a product with antioxidants or retinol, which will add to the price tag.
If your budget is tight, this should be your one and only splurge. Pricier anti-aging products, like this serum from Kiehl’s, have the benefit of greater scientific research and more effective formulas. But keep in mind that treatments can only go so far (i.e., don’t expect any miracles).
Honestly, our all-time favorite concealer comes from the one and only CoverGirl. You may feel like a teenager again when you pull it out of your purse (hello, blue bottle circa 1990), but the color matching is spot-on. It hides blemishes and dark circles equally well, and blends with ease.
Finding the right shade and formula is tricky, but wasting precious cash trying out drugstore brands adds up fast. Our advice? Head to the beauty counter for a consultation. Your age and skin type matter, so a makeup professional will be able to lead you in the right direction (like this lightweight Giorgio Armani formula that comes in 22 shades). Note: If you tend to use foundation sparingly (such as only on your T-zone), a drugstore formula or an inexpensive tinted moisturizer will work just fine.
Giorgio Armani ($62)
Stop spending your hard-earned cash on measly ten-packs of makeup pads. Baby wipes work just fine. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Seventh Generation ($3)
Ladies, the only difference between department store and drugstore eyeliner is the softness of the pencil. To get by for less, opt for eyeliners in plastic containers versus wooden pencils that need sharpening. The wooden kind tends to dry out faster and tug on your eyelids.
L’Oréal Paris ($5)
You know that taupe eye shadow you wear every day? Well, it can double as brow filler. Just put some on an eyeliner brush and apply it in short strokes. It’s two products for the price of one.
Most likely, you’re going to buy multiple shades, so there’s no point in spending big bucks for each one. The difference between department store and drugstore products is that the more expensive formulas are creamier and often contain vitamins. But if color is your thing, go for the classic Revlon tubes. Note: Lipstick can also double as blush when you’re in a pinch. Just rub a tad on your finger and blend from the apples of your cheeks to your temples.
Hint: You can save on nail polish if you invest in a high-quality topcoat. If we could, we’d shout from the rooftops how much we love this Seche formula. It goes on easily and has just the right amount of thickness. And we kid you not, it makes your nails look like you just got a gel manicure.
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