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Walk through any Sephora or drugstore and you’ll see why it’s criminally easy to spend enough money on beauty products to send a kid to college. But the reality is that you don’t have to. Here, 12 expert-approved tips on where the extra dough pays off--and where it doesn’t.

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BEAUTY PRODUCTS YOU CAN SCRIMP ON

1. Face cleanser. If you have fairly normal skin, cleansers are where you can really go back to basics. (After all, it is literally money going down the drain.) Our personal dermatologist recommends a creamy, gentle formula like Garnier to get the job done.

2. Face moisturizer. The single most important ingredient is SPF. Other than that, you’re good--and plenty of drugstore brands meet this requirement. However, if you’re dealing with skin that’s already sun-damaged, you may need to upgrade to a product with antioxidants or retinol (which we’ll get to in a minute).

3. Makeup remover. Stop spending your hard-earned cash on fancy packaged makeup pads. Baby wipes work just fine. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

4. Eyeliner. 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.

5. Brow pencils. You know that taupe eye shadow you wear every day? Well, it can double as brow filler. Just put some on a small makeup brush and apply it in short strokes. It’s two products for the price of one.

6. Lipstick. Most likely, you’re going to buy an arsenal of multiple shades, so there’s no point in spending big bucks for each one. In fact, many makeup artists assure us that there is no real difference between department store and drugstore products. Let loose and buy in bulk.

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BEAUTY PRODUCTS YOU SHOULD SPLURGE ON

1. Anti-aging serum. If your budget is tight, this should be your one and only splurge--mostly because it’s worth it. Pricier anti-aging products, like SkinCeuticals' serum, have the benefit of greater scientific research and more effective formulas for combating wrinkles. Luckily, a few drops go a long way so the bottle should last you for a while.

2. Foundation. Finding the right shade and formula is tricky, and wasting precious cash trying out different 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 choosing from one of Giorgio Armani's 40 shades).

3. Topcoat. 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 one from Seche Vite. It goes on smoothly 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.

4. Hair tools. Applying any sort of heat to your hair can be damaging over time, so it’s important to use the best tools. Look for straighteners with ceramic plates, which distribute the heat more evenly and won’t snag on strands like cheaper metals will.

5. Makeup brushes. You get what you pay for here. If you spend a little extra on your brushes, they can last you forever. That is, with proper care (and weekly cleansing). Less expensive brushes tend to shed faster and have a bigger chance of irritating your skin.

6. Perfume. Cheaper formulas start strong, but fade faster than their department store counterparts because pricier ones typically contain higher quality oils. Tip: Add a dab of Vaseline on your pulse points before spritzing to extend the wear of your fragrance so you end up using less of it throughout the day.

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