Sunday, January 3, 2016

My cheap favorites: the best makeup under $10

Disclosure: Affiliate links.
My cheap favorites: makeup under $10

I wrote a post like this way back when I started my blog, so I thought it might be interesting to update it and see how many of my favorites have stayed the same and how many have changed, now that I've tried a lot of new shit. I've also compared a lot of cheaper things to more expensive products along the way, and in all cases, the makeup in this list equals or outperforms pricier alternatives. I'm just doing makeup today, but I'll follow up with another post about my cheap favorites from other categories like skin care and hair products.

My cheap favorites are reliable and inexpensive. They're things that I replace when I finish them. Obviously I don't use these products exclusively, but I keep coming back to them because I prefer them to others. Below I've included links to previous reviews on my blog, if they exist. I've also tried to link to the best places online to buy these things, to my knowledge. Most of them are easy to find in any drugstore or Target/Walmart, etc.--in which case you might be able to get them on sale. But you might be like me and prefer online shopping when possible, so I've linked them below.

There are a few categories of makeup for which I don't have a current cheap favorite. For example, foundation: I'm picky about it and haven't found anything I absolutely love at any price point, though the Maybelline SuperStay Better Skin Foundation, reviewed here, is decent when sheered out, and Boots No. 7 Lift & Luminate Foundation is amazing if you can find a good color match (I can't). As for concealer, I have a favorite (reviewed here), but it's not cheap. I've used some good drugstore concealers, like Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Dark Circles, but I tend to run into problems with the range of shades available. I had a favorite powder (Maybelline Mineral Power Finishing Veil Translucent Powder--lots of Maybelline here in the "almost" category) but of course it's been discontinued, so I'll have to find something else soon. I don't have a favorite bronzer, because I almost never wear bronzer. I also don't currently have a favorite lip gloss, I guess because it's not a product I love to wear in general. There a plenty of perfectly fine lip glosses out there, but nothing that I am particularly excited about.

But let's get to my actual favorites. My photos aren't the prettiest, because I am currently using most of these things and, in many cases, have been using them for a long time, so they're a bit beat up. (Lots of images after the jump.)

My cheap favorites: eyebrow products under $10

Favorite Cheap Brow Product: Avon Ultra Luxury Brow Liner in Blonde ($5 from Avon). Reviewed here. Somehow, magically, this warm taupe works for me no matter what color I dye my hair, and my hair has been red, dark blonde, light brown, and deep brown in the last couple of years. I prefer a simple pencil to other brow products, because a good one works much more quickly and easily than anything else, in my experience.

Runner up: The e.l.f. Studio Eyebrow Kit ($3 from Target) is great if you prefer to work with powder and wax (reviewed here), and the Covergirl Brow and Eye Makers pencils ($1.50 for 2 with coupon right now from Amazon$3-3.50 for 2 in limited shades from are the cheapest out there and also work great (though not as eyeliners) (reviewed here).

My cheap favorites: eyeshadow primer under $10

Favorite Cheap Eyeshadow Primer: Wet N Wild Take On the Day Primer ($4.69 at Target). Reviewed here. Hits all the right notes: intensifies pigmentation/color, prevents creasing and fading, sets quickly, not patchy.

My cheap favorites: eyeshadow under $10

Favorite Cheap Eyeshadow: The best quality for the lowest price are the Wet N Wild ColorIcon palettes and trios. Reviewed here, here, and here (so old!). Comfort Zone, pictured above, is my favorite ($3.59 from Walgreens). You need it if you like shimmer or duochromes--the brown-teal duochrome in the bottom right is stunning. I also have a bunch of the trios ($2.97 from Target), which are great too: Silent Treatment, Walking on Eggshells, and Sweet as Candy, in particular. The taupe shade in Silent Treatment is perfect.

My oldest continuing favorite is the Revlon quad in the photo above, called Copper Spice ($3.29 from Ulta). The colors are beautiful and the pigmentation is great (swatches here). I have plenty of fantastic affordable eyeshadow singles, too. If you like duochromes, again, the Prestige Total Intensity shadows ($8.50 from Amazon; $2.09 for limited shades from Ulta) are fucking amazing. Other excellent choices are Maybelline Color Tattoos ($5.60 from Amazon)--especially Bad to the Bronze and Barely Branded (reviewed here and here) and L'Oreal Infallible singles ($5-6 on Amazon) (reviewed here). If you prefer mattes, Ulta has some nice singles, such as Milk Chocolate ($6 but usually on sale).

Runner up: Covergirl's new TruNaked eyeshadow palettes ($12 from Ulta) are probably going to end up on this list, but I've only had Roses (Instagrammed here) for about a week, so I need more time to be sure. (It's also slightly over $10 if you don't get it on sale . . . picky, picky.) So far, I love it. I'll post a full review soon. (ETA: Reviewed here!)

My cheap favorites: eyeliner under $10

Favorite Cheap Liquid Eyeliner: L'Oreal Lineur Intense Felt Tip Eyeliner ($8 from Amazon). Somehow I have never really reviewed this, and I plan to remedy that soon. It's really the best liquid liner ever. It's felt tip, which I find easier to manage than a brush, but it dips into the liquid rather than wicking it like a marker, so it doesn't dry out while you're using it. I found the brown on clearance at CVS for 50% off, so keep an eye out for that. I hope that doesn't mean they are discontinuing it!

My cheap favorites: eyeliner under $10

Favorite Cheap Pencil Eyeliners: I think there are more and more decent, affordable options out there all the time, especially since most of these things are made in the same few factories. Anything labeled "Made in Germany" or "Made in Italy" usually ends up being good, in my experience. Ulta's eyeliner pencils fit into that category, and they come in a ton of colors, unlike most drugstore eyeliners. I like their twist up liners and the ones you have to sharpen. Reviewed here and here. They are about $8 each but always on sale (BOGO free right now).

My cheap favorites: mascara under $10

Favorite Cheap Mascara: CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara ($5.89 on This stuff has been around for a long time, and it's another thing that I've mentioned over and over but never actually reviewed. I'll post a proper review soon comparing the regular and waterproof versions (regular is better). In short, it's an excellent everyday mascara. It makes my lashes look great, and there's no trick to it. No layering, no twirling, no fucking around. And sometimes you can get it on Amazon for less than $3 if you stalk it long enough ($3.89 with coupon right now).

Runners up: If you want more drama, Jordana Best Lash Extreme Volumizing Mascara is awesome ($5 on Amazon, but you should be able to get it at Walgreens for about $3; reviewed here). If you want something that won't smear or flake even if you sleep in it, e.l.f. 3-in-1 Mascara is a tubing mascara ($3 at; reviewed here).

My cheap favorites: blush under $10

Favorite Cheap Blush: Wet N Wild ColorIcon Blush in Pearlescent Pink. Yet another that I haven't technically reviewed. It's hard to find a link to this online at a decent price, because they are changing the packaging, but as a result you might be able to find the old package on clearance in stores for less than its usual $3. It's often called a dupe for Nars Orgasm, but I can't confirm that. It is a peachy pink with gold shimmer, which seems to be flattering on a lot of people. Once when I was wearing this blush, the sun shone directly through a window on to my cheek and my boyfriend asked if I had glitter on my face. The other 99.9% of the time I'm wearing it, the shimmer just adds a natural glow and isn't specifically noticeable. It's pigmented, but not too pigmented, and easy to blend. Good stuff.

Runner up: If you prefer a completely matte blush, the City Color Be Matte blushes are pretty nice, but not easy to find online (or in stores where I live, for that matter).

I thought I would have more to say about blush, but I guess not. Maybe I need to buy more? Ha.

My cheap favorites: highlighter under $10

Favorite Cheap Highlighter:
Any pale, shimmery, smooth eyeshadow that I own, so I have many excellent highlighters! Seriously, you don't need to buy a separate product, just use something a shade or two lighter than your skin that has some sheen but no visible chunks of glitter. Maybelline Color Tattoo in Barely Branded ($5.60 from Amazon) works well for me, as do the loose e.l.f. mineral shadows ($2.34 from iHerb). You probably already have something that will work, too.

My cheap favorites: lipstick under $10

Favorite Cheap Lipstick/Lip Stain: Revlon ColorBurst Balm Stains ($6.84 from Amazon) fit both of these categories. Reviewed here (old post). I like all the colors except the very pale ones, which end up being almost transparent on me. Honey is the exception--it's my favorite professional/serious lip color (reviewed or swatched here and here and here).

Runners up: There are lots of great, cheap lipsticks out there. For matte, I like Wet N Wild MegaLast lipsticks ($2.29 from, though they are drying. The L'Oreal La Lacque lipstick I have is excellent, though strongly fragranced ($8.99 from; reviewed here). The $1 e.l.f. lipsticks (reviewed here) are also great, though the packaging is shit. I recently bought Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Cherries in the Snow ($6.39 from, and it may be the only lipstick I've ever used that is actually moisturizing--not just non-drying, but moisturizing! Pretty, too.

My cheap favorites: makeup brushes under $10

Favorite Cheap Makeup Brushes: I have expensive brushes and I have very cheap brushes, and the good cheap brushes are just as good as the expensive ones. Maybe if I upgraded to brushes that cost $80+ per brush, I would feel a difference, but that's not going to happen. I just can't get that excited about brushes. My favorite brushes are from e.l.f. and Real Techniques. They're soft and functional and durable. They don't shed. Most of the e.l.f. Studio brushes ($3-6 from e.l.f.) are great, but especially the face and blush brushes. If you want to try Real Techniques, the sets are a good value: the Core Collection is only $13 on right now, and the Starter Set is $13 from Target, making them under $4 per brush. ETA: Real Techniques brushes are all BOGO free right now at Ulta, so if you use that deal on the sets, it will make them super cheap! (Thanks for the tip, CountessBeaverhausen!)

Looking over the list, I can see that I've been using most of these things since the beginning of my blog (and many long before that), so they certainly stand the test of time--and my actual testing of them and comparing them with other products. Did I forget any category of makeup here? What would be on your list?


  1. When it comes to brushes, my favorite is actually from Claire's. I got the tip from NouveauCheap's site and they're the best brushes ever. Incredibly soft, fluffy and dense. And since Claire's frequently run sales, many times you'll find that these are BOGO free, which drops the price of these to super affordable. I highly recommend you take a look if you ever come across a Claire's in your area.

    1. Interesting! I haven't looked at anything other than nail polish in Claire's for years. I will keep that in mind.

  2. When it comes to eyeshadow primer, I actually love NYX and Jordana's white jumbo eyeshadow pencil a lot more. Both are also super cheap and they really make your eyeshadow pop and last forever and they brighten your complexion.

    My favorite concealer is still Hard Candy and they last forever. Also very cheap.

    I can't say much about mascara because I am unfortunately bestowed with stick-straight lashes that never hold a curl well. For that, I actually do have to purchase Asian specialty mascara which usually cost around $16. Not too expensive but for most ppl, it's not necessary.

    I'm waiting for TruNaked palette to come to my CVSes. I can't believe how slow the East is when it comes to receiving new products. But def waiting to get my hands on these.

    Lipstick wise I recently came across a brand called Colourpop. Their selection is decent and the colors are vivid. About $5 each when on sale.

    1. The NYX pencils crease on me within second, so I have to use them over a primer. The Jordana/MIlani ones are better, but still crease eventually. I have oily monster eyelids that eat whatever makeup you put on them!

      I thought about buying the CG palette online, since it was $13+ at CVS, but then I was #blessed with a $5 off CVS coupon. I'm still thinking about the gold one, but I have so many dupes.

  3. Eco tools and Real Techniques are bogo free at Ulta right now!

    1. Oh, awesome! Thanks, I will update the post with that info for anyone who doesn't read the comments.

  4. Have you taken a look at Jessup brushes on ebay? They are like $5 for a set of 8 and are insanely good for the insanely cheap price. I find them better than my RT. Softer and great quality and design. My RT crease brush (the purple one) has its glue in the ferrule unstuck and the bristles are coming out.. i need to glue it back.

    1. Woah that is really cheap! Must search now!

    2. I hadn't heard of that brand! I'm all set for brushes right now, I think, but I will make a note of it for when I inevitably decide I need more. Thanks!

      My RT brushes are holding up really well, but they aren't as soft as some of the e.l.f. brushes. Sometimes I don't mind something slightly stiffer, especially for eyeshadow.

  5. I second Real Techniques brushes, they are great. Eco Tools brushes are also pretty decent and cheap. Most of my face brushes are RT, but most of my shadow brushes are ET.
    I really liked Maybelline The Colossal Volume Express Mascara, when they say "colossal volume" they mean it.
    Another favorite is (or was) Maybelline Eye Studio shadow quad. Of course I don't remember the name of the one I had, but it was the one with green and gold. Those shadows had lovely texture, a lot of pigment and decent staying power. I heard that some other shades, especially, matte ones were very powdery, but I never had that issue.

    1. Thanks! I haven't tried any of those things, so I'll keep my eye out for them.

  6. Years ago (22 years to be exact) I bought a Jerome Alexander makeup brush from JC Penneys. Back when they had an actual makeup counter. Anyway, 22 years later, I still have it. It never sheds, cleans up beautifully, and I will have it buried with me. It was $13 which was, and is, a lot for me to pay for a brush.

    I use the elf eyebrow set after purchasing the Anastasia brush on eyebrow gel and the Anastasia eyebrow pencil.The wand in the gel is way to big and I ended up getting it above my brows all the time. I love the pencil but if I got too hot and sweated, it turned a weird green shade. I thought it was my imagination until someone kindly commented on it. I don't like the brush that came with the elf kit so I use a little angled brush. No idea where it came from. Possibly a Laura Mercier brow kit I gave to my daughter after using and hating. So the little elf that could wins again!

    Have you tried "it" cc cream? I received a sample in my Sephora Christmas goodie bag and fell in love. I was using cover fx foundation but I love this stuff. It is a bit pricey but if your skin isn't too dry, you can use it as a moisturizer, too. Thus cutting out an expense. Or whatever you need to say to justify the price.

    1. I have some old brushes of my mothers that are still going strong! And I don't even think they were very expensive. They're not very soft, though.

      I haven't tried that stuff. I should see about getting a sample, because I've heard really good things about it. Right now I have some decent base products I want to use up before I invest in anything new (but nothing great).

    2. By "that stuff" I mean the CC cream!

  7. Right now I've been playing around with the TonyMoly Delight Tonytint lip stains. I have the red and the "pink" (which is really just a blue toned retro red, whereas the "red" is an intense, vampy dark blood red shade), and will soon be ordering the orange (which I suspect will be a warm red). They are awesome! They are a gel consistency with a doe foot applicator and they won't budge for shit. They withstood a concert moshpit, pizza dinner, re-applying lip balm, and several drinks. They dry so thin that it feels like you aren't wearing anything on your lips. My lips tend to be dry but these don't seem to exacerbate the problem. I just go ahead and put lip balm on top. No color transferring, smudging, or anything. So far they dont seem to crack, fade, or flake. And the 'tint' part of their name is a misnomer, these wear like full on, extremely opaque matte lipstick. I use the thinnest coat possible & they are nowhere near sheer. Only thing to make note of is the fact that these don't really come off so easily. I'm able to get most of it off with a washcloth and the Simple micellar water, but there will still be a nice rosy tint left over for the next day or two (I don't mind). And did I mention that they are $3 and change apiece with free shipping from Korea on ebay?!

    1. That sounds really interesting! At the beginning of your description, it sounded like Stainiac, which I love--but that is definitely a tint. I haven't tried any opaque liquid lipsticks that didn't wear off in ugly chunks and dry out my lips like crazy. Adding to my list! Thanks!

  8. Thank you for this thorough and thoroughly delightful review!


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