I’m A Beauty Editor & These Are The Cheap Beauty Products That Work As Well As Expensive Ones


It’s no secret that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on an effective skin care routine. But while there are plenty of cheap beauty products that perform just as impressively as their luxury counterparts, there are just as many cheap products that aren’t worth your money. So, how do you sort out the worthy from the unworthy? You consult someone who’s devoted their career to interviewing dermatologists, peeking into the kits of makeup artists, and testing out products, both luxury and low-cost, from around the world. Ready to dive in? I’m a beauty editor, and these are the cheap products that work just as well as the expensive ones.

Ahead, you’ll find 40 under-$25 beauty products for every part of your routine: elegantly formulated serums, cult-favorite mascaras, hair-smoothing oils, and a handful of makeup tools that everyone should own. Though they won’t put a major dent in your wallet, they will make you suspicious of their surprisingly reasonable price tags because of how well they work. Don’t be wary, though: I — as well as thousands of Amazon shoppers and countless other beauty professionals — have tested out these products and can vouch for their quality, effectiveness, and luxurious feel. So in other words? You won’t regret trying them out for yourself.


A Tried-And-True Drugstore Primer That Hydrates With Squalane

Okay, don’t overthink the ‘putty’ in this product’s name — there’s nothing silly about it. This poreless putty primer from e.l.f. features the powerhouse ingredient squalane, so not only does it keep your makeup in place with a velvety finish, but it’ll moisturize your skin, too. One buyer raved, “This instantly melted my textured skin into a satin matte smooth surface.” Yes, please.


These Resurfacing Pads For Gentle & Effective Exfoliation In A Single Step

A spa-quality peel from the comfort of your home with results promised after just one use? Somebody pinch me. These resurfacing pads feature 10% glycolic acid, a gentle AHA that exfoliates skin and promotes a clearer, brighter complexion. To keep your skin from drying out, these pads also contain moisturizing vitamin E, glycerin, and calendula flower extract, and they couldn’t be easier to use: just swipe across your face, no rinsing necessary.


A Pack Of Hydrocolloid Patches That Treat Blemishes In Just Hours

If you haven’t tried hydrocolloid patches yet, you’re missing out on an easy and quick way to treat blemishes. Like stickers, they peel and adhere to your skin, adding a barrier to protect against further irritation while the hydrocolloid pulls out the gunk. In about six hours — or ideally, overnight — that spot will look a lot better; you’ll know because the transparent sticker will turn white. And that’s why these have over 16,000 five-star ratings on Amazon.


A 10-Piece Brush Set For Smoothly Blending Makeup

These makeup brushes can be used with nearly any type of makeup, from loose or pressed powders to liquids and creams. The ergonomic, toothbrush-style handles are comfortable to use, and they’re chic enough that you’ll want to display them, too. Choose between an all black set or black with rose gold accents; either way you’ll love the way the super-soft bristles feel against your skin.


A Cleansing Balm That Brightens Skin With Japanese Pearl Barley

JUNO & Co.’s Clean 10 cleansing balm breaks down waterproof makeup and sunscreen, while the Japanese pearl barley in here can help brighten your complexion and reduce unwanted hyperpigmentation. It’s the perfect first step for a double cleansing routine, though it also makes an amazing standalone cleanser if you have dry skin.


This Daily Vitamin C Serum For All Skin Types

Use this vitamin C serum regularly for protection against environmental stressors, and enjoy a host of restorative benefits. It contains 20% vitamin C that’s stabilized by ferulic acid, an antioxidant, and the airtight, opaque container protects those active ingredients. It’s lightweight, doesn’t feel greasy, and enthusiastic reviewers call it “the bomb” and “nectar of the gods.”


A Bottle Of Lightweight Marula Oil To Nourish & Moisturize Skin

If you’re looking for an antioxidant-rich face oil at an amazing price, consider this face oil from Naturium. Marula oil is high in vitamin C, and this pick is lightweight and boasts a silky texture that absorbs easily into skin. Reviewers report that it works just as well as a pricier marula oils that cost four times as much as this one.


This Korean Rice Powder Wash That Cleanses & Exfoliates

Remember that old-school powder hand soap at your elementary school? This rice bran powder wash is kinda like that only wayyy better. Just add a bit of water to the powder and lather into a foam, or use the powder on already-damp skin as an exfoliator, and enjoy immediate soothing and brightening benefits.


This Bentonite Clay Mask For A Deep-Cleansing Treatment That Draws Out Impurities

Mix this bentonite clay with apple cider vinegar or water for a DIY mud mask that deeply cleanses your pores. You’ll quickly feel the tightening sensation it’s known for, and after about 10 minutes, you wash it off for skin that feels smoother and looks clearer.


5 Cult-Favorite Makeup Sponges For Less Than $10

You can use these beauty sponges for almost any step of your routine — wet them to blend and dab liquid products, or use them dry with powders. Plus, you can wash and reuse them, and you get five in each set, so you’ll always have one on hand. Reviewers are particularly enthusiastic about this set, giving them over 50,000 five-star ratings on Amazon thus far.


This Pumpkin & Honey Mask For Smoother, Brighter Skin

With ingredients like pumpkin and honey (as the name implies), as well as sunflower oil and aloe vera, this glycolic acid mask is designed to exfoliate your skin and improve its tone and texture. Because of the honey, it won’t leave your skin feeling dry — and the pumpkin enzymes deliver immediate brightening results.


A Fan-Favorite Brow Pencil With A Built-In Spoolie

This brow pencil with a micro tip and spoolie on the other end lets you draw in and brush your brows with precision. It’s a fan favorite on Amazon with 30,000 five-star ratings, and performs just as well as much-pricier competitors. Just choose your best match from eight shades, all of which have a smooth, matte finish.


This Metallic Eyeshadow That Lasts All Day Long

The rich sheen and luxe jewel tones of this liquid metallic eyeshadow will have you reaching for it regularly — but not too regularly since it promises to last all day long, a claim that many buyers attest to. It’s also quick drying, so once it’s set, you’ll be good to go — and glow.


A Stainless Steel Lash Curler With Extra Refill Pads

For a sturdy lash curler that does the job without pinching or tugging, this stainless steel curler is a fan favorite backed by over 23,000 five-star ratings on Amazon. It’s designed with a 48-degree angle to comfortably fit most eye shapes, and it even comes with extra replacement pads.


A Nighttime Serum With 10 Probiotics To Strengthen & Hydrate Skin

The probiotics in this serum work to strengthen and hydrate your skin overnight. It’s designed for you to wake up with more resilient and moisturized skin that, over time, looks brighter and smoother, thanks in part to the formula’s purple fruits and vegetables (yep, purple carrot, plum cabbage, eggplant, beet, and blueberry).


The Retinoid Gel That Reviewers Swear By For Clearing Up Acne

If you have acne-prone skin, Differin Gel is a derm favorite backed by over 50,000 enthusiastic reviews from shoppers on Amazon. The water-based formula uses adapalene, an ingredient that once required a prescription, to clear out clogged pores and reduce inflammation. It’s a great alternative to pricier retinoids, but it works just as well.


A Versatile Shadow & Blush That Can Also Work As A Highlighter

Do you have multiple blush compacts and eyeshadow palettes cluttering up your makeup bag or bathroom counter? Consider this shadow and blush from theBalm, which moonlights as a highlighter, too. It’s a stunning alternative to a certain prestige-brand blush that costs almost double the price.


This Shampoo & Conditioner Set That Strengthens Hair Bonds

When you have damaged hair, why is finding the right shampoo and conditioner so tricky? Enter this set from L’Oreal Paris, which includes a shampoo and conditioner formulated to work together to repair weakened hair bonds (along with cleansing and conditioning, too). Plus, it’s sulfate-free, and therefore safe for color- and chemically treated hair.


A Daily Serum That Covers All Your Skin Care Bases

In addition to its all-star ingredient niacinamide, which works to fade unwanted dark spots and improve skin’s overall texture, this face serum from Naturium features a slew of skincare MVPs, like zinc, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid to quell excess oil production without drying out your skin. Plus, it’s lightweight and silky, so you’ll enjoy using it from start to finish.


This Keratin & Argan Oil Treatment For Softer, Smoother Hair

For less than $10, this lightweight hair serum calls on keratin and argan oil to nourish and soften dry, damaged hair. It has a smoothing effect that also adds shine, so it’s no surprise this is an Allure Best Of Beauty award winner.


A Full Coverage CC Cream With SPF 30

This CC cream from e.l.f. promises medium to full coverage, along with SPF 30 protection, and some additional benefits you’d expect from a skin care product. It contains hyaluronic acid for hydrating, peptides to promote firmer skin, and niacinamide to even out your skin tone. It’s the perfect one-and-done product for your a.m. routine.


The Cult-Favorite Setting Powder Nearly 90,000 Shoppers Vouch For

You don’t need to keep multiple powders in your bag. This lightweight, loose face powder has been around for decades, and it’s all you need to set and bake your makeup. Despite only costing $6, it’ll make your finished look like it was achieved by a pro.


An MVP Mascara That Adds Dramatic Volume & Length

The wavy fiber brush on this fan-favorite Lash Paradise mascara help coat every lash to add dramatic volume and length. Not only does it have over 50,000 five-star Amazon ratings, but it’s a favorite with pro makeup artists, too. Choose between washable and waterproof options, and various shades of black and brown-black.


A Waterproof Eye Primer That Will Hold Your Shadow In Place All Day Long

We’ve all been there — eyeshadow that creases or fades before the night has even begun. With this popular eye primer, however, your shadow will look exactly like it did when you first applied it, even several hours later. No wonder it’s a best-seller on Amazon with over 20,000 five-star ratings.


A Matte Liquid Lipstick That Stays Put For Up To 16 Hours

How does a highly pigmented, long-lasting, matte lip sound? This liquid lipstick promises all of the above, and it comes in 36 distinct shades, ranging from neutral to bold. Pick a favorite or grab a few, and pop them in your makeup bag for on-the-go touch-ups — the precision point applicator makes it so easy. More than 40,000 Amazon shoppers have awarded it five stars.


A Hyaluronic Acid Moisturizer That Your Skin Will Drink Up

If your skin has been feeling uncomfortably dry, try this cult-favorite water gel from Neutrogena. It’s clinically proven to hydrate skin for up to 48 hours, yet it’s super lightweight and never greasy. It’s a fan favorite among drugstore beauty enthusiasts, and boasts nearly 70,000 five-star ratings on Amazon alone.


This Liquid Illuminator For Glowy, Dewy Skin

This liquid illuminator gives a subtle shimmer that can be used all over your face and décolletage, or just to highlight certain parts of your face. You can even mix it in with your daily moisturizer or body lotion for a more subtle effect. If you love glowy, dewy skin, this is one of the best purchases under $10 you could make.


A Best-Selling Concealer That Feels Silky & Smooth

This concealer wand may not technically be magic, but tell that to more than 90,000 shoppers who awarded it five stars. Reviewers rave about its concealing properties when it comes to redness, blemishes, dullness, and more, though it can be used for highlighting and contouring, too. Oh, and did I mention it promises up to 12 hours of coverage?


This Root Touch-Up Powder To Save You From Extra Trips To The Salon

If you dye your hair, you’ll appreciate this touch-up powder that can help you stretch the time between salon visits. It’s easy to brush on, and you’ll appreciate that it’s water-resistant, so you can dip into the pool or hot tub without it fading. Choose between five shades for a perfect match.


A Hyaluronic Acid Serum For Plump, Hydrated Skin

What’s better than a hydrating hyaluronic acid serum? A quadruple hyaluronic acid serum. This serum contains hyaluronic acid of different molecular weights to reach multiple layers of your skin, giving you next-level hydration. And unlike many HA serums that go for upwards of $100, this one won’t even cost you $20.


A Lightweight Face Oil Made With Soothing Blue Tansy

This luxurious night oil, which is made with soothing botanicals like chamomile and blue tansy, covers all your p.m. skin care needs — yet somehow, it costs less than $15 on Amazon. One buyer raved, “Amazing! When my skin is really dry, itchy, and irritated and every moisturizer stings and other oils aren’t enough, this gets my skin back on track like nothing else. Really soothing and calming”.


This All-Purpose Lotion You Can Apply From Head To Toe

An intensely moisturizing cream that can soothe cracked heels and dry elbows and work as a facial mask or makeup remover? Say no more. Even better, the classic tin container makes it easy to use every last drop (which you will definitely want to do).


This Clay Mask That Uses Literal Volcanic Clusters To Clear Your Pores

What are volcanic clusters, and why put it in a face mask, you might ask? Per the brand, it’s hardened lava turned into a fine powder, and it works to deeply cleanse skin and absorb oil and impurities from your pores. No need to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy face masks when this one exists.


A Lightweight Face Primer For Smooth-Looking Skin

You can wear this pore-erasing primer underneath makeup, or on its own for a smooth matte look. Oh, and did I mention it’s also lightweight and breathable? The reviews are full of buyers who agree that it lives up to its “baby skin” name, and that it works just as well as more expensive mattifying primers on the market.


An Exfoliating Toner With Both AHAs & BHAs

There are toners, and then there are toners. This 30-Day Miracle Toner is the latter. Thanks to a slew of skin care MVPs like tea tree oil, niacinamide, and an AHA, BHA, and PHA, it does a little bit of everything, including: exfoliating, clearing out congested pores, brightening, and so much more.


An Organic Lip Scrub In A Yummy Vanilla Flavor

This certified-organic lip scrub exfoliates with sugar and moisturizes with coconut oil and beeswax, leaving your lips feeling silky and smooth. Use it before applying lipstick for a super-smooth finish, or whenever your lips are feeling flaky and dry. Plus, it has a yummy vanilla scent.


An All-In-One Hairbrush You Can Use For Styling & Detangling

With a blend of natural quills and nylon bristles, this Denman brush works nearly identically to a certain version that costs almost 10 times the price. One Amazon reviewer gushed, “It leaves my hair softer, shinier, and feeling cleaner & looking fluffier on days I don’t wash my hair. It’s fantastic.” Well worth the under-$25 investment.


This Long-Lasting Eyeliner With A Super-Precise Tip

Goodbye, smudge-y eyeliner — hello, smooth and sleek lines. This Epic Link Liner has an ultra precise tip, and it’s flexible, too, giving you ultimate control when it comes to artistic cat eyes and wings. It’s waterproof and matte once dry, so it’ll last all day long without smudging. Choose from black or brown shades.


An Organic Rosehip Seed Oil To Hydrate, Repair, & Soften Your Skin

This certified-organic rosehip seed oil is so versatile. Containing antioxidants and vitamins A and C, it can be used to moisturize, repair, and brighten skin, or to soften the ends of your hair. Use it on the rest of your body as a moisturizer, too — just mix in a few drops with your go-to body lotion.


This 4-Piece Tweezer Set That’ll Last You A Lifetime

Each of these four pairs of stainless steel tweezers has a unique tip ranging from flat to pointed, and they come in a carrying case, so no more digging around your bathroom cupboard for that lone dull pair you got ages ago. With this set, you’ll be covered for everything from shaping your brows to treating your splinters, and since the tools are so high quality, they’ll last you a lifetime.


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