How to shop like a beauty editor on a budget

8 February 2024
By Fashion Quarterly

Decide where to splurge and where to save with our insider tips on spending well from industry expert Lucy Slight.

Image: Mecca Max.

It’s fair to say the majority of us are tightening our belts right about now — but if you’re not, you probably still love a bargain beauty buy; there’s something so satisfying about discovering a rockstar product that doesn’t break the bank, no matter your annual salary. I’ve been writing about beauty for more than 15 years, and as a beauty editor, I’ll never gatekeep. Whether it’s a luxury splurge or a wallet-friendly find, it’s my duty to share the goods, because to say the beauty category is an overwhelming one is the understatement of the century, and there’s no faster way to throw your money down the drain than to buy a product and then never use it. When it comes to shopping for beauty on a budget, here’s what you need to know.

Assess, then address

Having a plethora of products to play with is fun, but do you really need seven different serums? Probably not. Take a look at your daily routine and note what you’re actually using and where there may be gaps. The number one rule of budget-friendly beauty is to use what you have down to the last drop before being tempted to stock up on something new. If there’s a luxe buy in your regimen that you cannot live without, save up for it and spend less money elsewhere. I always advise that if you feel like splurging, do so on products that contain active ingredients, such as serums and sunscreens, and opt for cheaper wash-off products, such as cleansers and soaps. In saying that, there are plenty of affordable options in the active category these days, so it really is about personal preference and listening to your skin. Big brands such as Avène, La Roche-Posay, L’Oréal and Neutrogena are continually innovating and launching products across the entire skincare category, and their stockists (Chemist Warehouse, Farmers and supermarkets) regularly offer discounts and promotions.

Make Google (or TikTok) your best friend

Say what you like about social media, but there’s no quicker way to get a gauge on a product than to search the hashtag on TikTok. You’re bound to find someone sounding off about the latest lip gloss or hair gadget, and getting a range of opinions is just another way to let someone else try before you buy it. Online beauty destinations such as Mecca and Sephora are brimming with product reviews too, so if you’re not social media savvy, that’s another way to get a read on products new and old. It may feel like it’s no big deal to try your luck on a $10 face mask or sub-$20 dry shampoo, but those small spends here and there quickly add up.

Hit the shops

Although there’s no denying the thrill that comes with online shopping, if you’re committed to spending sensibly, going into a physical store is your safest bet. Wait until you have a special event to attend, then book in to have your make-up done at a department store or beauty boutique, as at many of them the cost of the service is redeemable on products, which allows you to see them in action and determine your ideal shades. Ask the shop assistants for samples, so you can play away at home before committing, or simply swatch eyeshadow and lip colours on the back of your hand for a real-life read on their textures and tones. When purchasing colourful cosmetics, especially those on the lower-cost side, you want to make sure the hues meet your expectations and have longevity.

10 beauty-editor-approved budget buys

Glow Lab Body Scrub, $15
Glow Lab Body Scrub, $15
Mecca Max Brow Guru Clear Control Gel, $20
Mecca Max Brow Guru Clear Control Gel, $20
Anihana Grapefruit & Chamomile Shampoo Bar, $13
Anihana Grapefruit & Chamomile Shampoo Bar, $13
DB Cosmetics Get Glowing Pressed Mineral Bronzer in Tahiti Tan, $18
DB Cosmetics Get Glowing Pressed Mineral Bronzer in Tahiti Tan, $18
Essie nail polish in Really Red, $20
Essie nail polish in Really Red, $20
Revlon Super Lustrous Glass Shine lipstick in Nude Illuminator, $27
Revlon Super Lustrous Glass Shine lipstick in Nude Illuminator, $27
MCoBeauty Xtend Lash mascara, $25
MCoBeauty Xtend Lash mascara, $25
Bondi Sands Hydra SPF50+ Face Fluid, $27
Bondi Sands Hydra SPF50+ Face Fluid, $27
CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser, $26.
CeraVe Hydrating Foaming Oil Cleanser, $26.
Garnier Body Superfood Nourishing Cream, $16
Garnier Body Superfood Nourishing Cream, $16

Six serums under $60

Formation Niacinamide Serum, $25
Formation Niacinamide Serum, $25
Frula Skin Brightening Vitamin C Serum, $27
Frula Skin Brightening Vitamin C Serum, $27
Neutrogena Bright Boost Illuminating Serum, $40
Neutrogena Bright Boost Illuminating Serum, $40
La Roche-Posay Rosaliac AR Intense, $50
La Roche-Posay Rosaliac AR Intense, $50
Evre Bright & Early Vitamin C Blemish Scar Serum, $35
Evre Bright & Early Vitamin C Blemish Scar Serum, $35
Jeuneora Hydrating Booster, $55
Jeuneora Hydrating Booster, $55

Words: Lucy Slight
Images: Supplied

This article originally appeared in Fashion Quarterly‘s Spring 2023 issue. 

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