When it comes to makeup and beauty products, I have two personalities. Person A is the one who desires nothing more than to own a small, carefully-curated collection of beautifully packaged high-end products, arranged on a mirrored tray in a perfectly Instragram-worthy way. Person B is the one who enters the drugstore and exits 10 minutes later with 12 different lipsticks because hey, they were only two bucks each and look at those colors, so fun! Having oscillated between those two personalities for most of my teenage and adult life, at one point about two years ago I found myself with several drawers and storage boxes overflowing with products, some of which I didn’t even remember buying. I knew then that my spending habits when it came to beauty stuff were in need of an overhaul.
The first thing I did was to sort through my collection and throw out all the broken powder compacts, concealers in shades that didn’t match my skin, five year old half-empty lipglosses and other useless things that I kept because you never know, maybe I would need them some day! (You never do, trust me.) I was left with a number of products I could count on both hands and have since then dedicated myself to the search of my Holy Grail products, products that I would love to own and use every morning because they were just right. It has been a process of trial and error but I am happy to say that I have arrived at a point where I know exactly which products work for me. The other upside of this search is that I have gained a few insights about what is really worth its price when it comes to makeup along the way. Let me share what I learned:
1. A good foundation is the base of your whole look and something you should never skimp on. I have kissed enough drugstore frogs to know that if you can only afford to splurge on one product, make it your foundation! A wrong shade or texture can break an otherwise perfect look, and few things are worse than walking around all day wearing a shade that you know is just a little off and wondering if others can tell (they usually can, sorry). The right foundation however will give you that healthy, glowing, your-skin-but-better complexion and will decrease the amount of other products you need to apply afterwards. It is always worth it to get your skin tone professionally matched to a shade since the lighting in beauty stores is universally terrible. Then, once you know your perfect shade of foundation for one product line, you can use websites such as Findation.com to find similar shades in other brands.
2. Researching before hitting the store is something you should do on the regular. It is always useful to read a few reviews of the product you plan on buying on beauty blogs and websites such as MakeupAlley to see if it really is what you’re looking for, and I have avoided many an unnecessary purchase this way. But what is equally as useful and even more awesome is that researching your coveted product can direct you towards similar, less-expensive products and thus help you save money while getting the same results. It was through reading reviews on Reddit’s MakeupAddiction subforum (which is nothing short of a beauty gold mine by the way) that I found out NYX carries a perfect dupe of the Benefit Porefessional primer that I used to use every day, for a fraction of the cost. And even though saving 10 dollars or so doesn’t seem like much on the spot, that kind of sum is what really adds up with products you use and repurchase regularly.
3. This is probably not the first article to tell you that when it comes to beauty, knowing where to invest and where to save is key. However, my opinion is that all those “10 products you should never buy cheap“ lists, while entertaining, are mostly crap. Just as you cannot tell someone you just met that they should buy this tie or that little black dress because they would totally wear it every day – maybe that person’s staple is their hot-pink handbag or their tie-dye Phish concert t-shirt (sadly I didn’t make this one up) — a writer sitting 3,000 miles away from where you are should probably not hold the highest authority in the decision of which beauty products to invest in, simply because they cannot know about your individual needs. It is therefore important that you know for yourself which products you want to spend your money on and which you can buy cheap. My ‘splurge’ product other than foundation is mascara, since only Estee Lauder’s Double Wear doesn’t give me severa panda eye, but someone who doesn’t have this problem would probably set their priorities differently. Figure out what is most important to you.
4. Don’t be afraid to make the most of your money when shopping for makeup! Most stores give out free samples of almost everything, all you have to do is ask. Many also offer consultations where their makeup artists will pick out products and create a look for you, which are almost always free if you buy at least one of the products afterwards. So if you already know that you need something from the NARS or the Benefit counter — these are just two brands that I know do free consultations with purchase – why not ask their professionals for a quick complementary re-touch? Also, there seems to be a widespread belief that once you opened what you bought, you can’t bring it back. While I would not recommend asking for a full refund of your almost-empty mascara that you bought two months ago, most stores will accept a return if you can provide an explanation why the product didn’t work for you. I know that asking for free stuff or returning your opened products can make you feel petty and cheap, I’ve been there, but having worked at a beauty store I can also tell you that salespeople see a hundred different women doing exactly that every day and won’t think twice about it.
5. Sometimes you get bored with your usual everyday look or feel as if you’re stuck in a rut. Whenever that happened to me, my impulse used to be take a trip to the store and get a new bronzer or this eyeshadow I saw that Youtuber use in a tutorial, in the hopes that it would be the ~OnE PrOducT~ to totally change my whole makeup game. Needless to say, none of my purchases had that magic power and more often than not the bronzer that I came home with ended up being nothing better than the ones I already had. I speak from experience when I say it is difficult to overcome that feeling of having to buy something new right here right now, but most often just sleeping on it for a few days helps, and knowing you avoided an unnecessary purchase feels damn good!
6. Just like having a wardrobe bursting with clothes that are not quite your style any more, nothing feels worse than having 13 makeup products of the same type and none of them being exactly what you need. A good way to keep this from happening is to only buy a new product if a) you don’t already own another product of this specific kind, or b) you used up the one you had, or it has gotten unusable because it dried up or went past the expiration date or something. This rule will not only be good for your wallet, it will also help you be less wasteful — after all, makeup products should only be kept for so long, so if you own something that you bought before you learned how to drive then it is time for that shit to hit the trash can. But most of all, this rule is easy to stick to and will make every makeup purchase you make much more meaningful. Buying a new lipstick will make you infinitely happier if you don’t have 20 of the same shade sitting on your counter at home already. And ultimately, that’s what makeup is meant to do: make you feel happy and good about who you are.
Katie is a student and writer living in Berlin. Follow her on Instagram.
Image via Unsplash