Tuesday, November 4, 2014

How To Start Building Your Makeup Stash On a Low Budget

Three years ago, when I started developing a makeup obsession that has only grown with time, I was far from having unlimited funds to finance that obsession. I was a university student with a new baby, so "money for makeup" really didn't make it onto my monthly budget. Then, to top it all off, my little makeup bag got lost with everything I owned inside. So I pretty much only owned a translucent powder, a blush and a mascara and perhaps a lipstick or two. If you are anything like I was, then I will show you here a few strategies to start building a beginners makeup kit without having to break the bank.

First off, like any other time when we don't want to spend a ton of cash, the most important thing is to know where to splurge and where to save. Since I am covering the most commonly used/raved about makeup items, this is going to be a pretty long post, so you can read it all (yay you!) or you can just skip to the item/s that interest you.
Without further ado, here is a comprehensive list of makeup items:

It is true that primers will make your makeup stay on for longer. However, I don't think they are a must-have, specially if you aren't on a very high budget. I will even be brutally honest and confess that when I am on a big rush (ehem, every other day), this is the product I skip.

This is to me the most important item in a makeup bag. It basically makes or breaks your look. A good foundation will give you a flawless complexion, blur the little imperfections, and make your finished look stand out, while a bad one will appear blotchy after a while. If you find one you love, you really don't need any more, just stick to that one and it will do (don't tell the beauty bloggers who hoard foundations like a dime a dozen).

Also, there is no need to splurge to find your perfect one. Sure, high end brands like YSL, Chanel, Dior etc. can make you feel really lush and fancy and wonderful, but there are many other drugstore brands out there that make outstanding ones too. It is all a matter of finding one of the many great ones out there for less than 20 USD.


This is one of those items that really depends on personal preference and skin type, and you can also find them at several price points. Again, you only need to buy one.

People with problematic skin might go for a concealer that delivers very high coverage, and for this I do recommend a good brand, as it it will cover more than a cheaper one and is also less likely to crease on your face. If your skin usually behaves well (you lucky dog!), you can go for a more budget-friendly version.

Setting Powder:
This is definitely an item to save on. Drugstore brands like Revlon and Rimmel sell excellent versions of powders for very little money. In my personal experience, there isn't a huge difference between high end powders and drugstore ones, just find one you like and you're good to go.

I'm just gonna say it. If you are only starting out with makeup and don't have unlimited funds, then (gasp!) there's really no harm on skipping bronzer or highlighter. Sure, they can really glam up your look, and from time to time a little contouring works wonders to complete your look, but it is by no means an essential (double gasp!).


To be brutally honest, I mostly stay well away from drugstore blushes. I have always found that they just don't have the same pigmentation and staying power as more expensive ones. Also, I find the application of high end blushes to be more even and they blend more seamlessly than the cheaper ones. Most of my favorite ones are on the 20-30 USD range, so if you can afford that, I suggest you do.

Also, if you can, this is the item to get more than one of. Since there are so very many options to go for, having two or more different blushes allows you to subtly alter your look (stopping you from falling into a makeup rut) and it also ensures you can use a season-appropriate one.

Eyeshadow Primer:
Nope, you don't necessarily need to buy one when you are starting to build your stash. Yes, this does make your eyeshadow last slightly longer and yes, it might feel kind of nice to apply, but this really isn't a must-item and instead you could be using that money towards a nicer blush or eyeshadow palette. The only case in which I would say that it's worth buying it from the get-go is if you have extremely oily eyelids and can't keep eyeshadow on longer than ten minutes.


All you really need is two good mascaras. One that gives you a natural look, sort of "oh, I woke up like this, thankyouverymuch" while still helping your eyes stand out. This mascara is great for daytime, to go to work and for those days when you don't want to look like you have a ton of makeup on. Then you also need one that will give your look that extra OOMPH and create a "falsies" effect. You can be all "yea, they are real, that's right" (or something less lame than that!).

My opinion on how much to spend on mascara has shifted in the last year or so: I used to only buy drugstore mascaras because I didn't see the point of spending big money on one, until I bought a few higher-end mascaras this year. I realized that they do hold a curl better, last longer and are smoother to apply so there's no risk of mascara goop anywhere. Still, there are several drugstore mascaras that are very lengthening and defining and perform beautifully, so when money is an issue definitely go for one of those. The best drugstore ones I have found are: Maybelline Illegal Length Fiber Extensions Mascara  ($8.99); CoverGirl LashBlast Bombshell Mascara ($8.54); and the Maybelline Volum'Express The Rocket Mascara ($5.99).

I have come to realize that spending slightly more on eyeshadow ensures better pigmentation and color payoff, as well as longer staying power. However, I do have one exception: the Maybelline Color Tattoo range starts at $4.19 and they perform just as well (if not better) than much more expensive ones. They also come in a huge variety of colors, so you can easily take your pick of two or three basic colors and you are set. Another great option for buying eyeshadow is to get your hands on a good palette that contains a few basics, so that you can create several looks out of just one item. There are great ones out there starting at $15, like this Stila Eyeshadow Trio ($18) or the Smashbox Full Exposure Travel Palette ($22), which is simply stunning and so versatile.

Don't spend your hard-earned money on expensive eyeliner: there really are a ton of great ones out there for you to buy at very reasonable prices. Some of the most raved-about are the Rimmel ScandalEyes Kohl Eyeliner ($4,49) and the CoverGirl Bombshell Intensity Eyeliner ($6.64).

Eyebrow Pencil:
I am of two minds when it comes to eyebrow pencils and gels. If you have very sparse, light or unruly eyebrows, then definitely get your hands on a good eyebrow pencil that will fill in the gaps or that will tame all those little misbehaving hairs. After all, eyebrows are crucial to your finished look, some makeup artists arguing that they are the most important feature as they frame your face and can make someone look much younger or older depending on how they are kept. Brands like Anastasia and Hourglass both have much raved-about versions, but they cost big bucks, so when money is an issue, brands like Milani and NYX have much more affordable options. Alternatively, use an eyeshadow in the same shade as your eyebrows, which has pretty much the same effect as a product specifically designed for eyebrows.

If you are one of the lucky ones with gorgeous, full eyebrows, I think you can make do with a little spoolie brush just to tame little flyaways, and make sure you keep their shape by plucking them regularly.

A little beauty trick if you don't have a lot of experience with gels and pencils: use a cheap, clear mascara like this one from Maybelline to tame your eyebrows and keep them in place all day.

In general, having a lipstick for each season is a good rule of thumb. That means a girly pink or rose lipstick for spring; a bright red or orange for the summer; a deep plum or berry for fall and a pretty nude for winter. With these you can easily create several looks so that you don't always look the same, and you are basically covered for any type of event too. Like with foundations, having a luxe lipstick feels wonderful but it's completely unnecessary with a market inundated with all kinds of excellent lipsticks at all price ranges. Almost every drugstore brand will carry a great version or two, with good color payoff and staying power; it is just a matter of going out there and doing some research until you find them. You really don't need to spend more than $10 USD on a lipstick to achieve good results. And while you are at it, add a lipgloss or two for those days when you don't feel like doing a full face of makeup (NYX does some of my favorites and they don't cost more than $5 USD!).

I hope this has been a helpful guide for those of you that are starting out with cosmetics and want to be smart about it. If you liked this post, don't forget to subscribe!  :)
Love you bunches!

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