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How to Cut Your Beauty Budget in Half

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


This post has been in the works for a long time. I love beauty and trying out every different product imaginable, but, as a student, don't really have the resources to do so. Here are some tricks I've learned to save money on beauty products. I'm constantly learning new ways to save money on beauty products, which is why you'll find updates in italics throughout.

Spend a little, profit a lot.

There are some things that don't cost very much but will be so beneficial to your skin and hair in the long run. There are other things that will simply help you step up your game and save you a lot of time in your routine.

Heat Protectant
I think heat protectant is one of the most underrated hair products ever. First of all, it's not something you need to splurge on (my favorite is less than $4.) Most importantly, though, it preserves the health of your hair so you won't have to spend excessive time and money on elaborate deep conditioning treatments. You also can skip trips to the hairdressers when you have healthier hair with less breakage. While I don't recommend heat styling everyday (I limit myself to twice a week, although it's usually a lot less than that,) you should definitely be protecting your hair every time you straighten, curl, or even blow dry it.

SPF
I know it's tempting to work on your tan instead of protecting your skin, but sunscreen can help virtually every skin issue there is (all while preventing skin cancer.) Excessive sun exposure can exacerbate acne and acne scarring. In addition to that, many acne medications make your skin more sensitive to UV rays. Too much sun can also cause/worsen dark spots and wrinkles, which you may not be concerned about now, but you will definitely care twenty years down the road. While you could dump a bunch of money on full-coverage foundation and anti-aging treatments, you could just pick up a bottle of sunscreen (I use SPF 15, but SPF 30 or higher is usually recommended.)

Rewards Cards.
Okay, these are usually free, but even for the few that have a small fee (The Body Shop, for example,) the rewards are usually totally worth it. I signed up for the Love Your Body program in August and have saved far more money than I spent (it's usually $10 but I got it on sale for $3. My birthday present alone was $10, so I made seven bucks just from that. In addition to that, I got a $15 credit after spending $100 and save 10% on each purchase.) Even if you don't shop somewhere often, it's usually worth it just for the birthday gift (I never shop at Sephora but the NARS lip pencils I got for my birthday? Totally worth buying Urban Decay primer somewhere other than Ulta for once.)

Good tools.
Good tools can change your beauty game so much. Getting the right round brush to perfect your blowout can save you a lot of time and hassle, a facial cleansing brush can help you get all your makeup off and a simple foundation sponge can save you from buying countless disposable ones (although you should still replace the reusable ones every few months.) You don't need to spend a fortune on any of these (I usually spend $10 on each of these, except for the facial cleansing brush,) and they will help your products go a lot further.

Products You Don't Need to Splurge On

There are certain products I think are worth spending a little bit more on and products I think you don't. These are the ones you don't.

SPF
As I mentioned before, I think SPF is vital in your skincare routine but I don't think you need to spend a lot on it. As long as you get something that won't break you out, you can easily get this at the drugstore under $10. As a bonus, you can get one with other beneficial ingredients, such as antioxidants.

Conditioner
You can get a good moisturizing conditioner for just a couple bucks and it will do the job perfectly. I've always used Garnier Fructis or Herbal Essences conditioner (although you could even buy White Rain or Suave, just be sure to get the right formula for your hair) and the key is just leaving it on for as long as possible while you're in the shower. Even deep conditioner doesn't have to be expensive: I always use coconut oil and it works just fine.

Facial Cleanser
Because you are literally going to wash it right off.

Makeup brushes
I love e.l.f. brushes, none of which are going to run you more than ten dollars. If you're looking to invest a little more, Real Techniques is a great option as well (and they will last longer.) The most important things to remember with makeup brushes are to use the right ones for your makeup application and wash them regularly.

Makeup remover
This is another case of "you're just going to wash it right off." I like coconut oil, but there are also some great drugstore options from Loreal and Maybelline. I will say, though, that you should make sure you are using something that will take everything off, whether you're using an oil/balm (which you can get at the drugstore), double cleansing or both. Also, if you have sensitive skin, try to avoid something with a lot of alcohol. (Again, coconut oil is a great, cheap option for getting it all off and being free of yucky ingredients!)

Lip products
Brands like Revlon, Rimmel and NYX make fantastic lip products in about a million colors, so unless you're really attached to the idea of owning a MAC lipstick, do a quick Google search to find its dupe and head to the drugstore.

Products Worth Splurging a Little On

Here are the products I believe are investing in. I don't spend hundreds on any of these, but I will often buy them outside of the drugstore, or, at the very least, buy from a more expensive drugstore brand.

Targeting skincare treatments
Your skin is going to be on your face your whole life, so it's worth investing a little extra time and money in. Whether it's a face mask or a serum, it's okay to spend a little extra if they're going to help your skin in the long run.

Foundation & Primer
There are some great drugstore foundations, but none of the super cheap $3 ones are any good. I always spend at least $10 on foundation and make sure it's a good match for my skin type and color. With both primers and foundations, many of the cheap options have mineral oil in them, which breaks a lot of people out, so stay clear of that if you think you might be sensitive to it.

Shampoo
This is something I buy at the drugstore, but, once again, I go for the more expensive drugstore options. I have a really sensitive scalp, so I always makes sure to buy something with really good ingredients. Even if you have a perfect scalp and hair, I highly recommend getting something sulfate-free. It will run you a couple bucks more, but it won't dry out your scalp or mess with your curl pattern (if you have wavy or curly hair.)

Toner
To be honest, I've used fairly expensive toners (Clinique) and pretty cheap ones (Neutrogena) and didn't see much difference, but I currently use the Pixi Glow Tonic, which is somewhere in the middle. I personally try to avoid alcohol in skin care products in general, but am really careful when it comes to toners, because it seems to be the main ingredient in a lot of them. If you have sensitive or acne-prone skin, try using an alcohol free toner. I know mine has helped cut down a ton on redness and my skin is a lot less dry. It is totally worth spending $30 instead of $10.

Shop around. 

Unless you're really lucky, you're not going to find one store that has all the product lines you like for the best prices. Chances are, you'll have to experiment a little to find the best prices on products you use the most. Here are my findings:

Discount Stores (TJ Maxx, Ross, Marshalls etc.)
Discount stores will often have high-end beauty products and tools for prices you'd see at Target or Ulta. I love TJ Maxx for Hempz Treatz lotion and hair tools (I got a Hot Tools curling iron there for $19 about a month ago.) These places will often have natural/organic products for better prices as well.

Ulta
I wouldn't recommend shopping at Ulta regularly, but every once in a while, they'll have an amazing sale on something. They usually have "buy two, get one free" deals, so be sure you actually need three Maybelline/Almay/L'Oreal products before you go.

Beauty Supply Stores (Sally's etc.)
I love shopping at Sally's when I need something very specific. Last time I was out to buy a scrub, I had a very specific set of criteria (it couldn't contain anything that would dry my skin out, microbeads, or walnut shell powder, and it needed to contain fruit acids.) As you can imagine, I couldn't find what I was looking for at Walmart, so I headed to Sally's to find what I was looking for. They also have the best bobby pins that last forever because they don't twist on you like the drugstore ones.

Your Local Grocer
While you might have a lot of misses with this one, you'll probably have a couple of really great hits (and if you can't find what you're looking for in the beauty section, you can always just go shopping for regular groceries or pick up a prescription.) The grocery store right next to my house is the only place that sells Jordana cosmetics near me (that I know of, at least) and, since it sells a lot of organic products, has a pretty great sulfate-free shampoo selection (I found Audrey shampoo there for $3 the other day. It's usually $10+.) Another grocery store near me prints off coupons for items similar to products I buy, including beauty products.

Walmart & Target
They might not be the first place I mention on this list, but I certainly wouldn't dream of leaving them off. Walmart and Target are the only places in my area that sell e.l.f, NYC or Wet 'n' Wild (I've scored some great deals from all of those brands) and both stores tend to have the best selection for any brand. The one thing to be careful with at Walmart and Target is testing out new products. These stores don't have the best return policies (although this can vary a lot by store, and even which customer service rep you get at the counter) and you always risk buying the wrong color and then having to take the loss. (As far as return policies go, CVS, Ulta and Sephora have some of the best ones.)

Online
While it's often cheaper to shop in the store, you can often locate hard-to-find or even discontinued products online. There are a lot of websites you can browse, but my favorites are Amazon and drugstore.com. A word of caution, though, always price check before buying something on Amazon because they will often have some of the worst prices on drugstore makeup.

Asian markets
I just barely discovered the Asian market near me and they have a ton of sheet masks for really cheap, as well as some other skincare products. Also, I have friends who like to buy false lashes there.

How do you save money on beauty products?

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