My Secret Life as a Beauty Cheapskate

top drugstore beauty buys

Style+Beauty Editor

My Secret Life as a Beauty Cheapskate

How to really look better for less

-Lois Joy Johnson


Let’s be honest. We all have a weakness for luxury brands and their gorgeous packaging. I mean, if someone were to offer you a goodie bag loaded with La Prairie and Chanel, you’d be skipping with joy. But I promise you, there are certain products you’re crazy to pay more for–even if you can afford to.

As a beauty editor, I’ve watched drugstore products evolve from wanna-bes and look-alikes to stars in the race against pricey department-store brands. And there are certain products that are only available in drugstores that stand out even against their mass brand sisters. Every woman I meet asks me the same question now: What’s cheap and really good?

Here’s what not to miss and what not to spend more on even if the recession were to end tomorrow.

My top 7 categories for cheapies and every product is under $20!…


1. Face cleansers and scrubs:  gentle removal of makeup and exfoliation that leaves flesh intact, skin glowing and free of dead cells is a no-money (practically) no-brainer. Don’t even consider upgrading.

My bargain favorites: 
•    Cetaphil Skin Cleanser $5.85
•    Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes $2.99
•    Almay Moisturizing Eye Makeup Remover Pads $5.50
•    Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Ageless Daily Exfoliating Cleanser $9.99
•    L’Oreal Paris Dermo Expertise Age Perfect Anti-Fatigue Lotion Cleanser $6.99
•    Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Anti-Blemish Scrub $7.79

2.  Daily Moisturizer with SPF:  Smart, effective ways to address lines, dryness, and pigmentation issues from all those summers tanning at the beach while protecting your skin from future aging in the ones to come. My cap here is $20, but there are some drugstore finds slightly more expensive and still worthy of mentioning and those are: Olay Professional Pro-X Wrinkle Smoothing Cream ($42) does not have an SPF but is incredible–you would swear this was a $300 cream; RoC  Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Daily Moisturizer SPF 30 ($22.50) Neutrogena Ageless Restoratives Energy Renewal Day Lotion SPF 15 ($23).
My bargain favorites:   
•    L’ Oreal Skin Genesis Daily Moisturizer SPF 15 $17.49
•    Garnier Nutritioniste Skin Renew Daily Regenerating Moisture Lotion 15 $14.69
•    Neutrogena Anti-Oxidant Age Reverse Day Lotion SPF 20 $19.99
•    Aveeno Active Naturals Daily Moisturizer SPF30 $16.79


3. Neutral Eye Shadows: These earthy naturals range from nude to smoky and all have high-class silky texture and last-ability. No need to switch it up
My bargain favorites:   
•    Maybelline New York Eye Shadow in Sunlit Bronze $6.49
•    Physician’s Formula Wet/Dry Eyeshdaow in Baked Sands or Baked Oatmeal $7.99
•    Wet N Wild Eyeshadow Palette in Sand Castle $4.99
•    Rimmel London Quad Eye Shadow in Smokey Brun $6.29
•    CoverGirl Eye Enhancers in Country Woods $5.49
•    Boots No.7 Stay Perfect Shadow Palette in Good Earth $7.99


4.  Tinted Lip Balms, Stains and Sheers: Drugstore brands have produced the best light lip looks that add a hint of color and definition. Look for pinks, berries and roses that bump up your own liptone for a sexy natural effect.
My bargain favorites:   
•    Revlon Beyond Natural Protective Liptint SPF 15 $7.99, in Berry, Pink, Rosy, Neutral Pink
•    L’Oreal Colour Juice Lipstick $9.49, in Chai Love U,Cherry Freeze
•    CoverGirl Outlast Lipstain $7.49, in Berry Smooch, Wild Berry Wink, Flirty Nude
•    Nivea A Kiss Of Shine Caregloss & Shine $3.29, in Pink Star, Velvet Rose

5.  Haircolor: Root touchups are a must-have product to keep on-hand if you color your hair or highlight. Tthey blend and camouflage till you get around to a full color job, and if you’re thinking of ditching your salon colorist altogether, try these speedy alternatives.
My bargain favorites:   
•    Clairol Nice ’n Easy Perfect 10 Permanent Haircolor $13.99
•    Clairol Nice ’n Easy Root Touch-Up $6.99
•    L’Oreal Natural Match Haircolor $9.99
•    Revlon Color Silk Root Perfect 10 Minute Touch-Up $3.69
•    John Frieda Luminous Color Glaze in Radiant Red, Brilliant Brunet, Sheer Blonde $9.99


6. Body Polishers: Get rid of the cruddy flakes and gator skin that will show when you ditch sweaters and jeans for sleeveless tops, shorts and flip-flops.
My bargain favorites:   
•    St. Ives In-Shower Exfoliating Body Polish Renewing $8.29
•    The Healing Garden Sugar Cane Body Scrub in Passionate Rose $7.49
•    Calgon Brazilian Beauty Exfoliating Foot Scrub $6.95

7. Gradual Self-Tan Moisturizers:
Blur broken capillaries and get ready to bare all with a low-dose tint that builds during the work-week.
My bargain favorites:   
•    Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer for Body $7.99
•    Nivea Sun Kissed Beautiful Legs Gradual Tan Moisturizer $9.99
•    L’Oreal Sublime Bronze Gradual Self-Tanning Lotion $7.99
•    Dove Energy Glow $10.49

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0 thoughts on “My Secret Life as a Beauty Cheapskate

  1. Don’t forget drigstor mascara! Honestly, I have never found a better mascara (anywhere – drug store, sephora, departments stores…) than CoverGirl Lash Blast. Hands down the best mascara ever and you can get it for like $7!

  2. ok, i’m totally going to try the root touchup–i’ve never tried anything outside of a salon, but if this works and gets me a few extra weeks, i’ll be thrilled!

  3. Some things are better than others. If you have problem skin, sometimes you have to spend a little more for specific products that don’t make you break out, like the best is La Roche Posay from France for wrinkles, you can get it now in CVS or Duane Reade in NYC.

  4. I can go you one better with the hair dye, go to Beauty Supply houses and buy the color there, much cheaper than the kits, esp. when you buy the volume developer and gloves, it will last a long time.

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