Splurge VS Save

I have been thinking about this post for a LONNNNGG time.
Since I’m much more of a beauty connoisseur than a fashionista I’m always looking for posts like these based on clothes or decor. What do I need to spend the big bucks on and what can I pinch the pennies on easiest?

ever wonder which products you can go cheap on? now you know!
When it comes to cosmetics I think I’ve pretty much figured it out.
SO I decided to draw up a basic outline for what I am most likely to splurge on and what I am always open to scrimping on. Sometimes I totally deviate from this list if I find a particular product or color that I’m in love with – which can strike at any time for any type of product – but for the most part this is my go to guide (any category that didn’t make the list is one I think is up for debate):


eyeshadow, lip and eyebrow brushes-
I have really expensive eyeshadow brushes and really really cheap ones and I can honestly tell you I don’t discriminate when I go to grab one. I just look for the size I want and go for it. I’m sure some massively talented makeup artists would disagree with me because I don’t do a lot of super technical eyeshadow looks and if I did that more I might think otherwise…but if you’re like me and you keep it pretty simple on the eyes the less expensive brushes should do you just fine. (I’m talking more like ELF Studio or realTechniques here though, not dollar store brushes, those ones will do you no good at all!)

lip gloss/lipstick/lip liners-
There are so many fantastic lip products lined up and down those drugstore shelves. The main downfall here is that you can’t try before you buy – which is tricky with lip products (they look so much different in the tube than on your lips sometimes!) as long as you are purchasing at a place with a good refund policy you’ll be fine! They have tons of beautiful sticks and glosses that are just as pretty as anywhere else! I also love looking at MAC for lip colors because they have such a great selection and while the price for a lipstick there is about double what you’d pay at the drugstore it’s still half what you’d pay with most department stores so….kind of an inbetween.

eyeliner & mascara
I use a whole plethora of these (I’m still looking for a favorite mascara!) I find items I like on both ends of the price spectrum but I rarely see a clear pattern…sometimes I like the cheapies sometimes I like a random expensive one. In this case, I’d say if you’re on a budget go for the less expensive ones! I find that (and this is especially true for liquid liners and mascaras) these need to be replaced more often than most things because they dry out or run out faster so it’s really nice to be able to shoot over to Walgreens and get them buy one get one half off than to have to replace it at the department store for the price of your right leg! {although I’ve yet to pick a favorite I’ve had a long love for Loreal Voluminous & Mary Kay Ultimate Mascara & I’m a total sucker for Milani liquid liner or Loreal Gel Liner}

false eyelashes
To me this is one of the easiest items to save on. I’ve seen countless celebrity makeup artists carrying around drugstore lashes.
They work great and look beautiful. All there is to it.

setting powder
I have tried SO many setting powders. All claiming to do amazing things. And I just haven’t seen most of those amazing things come to pass. I might be in the minority on this but most of this stuff is just glorified corn starch anyway, right? (you just want to make sure it’s really light and fine like this one)

makeup remover
I mean…it removes your makeup. That’s it’s whole job. So if the cheap one removes your makeup…why spend the extra cash?? I love just using coconut oil or The Makeup Eraser.

I have purchased VERY expensive hairspray before just incase there was a difference and there just might of been. It very well could have been laced with gold for all I know but as far as making my hair stay where it was put? No difference whatsoever. In fact the most expensive bottle I ever scored was sadly wasted by christian (who got really excited about the aerosol can) and I didn’t even mourn it’s loss! Just shrugged and washed it off my sticky walls hoping Crush hadn’t ingested any of it.


These ones always seem to cost me the most. I don’t mind too much because it sits on my face all day – so I want it to be high quality and I try drugstore foundations/primers/concealers all the time and rarely find one that I think competes. To me the way your skin looks is everything, so it takes priority.

Foundation/bronzer brushes/beauty blender
Kind of under the same umbrella here. I have always noticed a pretty big jump in overall finish when I use a high quality brush/beauty blender for my foundation! You tend to have less shedding, less streaking and just a more blended flawless finish.

For the most part higher end eyeshadows have much more pigment, do not break or crack as easily and blend creamier onto the lids.
You also have such a wider range of color options (especially for singles) in the department store world. I feel like if you buy a good palette with mostly colors you will love it’ll take you forever to go through it and you’ll certainly get your moneys worth.

I guarantee I have spent more money on cheap tweezers in my life than I have on Tweezermans. Why? Because I think I can scrimp so I buy them, then they get dull in two minutes and I have to replace them…that’s if they worked very well in the first place. For $15-20 bucks a set of tweezerman will last you the rest of your life! Well worth it.

*be sure to head over to The Prettilist for a whole bunch of recommendations of all my favs (in both categories!)


91 thoughts on “Splurge VS Save

  1. I agree 100% on the foundation. Eye shadows surprised me. I don’t think I’ve ver bought an expensive brand…maybe that’s why it seems to disappear on my eye. Recommendations on eye shadow brands?

    • I love so many eye shadow brands! As far as singles go I love Urban Decay (even though they are really expensive) and MAC. For Palettes I love The Lorac Pro Palette and the Stila In the Light Palette THE BEST!

    • I have Urban Decay Naked Palette 1. The Naked Palettes live up to the hype. I have been using mine almost every day since last October, and it looks like I have barely touched them. A little goes a long way, the colors blend well together, and they last all day.

    • I like Clinique eye shadow – I can buy a single in just the color I want – they have a light shimmery pink I particularly like that looks bright and classy (not cheap and trashy).

    • i totally agree that expensive eyeshadows are where it’s at! however, makeup geek makes AMAZING shadows for the price… $6 a pop. that’s my recommendation for sure.

    • Maybe jut invest in a eye shadow primer, I use both cheap and expensive eye shadows. I love urban decay and maybelline eye shadows

  2. Great advice! Totally with you on that list. However, I really love L’oreal Visible lift concealer. Perfect in all ways. I guess that’s an exception to your rule :)

  3. Ah – you forgot the beauty blender, Cara. Definitely worth the splurge. And…while I appreciate you were very objective – I think your iiiD should make the list – as a “splurge” that’s thrifty too!

  4. So I’m just curious about why you dropped Benefit’s They’re Real mascara. You used to love it. Maybe you explained it somewhere and I missed it? But now it doesn’t even make the list. Just wondering…

    • Good question!! I still really love it but the more I used it the more I realized how quickly it dried up and I had to replace it more than I liked! Which put me back on the search!

      • Cara- I don’t know if you have tried Sephoars Outrageous Mascara, but it is pretty good! Some people complain its too wet, but if you can learn to work with it, its a really good mascara, as far as volume and length. Its only about $15 I think and it doesn’t dry out too fast! I’ve tried Benefit They’re Real and loved it, but Id rather save a few dollars on a mascara thats just as good.

  5. I really need to buy some high end shadows. I always wonder why mine crease or don’t show up… um, because they are cheap! Have you tried Clump Crusher mascara? I really love it, and it’s my go-to over high end mascaras.

  6. Have you tried Mally’s poreless face defender as a setting powder? ! It’s amazing, totally worth the splurge! It leaves your skin feeling silky and smooth and it’s “bulletproof” as Mally says. I bought if from QVC and I’ll buy it over and over!

  7. For the most part, I totally agree with you! There are just a couple mascaras I’ve used that are just a little bit better than the drugstore brands…but not so much that I would ONLY buy the pricey version. It’s so much about personal preference and skin type to though, so it’s all about testing and sampling! I’ve had “wins” and “fails” in all price points.

  8. I could not agree more on eyeshadow. Cheap eyeshadow is worse than no eyeshadow at all.

    I have a sample of Lancome mascara that I am loving right now but I’m not sure it’s better enough to fork over the cash for it.

    I’ve bought loads of different foundations but I keep doing back to CoverGirl foundation, Maybelline BB Cream, and NYX concealer. I’ve spent a lot of money on other stuff at Sephora but I actually have more luck with color matching at the drug store. I seem to be the only person on the internet who feels this way about face make up though.

    • Haha well you have a very unique (and beautiful) color of complexion so I can understand that you gotta use what matches whatever that is! Lucky its the less expensive stuff!

  9. I have three of MAC’s Pro Longwear Paint Pot’s and they are the best! I use the Painterly color as a primer and it’s amazing. Even with my oily lids, the color I put on top of it stays all day! I also have Groundwork and Stormy Pink that I use if I’m in a really big hurry and need a quick splash of color on my way out the door. Worth a try in my opinion, and they last forever!

  10. What I like to do for mascara is shop the sample size bins near the checkout counters at Ulta and Sephora. They seem to be the perfect size, you avoid having it dry out, they’re only about $10 (so you can actually afford the expensive mascara) and Ulta / Sephora have really easy return policies.

  11. Cara! I don’t care who you buy it from (my sister sells it) but you have GOT to try Younique 3D Fiber Mascara and tell me what you think. I am a makeup artist and I haven’t found anything like it on the market. Please please please try this stuff. I am obsessed!!!!!

  12. Thanks for your insights! I noticed that different brushes fall under splurge and save. I’m looking to get all new makeup brushes and was hoping to just buy a pack to cover all my bases. Is there a good middle ground one or should I purchase them individually?

  13. Love the insight :) I am on a hunt with you for a good mascara. When I first came across your blog I bought the Loreal Voluminous but this seems way to heavy and thick. I have an ok (normal) lash length but my Main problem with almost all mascaras is they weigh down my lashes no matter the amount I put on. Only with falses I can have the nice full curled lashes. :( but being a mom of 4 daughters it’s almost impossible to put falses on every time. So I just deal with flat lashes in 3hr :(

    • Hi Whitney. I hope you will try my favorite mascara…. It’s one that builds length and fullness by 300%. I was a skeptic, but this stuff is amazing… Younique 3D Fiber Mascara. I’m hoping Cara will try it and review it here. I have to wear false lashes typically to complete my looks and now with this stuff I don’t.

  14. Hi Cara. Thank you for your post. In regards to mascara, my favorites are still from the Cover Girl lashblast line. I layer three of the mascaras; one for lengthening, one for volume, and then seal it with a waterproof version to get the best looking lashes! This technique works for me since I have never been able to find that one perfect mascara (hi-end or drugstore). I also love the Loreal Perfecting Base primer. I have tried just about all the primers out there and always come back to this little gem.

  15. Can you recommend foundation for 40+ skin? I have tried Aveda and dept store brands, and they always look crepey and enhance the fine lines, whereas L’Oreal visible lift performs better for me. I guess I should just go with it!

  16. Sooo this shows what a noob I am, I never even knew tweezers could dull O.o …I totally agree with you on the mascara. Most people think since it’s one of the most commonly used product buy the best – I tried Lancome but still use the classic pink and green Maybelline 😉 …again maybe it’s me being a noob who wears very little makeup to begin with unless there’s an occasion but I can’t tell the difference. Haha…thanks for breaking it down for us, Cara! ^_^


  17. Thank you so much for all these tips! Only thing I differ a little is the makeup remover, my skin is so sensitive that I have to watch which makeup remover I use, I love the Lush 9-5 makeup removing lotion. I bought and tried the makeup eraser and it just didn’t work for me. I even did a review on it on my blog. I still use it but with my makeup remover lotion.

  18. Do you have any dupes or something similar to Loreal’s Doutzen Kroes: Barely Pink? I ran out and can’t find it anywhere!!

  19. Yay! I’ve been waiting for this list! I’m so glad you posted this! I totally agree about the foundation (my skin has cleared up SO MUCH since i switched to a better brand) and eyeshadow (lasts longer!)

  20. I tried Clinique’s mascara after reading about it in a beauty magazine. It is amazing. Talk about extending lashes out…It didn’t cost over $15 dollars. I always mix mascaras which help make mine last a little longer.

  21. Great post, Cara! I too am wondering what your thoughts are on blush. I’m contemplating if I should splurge on a NARS blush for my very fair skin. Your thoughts? I have your shortcake blush and really like it, but would like a good go to option for a powder blush as well.

    • The reason I didn’t add blush to the list is because I think it all comes down to the brand and the formula. Some cheap blushes are great and some are very low on the pigment, other than that color is really key with blush so if you find a color you love (like the Nars) I say go for it!

  22. Cara-
    I cannot get the Tanwise to look good. The next day it is patchy and just BAD! :-( I do everything I should too- exfoliate and use a mitt. UGH! help!

  23. So true about Tweezerman tweezers!! I have had mine for 18 years and they are still going strong! Love them so much! Thanks for your awesome posts!

  24. I agree with you. Except for the powder, I find that the higher end ones like MAC work better for me and eyeshadows are some good cheap ones out there like mentioned before.

  25. Have you tried Loreal’s True Match Foundation? I’ve tried countless high end foundations and I keep coming back to it over all the rest. And for its price, it’s pretty unbeatable.

  26. Love this list! Being an Avon rep I use loads of Avon products, naturally, and I really love their foundations. I think the ExtraLasting Liquid is extremely comparable to MAC. If you’d ever like to try it I’d be happy to send you some! :) The LiquiGlide eyeliners are amazing too! It goes on sooo smooth and looks just like liquid, but it’s actually a pencil! I haven’t found anything like it in any other brand.

  27. Love you blog. I have been coveting the Beauty Blender since your first post on its awesomeness, although I kept shuddering at its price tag. Well, after this post, I finally bought it!! (so, thanx for the courage)

    Immediately, I started shuddering again – how do I use this thing? And, how do I clean this thing?? Also, how do I store this thing to protect it (in a Zip Lock bag?)… Help, please???

    Link to your original Beauty Blender post:

  28. totally agree with the lashes as well! You can get them even cheaper at nordstrom rack-its like a dollar cheaper there but still HAYY work it.

    Bombshell approved!


  29. I used Loreal Voluminous for years before finding Buxom mascara. The Buxom brush is amazing at finding and coating all of my lashes. Try it out. And I love all my NAKED pallets…….all three are amazing!

    BTW – I purchased Tanwise after reading about your self-tanning test and I love it. Thanks so much!

    Love your blog!!

  30. I find that the Beauty Blender is just too expensive but it is amazing! The Real Techniques version of the Beauty Blender is seriously exactly the same and cost around $6, give it a try!

  31. Lovely post! Just wanted to share – my favorite mascara is Trish McEvoy’s Lash Curling (NOT Thickening). The mascara slides right off the lashes without a struggle with a little water, and doesn’t flake during the day. It’s a find! I’ve found my lashes are healthier and curl more on their own after using it. Hope you give it a try, if you haven’t already.

    xo, Heather


  32. Cara, Could I get a suggestion for a mac color. I’m fair, blonde, blue eyed. Nothing too bold, but I’d like some color. I also don’t like shimmer on my lips. I also have very thin lips. Thanks in advance.

  33. Where I disagree with you, as a black woman is setting powders. Anything that is predominately talc reads ashy on our complexions. Also lip products needs more pigmentation and hydration so high end all the way for gloss and lipstick. Once i tried high end cosmetics 25 years ago versus drugstore there was no going back, speaking as a woman of colour.

    Have you tried Lancome Hypnose waterproof Mascara? I really love that one. No falsies necessaries.

  34. Cara, what about an eye lash curler?! Any suggestions on that? Am I the only one dying to know?!.. I have pretty long lashes but they’re just straight so I love curling them to show off my real length! I always see these fabulous colorful lash curlers at Sephora, but I quickly divert my eyes after looking at the price! Is it worth it? Because I’m willing to splurge if it’s magic! 😀

    • I have tried expensive lash curlers and drugstore ones and honestly, I can’t tell the difference. Use go for the drugstore ones, in my opinion, spending an arm on a eyelash curler just isn’t worth it.

  35. Cara, just found your blog from IG (when Oh Sweet Basil said to check you out) and it’s super fun! Great list – good to know where to spend the big bucks and where to save! Love your before and afters!

  36. I agree! I was just thinking that this morning! I ordered the ELF Studio 3 in 1 last week, and since the brush looked similar, I really hoped it would come close, but no. Back to my search — and probably off to Sephora for another tube of They’re Real in the meantime…

  37. 1st off: totally off topic, I just went out and bought Tanwise from Sally! It was on sale. I was ecstatic! And I just had to share. Because I finally ran out of my St.Tropez and needed new stuff. Of course I wanted to try this as per your post earlier this year! 😀
    Next … Amazingly .. I used to have splurge items, but now I buy almost everything at the drugstore! I have found SO many great cosmetic items for inexpensive! I am a huge fan of E.L.F., and many other drugstore brands. I think the secret for me, is all the blogs I follow. Including yours :) . When I see something cheap with great reviews, I run out and get it. And have yet to be disappointed. Well, except for 1 or 2 things. There are also so many great dupes now, it’s fun to try difference things when it’s not breaking the bank! :) I also try and only browse the drugstore, and I find some great stuff. I even found a good, cheap dupe for the beauty blender! (It’s a Canadian brand, QUO, so not available there). And until Rimmel’s fantabulous new Scandalash mascara, I would only use Lancôme mascara for my stubborn straight, short lashes. I have to admit though, I still prefer my Lancôme skin care. That is my only splurge now I think! OH! But I really DO prefer professional lashes! I use singles, and the Ardell professional are so much better than the drugstore brand!! I can’t even believe there’s a difference, but there is. As well as the more expensive full lashes, I like Sephora’s, I much prefer professional. That’s a total splurge only option for me!

  38. I guess since we’re sharing – I can give you exceptions to every rule! (For me anyways 😀 )
    Undereye concealer: Maybelline Fit Me or Instant Age Rewind Dark Circles (So great!), IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Undereye
    Highlighter: Maybelline Dream Lumi (Hella comparable to Touche Éclat) for cream, Physicians Formula for highlighting powder, Rimmel nude for pencil, ELF highlighting cream is also great!
    Foundation: Physicians Formula Youthful Wear Spotless, and very excited to try the new Maybelline Dream Wonder fluid foundation (supposedly the best dupe for Armani Maestro).
    Powder: Coty Transparent. Better than the best. Period. People tell me I look like a porcelain doll with this on lol!
    Bronzer: Some Ebay finds (mineral makeup, I don’t know the name, I’ve had the same couple of jars of powder for a couple years and they are the best for contouring on me. I haven’t found anything better).
    Primer: Rimmel Stay Matte, ELF Glitter shadow eye Primer (as good as UD!). I have very oily skin.
    BB/CC cream: Physicians Formula Organic CC Cream (Silver and green tube). The best there is. (In winter I use Marcelle).
    Waterproof/smudgeproof/wearproof eyeliners: Rimmel & Annabelle. (I have super oily eyes, love these. Comparable to UD smudgeproof liners). I have gel liners from ELF, Avon, and Joe, all are comparable to Mac pots. Though I still love Mac liner pots.
    Color Correction: ELF color correction palette (amazeballs!)
    Lasting eyeshadows: Revlon, Loreal, Maybelline, Marcelle. All are good, with lots of pigment. Especially the tattoos and infallible. Also, ELF smudgepots are awesome (but not so much their powder eyeshadows).
    Blush: I don’t even own an expensive blush! I have amazing blushes from Marcelle, Hard Candy, Milani, NYC, Joe, and Revlon.
    Eyebrow pencil: Marcelle or The Body Shop. (This is mostly a color preference, it’s tough to find a good color for blonde)
    Lip Balms/glosses: (I can’t wear lipstick) Maybelline Baby Lips for a pop of color, Revlon or Covergirl crayons for a lipstick like pigment in a balm that is gorgeous and lasts, and Victoria Secret have always been my go to for glosses! They aren’t sticky and last so long! Deeper colors: Revlon Colorburst, Maybelline Color Whisper, Loreal Color Riche Balm.
    Brushes: QUO, ELF, Makeup Geek, Real Techniques, Eco Tools.
    Hair: I have to admit, I prefer to splurge on hair products! I really don’t feel like you can get the same quality or condition from cheaper products. I like Alterna, Moroccan Oil, Living Proof. But I use Herbal Essences Dry Shampoo, straight up coconut oil and olive oil, suave conditioner (I co-wash, I don’t use shampoo, and when I do use it, I use an inexpensive organic product from an organic store or online).

    Ummm … did I miss anything? LOL, sorry.

    In case you haven’t noticed … I got it covered 😉 LOL. Soorrry so long. I love the drugstore! 😉

  39. Target carries the Number 7 line of make up and they have the MOST fantastic mascara! I actually thought my mom was wearing falsies! No one seems to know about it, but any of these (lengthening/thickening/whatever) have all been fantastic! And a decent price to boot!

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