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24 Brilliant Budget Beauty Buys

When you have champagne beauty tastes on a Corona budget…

By Anna Saunders

Unless you happen to be the CEO of a supermarket chain or own a hand sanitiser brand, chances are, you’re feeling the pinch. And in a pandemic, when many of us aren’t leaving the house, it’s understandable that your beauty budget  may have taken a hit.

This week, we’ve asked five of our favourite beauty editors to share make-up and skincare products that are effective and easy on your wallet, too.


Most of us aren’t popping to the shops in a full face of make-up. (Some of us – ahem – aren’t wearing make-up at all.) But if you do want to make an effort for Zoom calls or to simply to cheer yourself up, here are some options to consider…

MCoBeauty Xtendlash Mascara, $17 

I switched over to tubular mascara a few years ago and haven’t looked back! For some reason, every other mascara I wear gives me panda eyes by 3pm. Tubular formulas, on the other hand, don’t budge! I used to swear by Kevin Aucoin The Volume but, just quietly, this cheapie my MCoBeauty is just as good. – Erin Cook, beauty director, Gritty Pretty

Revlon PhotoReady Candid Glow Foundation, $24  

With a natural-glow finish and ultra-lightweight feel, you can’t go past this wallet-friendly base. Apply ahead of your next Zoom call to fake a post-facial radiance. – Bettina Tyrrell, beauty director, InStyle magazine

Max Factor False Lash Effect Deep Raven Black Mascara $26.95 and Max Out Blue Primer, $24.95

While I’m loving giving my skin a complete make-up break, sometimes I need a little lift pre-zoom meeting, and this primer/mascara combo does just that. I simply curl my lashes, apply the blue coat and then the black (the brush is thick and bristled) and the result is extra dark, thick, long and defined. I’m loving the duo so much I might not sub back my trusted old DiorShow mascara post-pandemic! Lucy Adams, beauty editor, PRIMER

Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet, $24  

I love pretty much everything from this classic brand, and these are especially good. There’s a wide range of colours, and they never feel dry. Five stars. – Sherine Youssef, PRIMER beauty editor and Stellar beauty editor

The Ordinary Serum Foundation, $12,70 

This is my favourite! foundation! ever! It’s super, super thin but highly pigmented. A little goes a long way and it blends into skin beautifully. – Erin Cook, beauty director, Gritty Pretty

L’Oreal Paris Bonjour Nudista Skin Tint, $24.95

Glowy but not so glowy that it looks artificial, and the super light formula gives just enough coverage to even out my skin tone. Highly recommend. – Sherine Youssef, PRIMER beauty editor and Stellar beauty editor


While expensive skincare is always tempting (and also fairly easy to justify – after all, you wear your face every day, right?) there are loads of brilliant yet budget-friendly products out there these days. Here are the ones our beauty editor friends love…

Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, $27 
Isolation skin is a very real phenomenon. If your skin is freaking out, rather than dropping serious $$ at Mecca, keep your skincare regime as is and try a spot treatment. This one by Mario Badescu really works and will last forever. –
Erin Cook, beauty director, Gritty Pretty

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%, $12.70 
This nifty serum simultaneously exfoliates and hydrates skin. It is cheap but will get the same results as a much pricier formula. – Erin Cook, beauty director, Gritty Pretty

CeraVe Hydrating Hyaluronic Acid Serum, $30 

This serum is sophisticated beyond its price tag. It’s formulated with a dermatologist’s delight of top-shelf ingredients: hyaluronic acid (for plumping), vitamin B5 (for soothing) and ceramides (for a stronger skin barrier). Plus, zero fragrance, equals zero irritation and a big tick from me! – Bettina Tyrrell, InStyle beauty director

The Chemistry Brand Retin-Oil, $40 

I’m not usually a fan of oils, but I quickly fell in love with this product due to its ultra-lightweight texture which disappears into skin almost instantly. Bonus points have been awarded for its faint pineapple scent, plus you only need a couple of drops at a time, lowering its cost-per-use factor. – Iantha Yu, marie claire acting beauty director 

Swisse Manuka Honey Detoxifying Clay Mask, $20.99 

Is there anything more satisfying than a clay mask that can de-gunk your skin? The correct answer is no. This one from Swisse works hard at removing impurities from your skin, but it won’t dry your skin out – something that’s hard to come by with a clay mask. –  Iantha Yu, marie claire acting beauty director

Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution $29.99

This fragrance free and ultra-gentle French pharmacy favourite is perfect for my morning cleanse and removing any mascara residue. There’s no need to rinse it off, just swipe and go for clear, fresh skin. – Lucy Adams, beauty editor PRIMER

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Ultra-Light Fluid SPF 50+ 

While being in lockdown has made me re-look my makeup routine, I haven’t lost touch with my skincare routine in the morning. After serum and moisturiser, I whack on this iconic product for sun protection, and you should too. Iantha Yu, marie claire acting beauty director

16Brand 16 Garden Toks Peppermint Tea Mask Pack, $2

This brand has lots of cheap-as-chips masks for different skin concerns, but these days, I’m enjoying the soothing lavender and jasmine scent in this one. –Sherine Youssef, PRIMER beauty editor and Stellar beauty editor

The Ordinary Hyaluronic Acid 2% + B5, $12.90

No budget beauty story would be complete without this brand, and come winter, I’ll be integrating this moisturizing serum into my skincare regimen. – Sherine Youssef, PRIMER beauty editor and Stellar beauty editor


Last but not least, here are the body basics beauty editors love…

Bar None Zero Waste Hydrating Shampoo & Conditioner, $20 each 

Made without colour-stripping parabens and sulfates, these clean formulas stack-up against professional salon brands. The duo give a fresh, glossy result, the bottles are recyclable, and you can conveniently replenish your supply at the supermarket. – Bettina Tyrrell, InStyle beauty director

Sally Hansen Hard as Nails Serum $7.47

Closures of nail salons nation-wide have pushed me to remove my own gel nail polish at home (desperate times!), leaving my nails looking absolutely atrocious. I keep this product on my desk and massage a teensy drop on my cuticles and nails whenever I can… which is usually during a Zoom call. Iantha Yu, marie claire acting beauty director

Vaseline Intensive Care Advanced Strength Lotion $6.49 

All this washing has left my skin (especially my hands) dry. I ran out of my go-to body moisturiser but picked this up from the supermarket and I have been pleasantly surprised. There’s NO luxe factor about it but texture is nice, it absorbs quickly and has turned around my scaly legs and scratchy hands pretty dam fast. Lucy Adams, beauty editor, PRIMER

Thank You Geranium And Rosewood Body Wash, $13.50 

I love the pretty, floral scent of this plant-based body wash. Geranium and rose oils add a touch of luxury as well as a silky, hydrated feel to the skin. A convincing dupe for those lavish botanical washes you bring out only for special guests. –Bettina Tyrrell, InStyle beauty director 

Kiehl’s Scented Lip Balm in Mango, $15

A product that I always have with me at all times is a lip balm; I first bought this one in LA a few years ago, and I haven’t looked back since. Ingredients like sweet almond oil and lanolin make the formula extra-shiny and gloss-like, and the mango scent is to die for (I have now discovered that I have a thing for tropical fruits – see above). Iantha Yu, marie claire acting beauty director

Carmex Moisture Plus, $8.49

I’ve always been a Carmex fan. I love the sheer tints and moisture packed into these easy to apply tubes. Coral-me-Cool is this week’s handbag winner. Lucy Adams, beauty editor, PRIMER


BY Anna Saunders

Anna is the co-founder of PRIMER and also has issues removing eye make-up. She plans to switch to MCoBeauty Xtendlash Mascara stat

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