I saved ₹20,348 by swapping my high-end products for these budget makeup options
Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better
I’m obsessed with mascaras. You’ll find at least one tube in every drawer of my dressing table, in my handbag and on my bathroom shelf. And backups stashed in my cupboard, in case I run out – which is rare. Lash lengthening, volumising and curling – I can name a product for whatever you need. If I have to guess, then it probably stems from my constantly singing my lashes while trying to light cigarettes without paying attention. If I added up the thousands I’ve spent on mascara, I’m sure I could cover my living expenses for at least a whole month. And that became very clear to me when I started analysing my expenses in context to the slowing economy and never-ending inflation. It was time to dive into the world of budget makeup options, for the time being at least.
When it comes to makeup, quality does matter. You want pigment, spreadability and comfort on the skin. Especially if you’re going to spend over an hour creating a look — you don’t want it to end up smudging, flaking and creasing. And when you have sensitised skin, you worry about the product’s quality and ingredients. But expensive doesn’t automatically translate to better, especially as consumers demand more transparency from brands, big and small alike.
Now some of my favourites in my overflowing pouch are budget makeup options I stumbled upon while trying to find swaps for my usual go-to products. It’s taken a lot of trial and error to find the right budget makeup options that can swoop in as standbys when my bank account calls for it.
9 budget makeup options that are kind to your skin and bank account
Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution in Pillow Talk Medium, ₹3,150, for Maybelline New York Color Lipstick in Nude Nuance, ₹299
Money saved: ₹2,851
Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk has to be one of the most coveted lipsticks. Many touted it as the perfect nude. But we melanin folk know that nude isn’t just one colour, and their Medium and Intense versions of the lipstick are better suited to our skin tone. They set the bar high with the premium quality of the lipstick. Rich, easy to apply and non-drying with highly pigmented colours.
Maybelline’s shades come a close second to the shade of Pillow Talk at a much lower price. It does transfer easily, but is still comfortable on the lips for long-term wear.
M.A.C Satin Lipstick in Rebel, ₹1,700 for Kiko Milano Smart Fusion Lipstick in Amaranth, ₹332
Money saved: ₹1,368
Rebel was the first lipstick I ever used, a hand-me-down from my sister, and instantly fell in love. A poppy berry with purple undertones, for some it’s the bold lipstick colour of choice. Though it became my everyday pick.
A similar beautiful shade of berry and red is Kiko’s Amaranth. It does fall on the more pinky side of the colour spectrum but it’s very soft on the lips and nourishing.
Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara, ₹1,900 for L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara, ₹599
Money saved: ₹1,301
The first time I bought the Too Faced mascara, it was a mini version at the Dubai airport where it was called Better Than Love, and boy, it comes close. One swipe and boom! You get rich pigment and volume. For someone like me who keeps forgetting they’re wearing mascara and rubs their eyes, this one doesn’t budge and smudge.
Too Faced only recently entered the Indian market, so when it comes to budget makeup options, most of us had swapped it for L’Oreal. It works as hard for your lashes to give it volume enough to look like false lashes at less than half the price. To be honest, I did find this a bit clumpy compared to its high-end alternative, but I was getting what I paid for.
M.A.C Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation, ₹2,900 for L’Oreal Paris Infallible Pro Matte Pressed Powder, ₹649
Money saved: ₹2,251
M.A.C has helped every makeup noob to figure out their skin tone shade. We’ve used that NC 40 -42 marker as a standard to find our match in other brands too. Nothing compares to their pressed powder in terms of quality and finish. You shell out ₹2,900 but you don’t need a lot to get good coverage and one pot lasts you a long time.
L’Oreal’s pressed powder is a good contender when it comes to budget makeup options. Versions of it have been going viral on social media recently, but I like this matte version. I’m a serious face sweater with an oily t-zone and this keeps my shininess in check and has a buildable coverage for daily war.
Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Eye Shadow Palette, ₹4,350 for Wet n Wild Color Icon Eyeshadow Palette in Rosé in the Air, ₹599
Money saved: ₹3,751
Anastasia Beverly Hills’s Modern Renaissance is a crowd favourite, with highly pigmented colours that can easily be blended without creasing. You can use the more neutral earthy colours for day wear and add a pop of colour into your crease and a bit of shimmer to turn it into a night look.
Wet n Wild’s palette is wildly popular on Reddit threads for coming close to the prior’s colours. The colours may not be as rich and smooth to apply as Anastasia Beverly Hills, but put apply them side by side and it’ll take a real pro to tell the difference.
MAKE UP FOR EVER Ultra HD foundation, ₹4,025 for Maybelline Fit Me! Matte + Poreless Foundation, ₹549
Money saved: ₹3,476
Picking the right foundation is a personal choice. Some prefer high coverage, others more sheer and buildable. The one by Make Up For Ever is versatile because you can get a natural sheer look but also layer it easily. It’s also a favourite of many makeup artists.
Fit Me! is the ever people-pleaser for its budget-friendly pricing. It’s thin and spreads easily without getting patchy and flaking with a wide range of colours that suit Indian skin tones. My only qualm with this product is the packaging that comes without a pump or dropper. It’s easy to pour out more product than you need.
Benefit Cosmetics GALifornia Sunny Golden Pink Blush, ₹3,100 for Ruby’s Organics Crème Blush in Peach, ₹1,100
Money saved: ₹2,000
This blush by Benefit would always top the list of purchases for my father to bring back from his trips abroad. One swipe of it gives a great natural sun-kissed glow. It’s pink with fine shimmering gold specks. And the packaging itself is so cute.
But in my search for budget makeup options to save money, I started using the cream blush by Ruby’s Organics gifted by a friend. Not only is it kinder to the wallet, but I found the cream formula to be better suited for my skin tone because it’s a more concentrated pigment. And you don’t need a lot to get some colour on your cheeks. It also dries down matte and is less likely to leave an imprint on your friend’s shoulder after a hug.
theBalm Mary-Lou Manizer Highlighter, Shadow & Shimmer, ₹2,250 for e.l.f. Cosmetics Metallic Flare Highlighter in White Gold, ₹800
Money saved: ₹1,450
I would sneak theBalm’s highlighter from my mother’s stash and make myself shiny like a disco ball. It gives you a subtle glow that you can build as much as you like. It can double up as an eyeshadow for when you’re in a rush and it shimmers without any chunky pieces of glitter that take forever to come off when you’re washing your face. It also lasts a really long time.
e.l.f. Cosmetics’ highlighter comes in different shades but the White Gold is a favourite. The colour is ideal for someone who really likes their highlighter to pop. It melts into your skin with ease and leaves you looking radiant.
Bobbi Brown Extra Lip Tint in Bare Raspberry, ₹2,550 for Earth Rhythm Tinted Lippie – SPF 30 in Lady Bug, ₹650
Money saved: ₹1,900
After I’d managed to dry out my lips from using super matte liquid lipsticks, I switch to tinted lip balms. It’s little effort with double pay off – moisturising your lips with an added colour. And no one does it quite like Bobbi Brown. Instead of just coating your lips, it keeps them hydrated and adds a very pretty tint.
But it’s not exactly an economical purchase when you’re watching your wallet. If you want to splurge, then I’d say go for it, but a good alternative is the tinted lip balms by Earthy Rhythm. A little goes a long way with this. It comes in a tin and can be a bit messy to apply and keep within your lip lines – or maybe that’s just me. Bonus, it’s got SPF.
Featured image credits: Styling: Divya Gursahani, HMU: Mausam Gandhi, Models: Dipika Israni and Shamini Mashruwala
Prices are accurate as stated by the retailers and items in stock as of the time of publication.