The Most Affordable Products Professional Makeup Artists Swear By

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Are you in desperate need of primer but haven’t received your paycheck for the month? Did this semester’s textbooks keep you from indulging in your favorite acne cleanser? Are you new to makeup and don’t know where to start? We've asked professional makeup artists to share the budget-friendly products they love in order to give you a go-to guide to affordable and accessible products that work.

1. INGLOT Liquid Eyeliner in Color 25 ($12, Macy's)

Need an easy way to apply liquid eyeliner without losing precision while creating winged tips? Look no further than this eyeliner. Maile Pacheco, makeup artist and founder of beGlammed, says that this eyeliner is a must. "INGLOT Black Liquid Eyeliner is [great] for creating a perfect cat eye. The applicator is a great tool to create that pointed winged liner, so no brush needed.” Pacheco is basically saving our wallets right now—the fewer tools needed, the better!  

Need another reason to get your butt to Macy’s? INGLOT doesn’t smudge, and even though the applicator allows for high precision, you don’t have to compromise solid color! Oh, and did we forget to mention that it’s quick-drying?

2.  Bioderma Sensibio H20 ($6.95, Beautylish.com)

Some makeup removers leave your skin feeling dehydrated and irritated—but not this one. According to Pacheco, “Bioderma Sensibio H20 micellar water cleanser is all the rage amongst professional makeup artists and models worldwide. This amazing remover contains clusters of cleansing molecules that break down and dissolve impurities and [refresh] your skin, leaving you with brightened, smooth skin.”

Best of all, Bioderma has products made for practically any skin type, be it dry, oily or just ultra-sensitive (though prices may vary on specific product type). 

3. Maybelline Cover Stick Corrector Concealer ($4.94 at Walmart)

In college, it's basically the norm to be awake during the most ungodly hours of the night to finish an essay or problem set. In turn, getting ready the next morning can feel impossible, thanks to stubborn dark circles! We know you work hard, so here’s a product that will work hard for you. Say hello to a fresh face without a bulky price tag.

Brittany Lo, makeup artist and founder of NYC beauty service Beautini, shares her go-to product to hide the effects of sleep deprivation: Maybelline's Cover Stick Corrector Concealer. “It's a slightly thicker consistency than most concealers, so it's perfect for when you need [to] pull an all-nighter or [when you] have early morning classes! The key is to get a shade lighter than your skin tone, so it not only covers but brightens your under-eyes!” This is surely a must-have for busy collegiettes, and you can get it from your closest drugstore!

4. L’Oréal Paris Studio Secrets Pro Extra Intense Liquid Pencil Eyeliner ($9.49, Walgreens)

Looking for an intense eyeliner without the intense price? Paula Heckenast, a Chicago-based makeup artist whose past corporate clients include Smashbox, Disney and CoverGirl, talked to us about a few products she finds just as effective as they are accessible. “L'Oréal has an intense eyeliner pencil that’s great for blending. And you can get it from Walgreens,” says Heckenast. This specific liner promises the precision you want for smooth lines but can also be smudged for a smokier look. Talk about versatility!

5. e.l.f. Eyeshadow Primer ($3, elfcosmetics.com)

We all want to get the most out of our eyeshadow without paying an arm and a leg. Luckily, your search for the best affordable primer is about to end. Heckenast’s recommendation? e.l.f.’s Eyeshadow Primer. It’s cost-efficient and gives your shadow long-lasting color, while simultaneously preventing creases and moisturizing your eyelids. This product also boasts being without parabens, preservatives and chemical dyes. Not too shabby for a $3 buy!

6. L'Oréal Paris Infallible Super Slim Liner ($8.99, Walgreens)

If you have sensitive eyes or wear contact lenses, meet your new favorite (and reasonably priced) ophthalmologist-tested eyeliner.

Margina Dennis, an artist whose work has been seen on celebrities such as Lea Michele and Jane Lynch, recommends L'Oréal Infallible Super Slim Liner for price-conscious collegiettes. "This precision felt tip applicator gives you a lot of control so you can [apply a] thin or thick line. The color is a rich black and it doesn't budge once it's dry. You will want to use waterproof makeup remover to take it off!”

7. Maybelline Eye Studio Color Tattoo 24HR Cream Gel Shadow ($6.99, Walgreens)

For all of the collegiettes out there who collect vibrant shades of shadow, get your hands on this product stat. It lasts for 24 hours (that is, if you ever needed to keep it on that long) and maintains a striking color without creasing at the eyelids.

“This is in a lot of pros’ kits and can be used [alone] as a shadow or shadow base,” says Dennis. “And you can mix the colors together and customize them. I also use them as liner colors, or as a base for a colored smoky eye. They come in matte, metallic, and shimmery shades that are long-wearing.”

Just another heads-up: this product is also safe for sensitive eyes and contact lenses wearers. So where has it been all our lives? Oh, right—the nearest drugstore.

8. NYX Eyeshadow Collections ($4.49, ULTA)

NYX is one of the more affordable brands commonly used by makeup artists, and for good reason. With NYX, you have a wide variety of options for quality neutral shadows and gorgeous, vibrant hues. So whether you lean towards natural tones or glittery products, you’ll find your match with NYX’s Eyeshadow Collections.

"Prismatic, Hot Singles, Nude Matte and Glam—you will probably see these shadows in more pros kits because they now offer a pan only version that will easily fit into a Z Palette," says Dennis. "I have some of the bright colors in my kit as an affordable option because I don't use brights that [often]. They will [also] work on all different skin tones.” Works for us!

9. NYX Soft Matte Lip Cream ($5.99, ULTA

There's one thing nearly every collegiette wants in a lip product: durability. And while lip balms promise to last, they can't always cut it when you want vibrant colors. Thinking about changing up your lip regimen? Try out NYX’s Soft Matte Lip Cream.

“This long-lasting liquid lipstick comes in a wide range of colors including nudes, fun colors, reds, browns—you name it. Make sure you have those lips exfoliated and moisturized before applying so that you get the best finish," says Dennis. "Overall, [it’s a] favorite for bridal artists or those wanting [long-lasting] wear.” 

10. Sonia Kashuk Brushes ($3.99 to $39.99, Target)

If you’re ever in need of a new makeup brush, Sonia Kashuk has exactly what you’re looking for. Face it—who wants to drop $40 on single brush when you can get a set of ten for the same price? And even if you aren't ready to commit to a set, you're in luck. This Target brand has some great brush finds, starting at $3.99 (i.e. this blending brush).

According to Dennis, “These brushes not only look good [but] also perform well and easy on the eyes and face. Sonia Kashuk is a makeup artist who thinks about not only the consumers but also fellow artists. Her brushes are one of the things that sell out quick in store, especially the limited edition collections.”

So if you’re looking for brushes that are easy on your face and available at your closest Target store, you better act fast.

11. Sonia Kashuk Satin Luxe Lip Color SPF 16 ($9.99, Target)

The issue: You like vibrant lipsticks, but you also like keeping your lips safe under the sun.

The solution: Sonia Kashuk’s Satin Luxe Lip Color SPF 16.

“Creamy, bold rich color, and non-drying,” remarks Dennis, describing the sticks. “These lip colors not only have SPF protection (which is hard to find in lip colors these days), [but] they are paraben free. Nice packaging too, which [looks] and feels luxurious.”

The sun may be able to kiss you, but now you can kiss it back.

12. L'Oréal Paris Colour Riche Glossy Lip Balm ($6.97, Walmart)

Lipstick can be a pain to put on (and a hassle to keep off your teeth), and lip gloss gets continuously stuck to your hair. That's why, if you're aiming for a product without any annoyances, you should try L'Oréal Colour Riche Lip Balm.

“This is a gloss that is long wearing that doesn't dry out the lips. Artist[s] love it because [it] look[s] like a hybrid between a lip stain and a gloss and give[s] that fresh look. As the gloss wears away you are left with a stain of color on the lips,” says Dennis. 

13. Maybelline Eye Studio Brow Drama Sculpting Brow Mascara ($7.94, Walgreens)

Do you like versatile products that won’t bulk up your makeup bag? Do you advocate for time-saving beauty regimens? Are you looking for a new eyebrow mascara that doesn’t clump? Consider Maybelline’s brow mascara, which keeps your eyebrows in place throughout the day while simultaneously giving them a dramatic look.

“Pros love products that do a multitude of things at once because they are time savers for us. Available in four colors this mousse-like gel not only keeps your brows where you want them all day, but it also tints them and fills them in,” says Dennis.

Brb, we're off to Walgreens for brows.

14. e.l.f. Studio Eyebrow Kit ($3, Walgreens)

When it comes to patchy or out-of-control brows, many turn to brow pencils to give them an arch or fill in space. But if you’re looking to shape and sculpt your brows more efficiently, consider e.l.f.’s Studio Eyebrow Kit.  

“[It comes with a] tinted wax and along with a setting powder that keeps everything in place,” says Dennis. “[The kit also] comes in three flattering colors that work with most hair colors. And a bonus is that it comes with a doubled sided brush so that you can get a precise brow look.”

After trying this product out, you might ditch the eyebrow pencil for good!

Related: 5 Beauty Products That Are Worth the Splurge

15. NYX HD Finishing Powder ($9.99, ULTA)

Stephanie Johnson, a Dallas-based makeup artist, hairstylist and cosmetology educator, offers us some of her go-tos. And as a part-time photographer, you can bet she knows how to get your face looking photo- (or selfie-) ready!

On her list? This powder, which reduces the appearance of creases and pores on your skin, giving your face a smoothed-over, matte finish.

"[NYX's] HD Powder is a great finish and set powder that floats on the skin, creating a more smooth and unified appearance. This is a favorite on photoshoots as it photographs beautifully,” she says. So the the next time you’re prepping for a photo-filled event, look no further!

16. NYX Loose Pearl Eye Shadows ($1.49, ULTA)

If you’re the playful one who rocks the zany colors, you can now do it at a lower price. These shadows give you long-wearing tones that will make your eyes pop.

“The NYX loose [pearl] pigments are a lot of fun to play with, and super pigmented,” says Johnson. “A sure-fire favorite for the really creative gal who likes to make art out of her eyes.”

And yes, you read that correctly—one shade is $1.49. Since that's literally less than the price of a tall cup of Starbs coffee, you don't have an excuse to not stock up. Better yet, you have thirty shades to choose from.

17. NYX Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick ($6.99, ULTA)

“The new lip suedes by NYX are amazing," says Johnson. "They're true to tone and have fun colors that the younger ladies are going nuts for. This is a new favorite in the whole kit for me,” she adds.

The lip suedes are also waterproof, so there’s no need to worry about wear due to rain (or, for the lucky ladies, a day by the pool).

18. Physician's Formula Happy Booster Glow & Mood Boosting Blush ($11.99, CVS

Physician’s Formula’s Happy Booster Blush gives your complexion a warm glow, and on days when you’re feeling especially bogged down, applying this blush will give you a pop of color that just might boost your mood!

“Something I'm using on my own face, daily, that I'm crazy about is the Physician's Formula Happy Booster Blush. It's a great daily blush with a soft finish," says Johnson.

So what are you waiting for? Look radiant and get happy, collegiettes!

19. Mario Badescu Facial Spray with Aloe, Herbs and Rosewater ($7, ULTA

Winter is coming, and with it an onslaught of dry, flaky skin. So when choosing a moisturizer to carry in your seasonal bag, try the Mario Badescu Facial Spray.  

“This is a great thing to keep in your bag. It's a light [moisturizer] that can set makeup and give a dewy finish (or soften that crazy powder) or just give your skin a little refresh throughout the day,” suggests Johnson. “If you're a natural girl, you can spritz to keep your skin refreshed. [It’s] also great to help parched winter skin, through travel, or sitting in rooms with artificial heat all day long.”

20. L’Oréal Double Extend Lash Extension Effect Mascara ($10.99, CVS)

“This product makes the lashes [appear] long and thick," says two-time Emmy nominated celebrity makeup artist DeeDee Marcelli. "It's unique because on one end of the product it has a primer to coat each lash and once it dries you follow up with a creamy mascara formula on the other end. The combination of both gives your lashes the best look possible. I use it all the time on my celebrity clients and they love it!”

This is slightly different from your typical single-brush mascara, in that it comes with a base coat and top coat. The base coat functions to protect your lashes, and the topcoat provides the desired, dramatic length. So are you willing to take an extra step for extra long (and inexpensive) lashes? We sure are!

21. Ardell Fashion Lashes ($4.99, CVS)

Molly Leahy, a bridal hair and makeup artist at Blushing Brides (a Boston-based boutique offering hair, makeup and nail services), recommends these falsies when you're feeling daring.

These lashes are “Certainly not something for everyone or every day, but if you are going out at night then it's super easy to do your normal makeup routine and add some false lashes for a more dramatic nighttime look,” she says. And since everyone has different preferences, Leahy offers up an extra money-saving tip: “If you don't want full strips then cut the strip in half and use both pieces as two sets of lashes instead! Not only is it more subtle and easier to apply but you just doubled your investment as well.”

Dramatic look + drugstore availability + two “sets” for one price = a must-have.

22. L'Oréal True Match Foundation and Concealer ($10.99 and $8.99, CVS)

You’re at CVS, casually glazing your eyes over the variety of foundation and concealer products, as thoughts of “Which one? Which one? Which one?” play on a loop in your flustered brain. Girl, we've got you! Try L'Oréal True Match.

“There is literally every shade and tone available for every skin type, so you will never be at a loss to find your perfect color," says Leahy. "The liquid is super blendable, and the concealer actually has great coverage!" Bonus tip: "If you want to go really crazy, you could get two extra concealers in darker and lighter shades for liquid contour and highlighting.”

23. e.l.f. Lash and Brow Mascara ($2, Target)

“You can't really get much more inexpensive than e.l.f. with most items being as low as $3,” says Leahy. “That being said, some of their products are truly awesome! Their brow compact comes with a gel and powder that can double as brow fillers or eyeshadow.”

This gel works wonders by conditioning your lashes for a healthy look, and it's long-wearing to boot!

24. CoverGirl Jumbo Gloss Balm ($8.99, CVS)  

This vibrant product gives your lips what you want, while treating your skin with what it needs: bold color and moisture!

“I live for these!” says Leahy. “They moisturize your lips and give a really beautiful soft color that wears off naturally.” 

25. BH Cosmetics Eyeshadow Palettes ($12 to $30, BHCosmetics.com)

If nearby stores don’t carry the eyeshadow palettes you need, you’ll probably look online. Need somewhere to start? Try bhcosmetics.com for lower-priced deals on diverse palettes!

“This is a website that is literally my Mecca for great, inexpensive, quality makeup products," says Leahy. "You can get a 120 [color] eyeshadow palette for $20, contour kits for $10 and to top it off they have CRAZY cyber Monday sales that you won't want to miss if you're looking to stock up. This is [also] a great place to get a makeup brush set for way less!”

With large color palettes comes great potential. Can you imagine all the effects you can achieve with one of these beauties? Let your creative wings soar with tools from this budget-friendly website.

26. Maybelline Lasting Drama Eye Studio Gel Eyeliner ($7.94, Walmart)


St. Louis-based makeup artist Emily Miller uses this Maybelline product on her clients all the time, noting that the 24 hour long-wear promise is actually accurate. “I put it on in the morning, didn’t take it off that evening to test it out and it was still on the following morning,” says Miller.

“I have tons of brushes... and I can honestly say the brush [this product] comes with is one of my favorites," she adds. "The color choices are great, the liner dries and doesn’t flake and doesn’t hit the upper lid if you have hooded eyes. The formula is smooth and dries quickly.” So what's not to love?

27. Covergirl TruBlend Fix Stick Concealer ($7.59, Target)

Need an alternative for covering up those tired under-eye circles? CoverGirl has your back.

Freelance makeup artist Jana Geyer recommends CoverGirl’s concealer stick. “[It’s a] great, cost effective option for covering up blemishes, getting rid of redness as well as dark under eye circles [that can] also be used as a highlighter for contouring.” Geyer also says using CoverGirl TruBlend Liquid Foundation will help you achieve an “even base.” The foundation settles on your skin for a smoothed over, even look, which will do a lovely job of complementing your newly-freshened face.

28. Ben Nye HD Matte Foundation ($12, CameraReadyCosmetics.com)

Melanie Djuric, a professional makeup artist from Australia (Up Front Styling and Makeup Services), is a published author currently writing a book about cruelty-free cosmetics. With her emphasis on ethical cosmetics, she finds Ben Nye products to be a prime.

“My favorite cream foundation is 100% Ben Nye matte cream foundation. There is NOTHING like it on the market. It looks so gorgeous on. I use this a lot in my kit and on jobs because it's long lasting.” But can this formula truly become your next go-to? “It's quite a heavy foundation for everyday use," she admits, but fear not! "It's perfect for special occasions like weddings, parties, going out, anything where you want to really step up your game and put a little more effort into your makeup!”

While a bit pricier than other foundations on this list, this product is totally worth it when it comes to special occasions. It’s also an ideal product for oilier skin types.

Choosing the right makeup can take time and (a lot) of money, but it doesn't have to. There are some amazing finds at your local drugstore, as well as some inexpensive online options—all approved by the experts themselves! 

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About The Author

Tasfia (pronounced "Thushfia") is a sophomore studying chemical engineering at Northwestern University. She is thinking about pursuing a minor in materials science. While she loves problem-solving and analytical thinking, she also enjoys bringing out her creative side by writing. She is a caffeine-addicted, Sriracha-loving happiness worshipper who rocks outrageous pants on campus. When she isn't studying or drinking coffee, she's probably shopping for more pants or brewing more coffee. Tasfia always welcomes recommendations on places where she can purchase cool pants, since they will help her endure the Chicago winters.