9 Ways To Save BIG Money On Makeup (And Look Super Professional)

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Looking good isn’t simply a tool of the shallow. Looking your best and investing in your appearance also makes you look more employable, professional and, well, worthy of a raise. Is it fair? Not necessarily, but if you look like a hungover slob, you can’t really fault a potential or current boss from assuming that’s exactly what you are. Whether we want to admit it or not, we all quietly judge one another by how we look, and makeup can make a world of difference in how the rest of the people on the planet perceive you.

That said, most of us can’t afford professional airbrush artists everyday. Here are a few tips on which skincare and makeup items are worth the splurge and which you can grab for a few bucks at a drugstore. And you have my word: I haven’t been compensated by any of the companies for the products I recommend below. (Frankly, I wish I was, because, well, who doesn’t want more money?)

1. Splurge on certain skincare items.
If you have good skin, you’ll wear less makeup, thus spending less on it. Most drugstore cleansers, toners, moisturizers and treatments work just as well as higher end brands. That said, if you have problem skin, hit up a dermatologist if your insurance allows it. They’ll be able to prescribe medications that may be at least partially covered by your plan that can bring your glow back and clear up any issues–and many offer coupons or rebates on certain prescriptions you may need, which can sometimes make them even cheaper than what you’d get over the counter.

2. Splurge on foundation…
You’ll want to get professionally matched at a makeup counter to make sure you don’t go outside looking like Snooki from the neck up. Once you do that, retailers will often give you a sample bottle of about a week’s worth of foundation. If you only wear makeup on special occasions, this may well be all you need for a while. I like this one (it’s the only brand I’ve found to really match my super pale yet somehow olive winter skin) and this one (it lasts forever), but it depends on your skin type and tone which will work for you. If you work in situations where you’re filmed, photographed or presenting often, or if you just have a lot going on, invest in a full bottle, and be sure to get matched in winter and summer since your skin tone will be different each time. (For fall and spring, you can mix them together before applying to get your perfect shade.)

3. … And save on foundation, too.
For those of us who need or want a little help every morning, save the fancy stuff for special nights out and grab a tinted moisturizer of CC or BB cream for quick evening out in the morning. I like this one because it’s got salicylic acid and doesn’t break me out, which, for my greaseball oily skin, is no small feat.

4. Save on blush and bronzer … except maybe one kind in particular if you have cash to blow.
Seriously, the universally flattering Nars Orgasm blush will last over a year unless you apply it with a trowel, so if you have a gift card or coupon, go ahead and grab it. If not? My girl Caitlin Corsetti found a bunch of decent drugstore dupes of it and even tested them out for you. (Isn’t she pretty? She’s so pretty.) As far as bronzers go, drugstores will usually do the trick, but this one lasted me over a year of near-daily use, so it’s still worth the splurge.

5. Save on lipstick and gloss.
Unless you need or want a super specific shade, drugstore stuff is perfect–and you’ll be able to get a lot of shades to mix and match.

6. Save on mascara, eyeliner, and shadow.
Mascara needs to be replaced every three months anyway, and chances are there’s a drugstore formula just as good, if not better, than what you’re paying big bucks for at department or specialty stores. I like these. Same goes for shadows: Unless you need a specific shade you absolutely can’t get elsewhere, don’t miss rent for this stuff, especially for brighter, trendier shades you won’t wear often.

7. Get primer, powder and a makeup setting spray.
I recommend splurging on these because other than the powder, you won’t use these every single day, so they’ll last you a while. Save the primer and sprays for special occasions, like weddings or other times you’ll be out and about for long periods and/or being photographed. They’ll save you money in the end, since you won’t be in the bathroom touching up and reapplying everything all night. As far as the powder goes, opt for a translucent shade that’s close to your skin’s undertone and you’ll be able to use it all year round. (I like this one, which lasts forever.)

8. Splurge, then save your eyebrows.
A good threading will last a while and give you a more precise shape than waxing–and it’s only a few bucks depending on your location. Maintain the shape by tweezing strays under the brow line between appointments to save a few bucks, but never, ever over-pluck or you’ll look like a casualty of Walter White’s enterprise.

9. Splurge when you get a bonus with it.
Department stores often have big bonus packages periodically for different brands. If you need to blow $40 or so on foundation, try to wait until they have a major giveaway with it to get the most bang for your buck.

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