Budget-friendly beauty buys

There’s no shortage of high-quality beauty products on the market. But when it comes to effective and affordable cosmetics, skin- and hair care…? Well there the pickings at the beauty counter get a little slim. With that in mind, I thought I’d share four finds to make both your mirror and bank account happy. Check out these test-driven budget-friendly beauty buys.

1. Alpha Skin Care Enhanced Revitalizing Cream 12% AHA 

Alpha Skin Care - Budget-friendly beauty buys

AHAs, like Alpha Skin Care Enhanced Revitalizing Cream, help reduce the look of lines and hyperpigmentation, and also promote collagen production.

When it comes to gold standards for anti-aging, it’s still hard to top the efficacy of retinol or alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). So, on a recent visit to NYC, upon spotting Alpha Skin Care Enhanced Revitalizing Cream 12% AHA  priced at $14.99 US, I quickly snapped it up. (This price was found at Harmon Face Values, my fave drugstore chain for beauty bargains, but even at the manufactured suggested retail price of $16.99, it’s a great value). Note that if you’re new to AHAs, the company advises starting with one of its 10% glycolic formulas.

Formerly called Alpha Hydrox, the line has retained the same formulas, but has been repackaged to look a little more premium. Its product names have also changed. (If you’re looking for a product you used under the Alpha Hydrox label, check this link to find the current Alpha Skin Care name).

So what’s so great about AHAs? These fruit-sugar derivatives exfoliate skin to help reduce the look of lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation. Additionally, AHAs assist in collagen production, which diminishes with age.

Alpha Skin Care’s AHA cream gets extra marks because it’s fragrance- and paraben-free and not tested on animals.

As AHAs increase sun sensitivity, use in tandem with sunscreen if applying during the day.

2. Maybelline New York The Rock Nudes

Maybelline The Rock Nudes - Budget-friendly beauty buys

Maybelline New York’s new evening-friendly take on neutrals: The Rock Nudes eye shadow palette.

When Urban Decay released its first NAKED Eyeshadow Palette in 2010, featuring 12 predominately neutral shades, it quickly became a best seller. With a generous range of nudes for every day, plus a few flashier complementary colours for more oomph, this palette made you wonder why nobody had produced one before.

Due to the success of the first nudie kit, Urban Decay subsequently released multiple variations. Of course, with every success comes imitators (the beauty industry is especially prone to this form of flattery…) and legions of other cosmetics companies now have their own neutral eye shadow palettes,  offered at multiple price points.

Although I had long been tempted by Urban Decay’s palettes, at $66 Cdn ($54 US), I had so far resisted. Then on a whim, or, more accurately, an impulse buy, I decided to try Maybelline New York The Nudes Palette. At $17.99 Cdn (priced from $9.99 to $12.99 US), the kit offers 12 shades of beige, bronze and brown. While this mass-market eye shadow doesn’t have the deep pigmentation found in prestige brands, it’s become my go-to for everyday wear.

I’ve also become a fan of a new addition to the line, The Rock Nudes. True to its name, in addition to nudes, this kit includes flashier hues of blue, gold and purple. A few even have some glitter (but fret not: when applied and blended, the effect reads evening-friendly rather than Lady Gaga).

3. NYX Matte Lipstick in Pale Pink

NYX lipstick - Budget-friendly beauty buys

With its wallet-friendly price and cruelty-free testing policy, you can feel pretty Zen about NYX Lipstick.

I’ve avoided matte lipsticks for many years. Memories from my clubbing era of wearing M.A.C.’s uber-matte Russian Red, which rates an A-plus for intensity but left my lips begging for balm, had made me a gloss girl. But when I read another writer rave about NYX Matte Lipstick in Pale Pink, I decided to give matte another go. And since NYX is a wallet-friendly brand (this lipstick is priced at $9 Cdn/$6 US), it wasn’t much of a financial risk.

Upon seeing the shade in-store, I was initially a little dubious about its bubble-gum hue. But on the lips it becomes a subtle beige-pink, perfect for spring or summer. And its non-drying finish has (almost) got me over my matte phobia.

4. Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Cleansing Conditioner

Clean Freak Cleansing Conditioner - Budget-friendly beauty buys

Cleansing conditioners, such as Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak, wash your hair without stripping its natural oils.

Cleansing conditioners, also called co-washes, have become the darlings of the hair-care world. For the uninitiated, they’re conditioners that feature non-shampoo cleansing agents. Since they clean hair without detergents or sulfates, they provide a gentler wash.

A few years ago I tried the pioneering product in this category, WEN by Chaz Dean Cleansing Conditioner, which if you’re an insomniac you may know from late-night infomercials. While I liked it, at $40 Cdn ($32 US) for 480 ml, the price was a little rich, even for a cleanser/conditioner in one.

So, when I saw Not Your Mother’s Clean Freak Cleansing Conditioner in NYC priced at $6.99 US for 236 ml (available online in Canada for $10 Cdn), it was a no-brainer to try it.

While the directions suggest using two to four pumps of the product, I need at least six (and my hair is barely shoulder length). So far, Clean Freak has been a good supplement to my conventional shampoo routine. I think of it as a complementary product because, like other co-washes, it doesn’t clean as thoroughly as traditional shampoo. The lack of sulfates also means it doesn’t lather, which can take some getting used to.

But on days when I want a one-step cleanser/conditioner without parabens or other chemicals, Clean Freak cleans up.

Do you have any fave budget-friendly beauty buys? Please share them below.



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