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Cheap Vs. Luxury Cosmetics Products: Which Beauty Items Will Win?!

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More Beauty Hacks

woman holding Fenty Beauty foundation bottle

Love high-end beauty products, but hate the prices?!

Some of the best makeup brands can cost you a ton of money, especially if you’re looking to buy flawless, high-end cosmetics for every centimeter of your face. But if you’re anything like me, you cringe at the thought of spending more on a single beauty product than the cost of a lifetime supply of makeup remover! 😳

gift guide for beauty makeup lover — "this bag contains my face" makeup bag

Through the feedback from our Hip2Save team and lots & lots of customer reviews, I’ve rounded up the most popular luxury makeup product and their less expensive dupes in the most common beauty product categories.

Read on to see what’s worth the splurge and what dupes are the real deal.


1. This face toner for your skin will hydrate and leave you feeling fresh.

hand holding a bottle of mario badescu skin care best make up brands cheap vs luxury

The Competitors:

The most important thing to look for in toner is a solution that’s alcohol-free. The winner here is Mario Badescu Rose Water Mist – it’s both light AND hydrating, and most importantly, budget-friendly! That said, some reviewers don’t mind the extra splurge on the more expensive boscia mist because the ingredients are cleaner than its less expensive competitor.

“I honestly thought toner was a waste of money until I felt the refreshing mist from a quick spritz of rose water! It perks up your skin to help rejuvenate that healthy glow.” – Emily

🥇 Our Pick: Mario Badescu Rose Water Mist


2. The best face primer will give your makeup a flawless look.

benefit porefessional face primer

The Competitors:

This one is kind of an uneven playing field since the luxury option from benefit has a skin tint while the less expensive option is just clear.

Given the quality and functionality, benefit POREfessional Primer takes the cake! It glides over skin setting up the groundwork for a flawless finish on the skin. Feel free to skip the foundation on days you need to get out the door FAST! The tint provides light coverage to softly blur away any blemishes.

“I love this face primer because it fills in the look of pores and smooths my skin which makes my makeup look so much better! I use it every time I put on makeup and absolutely love it!” – Amber

🥇 Our Pick: benefit The POREfessional Face Primer


3. A tinted moisturizer with SPF will leave your skin radiant.

hand holding a bottle of illusion skin tint moisturizer with spf best make up brands cheap vs luxury

The Competitors:

While I’ve come across many “pigmented creams” that can leave your skin feeling dried out, these tinted moisturizers are formulated to provide all the benefits of a great hydrating day cream should. However, some reviews claim Target’s less expensive option leaves their skin a little too oily.

As much as it pains me to say this since I personally LOVE the Boots Noº7 brand, HOURGLASS Illusion Hyaluronic Skin Tint prevails in this category. Not only does it offer a wider range of shades over Boots, the hyaluronic acid which holds 100 times its weight in water is the ultimate hydrating compound – makeup and skincare in one! Mixed in with pigment, this is another product that gets you out the door with an impressive amount of facial coverage in no time!” – Emily

🥇 Our Pick: HOURGLASS Illusion Hyaluronic Skin Tint 

Hip Tip: We know our boujie pick isn’t cheap, so make sure to bookmark this page so you can keep up on the latest Sephora deals and promos.


4. The best liquid foundation will be a dream to use and will wear great all day.

woman holding Fenty Beauty foundation

The Competitors:

We have many team members who are obsessed with The Ordinary products and use it on a daily basis (Cass shared her whole testimony here). At a less than $7 price point for The Ordinary’s foundation, mixed with the all-natural ingredients – it has us totally sold on this brand.

However, if you’re looking for something built to wear all day long, Fenty is where it’s at.

“If you want lasting full coverage, a soft matte finish, and sooo many shade options, Fenty will be your new bae. I recommend using a primer to help with application and to really blend it to make sure there are no thicker foundation patches. I’ve been using this for the past year and always get compliments on its natural finish.” – Emily

🥇 Our Pick: Fenty Pro Filt’r Liquid Foundation


5. Is Tarte concealer really the game-changer every tired mama needs?

row of Tarte Shape Tape Concealers best make up brands cheap vs luxury

The Competitors:

If you’ve ever had sleepless nights, you know that concealer is a life-saver when it comes to giving anyone a fresh face, but the key is finding one that’s the right shade, stays on all day, and doesn’t crease.

My Thoughts: I’ve tried TONS of concealers – cheap, mid-range, and expensive. It’s one thing I normally don’t ever leave the house without (hello mom of 3 undereye bags!). The day I splurged on Tarte’s Shape Tape was the day my makeup game went up 100 levels. It’s silky smooth and never creases in my under eye or around my nose (where I tend to get a little redness). I can’t imagine ever going back to anything else and it’s worth the splurge!


“The e.l.f. Camo Concealer is the ultimate dupe compared to Tarte’s Shape Tape concealer. It holds up just as well, stays on all day, and is a fraction of the cost!” – Angela

🥇 Our Pick: e.l.f. Camo Concealer AND Tarte’s Shape Tape


6. Swipe on eyebrow gel mascara for the easiest way to fill in sparse brows.

hand holding two sticks of eyebrow gel mascara best make up brands cheap vs luxury

The Competitors:

Bold brows have become much more prominent in the past few years, and we are all about it! Not to mention, one could easily write a whole post on just brow color products alone based on the variety of mediums – gels, creams, gel creams (um, okay?), powders, pomades, pencils. Seriously, there are a TON!

Both of these products have stellar reviews, though due to the cult-like following of Glossier, Glossier Boy Brow takes the win here. It doesn’t hurt that this brow wand boasts easy application and fills sparse brows in just a few swipes!

🥇 Our Pick: Glossier Boy Brow


7. The true rival for the best eyebrow gel is a toss-up between Anastasia and NYX.

hand holding a stick of nyx control freak best make up brands cheap vs luxury

The Competitors:

More brow products… we told you brows were a big deal! 😉 Now that you’re good to go with brow color, these brow gels will help tame stray hairs and keep your desired shape.

Both lightweight gels offer hold and control over brows so it really comes down to your brand (and let’s be honest, price) preference since most reviews claim the products are pretty similar.

🥇 Our Pick: Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Gel AND NYX Control Freak Eyebrow Gel


8. Are BHCosmetics eye shadow palettes all they’re cracked up to be?

hand holding a palette of eyeshadow best make up brands cheap vs luxury

The Competitors:

A great eye shadow can really make your eyes POP! And while almost anyone can admit that Urban Decay wins the pigmented game, we’ve got just the secret to get just as much color, while spending a whole lot less.

Thanks to one of my Hip sidekicks who’s a huge makeup enthusiast, you can consider using the white NYX Jumbo Pencil as a primer before dabbing on some of the BHCosmetics eye shadow shades – you’ll be sure to get incredibly bold colors on your eyelids (and spend even less)!

We’ve also heard that wetting an eye shadow brush before tapping into the powder can help boost the color. And don’t think these tricks are strictly for bright pigments – they’re great for neutrals, too!

🥇 Our pick: BHCosmetics Eyeshadow Palette

Hip Tip: Want to get the most out of your cosmetics? Check out these incredible makeup hacks!


9. Can Revlon’s eyeliner outlast the expensive waterproof Stila brand?

hand holding black eyelier

If you’re always looking for a way to make your eyes pop with some rich and intense color, eyeliner is most likely your go-to makeup product and your makeup bag will never goes without a good stash of it. Better yet, make it a great, waterproof one so you can handle whatever life throws at you for the day!

While Stila is a tough and popular competitor, Lina on our team says Revlon is her tried and true eyeliner that she’s been using for years and you simply can’t beat the price! Plus, she says it wears all day, you can get a super thin or thick line, and she loves the jet black color it provides – proof that you don’t need rich money to get a rich color. 😉 As a bonus, there’s no need to sharpen Revlon’s eyeliner either, just like the expensive Stila brand. So again, we’re sticking with cheaper tried and true for this makeup winner!

🥇 Our Pick: Revlon ColorStay Waterproof Eyeliner


10. Better Than Sex mascara isn’t stealing the show this time!

hand holding a box of better than sex mascara best make up brands cheap vs luxury

The Competitors:

We love a great mascara! There’s nothing like long lashes to make your eyes pop and look extra full and luscious. However, if neither of these dupes suits your needs, we also highly recommend all of these mascaras that start at just $5!

“L’Oréal’s Lash Paradise looks exactly like Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara! It also appears to be the exact same thing – same brush, same quality except way cheaper! I actually bought the L’Oréal mascara once, thinking I was just finding one heck of a deal on the Too Faced kind but turns out it was L’Oréal! I love it!” – Katy

🥇 Our Pick: L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise


11. These lip pencil dupes are the best on the market.

woman holding black haus laboratories makeup wearing glasses best-makeup-brands-cheap-vs-luxury

The Competitors:

Chunky lip pencils are probably one of the easier methods to apply lip color with their denser formula and pointed tips for precision. I recently tried this whole lip kit from Lady Gaga’s new line of makeup and honestly, I’ve been favoring the lip liner over anything else! (Read my full review here.)

My Thoughts: I know what you’re thinking…$16 is still a lot to spend on a lip liner, but I’ve found with the cheaper lip liners that they tend to clump and not last for even an hour – meaning, you’re actually using more product and likely spending more money in the long run.

Based on the reviews for our luxury and less expensive brands, they both glide on smoothly and produce long-lasting matte color. However, Lady Gaga’s takes the win for a less expensive long-lasting wear, gorgeous matte colors, and gorgeous packaging to boot!

🥇 Our Pick: Haus Laboratories by Lady Gaga Demi Matte Lip Liner


12. MAC matte lipstick,  NYX lipstick, oh my!

holding Mac Matte lipstick

The Competitors:

MAC is known for their pigment-packed lipsticks – available in basically every shade imaginable. Whereas NYX Professional also created a dupe so comparable that it’s earned thousands of raving reviews. It’s truly a toss-up between these two reputable brands, but regardless, life’s short, so just wear more lipstick. 😉

“I’m so torn between these two lipsticks! But I have to hand it to MAC Matte Lipstick for its die-hard, cult-like following and offering 37 shades in the formula compared to NYX’s (still extremely impressive!) 23 shades.” – Emily

🥇 Our Pick: MAC Matte Lipstick 


13. The best face setting spray to finish your makeup doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

rows of black nyx matte finish setting spray bottles best make up brands cheap vs luxury

The Competitors:

Your makeup’s on point and you’re ready to face the day (or take on the night!), but that’s only HALF the battle. With a good setting spray, you can ensure your flawless makeup look will be photo-ready whenever the moment strikes.

“Save your artistry with OFRA Makeup Fixer spray which not only enriches your skin with aloe vera, chamomile flower extract, and vitamin E, but the mist protects your skin against environmental damage like pollution and temperature changes.

What’s even better, it makes touch-ups so simple! Give your face a spray, blot the skin with a tissue, and follow up with a quick dusting of powder for a smooth, velvety finish. What makes it the BEST is that even as a luxury item, it won’t totally break the bank!” – Emily

🥇 Our Pick: OFRA Makeup Fixer Spray


14. Finish your day with the best makeup remover wipes.

simple makeup remover wipes in package on store shelf best make up brands cheap vs luxury

What’s that you say? You don’t feel like taking your makeup off and would rather go right to bed? Same. But of course, we all know that skincare is the top priority (yes, even over all the best makeup dupes) so make sure to wash your face girl.

Simple Micellar Makeup Remover Wipes are a must-have item! They’re easy enough to keep a pack in your nightstand for those ‘I’m too tired’ moments and because they’re made with skin-loving ingredients like Vitamin B, Vitamin E, and triple purified water, they’re great for ALL skin types!” – Emily

🥇 Our Pick: Simple Micellar Makeup Remover Wipes


15. We found the best anti-aging facial serums with The Ordinary brand.

row of clear and brown amber dropper bottles with the ordinary labels on front best make up brands cheap vs luxury

We all want to achieve that youthful look so after cleansing your face, make sure you’re finishing up with the perfect facial serum to diminish fine lines and wrinkles and even that skin tone!

However, bear in mind that many of the brands for facial serums that claim to be the “best” can cost you upwards of $300 or more. Oh, the price some will pay to feel and look good! Whether it’s worth it to you or not, we’ve got our hands on one that’s totally affordable for any budget and works!

“I’ve tried multiple versions of Vitamin C and Retinols/Retinoids from The Ordinary brand, and I experienced no irritation. None. Zilch. Nada. If you’ve ever felt the itching, burning, and peeling of retinol, you know this is HUGE. In fact, I’ve yet to experience any kind of irritation from any of The Ordinary’s super-potent serums starting at around $7, and I’ve tried a lot of them!

The Ordinary line is outstanding – you could build an entire line-up for a new facial routine and still spend less than the expensive brands out there for just one bottle. Read my full take on their products over here…” – Cass

🥇 Our Pick: The Ordinary Granactive Retinoid 2% Emulsion


The rest of our team shared tried & true beauty products that they’ve been using for years!

Join The Discussion

Comments 43

  1. Memstud

    I hate that you put The Ordinary’s 2% retinoid emulsion on here. I haven’t been able to find it in stock for almost a year! I want it so bad!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi there! I do find it in stock through the link above. Hope that helps!

      • Rhonda

        I don’t know if it was in stock earlier but not in stock now.

        • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

          Darn!

    • Lisa

      I’ve actually bought them at Ulta and Sephora for the same price!

  2. Cherryluva

    I agree with the better than sex mascara, not impressed. Same with Tarte shape tape. I have super bad bags that are blue, this barely does anything. Also, only way my lashes will curl is with a heated curler. I’ve tried every mascara imaginable, looking for the ONE that opens my eyes so people don’t think I’m high and this mascara is way overrated. Thanks for this article. Sincerely, a fellow makeup lover

    • daisy-0

      Try the Maybelline rewind concealed! 👌 Mom of twins power even

      • Alicia

        Maybelline girl here too! Great consistent brand.

  3. Diana

    I would love to see this type analysis for eye liner! That is the only product I use EVERY DAY.

    • Tori Nelson

      Tarte maneater liquid liner is my favorite

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Thanks for the request, Diana! We’ll get that added to this list!

    • daisy-0

      The nyx liner gel is super smooth and my go too!

    • Sara

      Hey Diana! We love great eyeliner too and cannot believe we forgot to include it in the post. If you go back to #9 on this post, we added it there for you. Hope our recommendation helps!

  4. daisy-0

    I find that the Maybelline instant age rewind eraser concealer is the best and knocks nyx and elf out of the park!! And I can attest to BHCosmetics being super pigmented and having all day long staying power!!

  5. MrsG

    The cheapest- don’t wear makeup. 😂 almay eyeliner and mascara over here 🙋🏼‍♀️ I probably spend $20 a year on makeup 🤣

    • nita

      Agree. The new generation has made make up a “thing” now n over doing it via YouTube videos with the contouring n layers of make up. But for the ones good at it, n making money, I guess good for them. I like less is more.

    • PNW

      No way, ain’t gonna happen. I don’t even consider myself a big make-up person but I’m miss wearing it. Wearing a mask for even a short time can at times make my lower face get sweaty and that is just indoors going shopping. So no foundation. Then I have a red
      dry spot on one eyelid that I’m having a heck of a time getting it to go away so haven’t been wearing eyeshadow which I miss. So right now just wearing mascara and eyebrow gel. The gel I have only been using a few months. I consider mascara to be pretty new to me even if I have been using it for a couple of years. Use to have really nice lashes but got older and they aren’t has full has they use to be or curly. In fact, sometimes in the morning after waking up the lashes are actually facing down. Can’t wait till I’m wearing all my makeup again.

    • Evie

      Me too! I like the tried and true maybelline waterproof about $3.99. I use it as a liner too! Neutrogena 100 sunblock.
      No matter how much you paint yourself up, some will like you, others will not. More interested in being a good person,educating myself and eating healthy!
      Do not have a spare $200 dollars a day to paint myself.
      Even if I used Zoom would not care!😴

  6. Alicia

    Agree with MrsG. The ingredients in most makeup (with very few exception) are all the same. Maybelline is my go-to. I love their mascara and lipstick! 🙂

  7. Maria

    Thanks for the new suggestions… would love to see some deals on the lesser options. Any suggestions for glossier brow flick? It’s basically a very fine eyeliner pen for your brows in brown/dark blonde? I currently use benefit ka-brow! and it’s a great formula but I am looking for a really small pen to fill in with some hair like lines. Definitely overplucked in the early 2000’s, ha! Gotta get those brows and eyes lookin sharp with the rest of my face covered with a mask for almost every occasion.

    • Sara

      Hey Maria! I use the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz pencil to fill in my brows and looks like it probably comes in a lighter color that you mentioned you need. It’s great at filling in small areas and has a very natural look. It stays on all day and the pencil never needs to be sharpened. I hope this helps!

  8. Sweetklouise

    I have horrible acne and I didn’t get it until this year for the first time ever. I am 32. I tried everything and I mean EVERYTHING. Cheap. Not cheap. Over the counter. Medicated. Prescriptions. Everything. Nothing worked and most made it worse. Until the Face Angels appeared before me and showed me the ordinary skin care line. So thankful! I use the toner, the charcoal bar, and the retinoid. It’s like night and day from when I started using it in April to now.

    • JRC

      I’ve heard good and bad about the Ordinary. Drunk Elephant has also been rated higher for some over the ordinary.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh awesome! Good to know that the Ordinary skin car line has helped your skin so much! Thanks a TON for sharing with us!

  9. Maggie

    Retinoid tip from my derm: instead of fooling with trying to find a decent retinol serum, she offered to write a prescription for a tube of the RX cream that’s WAY more effective, and not expensive if purchased with GoodRX (though insurance won’t cover it because it’s “cosmetic”). The OTCs are a less effective form than the RX stuff. At your annual derm skin-cancer check (you do those, right???), just have her write you a prescription for a low-dose, entry-level strength tube of it, and you’ll be better off than the OTC.

    • Sweetklouise

      How much was it with good ex? Do you remember?

        • akajulz

          Darn! I got a prescription from the dermatologist for Retin A and when I found out it was close to $100 I tossed the prescription. I didn’t know that any of the discount cards covered Retin A. That was two years ago so the prescription is no longer valid anyway. And good luck finding a dermatologist who will see you now unless you have melanoma or something serious.
          I have been buying 5% Retinol from a seller on ebay. It’s at least twice as strong as any other OTC Retinol product, but not nearly as effective as a Retinoid.

          • Sara

            Ah, I’m sorry for your dilemma, akajulz! I need to get into see my dermatologist too and she’s not open! Good luck to you!

    • Joni

      I use cureology which is a prescription telehealth service. It is amazing and only $40 every 2 months. Prescription comes to your door. Game changer!

    • JRC

      Hi… I’d try the prescription but it’s not covered under my insurance.

      • PNW

        That is why using GoodRX or one of those other discount options to buy it without insurance.

  10. Amy

    Some other cheap items I love better than more expensive. Elf poreless putty primer regular price $8 but you can easily find this on sale. Colourpop and Morphe palettes. Also can find great sales on these especially at Ulta. They both have great pressed glitters in their palettes that more expensive brands don’t do as well imo. Revlon colorstay creme shadows. Also Elf has these bite sized eyeshadow palettes that are 4 colors for $3 and the quality of them is really great! EcoTools brushes too!

  11. JRC

    Hi!! Great ideas here! I’m wondering what everyone thinks of Drunk Elephant. I’m loving it but not the price. Thanks!!

  12. TiffMeow

    Wanna try all sorts of brands? Try Boxycharm!! I love my boxes, premium boxes, and the pop up shop!

  13. Danielle A

    I am an individual presenter for Younique. We are EU compliant which bans over 1,300 chemicals, the US only bans 11. Please make sure you research products and know that you are getting what you pay for.

  14. Saama

    Absolutely love hourglass illusion skin tint. It is not a moisturizer though, it is almost a medium coverage foundation. Very hydrating and natural on skin.

  15. Rissa

    Mario bedescu is mostly fillers, dyes and perfumes ! Try using Heritage rosewater toner plus their rosewater & glycerin both around $11 each

  16. Lisa

    I’ve been using Voluminous mascara for at LEAST 20 years and it’s the best I’ve ever used.
    Every so often I’ll try some promising new brand, from super cheap to high end, but always go running back to my Voluminous.
    It’s a keeper!

    • Sara

      Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing with us, Lisa!

  17. Ann

    Sara, are you decorating for Halloween already. Your jack-o-lantern plate is cute!

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      LOL, it is cute! Thanks for noticing, Ann!

    • Sara

      Oh, haha! That’s actually Emily, Ann, but yes, it looks like she’s getting ready for fall already! 🙂

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