The budget beauty products that deserve a spot in your make-up bag

The budget brands that deserve a spot in your makeup bag

I like luxury beauty products as much as the next girl. I blame it on years of charity staff sales at The Telegraph. When the magazine staff would gather up all their leftover samples, dump them out on a table and let us snatch up brands such as ChanelGivenchy and MAC for just £1 a product. You can imagine the horror I felt when one night I left my gym kit – and cosmetic bag! – on the train. How could I ever justify replacing the gems I had acquired over those years? The make up alone would have cost hundreds to buy at full price. Ouch.

But over the last few years, I have been experimenting with budget brands and I’ve been pleasantly surprised. All it took was a few positive reviews from VogueGrazia and Cosmo about Poundland’s make up range to question why i was being such a snob about what I was putting on my face.

Now the cosmetic staples I swear buy range in price from just a pound a pop, to the more pricier products from the department store beauty counters.

Yes, some things justify the splurge (Jo Malone Mimosa and Cardamom Cologne, I’m looking at you), but there are awesome products out there that you can afford to scrimp on. I mean, why splash the cash if you don’t have to?

Bear in mind that beauty blogging isn’t my speciality, and the only colours I can recommend are the ones that I have used – and like – on myself.

So, here is what I have tried and think is great, not only for my face, but my bank balance too.



Essence False Lash Effect Mascara Princess Black 12ml


The days I leave the house without a generous helping of mascara are few and far between. Despite my brunette hair, my eyelashes are totally blonde. Without several coats carefully applied, I look pallid and peaky. So, over the years, I have tried many brands, and a simple glance on my dressing table reveals five tubes within arm’s reach. But, despite having both Chanel and Clinque available, the brand I keep reaching for each morning is from good, ole Wilko.

This summer, I was kindly given a tube of the Essence False Lash Effect Mascara Princess Black 12ml (£3.30, Wilko) at the Christmas in July party – and I have been wearing it ever since.

With a special conic-shaped fibre brush, it creates dramatic volume and length for a false-lash effect – without looking tacky. It’s not at all clumpy, even lasting through a cheeky nap. Awesome.



In my attempt to match my eyes to my dark hair, it isn’t just mascara that is required: eyeliner is a must, not just on the edge of my upper lashes but I like a bit of tightlining too.

Earlier this year I found myself in London without my makeup bag and I needed to freshen up in between an afternoon meeting and an evening of cocktails. I dashed into HEMA in Victoria Station – I also had to pick up some cheap craft supplies for my daughter (ever the multi-tasking mummy!) – and I hit up the make up section – and it was a revelation.

HEMA's amazing waterproof eyeliner - colour 1 (£3.50)

HEMA has hands down, the best kohl pencil I have worn to date. It has a practical twist-up to ensure no sharpener is required to keep the tip finely pointed and it’s waterproof without being difficult to remove. The best bit? At just £3.50 a pop, you can have one in your purse, on your dressing table and even in your car glove compartment, so that you always have a pencil within reach for those last minute touch ups. Check it out: Eyeliner waterproof – colour 1 (£3.50, HEMA).

What’s more, if you have an NUS card, you get a further 10% off at the retailer. Not a student, you say? No worries! You can get your hands on the discount card by signing up for a £10 course from Wowcher. Read this blog post on how I did it – and saved nearly £200 on the first day.

You will thank me later.

Essence Liquid Ink Eyeliner Waterproof BlackMake Up Gallery Pro Liquid Eyeliner Black

But, if you are like me, sometimes you might want the more dramatic look of a liquid liner. I’ve found two budget brands that I use in regular rotation: Essence Liquid Ink Eyeliner Black (£2.30, Wilko) and Make Up Gallery Pro Liquid Eyeliner Black (£1, Pounland).

Both provide great coverage, the applicators are easy to use to ensure a smooth line and it doesn’t budge – until you want to remove it at the end of the day. Winner.




Ask any of my girlfriends, I have spent way too much time and money trying to find the perfect red lippy for my colouring. With light skin and dark hair, it can easily look too gothic if I get the wrong shade. While others can have a tendency to make one’s teeth look a bit yellowy – the last thing I want after years of trying to keep my smile as white and bright as possible.

So, I was gobsmacked to find the lipstick of dreams in HEMA: Moisturising lipstick Moody Merlot (£2.84)

HEMA's Moisturising Lipstick Moody Merlot

Not only is it the perfect colour for me, but it doesn’t bleed, so a lipliner isn’t necessary. Its moisturising and the coverage is great, even slightly staining your lips so you don’t have to reply often. What’s more, I once got it all over white shirt and was able to get it out with just some water and a baby wet wipe. It was a miracle.

While writing this post, I’ve noticed that it is on sale – I’m hoping this doesn’t mean it is going to be discontinued, but as a precautionary measure, I will panic buy a few more tubes when I’m in London this week. You should too.



Have I mentioned how my light eyelashes don’t match my brunette hair? Well, funnily enough, it’s the same case for my eyebrows. During my university years I worked at The Body Shop, we had to wear five pieces of “visible makeup” while on the shop floor. That didn’t include foundation or concealer, so naturally, it was when my habit of colouring my eyebrows began. Nearly twenty years later, I’m still at it. My go-to product is Maybelline’s Tattoo Brow , which is far more temporary than it sounds, and super effective, but not really a bargain at £12.99 at Boots.

But, the budget product I use daily is Natural Collection Brow Kit (£2.49, Boots).

Natural Collection Brow Kit


It’s perfect for defining, filling and perfecting your brows in three easy steps – although, admittedly, I just slap it on myself. The angled brush is great for those who don’t have an extensive makeup brush collection. (If this sounds like you, check out my bargain set from eBay below.)



I love a bit of eyeshadow for a slightly smoky eye with a bit of highlighting on the eyebrow. But the closer I get to 40, the more crepe-paper-like my eyelids are becoming and the more I appreciate a crease-resistant product. I also can’t bear a powdery shadow that spreads all over my face during application. Before, I would always treat myself to a palette from Chanel.

But if I wanted a more budget-friendly option, I always went for a Bourjois Little Round Pot Eyeshadow. Rumoured to be manufactured in the same factories as Chanel products, these little pots have a luxurious cream to powder formula which is super soft and easy to blend. What’s more, the colour provides great coverage and can be applied wet or dry for buildable coverage. In fact, I love most of the Bourgois ranges – the blusher has been my favourite for years.

Bourjois Little Round Pot Eyeshadow

Plus, the price point of just £5.49 a piece is hard to argue with – especially when retailers such as Boots and Superdrug have regular 3-for-2 offers. What’s more, if you buy at Superdrug and have an NUS card and the retailer’s Health & Beauty card, you can get an extra 20% off your shopping.

But, you can find a slighter cheaper alternative at HEMA. At just £4.25 each, with regular multi-buy offers, you can replenish your stocks for less than a tenner. Further add to your savings and whip out your NUS card, for an extra 10% off.

The ones that I use daily are called Night and Sand. While not as creamy as I might like, the shadow is easy to pick up and you can slowly build it up to get the colour intensity that you are after. I also find the darker shades easy to blend, which softens any dramatic look.


HEMA's Eye shadow in the colour NightHEMA's Eye shadow in the colour Sand



I’m under no illusions that my morning beauty routine is so advanced that I need an assortment of make up brushes that would make a MAC employee swoon. So, when I was updating my collection of eye makeup applicators, I took a chance and ordered a cheap and cheerful set from eBay.

12Pcs Kabuki Make up Brush Set

And, a year later, I don’t regret it. The 12-set Kabuki set that I bought for the princely sum of just £2.99 (which included delivery!) has been brilliant. The bristles have stood the test of daily use and create a flawless finish with every application. What more can you ask for?


I’d love to hear about your favourite bargain beauty products. Let me know what have earned a solid space on your dressing table in the comments below.




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