As a college student myself, I understand. Makeup is something I could spend way too much money on very, very, very, quickly. But I have found a few gems, some drugstore, some high end, whose price tag is a bit more budget friendly. Check out below for 20 of the best cheap makeup products out there (and guess what…they are all under $20!)!
1. e.l.f. Waterproof Eyeliner Pen – $2
This eyeliner is fantastic if you need something quick and cheap. I remember one time my favorite eyeliner pen broke in half the day before a big event on campus, not only was it devastating and messy (have you ever seen what happens when a felt tip eyeliner pen splits breaks in half?) but I didn’t have a car so I couldn’t quickly grab a new one.
2. e.l.f. Matte Lip Color– $3
It’s no surprise that another e.l.f. product is next on this list. These Studio Matte Lip Colors are fantastic! I gave the one in Coral to my mom as an early Christmas present when I came home from break and she absolutely loves it! My mom loves natural looks and this lip color has just enough of a tint that her lips don’t look bare, but if you don’t know her very well, you probably wouldn’t be sure if she was wearing lipstick at all.
3. NYC Smooth Skin Bronzing Powder (Sunny) – $4
I’m probably one of the few people left in the world who doesn’t wear bronzer very often. The only time I wear it is in the summer, if I’m looking exceptionally pale (which is often considering how much Irish and German heritage I have). But nonetheless, when I do apply bronzer, it’s this Smooth Skin Bronzing Powder in Sunny. NYC really knew what they were doing with this bronzer, it’s not so pigmented that if you apply it with one stroke you’re going to instantly regret it. Also, many people consider it to be a cheap makeup dupe for the Benefit Cosmetics Hoola Matte Bronzer Box O’ Powder which is significantly more expensive. NYC’s bronzer is very warm (and not orange, which is hard to come by in the drugstore world).
4. Rimmel Stay Matte Powder – $4
I have very oily skin. Therefore, I have to set my makeup, especially in the summer because I live in Georgia and I’m likely to sweat it all off if I don’t. I also can’t do the whole “dewy” look, because honestly, I just look like I’m glowing when I try. This Stay Matte Pressed Powder has been my holy grail powder. Personally I use transparent (because as I’ve said, I’m as white as ivory) but I’ve had friends who have used the other shades and have had the same experience as mine. This powder keeps me from looking like I’ve got oil on my face and my makeup stays on all day (as long as I put primer on before as well).
5. Maybelline Baby Lips – $4
I actually own two of these, one in Pink Punch and another in Quenched. The Baby Lips from Maybelline are a fantastic option for a chapstick (the Quenched version is just plain chapstick), and also for a subtle tint. Both are fantastic to throw in my pocket, especially this time of year. I actually lost my Pink Punch for about a week and I was really frustrated because I wear it basically everyday when it’s cold outside. When I found it I almost cried tears of joy!
6. Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge – $7
This sponge is better than any other I have ever owned. I use it for mostly my liquid foundation, and it goes on practically like an airbrush! I know this is a tool instead of a cheap makeup product…but it’s simply one of my favorites – I had to mention it!
7. NYX Concealer In A Jar – $5
NYX’s Concealer In A Jar is literally the only concealer I use. I own three or four other concealers, but they just sit my makeup drawer unused 98% of the time. This concealer is great when you have to cover up nasty blackheads (does anyone know a homemade remedy for those? I’m dying) or any other blemish. My roommate has dark circles under her eyes and my bet is that this concealer could cover that up in an instant.
8. Colourpop Lippy Stix – $5
I’ll say this once and I’ll say it again…and again; I LOVE Kathleen Lights. She is quite literally one of my favorite YouTubers these days. I’ve bought almost all of her collabs with Colourpop, except for the ones she just released last month (payday can’t come sooner!!) Lumière is one of those lipsticks that just suits everyone. It’s very close to a nude, so people who don’t wear a lot of makeup will feel comfortable, but it’s bold enough that you can wear it with a full face of makeup and your lips don’t look naked.
9. Rimmel Stay Matte Primer – $6
As I’ve said, I have oily skin. This is the perfect pair for the Rimmel Stay Matte Pressed Powder, because this primer does exactly what the powder does. My skin isn’t nearly as oily as it normally is and my makeup stays where I want it to all day. Even in 100% humidity at 102° in July (yay Georgia summers!), my makeup doesn’t budge.
10. Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes – $6
At the end of the day, when you’ve been at work or in class all day, you need to take all of your makeup off before hitting the sack. I was really bad about taking all my makeup off before discovering these little wipes from Neutrogena. I couldn’t be bothered to use some liquid remover and I couldn’t find anything that wouldn’t make me break out more! Then my mom showed me these wipes and I was in love! My most stubborn makeup, even waterproof or smudge proof, wipes right off!
11. Real Techniques Setting Brush – $6
Remember how I said I have to set my makeup almost everyday? Well this setting brush from Real Techniques is the one I use with every powder. The brush is soft and just the right size to set everywhere, including the under eye area.
12. Neutrogena Lip Color Stick – $8
Neutrogena has these fantastic Lip Color Sticks that are super pigmented and they come in just the right shades for everyone. They’re also a great cheap makeup option for anyone who has extremely dry lips because they have a fabulous moisturizing quality to them.
13. Maybelline Dream Lumi Touch Highlighting Concealer – $7
I actually don’t use this as a concealer, I use it as a highlight, but is is fantastic nonetheless. I get this glow that is just beautiful. As a suggestion, if you want to use it as a highlight, get it in a shade lighter than you would if you were to use it as concealer.
14. NYX Micro Brow Pencil – $10
You know how there are some people who, when they see someone with a full face of makeup and haven’t done their eyebrows, they flip out? Well, I’m the person who they flip out on. I only do my eyebrows on very special occasions, and even then, I avoid doing so at all costs. But when I do give in, I use this little beauty known as the NYX Micro Brow Pencil. With a spoolie on one end and the color point on the other, it makes drawing eyebrows on easier than any other product I have EVER used.
15. L’Oreal Paris Cosmetics Infallible Pro-Last Color Lipstick – $10
Nothing makes me feel more put together than having red lipstick on, and this lipstick is just the ticket! It’s not too dark that I look like I’m washed out but it’s definitely bright enough to get me noticed when wearing it. Best part? It doesn’t look like cheap makeup…this beauty could pass for a designer brand!
16. e.l.f. Prism Eyeshadow Pallet (Sunset)- $10
So for Christmas, my older brother got me a gift card to Old Navy, which is where I buy all of my e.l.f. products. I’ve seen this pallet online for a while and bought it on a whim, but instantly fell in love! The colors are so pigmented and if you use the right three together, your eyes look like a sunset in there own right. It’s just a beautiful pallet overall.
17. MAC Eyeshadow (Satin Taupe) – $16
This eyeshadow is beyond beautiful. It has such a fantastic shimmer and this list just wouldn’t be complete without it. On the pricier end of this cheap makeup list (yes, I know $16 is a lot for a single eyeshadow), this shadow is well worth the extra cash!
18. MAC Fluidline (Retro Black) – $16
Remember when I said I broke an eyeliner and had to get the e.l.f. version to replace it? Well, this was that eyeliner that broke. I love it, it’s black on black on black. It applies so perfectly and easily. If you want a long term investment in an eyeliner, this is definitely the way to go. Just don’t plop your Intro to Psych textbook on it.
19. Ofra Long Lasting Liquid Lipstick (Miami Fever) – $19
Another shootout to Kathleen Lights for this one. She made this liquid lipstick with Ofra Cosmetics and it’s literally my favorite thing in this world (at least in the world of cheap makeup). I use it everyday, and it looks good on anyone with any skin tone. It’s this beautiful orangey-red that’s…dare I say…perfect!
20. Colourpop Where The Light Is Eyeshadow Quad – $20
Okay, before you come at me with “Nicole this isn’t under $20,” hear me out. You can buy the single pieces of this quad for just $5…so yes, I would consider it cheap makeup! BUT, if you do splurge and get the quad, you get the beautiful little box they come in – talk about cute. The colors are natural and they truly look great on anyone and everyone.
Featured image source: frockmeimfamous.com
Nicole Lea Gilmer is a Freshman Psychology and Communications with a concentration in public relations double major. Nicole Lea is originally from Winder, Ga. and graduated from Winder-Barrow High School. She is a huge fan of YouTube and spends way too much time keeping up with her favorites on other social media. Nicole Lea hopes one day to work with LGBTQ+ youth as an advocate. But currently enjoys working as a volunteer with Coosa River Basin Initiative and as a GED Teacher for the Berry College ESL Program as a Bonner Scholar.