As a beauty editor, I’m lucky that I get sent and test a number of new makeup, fragrance, hair and skincare products for a living. However, those of us in this line of work are aware that if we were not fortunate enough to be in this position to have access to luxury beauty products then, realistically, we might not actually be in a position to buy many of the high-price-point products that we are sent. That’s not to say that expensive products are bad but rather that, in the real world, forking out £100+ for a product is not feasible for a large portion of the population (myself included).
What’s more, in an age of de-influencing (where many are taking to social media to share the products they think are overhyped or not worth the money), we’ve never been more conscious of the products that are being pushed on our algorithms, and we’re beginning to raise an eyebrow when we’re served a video that claims a product is a so-called must-have (“Run, don’t walk!”). This is particularly true given the cost-of-living crisis that has many of us re-evaluating what and where we spend our money. And it can be a real let down when a hyped-up or expensive investment turns out to be, well, a bit rubbish.
The good news is that there are so many affordable beauty products on the market. I’m a big believer that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on your beauty products to see the results you want. Sure, it can be a good idea to spend a little more on products that are proven to have more of an effect or that you’ve seen previous success with. For me that product is a serum, which I consider to be a powerhouse in my skincare routine, but as for expensive moisturisers? I’m not that convinced. In my opinion, there are plenty of affordable moisturisers that rival the expensive ones, so this is a place I know I can save over splurge. And I know I’m not the only one. Being totally totally truthful, there are so many good affordable beauty products that beauty insiders swear by. I’d encourage anyone to spend within their means when it comes to building their beauty routine.
To find out what affordable beauty products are really worth it, I asked fellow beauty editors and those in the know to share their favourite budget beauty buys under £20. You’ll find our honest thoughts below.
“My pick is Pacifica’s Reusable Undereye Masks. I love a great multitasker, and nothing says ‘I can do it all’ more than an easy-to-clean beauty tool, and this has been a game changer. Not only does it travel well—thanks to a handy metal case—but any product that boosts the benefits of my existing products is a winner in my book.”
“I rarely get excited by moisturisers—they’re one of the more functional products in my routine, and because I have acne-prone skin, I have to be careful which ones I use. When I find a good one, however, I will both stick with it and sing its praises to everyone I know. A case in point: The Inkey List’s Omega Water Cream, which I’ve recommended to friends, family, clients and Instagram followers alike. It has a water-based formula and light gel texture (making it great for oily and breakout-prone skin), but the formula is still packed with powerful hydrators, making it every bit as moisturising as thicker creams. Even dry (and especially dehydrated) skin types will love it. Plus, it’s less than £10, which makes it even more worth shouting about.”
“I have adored this product for years, and it has remained a staple in my skincare routine. As someone with oily skin who’s prone to the odd irritation flare-up, I consider it an essential on my skincare shelf. I’m a lover of luxury skincare, but I’ve never found a cleansing balm that compares to this. Not only does it smell beautifully clean without being overbearing, but it also melts aways makeup, SPF and the day’s dirt with unparalleled ease. The best bit? Unlike most cleansing balms out there, it doesn’t sting my eyes—meaning I can take off my whole face with just this one product. Massage it into dry skin and wipe off with a wet flannel. Skin is left soothed, soft, plump and generally very, very happy. If I had a pound for every colleague and friend I’ve got hooked on this, I’d be able to buy a lifetime’s supply.”
“I’m not one for heavy foundation or anything too matte, so this multi-use glow booster is just the ticket. It’s absolutely stellar at making skin still look like skin just way better and can be used on its own, with foundation or as a highlighter—I like to mix it with a bronzing gel to give the illusion of a post-holiday glow. Plus—yes, there’s more—it contains squalane and hyaluronic acid, so it’s kind enough to give your face a hit of hydration at the same time.”
“There isn’t an Arkive product I’ve met and not absolutely loved—not liked, but LOVED. The formulas are some of the most elegant on the market in the price range (£10 to £14), and every single one smells stunning thanks to founder Adam Reed’s fascination with fragrance. The Prologue Primer is one of my favourites; it preps my hair for drying, detangles, protects and, most of all, makes my hair smell incredible—a scent inspired by Reed’s childhood memories. “Beyond the products, the ethos of the brand, which is simple but poignant, is all about reconnecting with our heads through our hair—something Reed calls ‘headcare.’ It’s about looking after ourselves, breaking down mental health stigmas and embracing community to make the world a better place. And if all of that wasn’t enough, the brand is also B Corp certified (a very difficult certification to achieve), vegan, and cruelty-free.”
“I love The Ordinary not only because of how affordable the brand is but because of how effective it is. I’ve managed to built a very good skincare routine featuring a lot of it products. The Glycolic Acid Toning Solution does exactly what it says on the bottle and has pushed the brand’s hyaluronic acid from the top spot of products I constantly repurchase when I run out. I experience hyperpigmentation and textured skin, and I’ve seen a massive difference since introducing this to my routine.”
Price shown is member price. Ejaria adds, “Also, I tried this recently and wow, 10/10—I would recommend.”
Our editor in chief, Hannah Almassi, is also a huge fan of The Ordinary. “I use the Vitamin C + Hyaluronic acid serum and get quite nervous when I run out,” she says.
“As much as I love to try new makeup products there are a few that I rely on every day, and luckily they’re the most affordable in my kit. The first is Maybelline’s Lash Sensational Mascara that I have used for years and recommend to everyone I know. The curved brush gives an instant lift to my very straight eyelashes, giving the illusion of long, dark lashes.”
“Secondly, the most recommended product to me was Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer and has been my go-to ever since. The soft bronze is perfect for adding a healthy glow, and as it smells like summertime, it always adds some joy to my makeup routine.”
“When it comes to eyebrows, as far as I’m concerned, the bigger, the better. The Y2K skinny-brow trend may shudder with disagreement, but I like a thick hedge of hair above each of my eyes. Whilst my brows aren’t naturally that full, Nyx’s Eyebrow Glue definitely has people fooled. I’ve tried other more expensive gel options, but they never really quite stick for longer than an hour, or they leave small flakes of glue that look like eyebrow dandruff (ew). Go into my handbag any day or any night, and you’ll see I’m never without this affordable little find.”
“Calling all fake-tan stans—this one’s for you. I’ve finally done it; I’ve found what I believe to be the best instant tan on the market. And because I don’t gatekeep, I’m happy to tell you that it’s by St Moritz. What makes it so good? Well, when applied with a mitt and moisturiser, it leaves not a single streak. It also has a lovely golden colour that makes you look like you’ve spent two weeks in on a yacht in the Mediterranean, and what’s more, it’s only £5!”
“Over the years, I’ve tried my fair share of coloured eyeliners and recently found the Sephora Collection 12H Colourful Contour Eye Pencil frequenting my weekly rotation. The formula is super creamy and adds the perfect pop of colour in seconds, which can be worn subtly or built up for more of an intense look. Shade Fresh Mint has become my go-to shade, thanks to its dazzling glitter finish. The eyeliner is available in 24 shades, three finishes (glitter, shimmer and matte), and each lasts up to 12 hours of wear with a waterproof formula. Plus, it’s priced at an affordable £9. When Sephora’s first UK store officially launches, I know exactly what I’ll be stocking up on first.”
As for me, I absolutely swear by anything from La Roche-Posay’s Toleriane range. If you’re a sensitive-skin gal like me, then I’d recommend trying it. During a time when I had a bad eczema flare on my face, I spent a lot of money (not to mention trips to Boots) trying to find a moisturiser that my skin could tolerate. This was the best that I found, and I still use it now post-flare-up—there’s always a tube on standby for sensitive-skin days. Dermatologists also really rate it, and for under £20, it’s a really great moisturiser.
I generally hate eyebrow pencils—and that goes across the price ranges that I’ve tried. They’re either too creamy or so firm that they drag across the skin. Or the shades are really off, and the nib is too big to create realistic hairs. I recently ran out of my eyebrow pencil and popped into my local drugstore to buy a replacement and came across this, and now I’m hooked. Tiny nib? Check. Realistic brow shades? Check. Perfect consistency? Check and check. It also comes with a handy spoolie brush to groom brows into place and diffuse the product for a natural finish.
“I love wearing this skin tint from Rimmel on more natural makeup days. It has such a lightweight consistency that glides onto the skin, and it leaves me with a glowy, radiant complexion,” says Lindsay. “Not only that, but it also has light to medium coverage which helps to minimise any blemishes or redness I may have. I’ve tried my fair share of high-end and high street skin tints over the years, and this is definitely one of my favourites.”
The whole Who What Wear team wholeheartedly agrees that this body moisturiser is the GOAT.
This gentle cleaner is one of the best affordable options out there if you have a sensitive complexion, or sensitised skin from overusing strong skincare ingredients.
Trust us, this thickening styling spray gives great volume and texture.
This no frills eye cream just does the job. It hydrates and plumps fine lines.