Cheap, good makeup: 2016

My post on skincare basics turned out to be pretty useful. I not-infrequently spot folks asking for foundation recommendations. What a good excuse. Let me help put together a face for you and see if I can’t make this, relatively, non-intimidating.


  • Holika Holika Aqua Petit Jelly BB cream SPF20 PA++ ($10)
  • Missha M Perfect Cover BB Cream ($6) gives a matte finish, medium to full coverage, no clinging to dry patches. I can’t stand the ‘cheap perfume’ smell, but YMMV.
  • Holika Holika Petit BB Cream ($5) offers lots of different finishes and various levels of SPF.
  • Ettusais Mineral BB Cream ($22) is pricier than the rest but it justifies, IMO, and it’s still cheaper than the average mid-range foundation (which starts at $30). Matte finish without , awesome oil control, blendable with brush, finger, or sponge. Medium coverage.

You can use powder on top of your foundation or, if your skin is great and you don’t need a lot of coverage, simply put powder on top of your sunscreen. KATE High Grade Cover Powder ($18) does a decent job, as does Innisfree No Sebum Mineral Powder ($5.93). Both are pressed powder.

Eye products. For me, I think you ‘need’ one or two eyeshadow palette plus a black eyeliner, that’s it. Mascara’s nice but very fussy (and expires very fast). Powder eyeshadow lasts forever, if stored properly (i.e. in a cool, dark place).

  • Sleek i-Divine palettes ($12). Contains 12 shades. Check out Temptalia’s reviews for the Sunset and Vintage Romance palettes. I like Celestial for its duochromes, blues, and purples. The quality’s pretty decent for the price and so is the quantity, though I’m not a fan of their matte shades.
  • Zoeva eyeshadow palettes ($21.50). Contains 10 shades.  Rodeo Belle gives you both colorful and neutral (including one duochrome) while En Taupe and Cocoa Blend are closer to what you’d look for if you prefer Urban Decay Naked palettes. I’m really enthusiastic about Zoeva products in general (their Graphic Eyes liners are smooth, buttery, pigmented and come in interesting shades; think MAC Pearlglide and Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On) and their shadows are just as good. Pigmented, smooooth, adhere well, no fallout. Pretty, classy packaging.
  • Essence Gel Eyeliner in Midnight in Paris ($4) is a gel liner in a pot. It’s no-frills, not my favorite, but it’s functional and mostly stays put. It doubles as a black eyeshadow base.
  • Clio Waterproof Pen Liner in Kill Black ($7-10). Get the pen, not the ‘brush’ version; the ‘pen’ version is more pigmented and IMO sturdier. It’s black liquid liner that’s actually black, dries quickly, stays put.

Lipsticks. Most lip products in the cheaper range are pretty okay, honestly, and for the most part it’s not a category of products to splurge on. I tend to warn people away from lipsticks from NYX (soap smell), Catrice (slippery, doesn’t stay on), but otherwise the main distinguishing feature between the drugstore and the high end is the smell (the more expensive ones tend to use better fragrances, smelling like chocolate or raspberry rather than fucking dish soap. The higher-end also tends to be tasteless while some cheaper lipsticks taste, well, bitter. It all depends on your tolerance and preference. Temptalia reviews tend to make note of whether a lip product has any taste or smell.

  • Bourjois Rouge Edition ($10). Decent shade selection, comfortable, pigmented and very functional. The Rouge Edition Velvet is also worth a look if you’re looking for a liquid lipstick.
  • Revlon Super Lustrous lipsticks ($5-6) come in several finishes, have no smell and no taste. They are housed in plain black bullets and offer a ton of shades from neutral to vampy. They aren’t exciting or fancy, but they do what they do very well and you can usually find some kind of BOGO offer.

  • ARITAUM Ginger Sugar Tint Lip Balm ($6-7) is a tinted lip balm and gives a pretty sheer color payoff. It has no taste, smells pleasant, is decently moisturizing.

You can have a decent makeup routine for roughly $30-40 altogether. We could go on about the feminist problem of makeup or whatever but eh, if you want it for pleasure or require it for a formal/professional occasion, you do what you got to do.