Which Products Are Actually Worth The Money?

The ultimate beauty dilemma: when to save versus splurge. Is there really a difference between the $200 cream and the $20 one — aside from the gold, glass jar the first comes in? Who in the world is buying their black eyeliner pencil from Barneys when there are plenty of perfectly great ones at Duane Reade? Once you've fallen in love with Oribe, is it ever possible to go back to cheap shampoo? These are the questions that keep us up at night.

As editors who are lucky enough to test beauty products nonstop, we get a lot of questions about which ones are worth the money and which ones are drugstore treasures. We've got answers. So many answers. Ahead, we're spilling about our favorite mass and luxury picks.
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Makeup

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"I have never been able to find something that rivals my favorite Benefit Hoola, but this one comes pretty damn close. It’s not as matte as the aforementioned cult classic, but it’s definitely not as shimmery as some other bronzers. Plus, the little hint of glimmer catches the light perfectly." — Kelsey Castañon, beauty news editor

NARS Bronzing Powder in Laguna, $39, available at Sephora.
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"I believe in the power of blush so strongly that I use the absolute brightest colors I can get away with — and I have a history of being a little heavy-handed with the application. That’s why I love this oldie-but-goodie. It’s super-pigmented, but blends in evenly, so I never look garish." — Kelsey Castañon

Neutrogena Healthy Skin Blush, $8.49, available at Neutrogena.
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"For my go-to cat-eye, I only trust Kat Von D's formula in Trooper. It's smooth, super-long-lasting, and so easy to apply precisely." — Lexy Lebsack, West Coast beauty editor

Kat Von D Tattoo Liner, $20, available at Sephora.
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"In my mind, mascara is just sort of mascara — prestige and drugstore do the same job. Numerous celeb makeup artists have recommended L'Oréal's classic mascara to me throughout my career — and for good reason. It's deeply pigmented and never flakes — and it's just as good as more expensive formulas." — Lexy Lebsack

L'Oréal Voluminous Carbon Black Volume Building Mascara, $8.49, available at Ulta Beauty.
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"Whenever I want to feel all-out gorgeous and impress someone, I get out my Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Maple. It’s a rich, deep brick-red with the smoothest, creamiest application ever — despite having a matte finish. And unlike many darker lipsticks, it doesn’t budge — even after eating." — Angela Lashbrook, community manager

Bite Beauty Amuse Bouche Lipstick in Maple, $26, available at Sephora.
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"I’ve yet to find a lip balm that truly feels like it makes a difference, but Maybelline’s Baby Lips comes close. It seals in moisture without feeling greasy and layers well with lipstick if I’m going to be wearing a drier formula. Plus, the packaging is a cute '90s throwback to the flavored lip balms of my youth." — Angela Lashbrook

Maybelline Baby Lips Moisturizing Lip Balm, $4.49, available at Maybelline.
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"I always splurge on my concealer. This looks like skin on — matte, but not flat — and stays put for hours." — Cat Quinn, beauty director

NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard, $29, available at NARS.
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"Cream bronzers are hard to find in the first place, and I love this one from E.L.F. It's creamy and has a nice sun-kissed color. But I really love this blush color — it makes you look so dewy and glowing, and blends beautifully. Together, they're a perfect match." — Cat Quinn

E.L.F. Contouring Blush & Bronzing Cream, $4, available at E.L.F.
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"Although there are tons of drugstore eyeliners that I love, nothing beats Lancôme's liquid liner. It has an extremely fine, cushion-style tip that makes it so easy to draw on crisp cat-eyes that last all day and night." — Mi-Anne Chan, beauty writer

Lancôme Grandiôse Bendable Liquid Eyeliner, $32, available at Sephora.
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"Sure, I have some high-end mascara favorites, but as a general rule, I tend to stick to drugstore formulas. They may be inexpensive, but drugstore mascaras are some of the best on the market. Why shell out the big bucks for a luxury wand when you have to throw it away in three months anyway? My favorite mascara — the one I go back to time and time again — is Maybellines' the Falsies Waterproof. Not only does its curved brush make it easy to coat those hard-to-reach lashes, but the formula is insanely volumizing and budge-proof, too." — Mi-Anne Chan

Maybelline Volum’ Express the Falsies Waterproof Mascara, $6.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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"This Tom Ford eyeshadow consistently gets me compliments. The cream formula never gets dry or flaky, but also doesn't move around; the metallic finish is shiny, but not in-your-face; and it's so multidimensional that you don't need to layer any other shadows with it. Oh, and I've been working out of the same pot for a full year and it's not even close to being empty." — Alix Tunell, senior beauty editor

Tom Ford Cream Color for Eyes, $45, available at Tom Ford.
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"Whether it's true or not, I'm convinced that all mascara formulas are pretty much the same and the only thing that matters is the brush. Once you find your brush match, any mascara — from $5 to $50 — will do the job. This is mine — and it gives me long, separated, clump-free lashes every time." — Alix Tunell

CoverGirl Full Lash Bloom Mascara, $7.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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"Powder can be scratchy or heavy if you dip too low in price point. This one from Laura Mercier is my favorite because there's zero color payoff and it keeps oil at bay for hours." — Michaela Rollings, marketing coordinator

Laura Mercie
r Invisible Loose Setting Powder, $38, available at Laura Mercier.
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"Bronzers are one of the drugstore's best beauty items, in my opinion. This one is my perfect shade and blends seamlessly." — Michaela Rollings

NYC New York Color Sun 'n' Bronze Bronzing Powder, $4.47, available at Walmart.
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"Liquid lipsticks aren't usually my thing. They're too messy for my skill level, and I despise matte finishes. But these NARS Velvet Glides are pillow-soft on the lips and leave the most beautiful pigment that lasts forever. Even when the color fades, the application process is so easy because you're never layering over dryness." — Samantha Sasso, beauty editorial assistant

NARS Velvet Lip Glide, $26, available at NARS.
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"I consider this one of my ultimate saves because it's the never-ending formula. The first one I bought lasted over a year. Also, Beyoncé uses it, so isn't that enough of a reason?" — Samantha Sasso

Rosebud Perfume Co. Rosebud Salve, $6, available at Sephora.
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"My makeup bag is a complete mix of high- and low-priced products, but one thing that's always prestige is my foundation. Right now I am loving Chanel's Aqua formula, which delivers sheer-to-medium coverage and a lifelike finish that is somewhere between satin and dewy." — Lexy Lebsack

Chanel
Vitalumière Aqua, $48, available at Chanel.
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"For me, cream blush is almost always mass. I find that many drugstore brands offer blendable, pigmented, beautiful products — Flower Beauty and Circa are my top picks. Circa's cream formula in Portofino is a vibrant shade that buffs into skin easily and lasts all day — it's the one I've been using for months." — Lexy Lebsack

Circa Beauty Ultrasuede Cream Blush in Portofino, $13, available at Circa Beauty.
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"Shadows are so important to me — the richer the pigment, the easier they blend, and the longer the look will last on my lids. This one definitely meets the mark." — Michaela Rollings

Tarte
Tartelette in Bloom Clay Palette, $45, available at Tarte.
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"I never notice much of a difference when I go with primer versus without, so I can't justify spending more than $5 to $6 on it." — Michaela Rollings

Catrice Prime & Fine Eyeshadow Base, $5.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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"Finding a good neutral liner for your skin and lip color is difficult — so when I found this formula, I never strayed. I'm sure there are drugstore formulas that are just as great, but I am so hooked on Urban Decay's formula I may never replace it." — Lexy Lebsack

Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Lip Pencil in Naked, $20, available at Urban Decay.
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"Over my favorite liner, I apply my top drugstore balm from Nivea. It's a dead ringer for the European cult balm Labello, which means it's hydrating, gives a light sheen, and never makes your lips feel dry by the time it wears off." — Lexy Lebsack

Nivea A Kiss Of Moisture Essential Lip Care, $2.99, available at Walgreens.
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Hair

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"Ever since I amped up my highlights, I can't go a week without masking. My ends feel super-dry and brittle these days, and these chrome packets are my go-to first-aid kit. Plus, the pouches are perfect for traveling." — Samantha Sasso

Ouai Treatment Masque, $32, available at Sephora.
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"Quite possibly the cheapest shampoo I've ever used that performs miracles on my hair. After just one wash, my dull color is vibrant and fresh again." — Samantha Sasso

L'Oréal Total Repair 5 Restoring Shampoo, $4.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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"I cannot live without my $300 Harry Josh Dryer. (Pro tip: You can soon find it for $50 cheaper at Target.) It dries my hair twice as fast as any other dryer I've used — and my hair always looks so shiny afterward, I don't follow up with any hot tools." — Cat Quinn

Harry Josh Pro Tools Pro Dryer 2000, $300, available at DermStore.
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"I love this drugstore conditioner from Garnier. I used it after I ran out of my Oribe once, and my hair air-dried to the smoothest, softest waves. It almost looked like I had heat-styled it — I was shocked." — Cat Quinn

Garnier Honey Treasures Repairing Shampoo, $4.49, available at Garnier.
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"This super-rich mask is loaded with fatty acids that inject moisture right back into my hair, especially in the winter when my ends are dry and fried AF." — Kelsey Castañon

Phyto Phytokeratine Extreme Exceptional Mask, $59, available at Sephora.
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"I have pretty fine hair, so I tend to stay away from oils, but this one feels so lightweight you can barely tell it’s there. I use it on my ends whenever they feel dry. Did I mention it also smells like tropical heaven?" — Kelsey Castañon

Suave Professionals Coconut Oil Infusion Damage Repair Oil, $5.99, available at Target.
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"They can come out with a million more dry shampoos, but the game is over: This one is the best. I was hooked when I used it after a spin class, and my hair actually looked better than it does after a fancy blowout. Don't believe me? Behold." — Alix Tunell

Living Proof Perfect Hair Day Dry Shampoo, $22, available at Sephora.
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"I'm pretty minimal when it comes to my hair, but for whatever reason, I rarely fall in love with shampoos. The only two I alternate between? Davines (which is a splurge) and Clear. It smells good, never weighs my flat hair down, and adds shine and moisture. It's fairly basic, but that's exactly what I like with my hair care." — Alix Tunell

Clear 24/7 Total Care Shampoo, $10.69, available at Walmart.
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Skin

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"This luxe cleansing oil from Kiehl's is made with a rich mix of botanical oils, like squalene, a natural emollient and antioxidant, and lavender oil, which is anti-inflammatory and smells amazing. This stuff wicks away even the toughest eye makeup, leaving my skin feeling clean, soft, and supple. I use it every single night and my skin looks incredible — if I do say so myself." — Maria Del Russo, beauty editor

Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Cleansing Oil, $32, available at Kiehl’s.
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"Since I don't love a full wash for my face in the morning, I always reach for a micellar water instead of a typical cleanser. It cleans and refreshes my skin without introducing hard water into my morning skin-care routine. Plus, this one from Simple is clutch for sensitive skin — and rings up under $10. That's a win-win." — Maria Del Russo

Simple Cleansing Micellar Water, $7.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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"If I'm going to invest in skin care, it's going to be a serum that delays aging and smooths my skin. This one leaves my skin softer than ever and isn't too pricey for a high-end treatment." — Michaela Rollings

It Cosmetics
Bye Bye Lines Serum, $58, available at Sephora.
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"A lot of prestige creams feel overly greasy and sticky on my skin — I don't like waking up with a film of moisturizer left from the night before. This gel moisturizer is super-hydrating, perfect for colder months, and absorbs in 60 seconds." — Michaela Rollings

Garnier Moisture Rescue Refresh Gel Cream, $8.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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"This mask gives my tired skin a major deep-clean, but it also feels really luxurious on. Bonus: It smells so delicious, I could keep it on for hours." — Samantha Sasso

Aesop Parsley Seed Cleansing Masque, $45, available at Nordstrom.
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"These wonderful wipes are under $10 and packed with moisture. They're soft, the fragrance isn't too strong, and they're always my first step in makeup removal." — Samantha Sasso

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, $8.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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"My combo skin gets thrown out of whack in the colder months, but this miracle potion is packed with ceramides and fatty acids that get it back into shape." — Kelsey Castañon

SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2, $125, available at SkinCeuticals.
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"Whenever anyone asks for my hands-down favorite cleanser, I tell them about this one. It has salicylic acid that dissolves a day’s worth of grime without stripping my skin. My face looks nine million times clearer when I use it on a regular basis." — Kelsey Castañon

CeraVe SA Renewing Cleanser, $11.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
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"At night, I reach for the hard-hitting stuff targeted to turn over cells and increase collagen production. Unfortunately, those products tend to come with a high price tag. Lately, I've been loving this gentle, but potent cream from Dr. Sturm." — Alix Tunell

Dr. Barbara Sturm Face Cream, $215, available at Net-A-Porter.
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"For as big of a skin-care devotee as I consider myself to be, I spend about 30 seconds on that part of my routine each morning. I'm perpetually running late, so I usually reach for this L'Oréal moisturizer. With SPF and brightening glycolic acid and a lightweight finish that absorbs in seconds, it's an all-in-one that gets the job done for an affordable price." — Alix Tunell

L’Oréal Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Day Moisturizer, $17.99, available at Target.
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"I definitely think expensive serums can be worth the money — that is, provided you're always reading ingredients labels and making sure that product is right for you (samples are a great way to do this). One serum I particularly love is Drunk Elephant's night serum. At $90, it's far from cheap, but it's one I constantly go back to when I want something that will brighten, smooth, and clear up my complexion." — Mi-Anne Chan

Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum, $90, available at Drunk Elephant.
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"Cleansers, on the other hand, are something I think many inexpensive brands do really well. I'm also of the school of thought that it doesn't make much sense to pay a lot for face wash when the ingredients are going to be on your face for all of one minute before they're washed down the drain. This mud cleanser is one of my favorites because it effectively de-gunks my skin without leaving it tight and dry." — Mi-Anne Chan

Pixi Glow Mud Cleanser, $18, available at Target.
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Body

Splurge

"Perfume is almost always Tom Ford. No matter what I try, I always go back to these rich, moody, deep, sultry scents. Right now, I rotate between Velvet Orchid and Shanghai Lily — heaven!" — Lexy Lebsack

Tom Ford Velvet Orchid, $120, available at Sephora.
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"My dry skin feels best when I wash it with a simple baby cleanser (I have gotten many a roommate hooked on this stuff over the years), then rub on a scent-free lotion from Aveeno — this has been my routine for as long as I can remember." — Lexy Lebsack

Johnson's Baby Head-to-Toe Wash Original Formula, $5.49, available at Walgreens.
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"I recently became a tanning snob, and I only use this $40 oil to get the job done at home. When I want to treat myself and have some extra time, I lather this all over my body for a radiant glow. It's what I reach for to feel hot AF." — Samantha Sasso

Josie Maran Argan Liquid Gold Self-Tanning Oil, $38, available at Sephora.
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"This bottle is huge and, still, I keep it in bulk because I can't go a day without smoothing it all over my body." — Samantha Sasso

Curél Ultra Healing Intensive Lotion for Extra-Dry Skin, $7.99, available at Walmart.
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"Fragrance is a once-a-year item I'll gladly invest in, if I find the right one." — Michaela Rollings

Chloé Eau de Parfum, $105, available at Sephora.
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"Some people love to indulge in body butters, scrubs, or super-powered salves, but since I use body lotion so liberally, I don't want to worry about how much money I'm wasting each time I put lotion on (which is a lot in the winter). I love the feel of Aveeno's lotions — they sink into the skin quickly and don't leave behind a potent scent." — Michaela Rollings

Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion, $7.19, available at Target.
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