Budget-Friendly Beauty Moves

Illustarted by Sydney Hass.
When your wallet’s on the light side, it can be hard to justify spending your hard-earned cash on a haircut, manicure, or even a bottle of nail polish. And, that’s unfortunate, since a stylish new ‘do and freshly painted tips can make you feel like a million bucks.
The truth is, looking your prettiest doesn’t have to cost a pretty penny. With a little planning and some out-of-the-box ideas, you can save some serious cash, giving you and your bank account a much-needed boost. We went to a variety of experts — a dermatologist, hairstylist, colorist, and nail pro—for a roundup of money-saving products and treatments, plus foolproof strategies for making the most of what you already have.
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Keep clicking for some surprising ways to save money on your everyday beauty staples, as well as tips on how to stretch your beauty dollar for all its worth — and then some.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
You may not wash your hair on a daily basis, but chances are, you're using too much product when you do — and that can cost you. "Depending on your hair length, a nickel- to quarter-size dollop of shampoo is enough to get the job done," says Renee Cohen, a senior stylist for Serge Normant at John Frieda Salons in New York City. “Apply it to wet hair, and then hold your head under the shower stream again to maximize the lather.”

Remember that many color-safe formulas are sulfate-free, which won’t result in many satisfying suds at all. So, adding more shampoo to your ration won't solve that bubble deficiency. Use similar restraint with conditioner, she says — applying it only to the ends if hair is fine. For thicker, coarser strands, place it everywhere but the roots, and comb it through hair before rinsing.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
“Don’t give up on the lipstick that didn’t look like you expected it to,” says Kimara Ahnert, a New York City-based makeup artist. Layering it over another lip color will not only help it last longer, it will also create a hue that’s more flattering to you. If the lipstick is too light, she recommends coloring in the lip with a pencil first. “If it’s too dark, smooth a clear lip balm over it or a frosted lip color followed by a gloss.”

A face lotion you aren’t loving can be repurposed as a neck, chest, or hand cream. Fragrance coming on too strong? “Lighten it up by mixing it with an unscented body oil or lotion,” says Ahnert. “Dispense some lotion or oil into your hand, add a drop of fragrance, and apply.”
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Being green, it seems, can put a little green in your pocket. MAC’s Back to MAC program allows you trade six empty containers — everything from powder compacts and eyeshadow pans to lipstick tubes — for the lip color of your choice. Returning 10 full-size product containers to a Kiehl’s counter entitles you to a full-size product from its travel collection, while at Lush, five empty black pots used for its Shower Scrubs and Smoothies can be swapped for a free Fresh Face Mask. Stila’s refillable containers are also budget and planet friendly, since going back for seconds means you only have to purchase the color rather than a whole new compact.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Seek out everyday staples with multiple uses to save money and space. Petroleum jelly makes a great lip gloss, makeup remover, and foot moisturizer. Johnson’s No More Tears Baby Shampoo can be used to remove eye makeup and clean your makeup brushes, while any hair conditioner can double as shaving cream. Ran out of dry shampoo? “A little baby powder sprinkled on a vented brush will absorb that excess oil,” says Cohen. “Just remember to shake out the brush before running it through hair to avoid that powdered wig effect.”
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Even serious beauty junkies know to pick up certain staples at their drugstore. Afterall, retailers like Neutrogena, Garnier, and Olay make quality products at a fraction of the cost of their department-store counterparts. But, don’t overlook lines made exclusively for chains like CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens.

“With things like cleansers, toners, moisturizers, and BB creams, you’ll get really good value,” says Dr. Neal Schultz, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City and founder of DermTV. After doing a side-by-side comparison at his local drugstore, he found the house brand to be significantly cheaper — up to $5 in some cases. “The aesthetics may be different, but the ingredients are very similar, if not identical, to the brand-name versions.” Another budget-conscious buy: sunscreen. “They’re highly regulated, so if it says SPF 30 and broad-spectrum on the label, you can be sure it lives up to its promise."
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Both at drugstores and beauty retailers, customer loyalty cards can yield some amazing rewards. Join Sephora’s Beauty Insider program (a free membership), and you’ll receive a point for every dollar you spend. Once you reach 100 points on your card, you receive a free sample. Sally Beauty's Club Card charges $5 yearly, but it allows you to save on every purchase and gives you a free gift and/or coupon when you join or re-up. If you color your hair at home, consider registering for L’Oréal Gold Rewards; for every five hair-color products you purchase, you’ll receive the next one free.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Running low on foundation? “Instead of applying it with a sponge, which can absorb too much of the precious product, use a cotton swab to stripe it on your cheeks, forehead, and chin,” says Ahnert. “Then, blend with the sponge or your fingers.” Similarly, a lip brush will let you get every last smidgen out of your favorite tube of lipstick. And, rather than tossing those broken bronzers and blushes, turn them into loose powders. “Dump them onto wax paper, and using a knife, cut the powder and flatten it by pressing it with a flat part,” she says. “Repeat until the mixture is completely smooth and loose, and pour it into an empty powder jar with a sifter.”
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
A pro manicure is an instant image and mood booster — until a day or two later when the polish begins to chip or peel. But, there are ways to give your paint job staying power, from starting with a short, square shape to staying off dish-washing duty for a while. For Jane Park, owner of Julep Nail Parlors in Seattle, brushing the free edge, or the front of the nail, horizontally with basecoat, lacquer, and topcoat is key to making a mani go the distance. “That’s where it’s likely to chip first, she says. “Sealing it will help it look more finished and last longer.”
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Buy up to two weeks between salon coloring appointments by asking your colorist for a glaze. Like a topcoat for tresses, a clear or colored semi-permanent formula helps to seal the newly dyed cuticle, bring the pH to normal, and add loads of shine, according to Rachel Bodt, a senior colorist at Cutler Salons in New York City. “If your roots are not an issue, but the rest of your hair is dull and drab, it’s the perfect color service,” says Bodt. “It’s especially great for redheads who fade too fast or double-processed blondes who tend to get too yellow or white.”
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Purchasing a product that does double (and even triple) duty will save you some serious dough. Body lotions with SPF, tinted moisturizers, BB and CC creams, and anti-aging lip colors and stains are all an easy way to economize, says Schultz. Two-sided eye pencils and cosmetic brushes can also save you some money. Need to cover up a few pimples? Try a skin clearing-concealer that treats your blemishes as you camouflage them.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
No, you probably don’t need five deodorants or three bottles of body wash, but buying in bulk at Costco, B.J.’s, or Sam’s Club and splitting the cost with your friends is a savvy financial move. These wholesale clubs boast a limited, but impressive selection of cosmetics from such mass and prestige brands as Olay, Sisley, and Shiseido. With some products, you can save some serious money. At Costco, for example, a pack of two four-ounce tubes of StriVectin-SD Intensive Concentrate for Stretch Marks & Wrinkles costs $145—just $5 more than one 4.5-ounce tube purchased elsewhere.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
If you’re not prone to breakouts and a zit popped up during the day, take a peek at your medicine cabinet before running out to buy an acne cream. “In a pinch, over-the-counter hydrocortisone, Pepto-Bismol, hydrogen peroxide, and even Preparation H can help shrink a pimple,” says Schultz. “Or, make a paste of aspirin, baking soda, and water — a mix that has anti-inflammatory properties — and leave it on skin overnight.”
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
In addition to permitting you to try before you buy, stocking up on fun-size products can help you fill the void when you can’t afford the full-size version. Score colors and skin-care minis for free at cosmetic specialty stores like Kiehl’s and Sephora, and shop online wherever your choice of samples is free with your order at sites such as Sephora, Ulta, and Beauty.com. And, always ask for fragrance samples in small vials so you can try them over many days before buying a whole bottle.
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Illustrated by Sydney Hass.
Botox can be pricey and lasts only a few months, so to get the biggest bang for your buck, be sure to time it right. “First, know that you can’t count on Botox to kick in immediately,” says Schultz. “Make sure an important event is between days 10 and 60 of getting the injection.” If you know you don’t use a full syringe of Botox or a filler like Juvéderm or Restylane, he recommends asking your doctor if there’s a financial benefit to you for him to save and label your leftovers. “That way,” says Schultz, “you’ll only pay for the visit when you return in four or five months.”
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