The Cheap Girl's Guide To A Fancy Beauty Routine

During the holidays, when ravenous shopping ops and beauty swag abound at every turn, it’s easy to justify that prestigious face-cream splurge (if Kylie Jenner deserves it...) or a limited-edition find (hello, Tom Ford’s Lips & Boys). In fact, most of us in the 18 to 34 set will spend nearly a quarter of our holiday gift-giving budget on ourselves, according to a new report by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Potential for financial ruin (or coming up embarrassingly short on spending for others) is tremendous.

Lucky for you, we have a plan for how to luxe up your beauty rituals without spiraling into buyer's remorse. The strategy? Making a few meaningful purchases that give your entire routine a more decadent look and feel — without breaking the bank. Let us upgrade ya, eight different ways, ahead.
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Retool Your Makeup Brush
We love the complexion-clarifying results of a face mask, but our at-home practice is far from a spa-like experience. Simulate relaxation and cut the mess by sweeping on masks with a dense brush, instead. Not only is it more hygienic than using your hands, it also distributes the product more evenly, says celebrity facialist Robin McDonald, who treats Charlize Theron.

May Lindstrom The Facial Treatment Brush, $30, available at May Lindstrom.
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Go High-Fiber
Poly-blend sweaters can’t hold a candle to cashmere. And when it comes to smoothing on skin-care products, cheapo cotton disks have nothing on the hyper-soft, all-cotton alternative. We’re partial to these Japanese silk-and-cotton pillows, which make sweeping on toners and essences a luxury, not a chore. The pads are as soft as rose petals, but have a slightly textured surface meant to exfoliate dead skin cells, so products can penetrate better. For the girl craving a little bathroom bling, try Chanel’s version, stamped with interlocking Cs. Swoon.

Cle de Peau Facial Cotton, $20, available at Cle de Peau.
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Upgrade Your Basic Pins
The fastest way to make your hairstyle feel more glamorous? Swap out your boring black bobby pins and hair clips for gilded ones. As Ashley Olsen’s golden half-updo at the Met Ball proved, it’s a cheap (but chic) way to stand out in the most stylish of crowds.

& Other Stories
Large Metal Hairclip, $17, available at & Other Stories.
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Upgrade Your Body Mist To A Full-on Fragrance
As refreshing as a spritz of body mist can be, the scent from a watered-down spray doesn't last as long as perfume. To nail down your signature fragrance — and ensure it stays around all day — switch to a more concentrated formula, like Dolce & Gabbana's Light Blue perfume. Before you dab on the subtle blend of amber, citron, and musk, be sure to apply an unscented lotion, as fragrance holds better on moisturized skin.
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De-Gunk In Style
Does CVS antibacterial hand gel work just as well as this beautifully bottled version? Sure. But killing nasty subway germs becomes a calming ritual when you use this botanically spiked formula, which includes lavender, witch hazel, cinnamon, lemongrass, and thyme. One spray will have you fighting bacteria while breathing in aromatherapy.

Neal’s Yard Remedies Organics Organic Defense Hand Spray, $10.50, available at Neal’s Yard Organics.
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One-Up Your Body Wash
It might be tough to part with your used-it-since-middle school body wash, but the newest crop of in-shower cleansers offer a more elegant experience that also saves time. Cleansing oils made for the body not only feel more silky on the skin, they also deliver lasting hydration that replaces the need for copious amounts of body lotion. This particular one leaves a subtle shimmer and sexy, floral scent you’ll love using before a night out.

Nuxe Prodigieux Shower Oil Gel, $15, available at Nuxe.
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Cleanse Your Tap
Installing a new showerhead may not rank as sexy, but netting shinier hair and healthier skin for the 1,200 showers that follow? We’re on board with that.

"[It] filters out harsh minerals such as phosphorous and chlorine, which dry and irritate the skin and hair,” notes dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf, MD, and author of Stop Aging, Start Living. This particular version uses copper, zinc, and calcium to jettison chlorine found in many municipal pipes, while tourmaline helps balance H2O's pH. The result: more moisture retention for skin — and less frizzy hair.

T3 Source In-Line Shower Filter, $70, available at Nordstrom.
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Swap Your Cloth
For gentler exfoliating, bypass scratchy terry cloth towels and reach for a muslin version instead. Or, go super high end and splurge on silk. This 7-inch square is comprised of amino acids and protein-rich fibers and can be used wet or dry to gently loosen dead skin cells.

Tatcha Kinu Pure Silk Cleansing Cloth, $18, available at Tatcha.
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Go For Grown-Up Balm
We’re just as tempted to drop $50 on haute nail polish as the next girl. But infrequent uses couchside don’t seem to justify the splurge. Instead, we’re going luxe on a beauty product that gets major play no matter where we are — the humble lip balm. Why bust out a tween-y plastic tube of dime-store balm when we can use a weighty tube that looks and feels more like lipstick?

We like Estée Lauder Blooming Lip Balm for its use of mega-hydrating hyaluronic acid and not-too-crazy price point. But those who can afford more of a splurge will feel like a million bucks busting out the modern Guerlain KissKiss Roselip tube, designed by artist Hervé Van Der Straeten.

Guerlain KissKiss Roselip, $37, available at Sephora.
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