Style & Beauty

Beauty on a Budget

Experts share tips on how to get champagne looks on a lemonade budget

By Lola Augustine Brown

Photo: iStock/SvitlanaMartyn.

For those who can afford it, there are high-end beauty products that promise to make us look younger and more alluring, but it’s possible to get great results without spending tons of cash. Here’s how to look great, no matter what your beauty budget may be.

Drugstore Winners

Chelsea Van Tol, a nail technician and makeup artist in Charlottetown, says that every brand has good and bad products, and price isn’t always an indicator of how effective a product is going to be.

“Most brands are under the umbrella of one parent company and a lot of items are made in the same factories, whether they sell for $48 or $4,” Van Tol says. “There’s a huge variety of items available at the drugstore that are great for those who don’t want to commit to an expensive makeup purchase; I’ve had just as many bad or unusable expensive products as cheap ones.”

Van Tol cites a number of budget-friendly drugstore brands that you may well have walked straight by because the branding might seem a little young, such as Hard Candy. “Their Glamoflauge concealer offers heavy coverage without being cakey for just six bucks and has a wide range of colours that go to very pale,” she says.

Montreal-based makeup artist and cosmetic tattoo artist Tamsen Rae says that the brand NYX is a staple in her kit. “Their Micro Brow Pencil is $12 and is very similar to the one sold by Anastasia Beverly Hills at $28,” she says. NYX seems to have brows covered: Val Tol says that their Tinted Brow Mascara has a great shade range and brush, and retails at just $8.99.

Maybelline has always offered excellent products at a wallet-friendly price point. “The brand has been really stepping up its game lately with its Master Strobing Liquid Illuminating Highlighter [$12.99]. This product is perfect on cheekbones, the cupid’s bow of the lips, and the collarbone,” Rae says. “Maybelline also makes one of my all-time favourite long-wear matte lip-colour products, called SuperStay Matte Ink. At around $11, you can’t go wrong. This line has amazing colour selection and major staying power. Apply once and your pout is perfect all day long.”

Revlon is another brand that Rae uses, especially the PhotoReady line of skin perfectors. “The concealer is of excellent quality and perfect for hiding the blue under the eyes, as well as blemishes. It has a smooth, creamy texture and looks very natural. The setting powder of the same line is also highly recommended for a nice finish,” she says. The concealer costs $10.99; the powder, $13.99.

Wet n Wild first launched in 1969 with 99-cent lipsticks, and all this time later, the brand still rules when it comes to cheap and cheerful cosmetics. “The Liquid Catsuit Matte lipsticks are amazing and cost only $5,” Van Tol says.

As for mascara, Rae says that makeup artists everywhere pack L’Oréal Paris Voluminous mascara in their kits. “The formula is perfect: it has the blackest black shade—carbon black—and the applicator places the mascara perfectly along the lashes. It retails for around $10,” she says. “Such a steal of a deal!”

Raid Your Pantry

There are also beauty products that you can make for pennies from ingredients that you likely already have in your pantry.

Nicole MacLeod, an aesthetician at iKhaya Day Spa in Summerland, BC, is a big fan of coconut oil, which she uses for makeup removal and says is also used for hair treatments at iKhaya. “I also use aloe for moisturizing, mixing it with coconut oil and a drop of lavender to apply after being in the sun or a drop of peppermint oil to help cool your body on warm days or nights.”

Coconut oil also makes a great base for a body scrub when mixed with granulated sugar, sea salt, or even coffee grounds. (The scrub is best done in the shower to avoid things getting too messy.) You can also use coconut oil in place of shaving balm, as an intensive conditioning hair treatment, or as a straight-up body moisturizer that will leave you smelling summery and delicious.

For soothing dry skin, try a homemade oatmeal bath. Start with rolled oats ground to powder in a blender or food processor and added to a warm bath (use up to a cup-and-a-half of the powdered oats). Soak for 20 minutes, then gently towel yourself off.

Beauty-School Bargains

If you love spa treatments but can’t justify spending the cash on a facial or body treatment, check out your local cosmetology school for treatments at a fraction of the price, as you’re helping students get the experience that they need to graduate.

Simona Gozner, the director of aesthetics at the Blanche Macdonald Centre beauty school in Vancouver, says that clients who go there for treatments will experience the same level of professionalism and care received at spas. “Our students are guided and mentored by our wonderful instructors. We have some very loyal clients who have come to us for many years and love coming regularly,” she says.

There are, however, some key differences between beauty-school treatments and spa treatments. For example, beauty-school treatments may be carried out in a more open room, though Gozner says that you’ll never feel exposed or feel that the service is not one-on-one. There may also be some medical restrictions. “We need to know a client’s medical history very well, because certain treatments cannot be performed by students. For example, cancer patients cannot receive a full-body massage if they are undergoing chemotherapy, and they require a doctor’s note before they can receive any spa treatments,” she says. “Our clients’ safety is very important to us.”

Besides the fact that these spa services are priced significantly lower than at regular spas, in some cases by more than 50 per cent at Blanche Macdonald, the quality of the services is the same. Additionally, there are a number of other advantages to having services performed by a student aesthetician: “Our students have a beginner’s passion that comes through in their services, and many of our clients tell us that the experience is a reward for them, too,” Gozner says.