Beauty on a budget – what I save and splurge on

Pin-up makeup on a budget guide

If there’s one thing that having a baby is going to have to teach me it’s how to budget. I have to return to work, and that means nursery costs – tip: if you’re thinking of having a child in this country don’t look these up before you do it as you’ll freak out and never do it… And while I’m not paying for this yet, maternity pay for a year is a tricky beast to live with too when you’ve been used to a regular salary. All-in-all, cutting back is necessary for the future and while I love makeup, I can admittedly throw money away on it.

Consider me a somewhat changed woman as I’ve been making it my mission over recent months to try to find budget alternatives for the products that make up my regular and more dolled up face. I haven’t quite managed a full face, but I’m proud that I got close! I’ve seen ‘save or splurge’ guides about makeup before and I’ve never agreed completely with them, but of course makeup is such an individual thing. They do always help in some way though so hopefully someone else out there will find my opinions useful…

CiCi Marie favourite budget beauty products


Mascara – Collection Lash Surge £4.99
Let me be the first to say I never thought I’d come over to the ‘save’ side on this one. When I first started wearing makeup I bought ALL the mascaras. I must have tried nearly every brand out there back then. It wasn’t until I invested in Lancome that I was finally satisfied and stuck with variations of their iconic Hypnose for years. No more! I picked up Collection Lash Surge for a fiver and I’m never looking back. It’s easily as good as Lancome for lengthening and volume and £20 cheaper. It scrubs the floor with the likes of Maybelline Great Lash (I can’t stand that mascara, incidentally). Try it, you know you want to.

Concealer – Collection Lasting Perfection £4.19
Sticking with this brand, this concealer is excellent. I’ve been using it for a couple of years now and I’ll buy it as long as they make it. And if they don’t make it, I’ll cry. It’s a liquid concealer that applies with a little wand and it’s great coverage, sets well and lasts the day. On me, I don’t find it creases into my lines which is a rarity for concealer and my oily and, er, ageing skin. Bonus points if you can pick up the mascara and concealer on a 3 for 2 and get something for free…

Lipstick – Maybelline Super Stay Matte Ink £9.99
I’m late to this party but I was waiting for a red in more my shade – and thanks to a new release I finally have my hands on shade 118 Dancer, which is a neutral bright red. Finally, I have a replacement for my beloved Smashbox lipstick that was discontinued several months ago (full credit to Miss Amy May for finding the lipstick and testing this shade). It lasts a super long time and while I don’t love the slightly tacky feel, it doesn’t transfer. I don’t understand the sorcery that makes this happen, but it happens. They have a few red shades now and a more classic deeper red (Pioneer) in the range that many modern pin-ups love. (Only slight negative – it’s not completely matte.)

Brow pomade – Revolution Pro Brow Pomade £5.00
I’d been using the expensive Anastasia Beverley Hills pomade for a while but had never been truly happy with the colour – I knew this was a product I’d want to replace if I could. I’ll never buy it again as long as this alternstive is available – it’s basically identical. It applies the same, it looks the same, it lasts the same. But bonus for me is that I now have a colour that’s an even better shade for me and far more money in my pocket.

Setting powder – Collection Pressed Powder £1.99
So I wasn’t done with Collection after all. I will use setting powder on days I want my makeup to last longer and be more flawless in photos, as actually with my usual foundation (below) I don’t find it’s completely necessary for everyday use. I love the Mac Studio Fix powder and it’s my favourite, but this one does a good job and I don’t have a problem switching to it while the purse strings are a bit tighter. It has quite a strong talcum smell which I don’t enjoy, but good pigmentation and does the job.

Blusher – Nyx Professional High Definition Blush £6.00
I’m not a fussy blusher wearer – I’ve always found this is the one product it makes no sense to spend a tonne of money on. I’ve never had a blusher that disappears off my face or doesn’t go on nicely. I currently wear this Nyx one most often and it’s a bargain.

CiCi Marie favourite luxury makeup products


Eyeliner – Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Liquid Eye Liner £14.50
I used a Collection liquid eyeliner that cost a few pounds for years and years. I was never quite happy with its durability, though. On long days little chunks could flake off and it didn’t look great. I spent a while looking up alternatives online and kept coming across recommendations for this eye liner pen. I don’t usually like pens – they run out fast, they fade and some don’t seem to have the ink to get through one solid application well. This pen is nothing like the others I’ve tried (including Kat Von D) and is well worth the money. It’s almost a brush-like pen with a fine tip and I find it easy to use and it both lasts the day and comes off easily at night. It also doesn’t dry out too quickly – although yes it does run out faster than liquid pots. For ease of use and staying power I’m prepared to pay the price.

Foundation – Urban Decay All Nighter Liquid Foundation £29.50
I’ve swung between using drugstore foundations and high-end all my makeup-wearing years and at times have been happy for long periods with either, but at the moment nothing can budge my love for this foundation as my go-to for a full face of makeup. I actually often skip foundation on my 5-minute-face days, as my skin since being pregnant hasn’t had many blemishes. I don’t know why or if they’ll return, but it’s a pretty good side effect that’s for sure. But when I’m doing a proper face, this foundation for a full matte finish can’t be beat in my opinion. It does slightly oxidise so I wear a shade lighter than I expected to (0.5), but once it’s on and dry it lasts. And I don’t even get that shiny wearing it – a real problem for me usually. So yes, this is a splurge but actually the bottle lasts ages and I don’t have to buy it very often at all, so cost-per-wear is pretty darn good.

Eyeshadow primer – TheBalm Put A Lid On It Eyelid Primer £14.00 (sample size pictured)
I’ve tried cheap eyeshadow primers e.g. from Nyx and found they made creasing worse if anything. I like my primer to do its job and keep shadow in place all day – and ideally brighten up the appearance of it. This one does what it’s supposed to and it’s still cheaper than the likes of NARS so it’s the one for me. But by all means, if I’ve missed a bargain lid primer hit me up!

Eyeshadow – Charlotte Tilbury Luxury Palette £39.00
I’ve tried a lot of eyeshadow, but I always come back to luxury brands for pigmentation and durability. Charlotte Tilbury is one of the best around – it goes on beautifully and stays put even without primer. If I just want a quick bit of definition in the crease I use her matte palette for a quick sweep of colour. If it’s not this palette, you’ll find me using my TheBalm or Urban Decay ones. I really think eyeshadow seems a better quality if you spend more from what I’ve seen…


False eyelashes
I’ve tried lots of different brands of falsies but I always prefer my Eylure ones. The fit seems better and they don’t shed lashes on multiple wears. I’m currently loving the 116 lengthening lashes. I also really like the Ardell Demi Wispies for adding flutter at the corners of the eyes and have worn them multiple times on this blog.

I’m just a bit behind the trend here – I’m yet to find a highlighter that a) doesn’t disappear completely because I’m so pale or b) look like I’ve smeared butter on my cheeks. I hear good things about expensive brands, but I’m not willing to invest in a product that just might not really suit me, y’know?

Setting spray
Another one I’m not sold on. I’ve tried lots of different ones but don’t find any of them better than good ol’ hairspray if I’m honest. Which is probably horrendous for my skin, I realise. I only ever bother for blog shoots when I know I’m going to be going out afterwards and want the thick layer of makeup to last. I know lots of people love the Urban Decay spray, but it’s not for me. My spray has to keep makeup in place and stop me getting shiny and I just haven’t found The One.

I’ve used both cheap and pricey bronzers and while I think I could use a cheap one, I’ve got a bit hooked on NARS’s iconic Laguna. I love the shade and the subtle way it applies but can be built up. I find a lot of bronzers are quite strong on my skin and not as easy to blend as my expensive one… may be coincidence, may be quality…

Get pin-up retro makeup look on a budget

I’m curious to know how far you agree with me – have I missed a trick with any of my luxury items?? I genuinely want to know if you’ve found a budget product that works for you!



  1. September 30, 2018 / 7:30 pm

    I used to use Nars Laguna bronzer too, until I discovered W7 Honolulu which is about £2.99 and the exact same shade so it might be worth checking out? I’ll have to check out that Collection mascara, I currently use one by Benefit and have been looking to switch to a cheaper brand. I’ve actually been really impressed with the few things I’ve tried from Collection so far, I really love their blushes and gel eyeliner.

    • CiCi Marie
      October 5, 2018 / 1:24 pm

      Ooh good tip – I will see if I can get hold of that when I run out! Definitely try the mascara; I think Benefit mascara is ok but I’ve always found it a bit overpriced for what it can do…

  2. September 30, 2018 / 11:21 pm

    I think our splurge/save lists are pretty similar, although for me, the nice brow pomade is a definitely must! I’m starting with blonde eyebrows, though, and drawing them in, so it’s a much bigger part of my look IMO. Definitely agree with lipstick, mascara, and blush, though, and I’d love to pick up that lip ink you mentioned.

    • CiCi Marie
      October 5, 2018 / 1:25 pm

      I thought I needed a nice brow pomade too until I tried one that is virtually identical! The only difference is it’s not as ‘wet’ in texture, it feels more like when you have a pot of ABH that’s dried out a little. But I always found it easier to apply when it was a bit drier so it works for me! You won’t regret trying the lipstick!!

  3. October 1, 2018 / 9:29 am

    I absolutely love that Collection concealer so I think I’ll give their mascara a go! I went looking for some cheap waterproof mascara in the ridiculously hot summer we had because my usual mascara was basically melting off my face – I found ELF’s waterproof mascara pretty good for £4.50, but now it’s got cooler I don’t need it any more.

    • CiCi Marie
      October 5, 2018 / 1:25 pm

      I keep hearing good things about ELF so I think it’s a brand I need to pay a bit more attention to…

  4. Mairik
    October 6, 2018 / 9:36 am

    I love Kiko black liquid liner (the Precision one). It’s under a tenner and on me it does a great line – it has one of those felt ‘brushes’ and those work best on my eyes. It’s not waterproof so easy(ish) to take off but doesn’t flake in the day. The thing I find a killer is concealer as I’m really pale but pinky/blue toned and almost everything in every price-range is yellowy. Kiko used to do a pinky one but stopped. Now I am using Mac but it’s quite a lot more. Boo! x

  5. October 6, 2018 / 3:04 pm

    Amazing list! Thanks to you and Amy, I REALLY need to check out this Maybelline Super Stay Matte Ink! And I totally agree with you on the Stila eyeliner pens – you just can’t beat ’em. I’ve strayed more than a few times and always keep coming back. For highlighters, I will say my absolute fav at the moment is Hourglass. Their Ambient Lighting Palette is a definite splurge, but it’s amazing (esp for us pale gals). It’s the perfect shimmer without any glittery chunks, and their darker “highlight” is sort of pale girl bronzer for me. I bought one of their holiday ambient palettes that had a blush in it too – and I’ve never looked back.


  6. Helen
    October 19, 2018 / 11:33 am

    For setting spray I cannot recommend Ben Nye Final Seal enough. I bought it as I cosplay at comic cons etc and I often have a lot of make up on including sfx and I need it to last all day in often hot surroundings. Honestly, my make up and fake blood doesn’t move an inch! So now I just use that as my setting spray if I’m out all day and need my make up to stay :). It is mid-price and I buy mine from costume stores on ebay.

  7. Ciara
    November 24, 2018 / 9:14 pm

    Try the Loreal setting spray. It’s pretty good at keeping my oily skin under control.

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