By CATHI AYCOCK

Some of my favorite beauty buys are ultra cheap.

But others are totally worth the splurge: sometimes you really do get what you pay for. I’ve tested hundreds of products and I’m sharing the items that are my favorites, both splurge and budget friendly.  Because you want to save your pennies for the magic that works, right? You (and your jacked-up amazing cosmetic collection) can thank me later.

 

Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation

If your skin looks good, the rest of your makeup can be minimal. Splurge on foundation the way you splurge on a great bra. They both give your overall appearance the biggest bang for you buck. (And allow you to wear inexpensive lipstick or a budget friendly dress and still look luxe.)

This foundation, by Giorgio Armani, is pretty much the high priestess of product among beauty editors. It has a sheer coverage that still covers imperfections, doesn’t settle in any cracks and crevices and feels like silk on the skin.

Always a top-rated foundation by beauty editors and makeup artists, this foundation is worth the splurge. Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation, $XXX, Dillard's at The Mall at Green Hills.

Always a top-rated foundation by beauty editors and makeup artists, this foundation is worth the splurge. Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation, $62 at Dillard’s at The Mall at Green Hills.

Armani uses a micro-fil technology with high density pigment that gives ultra sheer texture with coverage that blurs imperfections. That all sounds very scientific (and slightly above my pay grade) but I know this stuff works.

Since it has such dense pigment (aka color) you use less than most other foundations to achieve flawless skin. Which makes a bottle last longer, thereby saving you money. (OK, maybe I’m rationalizing, but it makes my skin all glow-y. So totally worth the splurge.

 

Neutrogena Oil-Free Makeup Remover

Removing my eye-makeup needs to be fast, thorough, and, most importantly, gentle. Who wants to rub their eye just to remove mascara and loose a few lashes in the process?

I’ve tried high-end makeup removers that were effective but cost over $20. I tested super-cheap options like plain baby oil that worked, but left a greasy film that gave me major skin issues.  Somewhere in the middle I found the perfect remover.

This product, by Neutrogena, works on waterproof mascara, doesn’t irritate my eyes and most drugstores carry it at a budget-friendly under $10 price. Shake the bottle to activate the remover and swipe your eyes. Wait a hot minute, then rinse. Magic remover that is effective and uber cheap.

Gentle, effective and on the cheap. This makeup remover is budget worthy. Nuetrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover, $8.29 at Walgreens.

Gentle, effective and on the cheap. This makeup remover is budget worthy. Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover, $8.29 at Walgreens.

 

Diorshow Brow

OK, I know that you can buy brow pencils at every drugstore for way cheap. (And, if you are a rock-star makeup artist or can post a Youtube tutorial on how to create the perfect brow, those cheaper options work all day long.)

If, like most women, you are less than Michaelangelo-esque at giving yourself a chic (not scary) brow, you need this product.

Ultra-fine point and universally flattering colors, this brow pencil is nearly goof proof. Dior Diorshow Brow Styler, $XX, at Dillard's at The Mall at Green Hills.

Ultra-fine point and universally flattering colors, this brow pencil is nearly goof proof. Dior Diorshow Brow Styler, $29 at Dillard’s at The Mall at Green Hills.

Why? It has a micro-skinny tip, enabling you to create super-fine, realistic hair-like strokes that look natural on those brow bald spots. It never needs sharpening, so you never get smudgy color. It isn’t waxy so it never fades, but isn’t powder that can cake and look like stage makeup if you are even the tiniest bit heavy handed. And it comes it two “universal” colors that truly work on everyone. (Brown for blondes, light brunettes and redheads and Dark Brown for dark brunette and black hair, or a more dramatic brow.)

If you fear the brow pencil, this sleek baby will make even a newbie makeup artist create a natural looking brow, making it worth the splurge.

 

Studio Secrets Professional Magic Perfecting Base

I don’t wear a heavy-duty primer every day. I like a more sheer, natural look.

For red carpet events, however, I want to lock and load my makeup. And if I am (enduring) a photo shoot or doing video and want to blur those fine lines, I nearly always use a primer before foundation.

This magic, silicone-filled product is a workhorse when it comes to keeping your makeup in place for hours. Even in humid, muggy conditions, it keeps my makeup from sliding off.

A primer on the cheap? Studio Secrets Pro Magic Perfecting Base, $12. 99 at most drugstores.

A primer on the cheap? Studio Secrets Pro Magic Perfecting Base, $12. 99 at most drugstores.

It also works to minimize pores and fine lines so that foundation looks smooth, even under high definition conditions.

You do need to use a light hand when applying the product, and it doesn’t have any color correcting properties like some higher-priced primers. If you use primer only on special occasions, this drugstore brand is a great buy.

 

Terracotta Spray Bronzing Powder Mist by Guerlain

One of my favorite makeup artists introduced me to this product. Based in L.A., he called it his secret weapon for giving his A-list clients a J.Lo glow fast.

One of the best glow-in-an-instant products, Guerlain Terracotta Spray is amazing. $XX at Dillard's at The Mall at Green Hills.

One of the best glow-in-an-instant products, Guerlain Terracotta Spray is amazing, $64 at Dillard’s at The Mall at Green Hills.

 

A bronzer in an easy to use spray can, it emits fine mist that smells of roses (truly, the scent alone is worth the splurge) and gives a subtle bronze glow that never reads orange. It makes using a bronzer easy, you spray lightly over your face and, voila! You look all yummy and golden.

I have never found a bronzer, in powder or cream, that is as easy or pretty. This under-the-radar product is worth the splurge.