14 Beauty Editors on the Affordable Products That Rival Expensive Buys

Everyone deserves a beauty editor in their group chat for on-the-go questions on everything from the best concealer to where to go for a manicure that'll last beyond the weekend. With the enviable job of testing and reviewing a seemingly endless supply of beauty products, they're the best bet for product recommendations. 

The downside? When you've got every beauty brand in the world at your disposal, that often equates to using products that have a whole lot of numbers succeeding the pound sign. So we decided to have a chat with the beauty editors we have on speed dial to find out what affordable beauty products they use that rival the expensive ones out there. 

Keep scrolling to find the editor-approved affordable buys that you need to add to your routine. 

Shannon Peter, Beauty Director, Stylist Magazine

“I have a real body lotion aversion. I can’t stand the cold, so hopping round a freezing bathroom post-shower waiting for a hefty cream to sink in isn’t my idea of a relaxing morning ritual. That’s why it wouldn’t be hyperbolic to say Sanctuary Spa’s Wet Skin Miracle is a complete game changer. You apply in the shower straight after turning the water off (so you have the safety of the warm steam for comfort) onto wet skin, before gently towelling off and immediately getting dressed. You’d think you’d rub it straight off but miraculously, it sinks in faster than it takes for the goosebumps to start to appear. And it’s less than a tenner. The dream!”

“As someone who has spent the best part of £30 on shampoo, I can honestly say this rivals even the most costly formulas when it comes to fighting frizz. The main ingredient is aloe vera, instead of water, which makes it super hydrating—perfect for my curly hair.”

“I’ve always favoured a pricey mascara. Despite having now tried thousands as part of my job, none of the cheaper ones ever had the dramatic effect that the luxury ones gave me. I’m not into this natural-looking lash thing—I like lashes that almost send loose paper and small animals flying every time you blink. But I tried this L'Oréal one recently on a whim— and I was shocked by how great it is. The wand both coats and defines, it’s easy to apply on the bottom lashes, it stays all day and it comes in a super-black shade, which is brilliant for anyone with black hair/lashes for mega definition. I literally can’t stop raving about it!”

Jacqueline Kilikita, Beauty Editor, Refinery29

“A lot of brands charge against the odds for retinoid products, which makes this one, merely £7, so desirable. Recommended to me by a top London dermatologist, the milky, fast-absorbing formula doesn’t cause irritation in the form of redness and flaking. Instead, it works to smooth skin texture and tone. I use it at night after cleansing and credit it for keeping my PCOS-related breakouts under control among other helpful acne ingredients, such as salicylic acid.”

Sarah-Jane Corfield-Smith, Beauty Director, Boots Health & Beauty Magazine

“Nothing fills my heart with joy like a great product that comes with a budget price tag. And my latest discovery has been The Inkey List Glycolic Acid Toner, available at Boots. Having an oily complexion and large pores, glycolic acid has been a staple in my skincare arsenal for years, and this one stands up, if not betters, pricier ones I have tried.”

Amy Lawrenson, Beauty and Wellness Editor

“This richly textured creamy cleanser removes every last jot of makeup and grime. It comes with two cleansing cloths to remove every last trace of dirt, whilst also giving your complexion a gentle exfoliation. Without any discernible scent and packed with skin cell–repairing antioxidants, it’s my go-to for double cleansing at night and is, quite frankly, an absolute steal.”

Perdita Nouril, Beauty Editor, Women’s Health

“If I could only take one beauty product on a desert island, this would be it. Brimming with the skin wizardry you’ve come to expect from South Korea, it cleverly houses black, red and orange pigments that are encapsulated but dissolve onto the skin when applied. This means they’re not vulnerable to oxidation so remain brighter in colour and can adapt perfectly to your skin tone. Mineral-based SPF offers sun protection without clogging pores and hero skincare ingredients including centella asiatica and adenosine help to increase antioxidant activity and reinforce the skin barrier. As for the results it yields? The texture is so fine, it literally melts onto skin and is completely undetectable. When wearing it, I’ve been complimented again and again on how great my skin looks without makeup. Guess the cat’s out the bag now, eh?”

George Driver, Digital Beauty Editor, Elle

“Yes, the name sounds like it promises movie poster levels of mascara extra-ness that’s bound to disappoint, but this mascara actually delivers. The chunky brush (colossal, if you will) lengthens your lashes without any clumps, perfectly fanning out even the trickiest ones in the corners, and the formula is 100% smudge-free, which, for my tiny hooded eyelids is essential. No more socially awkward encounters with people staring at your mascara tears. And all for less than the price of a Pret lunch. Writing this has actually reminded me to go and buy one.”

Ava Welsing-Kitcher, Deputy Beauty Editor, The Sunday Times Style

“I’ve tried countless tubes and tubs of pricier options, I’ve double cleansed, and nothing compares to this. The beauty of it lies in how it doesn’t do much else except simply clean and keep my skin barrier strong. I took a month off from it and I now have seven spots. Never again.”

“I’ve tried some of the most high-end lip balms on the market, and as gorgeous and pampering as they are, I always come back to my old favourite: Lanolips. My first-ever boss turned me onto this stuff, and it’s SO good. Thick and hydrating without being greasy, it immediately softens your lips, and you barely need to re-apply. I also use it on my cuticles and as a highlighter sometimes. Every flavour is delicious but Coconutter has a special place in my heart.”

Giselle La Pompe-Moore, Contributor, Who What Wear

“I’ve always been enamoured by the idea of long baths filled with a scattering of rose petals and skin-softening milk. Who am I kidding? I actually do this all the time. But on the days when I don’t have time to indulge in my usual level of extra-ness and just need to wash my face, this is what I use instead. It’s my morning face wash and the second step in my end-of-day double cleanse. The rosewater-infused cleanser with its bouncy texture is incredibly soothing on my skin but also swipes off everything it needs to." 

Sarah Barnes, Junior Beauty Writer and Production Assistant, Marie Claire

“An old favourite and skincare staple that I always come back to when my skin is sensitive and spot-prone is the Liz Earle Cleanse and Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser. Standing the test of time, this is the first skincare product I ever used. The creamy formula is packed with cocoa butter to soften and rosemary and chamomile to soothe flamed, irritated breakouts. I use the muslin cloth wet to buff the cleanser away in small circular motions for gentle exfoliation, removing dead cells, pollutants and grime that coat our faces when in London. Not to mention its a bargain at £17 for a tube that lasts and lasts.”

“This serum is easily the best I’ve ever come across for reducing inflammation, including red patches and irritation, and you really notice a difference. It has hyaluronic acid, too, so you just apply your moisturiser/SPF on top and you’re good to go. I’m on my fifth bottle.”

Becki Murray, Beauty Editor, Harper's Bazaar and Town & Country

“I have rosacea, so I’m very prone to sensitivities. When my skin flares up (normally after experimenting with too many other products!), this is what I always reach for because it's instantly soothing. It takes the heat out of my skin straight away, and after slathering it on overnight, I wake up with noticeably less irritation—as if I've turned back the clock and not applied the problematic product in the first place!”

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