Quick Guide & Product List For Those New To Being "On a Budget" - with LINKS!


Oct 12, 2006
Almost everything here can be found in other threads, as in probably more than one, but just in case you happened to miss them, or the ones you most need, here is a quick, compact (well, as quick and compact as I am biologically capable of doing) list that will enable you to maintain the same (and frankly, usually better) standards of beauty and skin care as you ever did, and for literally a small fraction of the cost.

First, some helpful and comforting, if surprising, facts.

1) Any product that really "changes" anything, or really does anything in those deep cell layers, etc, as is often implied, and sometimes stated, by advertising claims, must, in the US, be classified as a medicine and sold by prescription.

This means that yes, any and every lotion, cream, moisturizer or emollient, including but not limited to the cheapest plastic bottle in Wal-Mart to vaseline to plain old oil - including but not limited to coconut, almond and olive, all of which have been used to good effect for thousands of years, will keep your skin just as soft and moist as the most expensive concoction.

If the skin on your face is oily, the "moisture" that is in any foundation, even oil-free, as well as your oil-free sunblock, will more than take care of you, so you only need to worry about your body, for which see above paragraph.

2) The US Pharmacopeia is your guarantee that if it is sold in the US, whatever the ingredients are is what they are, which means that the no-name or store brand aspirin will have exactly the same active ingredient as Bayer, and that the drugstore or generic cleanser, moisturizer, shampoo or whatever with identical ingredients to a brand that costs ten times the price, will be the same product, probably with a less expensive fragrance.

Thus, being poor, or if you prefer, "being on a budget" does not mean that you have to settle for less in terms of effectiveness, in terms of reality.

It does, however mean that you have to start paying attention to and reading the ingredients carefully.

What you DO have to give up

It also means that you may need to do some psychological adjustment with regard to that reality, meaning that you may need to give up some dream and learn to love the cream.

That means that even though you may want the expensive stuff because it comes in a pretty bottle, you are drawn to it by the advertisements, you perceive it as having a high status, or you want it because a designer you admire has licensed the company to use his or her name on the label, you will have to do some descending from those clouds, and go re-read Items 1) and 2), take those to heart, and make a new and even fluffier cloud of reality and cream out of them.

Now on to The List!

Skin Care

Oily skin: Just wash it with soap. I like Mysore Sandal soap, some people love Dr Bronner's soaps. the ToadStool Soap Company makes absolutely fabulous handmade soaps in a variety of fragrances, including actual sandalwood, and their prices are cheap enough for me, which means they are really really cheap. (They also make complete lines of everything from shampoo to talc, and the most expensive thing I have seen in their store is like $8).

So if cannot bear the thought of to giving up luxury handmade bath products in fragrances that normally cost an arm and a leg, through some miracle that I cannot explain, ToadStool Soap Company is there for you.

One caution - because their products contain NO preservatives, don't order a lot and stock up. Save on shipping by combining your smaller, more frequent orders with other people.

Normal/dry/combination skin: Cetaphil Cleanser works for everybody, you can even use it if you are mildly oily, and its generic clones can be had for about $3.

Exfoliation: Plain white granulated cane sugar - that regular old sugar in the brown bag at the supermarket. Sensitive skins may prefer baking soda. Both work for face and body.

I also use a thing called a shower poof. It is a long narrow strip of crinkly nylon fabric, available at your local Asian/International supermarket in the grooming/personal care aisle.

Masks: Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask, Pearl Powder (just smushed pearls, available at your local Asian/International supermarket in the grooming/personal care aisle. Plain, uncoated aspirin smushed into a paste with water has its devotees, and it also has those who get little bumps. Give it a shot, and if it gives you bumps, go back to Queen Helene and Pearl Powder. Or Turmeric, a favorite of billions over the millennia.

Hair Removal: Magic Shaving Powder

Foundation Primer: Drugstore clone of Monistat Chafing Gel. (If the only active ingredient is dimethicone gel, that's what you want).

Moisturizer/Body Lotion/Cream/Butter: Whatever is the cheapest that you like the smell of and has ingredients you like. See Items 1) and 2) and ToadStool Soap Company

Toner: Witch Hazel

Zit Destroyer: Benzoyl Peroxide. Some people swear by toothpaste.

Teeth Whitener: Hydrogen Peroxide. Dilute with water, and use as a daily mouth rinse.

This is frequently suggested by dentists to help prevent gum disease in patients who have a propensity for developing it, due to anatomical configuration, genetics or both, and people who faithfully follow this advice not only avoid gum disease but have very white teeth, since Hydrogen Peroxide is the active ingredient in many tooth whitening products, including those that are done in the dentist's office and cost a lot of money.

Sunblock: Whatever is cheapest. There are only a couple of active ingredients that work. If one disagrees with your skin, pick the other one, and buy the cheapest one whose fragrance you like. Oily skins, get one that says oil free. And use it every day, no matter what color your skin is or how long your mom and your older sisters used to lay out in, work, walk, or otherwise expose their skins to the sun and they never had any problems and still look really young.

The sun changed. It is now dangerous. You can google and learn more about that while you apply your sunblock, or you can just apply the sunblock.

Hair Care

Shampoo: Whichever one is the cheapest, has a fragrance you like, and works on your hair. What works on your hair might not work on your identical twin sister's hair. If you are oily, stay away from anything that says it moisturizes or humidifies or repairs damage or nurtures, and look for the ones that say they are for oily hair, or ones that say they remove product buildup. Beyond the Zone is a line of Tigi products, sold at Sally's, for about 20-50% of the cost of Tigi products. Their Strip Search, I think it is called, is a great shampoo for oily hair, as is Dawn dishwashing liquid. Sally's also offers clones of a whole mess of expensive brands. Read the ingredients.

Conditioner: See Shampoo. Or after you have shampooed normally, you can mix a little coconut oil with some shampoo, lather and rinse.

Hair Serum: Coconut oil. You do not have to apply it Vajpayee style. In fact, please don't. Vajpayee shouldn't either. Just a pea-sized droplet, rubbed between palms, apply first to ends of the back, then work forward and up, roots last.

Hair Spray: See Shampoo

Hair Gel/Volumizer/whateverelser: See Shampoo

Next: Nail Care & Makeup!
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Oct 12, 2006
Nail Care: You can do your own mani-pedis. Both Sally's and Wal-Mart will have everything you need. Sally's will also have salespeople who can help you if you are confused about what to use for what, and the internets teem with detailed instructions.

Generally speaking, filing and shaping your nails is going to be more about technique and coarseness/fine-ness of grit than the price of the file. Those wide-plump 4-in 1 files are a great way to save money because there are, well, 4 different surfaces.

Be very, very careful when using anything abrasive on the part of your nail that sits on top of skin. If you have little ridges, etc that you want to get rid of, use the very finest smoothest smoother that will remove the ridge, do not use a lot of pressure, do a few gentle strokes and check, a couple more and check.

If in doubt, clumsy or unsure, remember it is much better to have ridges on your nails and apply an extra coat or two of polish than to have a horrible and excrutiating wound requiring the purchase of expensive medical industry products and services.

You will be pleasantly surprised to discover that all your favorite nail colors are available for $1-$3 a bottle. The trick is to look at the color of the polish and not the label. With very few exceptions (the mini-bottles of the Olson Twins brandsomes to mind) the quality will be the same or better as the expensive brands or the ones in the salons.

The Orly brand sold at Sally's is in fact what many salons use.

If you already have a large collection of nail polish, especially if you have had some of it for a while, you may want to invest $4-$5 in a big ol' bottle of nail polish thinner. (This is NOT the same as nail polish remover, and the two cannot and should not be used interchangeably).

A little nail polish thinner will return your sticky gooey nail colors of ancient of days to a brand-new consistency.

You can also blend different colors to create your own custom shade. Use an old broken or cracked ceramic - not plastic or metal - saucer for this, or get one at the dollar store.

Next: Makeup!


Oct 12, 2006

Foundation: Experiment, discover, explore. Makeupalley.com has consumer reviews, and profiles set up so that you can read how various brands do on people in your age range, with your coloring and skin type.

My own experience has been that in the area of foundation, there is no real relationship between price and actual quality of the product in terms of it making your skin look how you want it to look.

You can stretch even your budget foundation dollar by applying it with your fingers instead of a brush or sponge. The reason is obvious: When you use a sponge or brush, you will be either discarding foundation that seeps into the sponge, or washing it out of a brush.

So put it on with your fingers, then use sponge and/or brush just to tweak and juj.

Another way to make your foundation go further, if you do not require much coverage, mix a little moisturizer or sunblock with your foundation for a sheer hint of color.

You can also mix n' match - for instance, if you need a little more coverage in the t-zone, or just your nose, or just wherever, but want that sheer hint thing going on everywhere else, then just do it that way!

The main thing to watch for here is psychological. It can be tempting to want to kick yourself when you realize that you have spent years, including years of your adult life when you had responsibilities, paying what now seems like a small fortune on foundations with designer names on the label, when you could have gotten something as good or better for what you used to pay for a fancy cup of coffee.

Don't. Just delight in the fact that you can still achieve your desired foundation goals, even though you no longer have a small fortune to spend doing it.

Concealer: See Foundation

Powder: Palladio Rice Powder. There is a reason that rice powder has been used for centuries to give faces a flawless finish.

Eye Shadow: The Milani Runway lines are just as pigmented or more as any of the most popular expensive brands. Each little "collection" has 6 shades that will do it all.

Eyeliner: I prefer plain old pencils, the wooden kind you can sharpen. Palladio makes great ones, except for the blue, which I don't like as much. For blue, just do the best you can, and let me know if you find a good cheap one.

If you prefer liquid, just declare a corner of the darkest color in your Milani Runway pallette to be for eyeliner, wet your brush, swish around onto the color, and poof! Liquid eyeliner! Some people like to wet the brush with a mixture of water and K-Y Jelly! (Yes, you can consider that the budget version of gel eyeliner!)

The thing to avoid are those plastic-encased sticks of pigment that cannot really be extended or sharpened. I call those "disposable eyeliner." Disposable eyeliner is not budget-friendly.

Mascara: I like Maybelline Great Lash, but mascara is really more about application than brand. See:

How to Have Perfect Mascara Every Time

Lips: Thanks to Burt's Bees, you can protect your lips from the elements, sooth chapped dry lips, and get your color on with just one product. They make a wide range of tinted, minty glosses that you can stroke or dot on.

If you feel that you must use a liner, as with every-day, natural lip color, look for one that most closely matches the color that your lips actually are, as opposed to the color that you wish they were, and do not apply it outside the vermillion border (your lip line, where the pink lip part of your lips meets your face).

Which brand you choose will depend on your color requirements, and whether you like the texture.

As with eyeliner pencils, look for regular wooden pencils that can be sharpened, and do get one of those little round metal sharpeners!

Both Wet n' Wild and Milani each offer several lines of very fine, very inexpensive lip gloss in a variety of colors, transparent tints, and plain clear. Knock yourself out!

Highlighter: Palladio makes a very inexpensive version of Carmindy's famous Benefit pencil, a fat pale pink wooden sharpenable pencil that looks great on all skins, and can be used to brighten eyes at the inside corner, or drawn around the outside of lips and blended to reflect light and make thin lips look fuller.

No, plumpers do not work unless you happen to have sensitive lips that swell up if you put on one of those products that contains pepper juice. If that is the case, and you really want to do that, just eat a pepper.

Otherwise, draw your pale pink line, and blend unless you have pale pink skin. This is about light and reflection. It is about Science and deceiving the eye of people who behold you, not deceiving you into paying $30 for something that "psychologically plumps" your lips.

(If you have such expert lip-lining skills that you can blend a touch of a medium true blue eye pencil with your lip-colored liner skillfully enough to obtain an appearance of fuller lips that way, and skin that it will look natural on even in bright sunlight, then you already know about it, and if you do not have that level of skill, by all means work on it, but only at home alone in your mirror, until you get there).

Also see: What's your favorite drugstore brand of makeup?

I'm sure I have left off all kinds of things, others will know ones I never heard of, the important thing to remember is that you will still be just as beautiful, and probably even more so - and aren't you lucky to have a Friendly Resident Poor Person to welcome you with useful tips! :lol:
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May 16, 2008
AMAZING!! Thank you, thank you!

A line that some people really love (including me), is the e.l.f. line, in which everything costs (and no, this is not a typo): ONE DOLLAR. It's good stuff (except for their oil absorbing sheets, which I have tried and which quiet frankly don' work at all).

The website (you can also find these products -- at least most of them -- on drugstore.com, and at some brick and mortar discount chains):


They are having a special now, btw -- buy two products, get the third for half off.
Jul 21, 2006
Southwest Florida
Back about 20 years ago, I stopped using La Prairie moisturizer when I actually looked at the label and found out that it had mineral oil in it.......which is the same base as about all the other cheaper moisturizers out there, including Vaseline. I felt that I was sending my money right down the drain. So, I'm still with you Shimma.....I always read labels before I buy. And generic drug store and supermarket brands for cold remedies and headaches have the same ingredients as the hyped up national brands for more less than half the price.


Jul 7, 2008
This thread is great! I agree it needs to be a sticky! I went out today and got the Palladio rice powder, the Magic shaving powder and some witch hazel astringent all at Sally Beauty, plus I got their discount card so I saved even more!
Feb 26, 2006
I send the Palladio Rice Powder recommendation. However, if you need to take some with you somewhere, it's a good idea to put some in a small jar with a sifter. The container it comes in doesn't really travel well. Otherwise, if you just need something blot with, the Rice Paper Powder sheets by Palladio are awesome. I wrote a review on them a while back:

Product name/shade: Original Rice Paper Company Rice Paper blotting papers with rice powder by Palladio in translucent

Review: There's been a lot of talk about mattifying powders and blotting papers lately. I was browsing online for a reasonably priced package of blotting papers that are effective and I found these. Today, while out and about, I popped into my local Sally Beauty Supply for some impulse beauty shopping. I saw these and I went for them right away. As soon as I got home, I opened them up and tested one. The packaging is nice. The first sheet sticks out, and a new one pops out when you pull it out. Very handy. The sheets are decent sized. They are actually folded, so the sheet you get is twice the size of the package. I had some shininess on my face, so I started gently blotting away. I didn't realize just how oily I was until I looked at the sheet in my hands. It looked like I had blotted a slice of hot pizza rather than my face. It was scary! Anyway, my face was totally matte. The translucent rice powder on the sheets had absorbed everything. I was happy. I went about my business, including cooking dinner. I figured my face would be shiny again after working over a hot stove, but it's not. I blotted my face over 2 hours ago and it is still perfectly matte! I don't feel like I have powder on my face, it doesn't show either. My face just looks flawlessly matte. Awesome product! It won't interfere with your makeup. It comes in four shades, but the translucent should work with all skin colors. I also like that these sheets are made of natural materials. The paper and the powder is made of rice.

Price: $3.99 for 40 sheets (one sheet is enough to chase away the greasies, so you won't run out too fast).

Will purchase again: YES!

Where to find it: Sally Beauty supply, Ulta.com, Amazon.com, Palladiobeauty.com


Jul 10, 2008
Great idea for a thread!

Beyond the Zone is a line of Tigi products, sold at Sally's, for about 20-50% of the cost of Tigi products.
I shop at Sally all the time, and I didn't know that Beyond the Zone was a Tigi line. Shows what I know!

I use the Aura Pure shampoo & conditioner, bought at Sally. Around $5/bottle and very similar to Aveda's Shampure & conditioner. They do as nice a job on my hair as Aveda, for 1/3 the price. Also, Aquelle Marine Therapy Lusterizer cream, also from Sally, is a dead ringer for Fekkai glossing cream, for $5/bottle.

I've been using witch hazel as my toner for a while now. One tip is to avoid Dickinson's - just hit the first aid section at Target or Wal-Mart. I pay about $1.25 for a big bottle, as opposed to Dickinson's, which runs about $3-$4 for the same size.
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Jan 28, 2007
pmburk, thanks for the tip on the fekkai glossing cream-alike! I had no idea it existed and will have to try it.