30 beauty buys under $30

From make-up to skincare, here are 30 products that do not cost more than $30

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld (right) uses Klorane Dry Shampoo to make his grey hair look completely white.
Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld (right) uses Klorane Dry Shampoo to make his grey hair look completely white.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, DESMOND FOO, L'OREAL PARIS, TONI & GUY, LIVING PROOF, YVES ROCHER, FRESH, SALLY HANSEN, SEPHORA

Good beauty products do not have to burn a hole in your pocket.

Life looked through top make-up artists' pouches and pored through the shelves of personal care shops, department stores and multi-brand beauty boutiques.

The result? A list of 30 value-for-money beauty buys - skincare, haircare, make-up and make-up tools - that each costs $30 or less.

Shampoos, body washes, deodorants and other personal care items that are relatively inexpensive were left out. Instead, most of the ones on the list are from product categories where items often cost $30 and above.

Some are award-winning; some are products that make-up professionals cannot do without; and others are all-time favourites. A handful are new launches that score in terms of ingenuity. But one thing they have in common: All are worth every cent.


1. NYX Matte Lipstick in 05 Indie Flick, $12, from Sephora stores

Few premium brands with expensive lipsticks offer such a creamy yet matte formula with intense pigments. This orangey-red shade that flatters most skin tones is right on trend.

2. Kate Eyebrow Colour N, $14.50, from selected personal care stores including Watsons

Kate Tokyo from Japan is one of Life's favourite drugstore cosmetic brands. Its wide range of good-quality eyeshadows, liners, mascaras and brow products rarely cost more than $30.

One especially good buy is this brow mascara, which comes in four brown shades that are intense enough to lighten dark hair colours. It also has a medium hold on messy brow hairs.

Make-up artist Kenneth Lee uses it to lighten and neaten the brows of his clients.

3. Majolica Majorca Lash King Mascara, $25.90, from selected Watsons stores

The mascara is blended with lightweight 5mm-long fibres to make lashes long, curled and fluttery. Many drugstore mascaras brands leave lashes hard, clumpy and crunchy – this one does not.

Majolica Majorca is a masstige label by beauty heavyweight Shiseido.

4. CNP Laboratory Anti-pore Black Head Clear Kit, $14.10 for a box of three sets, from Guardian stores

This two-step product is an effective and gentle way to remove blackheads. Place a sheet mask that is soaked with a blackhead clearing solution of witch hazel and peppermint extract on the affected area. Lift the sheet after 15 minutes and you will see blackheads popping up. Remove them with a cotton bud and put on the Pore Tightening Mask to finish.

5. Etude House My Beauty Tool Secret Brush 121 Skin, $22.90, from Etude House

Most make-up brushes look and work like paint brushes. This foundation brush resembles a toothbrush in form and function - use it to blend foundation in a circular motion on face. There are similar brushes from more expensive brands such as Artis and M.A.C.

We like the Etude House version because the dense and rounded brush works just as well as the ones that cost four times more. It blends foundation onto the skin seamlessly and effortlessly. This brush also comes with a replaceable powder puff. However, do not expect this brush to last you for years - its quality is not as good as the more expensive brushes.

6. Canmake Quick Lash Curler, $14.90, from selected Watsons stores

This lash primer won an award from Japanese beauty community site Cosme's The Best Cosmetic Awards last year.

First, crimp lashes; then use the primer to set the curl. It is especially useful for those with straight, downward-pointing lashes. Once the primer is dry, layer on mascara for longer-looking lashes. The product can also be used to perk up droopy lashes at mid-day.

Make-up artist Cindy Goh, who keeps one in her make-up bag at all times, says: "I like to wear this on its own for a more natural look."

7. Shu Uemura New Generation Eyelash S Curler, $30, from Shu Uemura counters

Made for smaller Asian eyes with poker-straight lashes, this ergonomic curler is a dream to use.

The small crimp bar - about half the length of a regular curler - ensures that every single tiny lash is given a lift and you avoid accidentally pinching your skin with it. Use the curler alone or to touch up lashes at mid-day.

Make-up artist Dollei Seah says she relies on it to crimp false and real lashes together for a more natural look.

8. 1028 Brownie Eyeshadow Kit, $28.90, from Watsons stores

This make-up brand was founded by Taiwanese celebrity make-up artist Chang Ching-kai and resident make-up guru on the variety lifestyle show Lady First. He was born on Oct 28, thus the name of the brand.

This eyeshadow palette has six brown and neutral shades. The colours are easy to wear and work for both day and night looks. The powders are silky and a little goes a long way.

9. Bioderma Sensibio H20 Make-up Removing Micelle Solution, $26.90 for 250ml, from selected personal care stores, including Guardian

Soak a cotton pad in this water-based cleanser and it gets rid of non-waterproof make-up in a swipe.

This is a fashion show backstage staple as it cleanses and soothes models' overworked skin without drying it out.

Make-up artist Dollei Seah says: "This cleanser is not soapy. After you remove your make-up with it, you can re-apply foundation immediately and the make-up will not look patchy on the skin."

10. Biore Cleansing Oil Cotton Facial Sheets, $17.90 for 44 sheets, from selected personal care stores including Guardian

One of the few facial cleansing wipes which removes waterproof mascara and eyeliner effectively. The tissue is slightly thicker than regular wipes, so it soaks up more of the oil-based remover to make cleaning up a breeze. The trick is to fold the tissue in half and place it over eye make-up for at least five seconds. Then gently wipe away residual face paint.

The sheets leave skin hydrated and refreshed, without a greasy feel.

11. Urban Decay Eyeshadow in Half-baked, $30, from Sephora stores

A must-have eyeshadow shade that flatters all skin tones. This cool beige shade with a golden sheen and subtle shimmer brightens the eye area.

It works well as a neutral eyeshadow - just smooth it on and blend over the lids with fingertips. Or use it to highlight the inner corners of the eyes and layer it on dark matte shadow for a more intense look. On tanned skin, it can also be used on the cheek bones to give the face a glow.

12. BeautyBlender, $30, from Sephora stores

Created by Hollywood celebrity make-up artist Rea Ann Silva, this ergonomic sponge blends make-up seamlessly on the skin.

The round and tapered edge is designed to touch up hard-to-reach parts of the face, such as the corners of the nose and mouth. The wide base is used to tap and spread foundation onto the skin.

Celebrity make-up artist Troy Suratt told InStyle Magazine how to help make-up last all day with this sponge: "Finish make-up with a mist of rosewater, then bounce a damp BeautyBlender sponge over the entire face to lift excess powder."

13. Clio Lipnicure, $19.90, from selected Watsons stores

For a long-lasting lipstick, this one gets Life's vote as the colour is bright, goes on like matte paint - you have to actually wait for it to dry - and stays on through the day. But because it has industrial-strength long-wear properties, you would need a waterproof make-up solution to remove it.

Its texture is a little dry, so make sure lips are well-exfoliated beforehand.

14. The Skin Pharmacy Amino Deep Cleansing Powder, $28.90 for 60g, from The Skin Pharmacy stores

Such amino acid powder cleansers are hard to come by. This gentle, low-foaming one cleans skin without stripping it of its natural oils. Amino acid surfactants are good alternatives to harsh surfactants that are often found in other cleansers and which can irritate skin.

Suitable for sensitive skin, this product is also free of parabens. Pour a small amount into the palm and lather with water.

15. The Body Shop Tea Tree Concealer, $19.90, from The Body Shop stores

The brand's Tea Tree Oil that treats pimples is one of its best-selling products.

The concealer works well too, hiding the redness of blemishes well while treating the bumps. It does not have the strong-smelling scent of tea tree oil and comes in a stick. Its dry but creamy texture makes it easy to blend.

Make-up artist Rick Yang says the formula is not too drying and will not aggravate pimples while concealing them. Apply with a concealer brush for better coverage.

16. Senka Mineral Perfect UV Sunscreen For Face And Body, $16.90, from Watsons

This sunscreen by drugstore skincare brand Senka, which is owned by beauty giant Shiseido, offers great value for money. Most lower-priced sunscreens are thick and greasy and often leave a white cast on the skin.

This one's texture is lightweight and, once blended onto skin, looks invisible. It also has a smooth and satiny texture, which makes it perfect as a make-up base. This sunscreen contains SPF50 PA+++. Usually, only more premium brands offer sunscreens with such a high level of protection.

17. Ricenal Face & Body Oil, $18, from Tokyu Hands Westgate

This rose-scented rice bran face and body oil from Japanese brand Ricenal sinks into skin and costs a third of what you would pay for a similar product from more well-known beauty houses.

18. L'Oreal Paris Gentle Lip And Eye Make-up Remover, $14.90 for 125ml, from selected personal care stores such as Guardian

This product does not require you to tug on your skin to remove make-up.

Soak a cotton pad in it, place it over eye make-up for 10 seconds and make-up comes off in one swipe. Even waterproof mascaras, liners and lipsticks are dissolved instantly.

The product is safe for contact lens users.

19. Hada Labo Hydrating Lotion, $22.90 for 170ml, from selected personal care stores including Watsons

One bottle of this skin-softening hyaluronic acid-infused lotion is reportedly sold every two seconds in Japan. For good reason too: Effective skin-softening lotions seldom cost less than $30.

Using a skin softener helps prep skin so that skincare applied afterwards is more readily absorbed.

The latest version of this lotion contains four different sizes of hyaluronic acid molecules, so the skin is hydrated from the outermost layers to the deepest one. Use the lotion after cleansing and before a serum.

20. Bourjois Blush, $20.90, from selected personal care stores and department stores

The classic blushers are bestsellers for Bourjois, which has been around since 1863. The colours are easy to blend as the fine translucent powder is made with a baking method that has been fine-tuned over 150 years. The most popular shade is No. 34 Rose D'Or. The blush is available in 12 pink and peachy shades.

21. Bio-Oil, $15.50 for 60ml, from selected personal care stores including Guardian

This well-known South African export promises to moisturise, heal scars and lighten stretchmarks. It contains a potent cocktail of vitamins A and E, calendula oil, lavender oil, rosemary oil and chamomile oil. It can be used on the face, body, hair and cuticles.

Reality star Kim Kardashian reportedly used it to prevent stretchmarks when she was pregnant with daughter North and also uses it around her eyes to prevent fine lines.

22. Etude House Precious Mineral Magic Any Cushion, $29, from Etude House stores

The cushion compact was invented by South Korean beauty conglomerate Amorepacific, to allow for fuss-free touch-ups. Liquid BB cream or foundation is soaked in a sponge and encased in a compact. It offers lightweight coverage that does not look cakey. Most compact cushions cost more than $30. This peach one brightens the skin tone.


23. Klorane Dry Shampoo With Oat Milk, $14.90, from selected personal care stores such as Guardian

This award-winning dry shampoo is paraben-free and has an unscented formula infused with oat-milk powder. It adds volume to hair and absorbs grease from the scalp. If you have dark hair, go for the tinted version, which will not leave any visible residue on your hair.

The original version has one minor drawback: It leaves a white powdery residue on the locks, so be sure to brush it off, unless you want to be like designer Karl Lagerfeld, who uses this dry shampoo to make his grey hair look completely white.

He tells Harper's Baazar: "That is the best thing to do because my hair is always clean."

24. Toni & Guy Hair Meet Wardrobe Cleanse Dry Shampoo, $10.90 for 75ml, from selected personal care stores including Watsons

Hairstylists backstage at London Fashion Week use this affordable dry shampoo to de-grease and add volume to the models' unwashed locks.

This dry shampoo does not leave any visible white powdery residue on the scalp and is lightly fragranced. Perfect for days when you want to extend a blowout or do not want to wash your hair while travelling. It also cools the scalp on hot and sticky days.

25. L'Oreal Paris Extraordinary Oil Miracle Hair Oil Treatment, $23.90, from selected personal care stores such as Watsons

This is one of those hair oils that actually sinks into the hair to make it smooth and shiny, instead of leaving your locks greasy, flat and clumpy. It works best on dry and damaged hair.

This bestseller is made with coconut oil and the extracts of six flowers: lotus, tiare, rose, flax, chamomile and marticaria.

26. Living Proof Prime Style Extender, $26, from Sephora stores

This hair product works like how a make-up primer keeps one's make-up in place for hours.

Apply it onto clean hair before blowdrying it and your hairdo will stay in shape for longer. The cream blocks humidity and repels oil and dirt - something that not many other hairstyling products can do.

Known for its high-tech and innovative shampoos and hairstyling products, Living Proof is co-owned by actress Jennifer Aniston.

27. Yves Rocher Rinsing Vinegar, $18, from Yves Rocher stores

A traditional French remedy, this rinsing vinegar for the hair keeps locks soft and smooth. It also supposedly soothes irritated scalps.

Made with naturally fermented vinegar, it smoothens hair cuticles and gets rid of chalky residue found in water. To use, pour a small amount onto palms and run it through washed hair. Rinse well.


28. Fresh Linden Oval Soap, $25, from Fresh boutique at B3-45 Ion Orchard

This is the first product from American skincare, bath and bodycare brand Fresh.

Life likes it for its fresh, green and floral scent. All of Fresh's soaps are made with shea butter and vegetable extracts. Extra tip: Place an unwrapped bar in your clothes drawer to scent clothes.

29. Sally Hansen Miracle Gel, $16.90, from selected personal care stores including Guardian

This nail polish gives you the glossiness and intense colour of gel polish in two coats. To remove it, just use a regular nail-polish remover.

This fuss-free lacquer is also long-lasting - it stays chip-free for up to two weeks. No wonder it picked up US beauty magazine Allure's Best Of Beauty and Beauty Breakthrough awards last year.

30. Sephora Express Nail Polish Remover, $17, from Sephora stores

Forget messy acetone-soaked cotton pads with this clever invention: Just dip the fingers - one at a time - into an acetone-soaked sponge in the jar and wait for five seconds. Pull finger out and, voila, all the polish is removed.

This product is free of possibly carcinogenic parabens, sulfates, phthalates and triclosan.

A version for toes is also available.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'SHOP SMART FOR BEAUTY'. Subscribe