45 Cheap, Under-The-Radar Beauty Products That Work As Well As Popular, Expensive Ones

Amazing results for less.

Written by Marissa DeSantis
Originally Published: 
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You can easily drop hundreds of dollars on a handful of beauty products (heck, you can spend that much on one prestige serum alone). But it’s certainly not a requirement, and it doesn’t always mean that what you’re investing in is better. For starters, there’s no one-size-fits-all measurement when it comes to beauty, and furthermore, many of the more affordable brands on the market boast offerings with similar ingredients, shade ranges, and salon-quality scents as their luxury counterparts. Rather than play the guessing game on your own when it comes to effective, high-performing beauty products, the list ahead includes 45 tried-and-true favorites. From skin care staples to a $50 straightening brush, these are the under-the-radar beauty products that are on par with prestige brands (but won’t break the bank).


5 High-Performing Makeup Sponges For Less Than $10

Sure, you can spend $20 on one Beautyblender, or you can grab a set of five makeup sponges for less than half the price. Designate one of the multi-purpose sponges to be used while damp to seamlessly tap liquid foundations and concealers into the skin, and keep another sponge on hand for dry applications of powder products like blush or setting powder. No matter how you use them, you’ll still be left with enough sponges to store in your makeup bag and vanity.


A Best-Selling K-Beauty Treatment For Shiny, Healthy Hair

This K-beauty find is a best-selling hair treatment on Amazon with nearly 30,000 five-star ratings. Like a traditional hair mask, it should be applied after you rinse out your shampoo and left to sit on the hair for five to 20 minutes before washing it out. The formula contains a blend of moisturizing ingredients like ceramides, hydrolyzed collagen, and hydrolyzed keratin to restore dry, damaged hair to its smoothest, silkiest former self.


A Drugstore Retinol Developed With Derms

Retinol products can get pricey, but the dermatologist-recommended ingredient also comes with a slew of benefits, from fading unwanted hyperpigmentation to stimulating collagen production. To give the ingredient a try for less than $20, there’s this CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum. The drugstore formula uses encapsulated retinol to make the active ingredient more stable and effective, and it’s also been paired with three ceramides and hyaluronic acid to help combat the drying effects of retinol.


This Spa-Scented Oil For Healthier Hair

Amazon users swear by this rosemary and mint hair oil for helping with everything from hair growth and itchy scalps to smoothing frizz and restoring shine. In addition to rosemary leaf oil and peppermint oil, the formula is packed with nourishing ingredients, including biotin, castor seed oil, and tea tree leaf oil. If you plan to apply this to your scalp, Amazon reviewers recommend doing so when you have a wash day coming up, as it can leave your hair looking greasy.


A Cult-Favorite Brow Pencil That’s Less Than $10

From its creamy formula that deposits onto brows with the lightest of strokes to its comprehensive 12-shade range, this NYX Micro Brow Pencil has everything that prestige brow products offer. No matter which shade you choose, your dual-sided tool comes with an ultra-precise pencil on one end to fill in and shape brows and a mini spoolie at the opposite side to blend in your product and brush your brows into place.

  • Available shades: 12


This Japanese Lotion That Uses 7 Types Of Hyaluronic Acid

If you’re obsessed with hyaluronic acid products and their ability to draw moisture to the skin for a plumped-up effect, give this Japanese lotion a try. More of a serum than a traditional lotion, the formula pairs seven types of hyaluronic acid to better moisturize and restore hydration to your skin. Though it will definitely be popular among dry skin types, the formula is safe for acne-prone and sensitive skin types, too, as it won’t contribute to clogged pores and is free of fragrances, dyes, and oils. Pro tip: for the best results, apply this to your face just after cleansing and while your skin is still damp.


The Smoothing Hair Treatment Pros Swear By

For hair that stays impossibly glossy and smooth regardless of the humidity level, it’s all in the prep work. This multi-tasking treatment from Color Wow is a lightweight spray that can be used on all hair types and uses an innovative polymer technology that works to block out humidity and repel moisture while leaving hair silky. Because it’s a heat-activated technology, you’ll have to spray this on damp hair and blow dry using some added tension from a brush, but it only needs to be used every three to four shampoos.


A Prescription-Strength Retinoid Without The Prescription

The first over-the-counter retinoid, this Differin Gel has been a staple in my skin care routine for years. It contains a 0.1%-strength retinoid to accelerate skin cell turnover, which is especially helpful for those who experience clogged pores and frequent breakouts. You have to be patient with this one and power through the retinization phase where skin can become irritated, and the purging phase where all the gunk that’s trapped beneath the skin starts to surface, but it’s worth the wait.


The French Face Cream That Pros Swear By

The packaging may have changed, but the formula that made this French face cream a makeup artist favorite around the globe is still the same. Ingredients like shea butter, beeswax, and aloe vera immediately leave skin feeling softer and more moisturized, whether you use it as the last step of your nightly skin care routine or as a makeup primer. “Absorbs quickly and makes your skin feel like silk,” one Amazon reviewer wrote.


An Award-Winning Mascara That Comes With A Built-In Primer

This two-in-one mascara and lash primer will immediately bulk up lashes with a jet black formula that lengthens and lifts. But what’s unique about this beauty award-winning mascara is that the opposite end of the tube houses a separate lash primer that creates a lash-enhancing base for your mascara while also conditioning lashes with ingredients like glycerin, jojoba esters, and vitamin E. Both formulas are also free from parabens, paraffins, silicones, mineral oil, synthetic fragrances, and anything else you wouldn’t want in your makeup.


A Sunscreen That Leaves Skin Dewy (Not Greasy)

A good face sunscreen is hard to find, but this K-beauty option checks multiple boxes when it comes to efficacy and ingredients. The noncomedogenic serum is lightweight enough to immediately absorb into the skin, but it still remains hydrating enough for drier skin types thanks to a combination of centella asiatica extract and multiple types of hyaluronic acid. That centella asiatica extract also brings soothing benefits to the SPF 50+ sunscreen serum, which includes ingredients like niacinamide and green tea leaf extract to further calm inflammation and redness. Despite containing chemical sun filters, the serum is hypoallergenic, vegan, and cruelty-free.


The Secret To A Red Carpet Glow

TZR editor Adeline Duff is a fan of this e.l.f. Halo Glow Liquid Filter, which can best be described as an alternative to Charlotte Tilbury’s beloved, skin-boosting Hollywood Flawless Filter. The skin care/makeup hybrid will give you the coverage of a lightweight foundation while adding an all-over radiance to your complexion and nourishing skin with ingredients like squalane, sunflower seed oil, and hyaluronic acid. Like all of e.l.f.’s products, the glow booster is cruelty-free and vegan, and it’s packaged in a recyclable glass container.

  • Available shades: 8


A Truly Budge-Proof Liquid Matte Lipstick

This drugstore liquid matte lipstick is a huge hit on Amazon, with more than 70,000 five-star ratings that describe it as a “holy grail.” Available in a range of shades, from classic reds and pinks to bolder berry colors, the formula promises to stay in place for up to 16 hours without smudging or transferring (and according to our own beauty editors, it really does).

  • Available shades: 38


A Multi-Tasking Marula Oil For Your Hair, Skin, & Nails

Whether TikTok put you onto oilplaning or you prefer to keep things as simple as possible when it comes to using an oil on your face, hair, or even cuticles, you can turn to this marula oil from Cliganic. This 1-ounce dropper bottle contains one ingredient only: USDA-certified organic marula oil that’s extracted straight from the seeds of the fruit grown on Marula trees and cold-pressed. Press it onto your skin for an ultra-glowy effect.


A Sensitive Skin-Friendly Serum For Treating Unwanted Hyperpigmentation & More

For those with sensitive skin who are looking to treat unwanted hyperpigmentation and clogged pores, a niacinamide serum is a solid place to start. This Amazon favorite from Naturium uses a potent 12% concentration of the active ingredient, which helps to reduce redness and hyperpigmentation without causing irritation. Niacinamide is also thought to help regulate oil production, which can be helpful for those with oily and acne-prone skin, and this serum also includes zinc PCA for more anti-inflammatory benefits that can help treat breakouts.


A Drying Lotion That Shrinks Zits Overnight

When you feel a pimple brewing, dip a Q-tip into this pink liquid and dab it on top to let it work its magic overnight. The drying lotion uses salicylic acid to dissolve the acne-causing debris that’s clogging your pores in the first place, while sulfur draws oil out of the pores and zinc oxide calms redness and irritation. You’ll want to apply this on skin that’s just been cleansed, and resist the urge to give the bottle a shake before using (that pink lotion that settles at the bottom of the bottle is exactly what you want).


A Primer That Makes Pores Disappear

A primer is the key to makeup that really lasts, and this e.l.f. Poreless Putty Primer grips onto makeup while also blurring the appearance of enlarged pores. Silicones give this a velvety texture that glides right over skin, and for dry skin types, the primer is also infused with moisturizing squalane and green tea leaf extract.


The Easiest Way To Exfoliate Your Skin

This BHA exfoliant boasts an impressive 50,000-plus five-star ratings on Amazon, with one reviewer saying that “it’s truly a game-changer” for their acne-prone, sensitive skin. The leave-on formula was designed to be used after cleansing and toning, and it contains 2% of the BHA salicylic acid to penetrate more deeply into the pores and clear them of oil and debris. To combat any sensitivity, the formula also contains soothing and moisturizing green tea leaf extract, but even so, you’ll want to start by applying this just once every other day to see how your skin adjusts.


A Set Of Oval Makeup Brushes That Cost Less Than $10

If prestige oval brushes are out of your budget, this set of five works similarly to create an airbrushed finish with synthetic fibers that are hypoallergenic and cruelty-free. Designed to be used with liquid, cream, and powder formulas, this set covers all of your bases with five different brush sizes to better apply foundation, powder, blush, contour, concealer, and eyeshadow.


A Hair Brush That’ll Detangle Wet Or Dry Hair

This hair brush is unlike any others you’ve tried — it boasts firm, yet flexible plastic bristles that’ll work through your strands with ease, getting rid of tangles without pulling out your hair. It’s suitable for all hair types and lengths, and it can be used wet or dry. The ergonomic handle is effortless to maneuver, and it’s small enough to toss in your purse.


An Eyelash Curler That Comes With 2 Silicone Pad Refills

Use this eyelash curler to instantly give your lashes more lift and volume before applying mascara. It’s made from premium stainless steel and designed to give uniform pressure every time (on all eye shapes and sizes) for flawless results and it comes with two silicone pad refills. The chic rose gold finish is icing on the cake.


A Body Scrub Developed To Treat KP & Body Acne

If you have stubborn bumps on your upper arms, thighs, or buttocks, it could be a skin condition known as keratosis pilaris. While it’s completely harmless, it can prove stubborn to treat, which is why First Aid Beauty developed this potent body scrub, which uses a 10% combination of glycolic and lactic acids, as well as pumice buffing beads to resurface the skin. Even with the higher concentration of active ingredients, the scrub is safe for sensitive skin types because it’s free from fragrance and alcohol, and even contains calming ingredients like colloidal oatmeal, vitamin E, and bisabolol.


An Antioxidant-Rich Serum With 13,000+ 5-Star Reviews

Containing 20% vitamin C, this glow serum helps to promote a more radiant complexion. Plus, ingredients like ferulic acid and hyaluronic acid can prevent breakouts, brighten, and more. As a bonus: It smells like oranges.


This 3-Ingredient Facial Mist That Smells Like Roses

For an easy way to perk up skin on the go, consider keeping this $10 facial mist at your desk or in your makeup bag. “This stuff is solid gold,” wrote one Amazon reviewer who gave the rosewater and glycerin mist five stars. “It locks in moisture (and makeup) yet doesn’t feel sticky.” You can spritz this all over your face immediately after cleansing to lock in moisture or mist it over makeup throughout the day to help keep your look in place. The refreshing mist only uses three ingredients (purified water, vegetable glycerin, and rose flower oil), making it a super sensitive skin-friendly choice.


A Pimple Patch For Cystic Acne

Already a fan of pimple patches? Same. But for more stubborn breakouts that you can feel deeper in the skin (aka cystic acne), your average hydrocolloid patch won’t cut it. ZitSticka’s Killa patches use microdarts that are actually made from acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid to work on a deeper level. Two hours are all the microdart patches need to fully dissolve and dispense their ingredients, but you can leave the patch on overnight, too.


An Eye Primer That Prevents Oily Lids & Eyeshadow Fading

If you’ve ever gone through the painstaking effort of blending in a full smoky eye only to have it creasing hours later, this primer will solve all of your problems. A pea-sized amount of the product is all you need to lock your eyeshadow and eyeliner in place, and the multi-tasking formula even includes a sebum-controlling powder to help prevent oily lids and pearl powder to promote a brighter, more even base.


A K-Beauty Cult-Favorite With A Slimy Hero Ingredient

This K-beauty essence uses snail mucin (yes, as in the literal slime from snails) to target everything from unwanted scarring and dullness to dry skin that’s in need of some intense hydration. The fragrance-free essence is a concentrated formula that’s comprised of 96% snail mucin, but it gets a few more moisturizing and soothing benefits from hyaluronic acid, panthenol, and allantoin. Consider this your warning that multiple Amazon reviewers reported it has a sticky texture as you first apply it to your skin (it is snail slime, after all), but it’s also garnered nearly 30,000 five-star ratings, with one review declaring, “it has literally changed my skin.”


A Creamy Eyeshadow Palette That’s Under $10

If you’ve been known to splurge on a massive 12-color eyeshadow palette only to use one or two shades, you’re not alone. You also don’t have to part with $50 to find your everyday neutral shadows or experiment with color. Revlon’s Illuminance Crème Eye Shadow palette will only set you back about $6, and it comes with four coordinated colors that are light enough to blend in with your fingers. “Super easy to use and the feel is super light,” wrote one Amazon user who gave the palette five stars. “They’re also not heavily pigmented, so you can add layers.”

  • Available shades: 5


A Brush That Leaves Hair Shiny & Smooth

Boar bristle brushes are a hairstylist favorite for helping to better distribute the oils from your scalp throughout the lengths of your hair. In the process, that means shinier strands, while the softer bristles also lead to less breakage. This small brush from Denman includes a mix of synthetic and natural boar bristles to detangle and smooth hair without the hefty price tag of a traditional boar bristle brush.


This Scalp Massager That Feels Good But Is Also Functional

Mimic that amazing scalp massage you get at the salon with this massager tool — in addition to feeling heavenly, it also helps to remove dead skin and dandruff from your scalp. It’s made from BPA-free silicone, and you can use it in the shower when wet or out of the shower as well.


A Cheat For Skin That Literally Glows

If you prefer your glow to have a little shimmer, this L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glotion is an Amazon (and pro) favorite for creating customized radiance. When you want to achieve an all-over luminous effect, try mixing some of the lotion in with your foundation, or use the shimmery formula as a highlighter by strategically dabbing it along the high points of your face. However you choose to apply the slightly tinted lotion, it will help hydrate your skin as it adds a glow, thanks to ingredients like glycerin and shea butter.

  • Available shades: 4


A Makeup Brush Cleaner That Also Spins Brushes Dry

If you put off cleaning your makeup brushes because it’s a hassle, try this makeup brush cleaner to make the task much faster. Simply connect the brush to the device (there are eight various attachments to secure brushes of all shapes and sizes), dip it in the bowl with water and spin it to clean, then pull it out and spin it again to dry.


An Easy Way To Achieve Slicked-Back Buns

You don’t have to load up on alcohol-laden gels when you want to achieve a slicked-back hairstyle. This hair wax stick gets the job done (just ask the 15,000-plus five-star ratings on Amazon) without the drying alcohol — or the mess. You can swipe the creamy formula directly onto baby hairs or flyaways to hold them in place, and the wax is also packed with nourishing ingredients like avocado oil, castor oil, and vitamin E to nourish hair as it styles it.


A Creamy Eyeshadow Stick That Blends Like A Dream

These eyeshadow sticks might just be the most foolproof way to apply eye makeup. Available in a range of matte, shimmery, and metallic finishes, each shadow glides right onto lids with the ease of a cream, but dries down to a crease-proof, long-lasting powder. “I love the creaminess of this product and the fact that I don’t have to reapply during my 12-hour workday,” confirmed one Amazon reviewer. Though each stick comes with a tiny sponge at the opposite end that can be used for blending, the eyeshadow sticks also earned points among Amazon reviewers for their ability to be diffused with your fingers, too.

  • Available shades: 34


This Light-Up Magnifying Mirror That Can Be Powered 2 Ways

Tweezing your brows just got a whole lot easier — this makeup mirror features two levels of magnification that’ll allow you to see everything better. Plus, it has 36 built-in LED lights and a rotating base. Reviewers also love it for applying makeup, creating updos, and more. It’s travel-friendly because it folds up and is powered by batteries or USB.


A Microfiber Towel Wrap That Dries Hair More Quickly

If you’re trying to cut back on hot styling tools (and the accumulative damage they inevitably cause), drying your hair sans blow dryer is the easiest place to start. And this microfiber hair towel wrap can help speed the process along without contributing to the tangling and snagging that traditional cotton towels can cause. These towel wraps, which are available in a set of two, feature a button at the back to secure the hair turban in place, and you can choose from multiple colors to match the microfiber wrap to your existing towel set.

  • Available colors: 16


This Sunscreen Spray That’s Designed To Protect Your Scalp & Hair

Spritz this sunscreen spray on your scalp to stop it from burning (it’s SPF 30) and also on your hair to prevent your highlights or balayage from UV-induced fading. The spray is lightweight to not weigh down your strands or leave them feeling greasy. And it has an ocean salted sage scent that’s reminiscent of a beach vacation to the Maldives. This pick is vegan and gluten-free.


The Easiest Way To Top Off Your SPF

Reapplying sunscreen over a full face of makeup is tricky business, which is why this SPF-infused setting spray is totally genius. Spritz this on, and the ultra-fine mist will help to keep your makeup in place for up to 16 hours, but even more importantly, a generous application helps to block out UVA and UVB rays. “I’ve tried a million SPF sprays, and this one offers the best sun protection that actually works,” declared one Amazon reviewer who gave the setting spray five stars.


A De-Puffing Eye Cream Made With Brightening Vitamin C

Combat tired eyes in two ways with this brightening eye cream that comes with a de-puffing metal wand. Ingredients like vitamin C, caffeine, niacinamide, and hyaluronic acid help to illuminate and hydrate, but it’s the roller applicator that you’ll really be obsessed with. Store it in the fridge, and use it to gently smooth the cream around your eyes for a cooling sensation that also works to combat puffiness.


This Strengthening Leave-In Conditioner With 33,000+ 5-Star Reviews

This leave-in conditioner is packed with powerhouse ingredients — including caffeine, ginseng, and vitamin E — to detangle, smooth frizz, and strengthen your strands. Spritz it directly onto damp hair from roots to ends and comb it through for best results. It won’t make your hair sticky or stiff, so you’ll still be able to style it as desired.


This Magnetic Lash & Liner Kit That Comes With 5 Styles

Applying false eyelashes with glue can be tricky — and they’ll rarely last all day. But with this eyelash kit, that’ll be a thing of the past. Simply apply the waterproof magnetic eyeliner as you normally would on your lids, and then the eyelashes will connect right to it. The set comes with five pairs of reusable falsies in different lengths and thicknesses for various occasions.


A Matte Setting Spray That Makes Makeup Last 16 Hours

You spend so much time creating a flawless makeup look; ensure it lasts by spritzing on this setting spray as the final step. The lightweight spray leaves behind a matte finish, and it promises to extend the wear of your makeup by up to 16 hours. The product has a 4.5-star overall rating after more than 100,000 reviews on the site, with one fan commenting, “A holy grail product [...] Just as good as any of the high end brand setting sprays for a fraction of the cost.”


An Adjustable Rotating Makeup Organizer That’s Stylish Enough To Display

Grab this spinning rack to organize your skincare collection, makeup products and tools, perfumes, and more. The seven trays can be adjusted according to the height of your products and the raised edges prevent items from falling off as you rotate it for access. The black finish makes this pick chic enough to leave out on your vanity.


The Most Inexpensive Way To Put Microneedling To The Test

If you’re all about an at-home beauty treatment, Sdara’s derma roller helps you get the benefits of microneedling without the in-office appointment (or price tag). The handheld device uses 540 titanium needles that are just 0.25 millimeters to create small wounds in the skin that stimulate collagen growth and also allow your skin care products to work on a deeper level. You’ll need to be consistent with this one to see the full results, but if you’re adding the tool to your cart, be sure that you also buy some rubbing alcohol to properly sanitize the derma roller before and after each use.


This Popular Hyaluronic Acid Serum That Has A 4.5-Star Overall Rating

Add this hyaluronic acid serum to your skincare routine lineup — it can be used in conjunction with vitamin C, retinol, and more. The serum promises various benefits for the skin, including deep hydration, brightening, and restored elasticity. It’s free from parabens, fragrances, sulfates, and oils. And it’s not tested on animals.

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