The budget beauty buys top make-up artists REALLY use (from as little as £2.99) 

During these times of economic downturn, something called the ‘lipstick index’ dictates that sales of small luxuries such as lipstick — or, while Covid raged and masks prevailed, mascara — rise.

More affordable than cars, clothes or holidays, a cosmetic purchase will give us a lift without causing our credit balance to plummet, or so the theory goes.

Indeed, beauty behemoths such as L’Oreal (which owns Maybelline, NYX, Lancome and Armani Beauty, among others) and Coty (the owner of Rimmel, Kylie Cosmetics, Gucci Beauty and more) are reporting double-digit sales growth in both their High Street and luxury divisions, despite rampant inflation and energy price increases high enough to make a billionaire blanch.

Lisa Eldridge (pictued)is an international make-up artist who has worked with icons from Kate Moss and Jennifer Lopez to Kate Winslet and Keira Knightley

And the even better news: there’s been a boom in low-price but high-quality products in the past decade. The packaging may not always provide the thrill you’re after, but if the contents do a brilliant job for not much money, who really cares right now?

‘You absolutely don’t need to spend a fortune to find great products,’ says make-up artist Hannah Martin, who doesn’t just work with celebrities — she’s a royal favourite, too. If a cheap find from a supermarket or High Street chemist becomes a staple in her kit, you know it’s good.

So we asked Hannah and six other top beauty insiders — all of whom can get their hands on any luxury product they like — to share which bargain buys they actually use. These are items you truly can’t go wrong with, cost-of-living crisis or not — and they’re all £12 or less.


Hannah Martin (@hannahmartinmakeup) masterminded Princess Eugenie’s wedding look.

Simple Kind To Skin Micellar Cleansing Water, £3.67 for 400ml,

As a make-up artist, micellar water has always been an essential in my kit. It allows for quick changes and effective tidying-up.

But I use this one myself, too, as a first step before cleansing. It very gently dissolves and lifts off make-up, making it the perfect first full facial cleanse to get rid of any residue. I then do a second cleanse to deep-clean my skin.

CeraVe Moisturising Lotion, £9.99 for 236ml,

Oh, I love this stuff! As someone prone to dry skin I need to hydrate my body regularly or else my arms and legs become scaly and even sore at times.

This cream is one of the best. It’s fragrance-free so it doesn’t irritate and the moisture lasts and lasts, leaving a subtle glow to the skin without making it feel greasy or oily. It’s cheaper than other creams but has more active ingredients: it contains three ceramides that protect the skin’s barrier.

Lottie London Diamond Bounce Highlighter in Rose Gold, £8.95,

I love a little glitter to finish off a make-up look. I’ve tried all the high-end luxe brands but this one is as good as those — if not better — at a fraction of the price.

The pan is huge so it will last a long time and it can be used in so many different ways. Try it as an eyeshadow, a highlighter, all-over body shimmer…it can go anywhere you want a touch of glimmer. It comes in other tones, too, but the rose gold is my favourite.


Lisa Eldridge (@lisaeldridge makeup) is an international make-up artist who has worked with icons from Kate Moss and Jennifer Lopez to Kate Winslet and Keira Knightley. She is also a brand founder and make-up archivist.

L’Oreal Paris Color Riche Lip Liner Couture in 630 Beige A Nu, £4.99,

There are plenty of good High Street lip pencils available, but this particular one is so versatile that I make sure it’s in my kit at all times.

Max Factor False Lash Effect Lengthening Mascara, £11.99,

High Street mascaras have come a long way and there are so many fabulous ones. But this is still my personal favourite. It’s as good as any of the pricier options out there for giving you ‘wow’ lashes without any smudging.

Ardell Individual Lashes Flare Short Black, £4.20,

These are a must for my red-carpet clients. They give so much definition — especially for the benefit of flash photography — but never look fake. Out of all the options, I prefer the short, flared ones.


Jacinta Spencer’s regular clients include Princess Diana’s twin nieces Lady Amelia and Eliza Spencer and their sister Kitty, plus singer Mimi Webb, model Paris Jackson and Bond actress Naomie Harris.

Elf Power Grip Primer, £10,

This is probably one of the best primers I have ever used. It’s great at keeping make-up in place all day and works on all skin types. It’s a kit essential for me, especially if my clients are performing and need their make-up to not slide off the skin.

L’Oreal Paris True Match Foundation, £9.99,

I love this foundation so much. It has the most beautiful hydrating formula and really makes skin look glowing and healthy.

The shade range is also incredible so I can always get the perfect skin-tone match. It’s perfect for a natural, everyday finish.

Maybelline Eraser Multi-Use Concealer, £7.20,

My favourite budget concealer is super buildable, smooths lines and sets well under the eyes.

I would recommend blending it in with your fingers for the best finish. It’s not just for under the eyes, either — you can use it all over the face.


Wendy Turner only keeps cruelty-free, ethical beauty products in her kit, and created red-carpet looks for acting and pop royalty, including Anne-Marie Duff and Billie Eilish.

Balance Me Stellar Balm, £10, look

I can’t live without this in my kit, and use it on every model, actress and pop star I work on. It’s a ‘does it all’ balm that intensively moisturises and soothes dry skin.

I use it to prep the lips and any dry areas on the face. You can also blend it with a natural-coloured lip liner for a ‘barely there’ lip look.

Morphe Make It Big Plumping Lip Gloss, £12,

I love applying this to give lips a boost. A lot of lip glosses can be drying but this one is super-hydrating and the tingling formula creates a fuller pout. It’s a go-to when I work with singer Becky Hill.

NYX Epic Ink Eye Liner, £9,

I am a huge fan of this liner, which has a slender brush tip and is intensely pigmented so every stroke is defined.

It’s also waterproof so it’s the perfect eyeliner for my more creative looks, especially on the lower eyelid.


Ruby Hammer MBE (@rubyhammer) has done make-up for the likes of Cindy Crawford, Christy Turlington and Naomi Campbell. She is the founder of Ruby Hammer Beauty

Elf Putty Blush, £6,

At this price you cannot go wrong. It’s available in six shades, and each has a radiant sheen. It’s lightweight and buildable, too, so you needn’t be concerned that you will dab on too much and end up looking clown-esque — even with the bright coral tone.

Max Factor Masterpiece High Volume And Definition Mascara, £11.99,

This mascara has been a favourite of mine since it launched. The brush defines and separates your lashes while the formula offers striking definition.

It’s great for contact-lens wearers like myself and a bona fide cult classic.

Maybelline Brow Ultra Slim, £8.99,

As a make-up artist, precision is everything because the camera will catch you out if you cut corners. This super-fine pencil with a built-in spoolie brush is perfect for natural-looking groomed brows, as it allows you to create the most precise hair-like strokes. It’s available in six shades, from a pale blonde to a deep black, and there’s one to suit every skin tone.

Max Factor Color X-Pert Soft Touch Palette in Crushed Blooms, £10.99,

The texture of this eyeshadow is great and the palette does not overwhelm you with too many shades. This tone range is beautiful for brown and green eyes — the plummy shades will really boost them. There are three other colourways, so you’re bound to find one that suits you.


Karin Darnell is actress Rebel Wilson’s favourite artist, and she has also worked with stars such as Gemma Chan and Billie Piper.

Caudalie Beauty Elixir £9.60 for 30ml,

I use this to prep my client’s skin after moisturising and rolling the face. It helps tighten pores and freshen up the skin.

The divine fragrance is enriched with botanical extracts so it’s both calming and uplifting at the same time.

I also use this on hot, balmy days as a make-up refresher, too — it’s just a little bit of wonderful on a busy day.

Rimmel London Radiance Brick Bronzer, £7.99,

This compact powder bronzer is a keen all-rounder — when applied with the right brush you can put this just about anywhere.

I use it to highlight the cheekbones, nose and Cupid’s bow, as well as on the shoulders, arms and legs. You can even wet it and use it as a shimmery eyeliner or eyeshadow.

Stila Magnificent Metals Shimmer And Glow Liquid Eye Shadow, £7.20,

If you shop carefully you can find fantastic reductions — such as this eyeshadow. Several shades are currently at 70 per cent off, down from £24. It’s a liquid glitter that’s a true winner.

It can vamp up any smoky eye and turn it into something truly special — I just apply it over normal eyeshadow as a top coat with a super reflective finish. Let it dry for a few seconds and you’re ready to go!

Michael Douglas (pictured) is a celebrity hairstylist for the likes of actress Sienna Miller and presenter Holly Willoughby

Michael Douglas (pictured) is a celebrity hairstylist for the likes of actress Sienna Miller and presenter Holly Willoughby


Michael Douglas (@mdlondon) is a celebrity hairstylist for the likes of actress Sienna Miller and presenter Holly Willoughby. He is also the founder of the brand MD London and is the partner of TV presenter Davina McCall, with whom he hosts hit podcast Making The Cut.

OGX Renewing+ Argan Oil Of Morocco Shampoo, £6.99,

I love not only the shampoo, but the conditioner and mask as well — you’ll very often find a three-for-two on the range at most supermarkets and chemists, which is worth snapping up.

Ogx formulations are pH balanced and sulphate-free, which means they won’t strip your scalp and are colour-safe. Plus, they have some of the best added ingredients out there, such as the seriously conditioning argan oil in this range.

Phil Smith Root Touch Up Root Concealer Spray, £6,

I’ve used all the root touch-up sprays from the big brands and — pound for pound — this is the best one.

Pick it up for at least half the price of most of the others on the market.

There are six shades to choose from and it works very well at temporarily covering those pesky greys.

Wella Shockwaves Volume Mousse, £2.99,

Here’s a styling product that can compete with some of the best I’ve ever used.

It has all the hold and volume-boosting ingredients of those ten times the price.

Moisture is the enemy of all hairstyles and this contains chitosan, which helps keep humidity from breaking down your ‘do.

This lightweight formula is such a versatile blow-dry product, giving you volume, curls or smooth hair — take your pick. With the right technique, a good mousse will give you fantastic results across lots of styles.