By the smell of perfume, I could tell we were close. "This way," pointed my mother. As we reached the makeup counter, its horizontal expanses flanked by scented bottles, half-a-dozen bracelets draped on the wrists of a woman wearing a starched black smock clinked delicately along its glass surface. "You have beautiful skin," she said. "You don't really need makeup."
My 12-year-old heart sank.
After months of carefully sprinkled comments, not-so-subtle hints and downright undignified begging, I could feel my greatest back-to-school wish shrinking away, at the very moment palettes of gold and brown shimmered on the horizon.
Like many tweens, I was determined to enter the makeup age. What I wasn't prepared for were the economic consequences. Turns out, the average U.S. tween spends $15 a week on cosmetics -- a number that only increases with age. By the time this same tween travels through her 30s and 40s, she'll have spent more than $100,000 in pursuit of beauty products [source: Ammah-Tagos]. For many of us, though, the expanse has shaped up to be worth it.
If I could send a vlog to my 12-year-old self, I'd remind her that she left the makeup counter armed with a lesson on eye shadow application, a compact of four muted shades, and one important truth: Sometimes, there's just no substitute for a splurge. My mother could've gone down any drugstore aisle and tossed makeup into a basket; instead, we shared an experience.
While that very first makeup splurge was oh-so worth it, every girl's got a budget (me, too!). If your cosmetic spending is all about the high-low, be sure to check out our five best highs.
Whether you're shopping with your best friend or simply want a drop-dead look sure to make her jealous, there's just no substitute for luxury products that work.
You can buy a $100 per ounce foundation at a makeup counter or spend less than $10 for coverage at nearly any drug store, but there are more important differences between these high-low examples than just price.
Luxury brand foundation lines are formulated with finely milled ingredients, and this results in a smoother, more even application on your skin. You'll use less product, because high-end foundations generally offer more coverage than their less expensive counterparts. Plus, you can usually try pricey foundation shades and get expert advice at a makeup bar -- for free -- before making a splurge.
If your budget forces you to make choices (and whose doesn't?), cut corners with eye or cheek colors, but not with foundation. It's the canvas upon which you'll create a makeup masterpiece.
Primers (Foundation and Eye)
You won't find foundation primer in the grocery store bargain bin, so consider your pursuit of this product worth the splurge.
Foundation primer, a clear gel-like liquid, is one of the beauty industry's best-kept secrets. It has the power to fill fine lines and smooth acne scars; even if you have an unmarred complexion, primer is a must. It can be used to marry foundation to your face like a second skin -- and the commitment will last all day, too.
Apply foundation primer after moisturizer and before foundation to give your skin a velvety appearance. You can also mix a high-end primer to a cream foundation for sheer, natural look [source: Yi].
And don't forget eye primer. This specialty cream is applied pre-foundation, but only to the eyelid area, and will keep eye shadows in place and prevent creases from forming.
You've worked hard (or paid a professional your hard-earned money) to tweeze, thread or wax your brows into shape. Don't blow it by reaching for a brow pencil or forcing your eye shadow to double as brow powder.
Eyebrows are an important facial feature -- and at the heart of current beauty trends -- so it only makes sense to spend on them. Splurge on colored wax and powder combos (the wax helps the powder stay put until you decide to remove it), as well as colored mineral powder for brows. Both options offer a natural-looking alternative to pencils, boost your brows better than no color at all, and blend beautifully -- thanks to a variety of just-right shades. Plus, the powder settles on the skin under brow hair, filling in problem areas with aplomb.
Really want to splurge? Look for a compact of multiple brow powders in a variety of shades that are great for customizing, as well as templates for creating the perfect shape [source: Carrillo].
Think bronzer is only for a summertime sun-kissed look? This little powerhouse is so much more. Splurging on a high-quality bronzer -- and adding it to your daily makeup regime -- can do everything from enhancing your skin tone to maximizing the contours of your face (think of it as DIY airbrushing). While you can find budget bronzers for about $3, don't be afraid to splurge on a bronzer beloved by makeup artists. Although these makeup boosters can cost $40 or more, they'll last from one season to another.
Bronzers come in a variety of forms, from crèmes to powders. To look beautifully blended, choose a bronzer a shade or two darker than your skin tone. After applying foundation, apply the bronzer under the cheekbones and blend downward. Then, wisp it up from your temples toward your forehead. Set the look with a layer of loose powder [source: Karimi].
Makeup Brushes, Concealer and Lipstick
Lipstick can be an affordable luxury, even if you opt for designer shades that cost more than $40 a pop. In general, splurge-worthy lipsticks contain higher-quality ingredients that lend a creamier finish.
Set your sights on a couple of signature shades you can wear from season to season. Apply each "as is," layer them for a custom color or top them with an inexpensive gloss to lend your lips a new hue. To play up your lips by making them appear fuller, try a light shade of lipstick with a dot of clear lip gloss applied right under the bow of your top lip and in the center of your bottom lip [source: Real Simple].
When was the last time you cleaned out your cosmetics? HowStuffWorks talked to an LA-based makeup artist for advice on how often we need to toss it.
- Ammah-Tagoe, Aku. "The Beauty Breakdown." The Daily Beast. (Aug. 21, 2012) http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/features/2010/the-beauty-breakdown.html
- Carrillo, Sarah. "16 Best Brow Enhancing Beauty Products." (Aug. 21, 2012) Total Beauty. http://www.totalbeauty.com/content/gallery/best-brow-enhancers
- Karimi, Sabah. "Blush and Bronzer Combos." (Aug. 21, 2012) Diva Village. http://www.divavillage.com/article.php?id=39866
- Real Simple. "Splurge or Save? The Smartest Beauty Buys." (Aug. 21, 2012) http://www.realsimple.com/beauty-fashion/skincare/splurge-save-smartest-beauty-buys-10000001606029/page8.html
- Yi, Sharon. "10 Secrets I Learned at Makeup Artist School." Total Beauty. (Aug. 21, 2012) http://www.totalbeauty.com/content/gallery/makeup-school