Splurge Or Save?

Maximise your beauty budget and get the most bang for your buck with these smart investment choices.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Maximise your beauty budget and get the most bang for your buck with these smart investment choices.


You don’t have to break the bank to look a million bucks. When choosing which items to splurge or save on, consider if the product will be in direct contact with your skin, as well as how vital vivid colours and staying power are for each product.

In general, pricier products tend to feature more concentrated colour pigments for a better colour pay-off. And usually, you don’t need to use a lot of product to get the coverage you want and the staying power is longer. In other words, it makes more sense to pay a premium for statement lipsticks instead of lip glosses with a hint of colour and less staying power. High-impact eyeshadows are also more worth the splurge than setting powder. 

Use this as your rule of thumb for beauty budgeting, and you could possibly slash hundreds of dollars off your shopping cart each year. You could also use the extra dough you’ve saved to diversify your colour collection, expand your beauty wardrobe and experiment with different looks.


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A good primer is the secret to fresher and longer-lasting makeup. Some formulas have powerful skincare, colour-correcting and radiance-enhancing properties that allow you to use less foundation to let the natural beauty of your skin shine through.

TRY: Shiseido Synchro Skin Tone Up Primer Compact SPF 24/PA++, $68. Use it on its own, under or over makeup to filter imperfections, tame shine, boost radiance and prolong the staying power of your makeup. It even promises to hydrate the skin and reduce free radical damage.

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A poorly formulated foundation masks your skin’s beauty. It may also streak when exposed to sweat and sebum, and even clog pores. Pick a second-skin formula that melts into your skin and nourishes it with skincare actives.

TRY: Clinique Even Better Makeup SPF 15, $58 (30 ml). Offering lightweight, breathable coverage with protection from harmful UV rays, it not only brightens and evens out skin tone but also works behind-the-scenes to lighten dark spots and pigmentation.

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Like a magic wand, well-formulated concealers make blemishes, sun spots and sleepless nights vanish instantaneously. Skimping on this can backfire – low-quality formulas have a mask-like effect and gather in skin creases. Pick a good colour-correcting formula that stands up to any blemish.

TRY: Hourglass Vanish Airbrush Concealer, $58. A long-wearing, crease-proof and waterproof formula, this camouflages dark circles, spots and blemishes imperceptibly, and lasts from AM to PM.

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The exclamation point of your makeup, lipstick is not always easy to pull off. If you are going for a matte finish or statement colours, it makes sense to pay a little more for intense colour pigments that won’t disappear after your morning latte. Choose creamy and hydrating matte formulas that won’t dry your lip or accentuate lip lines.

TRY: Smashbox Always On Cream To Matte Lipstick, $38. This waterproof formula delivers impactful colour, hydrates lips with a primer oil complex, and won’t budge or bleed easily. 

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Higher-end brands tend to be more pigmented and give you more oomph for both bolder shades and nudes. They are also more likely to blend well and remain true-to-colour after a few hours of wear.

TRY: Too Faced Born This Way Complexion-inspired Eye Shadow Palette, $69. These 16 shades of matte, shimmery, sparkly, and metallic nudes glide onto your skin smoothly with its nourishing formula of coconut water, alpine rose and hyaluronic acid. 


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Nail Polish

Your nails are made of keratin, a protein comprising of dead cells. So unless you wear nail polish daily, you don’t need to splash out on this. Instead, get it in a wider variety of colours.

TRY: Innisfree Cherry Blossom Nail Set, $15. This spring-inspired duo is enriched with calcium, argan oil and tangerine oil to care for your nails, and even comes with whimsical floral nail stickers.

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Setting Powder

Their primary purpose is to “set” foundation and keep sebum in check. Expensive powders claim to be finer than drugstore brands. Still, the difference is not very perceptible, and may not be worth the splurge. In fact, with the dewy trend going strong, you may even choose to skip this step.

TRY: Milani Make It Last Setting Powder, $23.85. Veiling skin weightlessly, it absorbs excess sebum and tames shine for longer-lasting makeup.

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It is debatable whether you should scrimp or splurge on this. Some lower-end brands may contain less concentrated colour pigments. Still, if you are looking for a subtle wash of colour, this may not matter. In fact, many wellformulated affordable brands can also achieve that lovely glowfrom-within effect.

TRY: Pixi On-the-glow Blush, $32.65 (£18.00). This tinted moisture stick warms up cheeks with a flush of colour and even doubles up as a lippie. Available on Pixibeauty.com.

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Lip Gloss

High on shine and usually lower on colour pigments, lip glosses are incredibly wearable and quite blotch-proof. They are not made to last beyond breakfast and are likely to require frequent touch-ups no matter the price tag and R&D claims, so pick a more affordable option.

TRY: Sephora Collection Lip Honeys Colorful Gloss Balm, $20. This lippie envelops your smackers in a luscious sheen, yummy scent, and nourishing honey.

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Many drugstore brands may be comparable to high-end brands in terms of lengthening, curling, volumising and lasting power. And since mascaras tend not to be in direct contact with our skin, there is really no need to shell out top-dollar for skincare or lash conditioning actives.

TRY: Heroine Make Super Waterproof Mascara Long & Curl, $21.90. 5mm fibres and a shape-sustaining polymer frame your eyes with sky-high blinkers.

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We all want the best for our skin. But with multiple-step skincare regimes, it has become increasingly difficult to allocate equal resources to each of our beauty staples. 

The good news: The skin on different parts of our body is different and has different needs. The skin around our eyes is thinner and more sensitive than the rest of our face and requires dedicated care. On the other end of the spectrum, the skin on our body is thicker than that of our face, making it less sensitive to ingredients and less usceptible to premature ageing.

Another key factor to consider is how long a product remains on the face. In essence, makeup removers, cleansers and toners won’t stay for very long, so you can save on those. Lastly, think about how deeply a product penetrates the skin to maximise the efficacy of active ingredients. After all, it certainly makes sense to put your money on the hardest-hitting products.


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Essence & Serum

With smaller molecules than moisturisers, serums and essences penetrate deeper into the skin. They tend to have a higher concentration of active ingredients. This is where you want to put your money and pay for the best active ingredients such as enzymes, retinoids, antioxidants, peptides and vitamins.

TRY: Lancome Clarifique Dual Essence, $140 (10 ml). Powered by organic French beech bud extract, this lightweight essence stimulates cell metabolism. It boosts skin’s vitality for beautiful, clear skin that glows from within.

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Eye Cream

An average person blinks 28,800 times a day. The skin around the eyes is thinner, more sensitive, and usually the first to show signs of ageing. It requires high-performance active ingredients dosed for delicate skin.

TRY: Dr Andrew Weil for Origins Mega-Mushroom Relief & Resilience Soothing Gel Cream for Eyes, $85 (15 ml). A herbal concoction of reishi, cordyceps and lady’s thistle helps replenish moisture, reduce the look of dark circles and redness, and enhance environment defence.

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Night Care

As you sleep, your skin’s repair and regeneration mode kick in. Blood flow, DNA repair and collagen production are accelerated. This is the time when anti-ageing ingredients have the most impact. So invest in night creams and serums with a higher concentration of active ingredients.

TRY: Kora Noni Night AHA Resurfacing Serum, $98 (30 ml). With AHAs, BHA, gentle fruit acids and antioxidants from Sicilian white grapes, willow bark, lemon peel ferment and caviar lime, this night serum speeds up cellular turnover for smooth and youthful-looking skin.

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Anti-Ageing Moisturiser

A regular moisturiser may suffice for daily hydration. If you are hoping to halt the clock, you will need ingredients that specifically defend skin against environmental assaults. This moisturiser has to also help renew the skin and stimulate collagen and elastin production, which slow down with age.

TRY: Allies of Skin Peptides & Antioxidants Firming Daily Treatment, $145 (50 ml). Seven brighteners, nine antioxidants and a powerful repair complex rev up collagen production, reduce the look of dark spots and shields skin from pollution for optimal care and protection.

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Supercharge your skin cells and skincare routine. Today, advanced aesthetic technology, such as LED and massage therapies, can be enjoyed from the comfort of your home. After the initial outlay, these gadgets maximise the efficacy of all your skincare products, paying for themselves many times over. 

TRY: Foreo Bear, $436. This Swedish beauty device brand’s new smart microcurrent facial toning device helps to plump up wrinkles, and lift and tighten sagging skin with microcurrents and t-sonic pulsations. Use this with anti-ageing serums and creams for best results.


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Makeup Remover

Its key function is to remove makeup effectively without stripping skin of moisture, so don’t get too caught up with fancy ingredients or scents of high-end brands. Many drugstore micellar or oil-based formulas get the job done just as well. Just remember to give the product enough time to dissolve makeup and avoid tugging on your skin, as that would contribute to the formation of wrinkles.

TRY: Bottega Verde Goji Perfect - Micellar Milk Make Up Remover with Goji Extract, $24.90 (200 ml). Micellar water lifts off makeup and impurities, and goji extract and argan oil hydrate and deeply replenish parched skin.

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No matter what powerful or rare ingredients are listed on your cleanser, they are only staying on your face for all of five seconds. So don’t splash out on these either. Look for a gentle cleanser that lifts off impurities without stripping your skin of its natural moisture, and which won’t leave your skin feeling dry and tight.

TRY: Etude Moistfull Collagen Cleansing Foam, $17.90 (150 ml). Enriched with Super Collagen Water, this rich, creamy foam cleanser leaves skin moist and soft after each wash. 

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Like cleansers, toners are not usually packed with a high concentration of active ingredients. Toners are used to purify and balance your skin’s pH level after cleansing, and prep it for the skin’s absorption of other skincare products. Some are made for different skin types: Use hydrating ones for drier skin, and sebum-regulating ones for oily skin.

TRY: The Face Shop Chia Seed Hydro Toner, $27 (160 ml). Boosted with Chia Seed Extract and Pink Vitamin, this hydrating toner lifts off makeup residue, impurities, and fights the effects of free radicals.

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What you need here is broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Look at both the Sun Protection Factor (ideally SPF 30 and above) and Protection Grade of UVA rays (ideally PA+++ and above). Many drugstore brands work as well as department store brands. Pick a sheer, lightweight texture that leaves a dry finish and slather it on liberally.

TRY: Orbis Sunscreen Super SPF 50+ PA++++, $25 (50 g). Formulated with rosemary extracts and hyaluronic acid of low molecular weight, this waterproof sunscreen shields skin from sun damage while keeping skin optimally hydrated.

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Body Moisturiser

As you age, the skin all over the body becomes dry quickly. When dry skin is not addressed, it gets itchy and rough. A body lotion or cream helps to keep the skin soft, smooth and comfortable. Since you are using it over a large area and will need a lot of product, don’t overspend on this unless you suffer from conditions like eczema.

TRY: Vaseline Healthy White Fresh & Youthful Whitening Gel, $9.50 (180 ml). This light, refreshing jelly nourishes skin with ginseng, jojoba seed oil, buckwheat and vitamin E. Instantly absorbed, it won’t leave skin feeling greasy or sticky, too.