7 Generic Beauty Buys Better Than the Expensive Originals

by Brittany Lyte on 24 March 2015

When it comes to beauty products, no one will ever know whether you’re using the high-end brands or the cheap stuff. In fact, lower-priced makeup and moisturizers are often identical or better than similar products that cost three times as much. Yet studies show that people are easily deluded into thinking a product with anexpensive price tag is of higher quality than the same product labeled with a cheaper price.

Well, delusions be gone! One of the simplest ways to save on your beauty regimen is to cut out higher-priced products that come with no added benefit, save for attractive packaging and a posh designer name. Read on for our guide to the low-priced beauty buys that work just as well — if not better — than their more expensive counterparts.

1. Mascara

New York City makeup artist Raychel Wade wants to let you in on a little secret: A $7 wand of Maybelline mascara will make your lashes just as lush and alluring as the high-end stuff sold at department stores. Wade, who got her start working behind makeup counters, said there’s very little difference between expensive mascara and the cheap stuff other than the name brand on the packaging. That’s because just about all mascara ingredients are basically the same: a pigment to darken the lashes, a polymer to form the film that coats the lashes, a preservative, and a thickening agent. “Drugstores carry amazing mascaras, but it wasn’t my job to direct customers that way,” Wade says. “At the end of the day, I was working for the brand, not the customer.”

2. Cologne and Perfume

There’s about $1.50 worth of ingredients in the average bottle of fragrance, yet the typical price tag is $150 — less than 1% of the retail cost. What you’re really paying for when you purchase cologne or perfume is the brand name. So ask yourself this question the next time you’re tempted to invest in an expensive scent: Do you really like the fragrance that much better than the more affordable brands, or is it a successful marketing campaign that’s seduced you into shelling out top dollar?

3. Cotton Rounds

Pharmacy-brand cotton rounds work just as well as the name brand products, but they’ll cost you a smidgen less. “I love the CVS Pharmacy–brand cotton rounds because they have the perfect amount of perforation and don’t shed,” says Redbook beauty expertMally Roncal.

4. Nail Polish

Those $7 bottles of nail polish by OPI are equally chip-resistant and beautifully colored as top-of-the-line polishes by Chanel ($26). OPI polishes are free of DBP, toluene, and formaldehyde, and they have a porcelain glaze that lasts long after the application date. What’s more, OPI base coats also come highly rated for longer lasting enamel that strengthens the nail and protects against peeling.

5. Nail Polish Remover

You’ll save at least $2 per bottle by buying off-brand nail polish removers, which contain the same ingredients as most name brand polish removers. “For nails, Target’s Up & Up Regular Nourishing Nail Polish Remover is protein-rich, acetone-free, and no different from polish removers that cost more,” says Hollywood hair and makeup artist Julia Papworth.

6. Skin Moisturizer

Clinique and Bobbi Brown sell high-end moisturizing lotions, but the truth is that one of the most highly-rated skin creams by makeup professionals and dermatologists alike is made by the drugstore brand, Cetaphil. Cetaphil moisturizer is immensely hydrating yet gentle on the skin. A 16 ounce tub sells at most drugstores and markets for about $11 — about five times lower than the price of the leading moisturizing cream by Bobbi Brown. As a bonus, Cetaphil also makes for a great makeup remover. Simply apply a modest amount of the lotion to your face and use a cotton ball or soft cloth to wipe it clean.

7. Wrinkle Corrector

There’s no need to shell out top dollar when shopping for a product to soften the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on your face. “Rite Aid’s Advanced Wrinkle Corrector softens fine lines, and skin stays soft throughout the day,” says Pretty Public Beauty editorial director Devin Giannoni. Wrinkle correctors made by Rite Aid and other pharmacies will typically cost you $3 less than the name brand products.

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