The $30 Makeup Challenge

The $30 Makeup Challenge

As a full-time beauty blogger, I’m constantly testing products that perhaps are above the average woman’s beauty budget. So I was thinking that it could be a great idea to create a budget-friendly tutorial for my readers. I figured it would be a great opportunity to stay in touch with what is happening in the drugstore makeup market and introduce you to my favorite beauty blogger Shireen Platt. I don’t know yet how Shireen’s experiment went (you can read about her $30 makeup challenge), but my experience with under $30 full-face makeup look happened to be more challenging than I expected.

The main conclusion that I made after shopping at a local CVS is that my math skills are close to non-existent. I might be a smart online shopper, but when it comes to in-person shopping, I got lost in calculations all the time. Saying so, I had an expectation that $30 would provide me with lots of options: from contouring to eye shadow palettes, and from lip liners to eyelash curlers. I guess I haven’t shopped at a pharmacy for longer than I was thinking as I quickly realized that my three 10-dollar bills do not guarantee me a satisfactory makeup experience at all. Walking in between the aisles, I was like, “What? $18 makeup palette? $11 lipstick? $14 blush? There is no way I can pull it off for under $30!”

Saying so, I decided to forget my dream of a creative, multi-colored look and figured that I need to stick to old good products that I used and loved for years: Maybelline MascaraNYX ConcealerNYX Eyeliner,  Milani Lipstick, and Revlon Eyeshadow. When I went to the register, I realized that I went almost $5 off my budget… Not to mention that I didn’t pick any brushes—how I’m going to fill in my brows then? Also, what about a blush and a foundation? My first attempt to shopping on a budget was definitely a failure!

The $30 Makeup Challenge - Beauty Products

I decided to give myself a second chance and went to the e.l.f. cosmetics aisle. I recalled that last year I did an affordable makeup tutorial with e.l.f. and really loved their brushes so I figured it might be a great idea to add some brushes to my set and then start looking for more affordable mascara and lipstick. Fifteen minutes after researching e.l.f. section I completely changed my plans and picked all of the products for my challenge by e.l.f. I mean, who can possibly resist $2 eyebrow gel? I desperately need it in my life! $3 lipstick? Hell, yes!

Even though this time I calculated my expenses with a calculator on my iPhone, I didn’t take taxes into consideration so I had to drop an eye shadow brush at the register and still went $0.34 off the budget. Well, what can I say—math is obviously not my element!

I brought all the goodies with us to the Hamptons so I can play with them while getting ready for a night out. These are my thoughts about each and every item from my under $30 makeup look.

e.l.f. Flawless Concealer Brush Review

ONE // Concealer

The first budget look disappointment was my concealer. Even though the package stated “Ivory” (aka the lightest tone they had in stock at the pharmacy), it was way too dark for me. I ended up using it as a contouring stick that I blended with my awesome $3 concealer brush.

TWO // Foundation

Since my under eye circles remained uncovered, I ended up using the foundation as a concealer. It worked fine, but felt too thick for my taste. The color (Porcelain) was perfect for my pale complexion, but I would have preferred BB-Cream instead as I don’t feel like wearing a full-coverage foundation in the summer.

The $30 Makeup Challenge - How to Fill In Eyebrows

THREE // Eyebrows

The next step—eyebrows—went as smooth as it possibly could be. Using my favorite eyebrow filling in technique (eyeliner plus angled brush), I quickly and effectively added color to my eyebrows and fixed hairs with eyebrow gel (that product is awesome—definitely purchase it!).

FOUR // Eye Shadow

Remember I told you that I decided to get rid of an eye shadow brush and picked a foundation instead? Well, it was a big mistake as I ended up applying my eye shadow with fingers. At first, it felt okay when I put on a base beige color. Then, it got more complicated and messy when I tried to create a crease using my fingers. I decided to be creative and used a concealer brush for a darker eye shadow tone—best of luck to you guys if you decide to repeat this move as concealer brush is the way to big to use on your eyelids! I also used an angled brush for lower lid—it was okay, but not perfect.

The $30 Makeup Challenge - How to Apply Eyeshadow with a Concealer Brush

FIVE // Eyeliner

I figured that one-tone eye makeup is probably good enough if I apply eyeliner. The quality of this product was just meh—it was too hard for my taste and it didn’t stay long enough on my eyelids.

SIX // Mascara

The biggest disappointment was mascara. It didn’t provide enough coverage, had a weird brush, and irritated my eyes so much that I barely write this post. I don’t mean to be negative, but my advice to you is to run away from this product. Save your money on anything else than mascara—it’s better to spend extra few bucks than have your eyes red and in pain!

The $30 Challenge - Blush and Mascara

SEVEN //Blush

Since I didn’t have enough budgets for a blush, I decided to go old-school way and used lipstick on my cheeks. The lipstick blended beautifully and I loved a tiny hint of color it added to my pale complexion.

EIGHT // Lipstick

I finished the look with a bright red lipstick that was simply magnificent! I was very surprised to find the product that tastes and looks as good as a high-end brand and goes for just $3. It’s a miracle! I’m planning on coming back to purchase a few more shades of this wonderful lipstick!

e.l.f. Moisturizing Lipstick in Red Carpet

The Conclusion: Regardless my mascara allergy issue, my conclusion from the experiment is yes, it’s possible to create an under $30 full-face makeup look. However, the process might not be as pleasurable as playing with high-rated products from Sephora. The consistency, aroma, and longevity of the products really make all the difference when you are putting on your look of the day and many of reviewed pharmacy options simply were not able to provide the same quality. I guess, I could have done a better job researching drugstore brands to figure out which products are worth the hype, but my “go and grab” method was only partially successful. Yes, I found just another gorgeous red lipstick, but I believe I could have avoided my mascara allergy drama if I properly researched the product before purchasing it.

Yay vs Nay List

The Yay List: Lipstick (Red Carpet) // Brow Gel // Eyeshadow // Concealer Brush // Angled Brush
The Nay List: Mascara // Concealer // Foundation // Eyeliner

What do you think about the experiment that Shireen and I went through? What are some of your favorite affordable makeup products that you’d like to recommend?

  • OMG! You did so much better than me because you included brushes, I didn’t. Haha! I must say it was extremely tough, way tougher than I thought it would be. It really shows how expensive makeup has become and I honestly didn’t realized it before this challenge.

    You look amazing, Katya and yes, we both went for red lips! LOL! Thank you so much for this collab, it was so much fun!

    Shireen | Reflection of Sanity

    • Yes, it was SO challenging! Honestly, I couldn’t imagine it would be that hard to find quality makeup products on a budget! Also, now I know that applying makeup without brushes is also a challenge!

      Yes, of course we did! I’m so predictable when it comes to my lipstick color LOL I’m always wearing bright red or bright pink shades!

      Thank you so much for collaborating with me on this challenge, Shireen! It’s been such a wonderful experience!!!

  • Loved this challenge you did with Shireen! And you look beautiful despite having some issues with your cheap makeup products 🙂 x

    Mummy’s Beauty Corner

  • What a challenge! You did a great job, your makeup looks beautiful. There are so many great products in drugstore, however $30 for full face makeup is a really tight budget 🙂 x

    Ela BellaWorld

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Ela! Indeed, $30 is definitely not enough – especially for such beauty junkie as I am LOL

  • kandja sylla

    Oh my! I don’t think I can even do that! I mean $30–insane LOL! But you did an awesome job here, you look so stunning especially with that red lips. Great collab you did with Shireen. xx

  • Oh man, I would love to do this challenge!! I’ve got a fair amount of drugstore makeup at home… Maybe I’ll have to see if I can put something together. You did a great job all things considered. Drugstore makeup definitely has gone up in price over the years!

  • The lipstick on you looks really gorgeous, you have pulled this look off incredible nicely using ELF products.

    Some great picks!

    Laura xo

  • Love the idea of a beauty routine on a budget! Beauty products are investments but they also don’t need to break the bank 🙂 Love it!

    xx, mel

    • I totally agree, Mel! If you know exactly which products are worth the hype, you don’t need to spend too much cash!

  • Wow you and Shireen really rocked this challenge! I can imagine how difficult it would be. I’d have to whip out the coupons for sure lol. 🙂

    • Thank you for your support, Lisa! Yes, it was a tough one! Yes, I didn’t think at all about using coupons as I never really shop in person. In fact, I score most of my beauty and makeup online – during some of the best online sales at Ulta, Sephora, etc. How about you? What is your affordable makeup purchasing strategy?

  • Oh, well, when you are on a budget you can’t possibly shop like “go n’ grab”. XD
    I know I have been on quite a tight budget when I lived in Argentina, I used to earn under 10 dollars per day. and the process of buying something was, putting money aside, testing EVERYTHING, carefully comparing, chatting with gal friends, coveting, finally deciding and walking a hundred stores looking for the one that has the item on sale or 50cents cheaper.
    It is a very slow process and takes a lot of time! but hey, time is for free there… I wouldn’t do the same here, because my time is way more precious now, and it’s even cheaper ordering online than driving to the store!

    • I can’t agree more with you, Nati! I should have done a research beforehand!

      However, I believe that for the purposes of this experiment it was important to see if it’s possible to just stop by at the store and buy a few products. In my humble opinion, many women do not use coupons or research products before they hit the store and as a result might have similar experience to mine (read: it’s tough to find good products for under $30!). I think that it’s one of the goals for beauty bloggers to educate consumers on what’s good and what’s bad on the makeup and skincare markets so they know exactly which products to choose!

      Also, I do agree that it would have been cheaper to purchase all these products online and use online coupons where possible. In fact, I can’t remember last time I purchased beauty products in person! It’s all happening through reading other people’s blogs and through following brands’ press releases and social media channels.

      By the way, thank you so much for sharing your story! I really appreciate your honesty and input about affordable makeup!

      • It was fun to read your post! Also, as an experiment, it has a great effect to actually demonstrate it’s very difficult (impossible?) to get good products for 30 bucks!!
        I was rushing when I left my comment, it might seem a bit rude, I just wanted to make a point, not necessarily criticizing. Your perspective was very original and I really enjoyed reading it!

  • It is tough to find good base products in inexpensive brands but kudos for taking the challenge even though you faced so many difficulties! 😀 The lipstick compliments your eyes so well! ^-^ x

    Jadirah Sarmad at Jasmine Catches Butterflies ʚϊɞ

    • Yes, I totally agree with you! It’s not easy to find an affordable foundation for under $10, but there are a few good ones under $15 price tag. Thank you for your support, Jadirah! It was indeed a very interesting challenge to participate in!

  • Really great post, it’s refreshing to read about beauty on a budget.

  • This is such a cool post idea!

    xo, Liz

  • Even if all the products didn’t work out for you, at least you found some that did 🙂 That lipstick as a blush looks so pretty!

    Mili | Sharmtoaster

    • Yes, I’m actually very optimistic about how this experiment turned out! In fact, I love the eyebrow gel so much — I’m using it daily!

  • Bravo! You did a good job with $30. I’m not sure I’d do as well. Love that shade of red too.

    • Thank you, Amanda!

      Please DO!!!!!! I challenge you, my dear!!!! I’d love to see which look you come out with!

      My advice though is do not include the price of brushes into your budget — I would have more money in my challenge budget to spend on better foundation ;))

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  • Elf makes amazing product…people really overlook them sometimes! I have lots of Elf & Maybelline in my makeup routines!

  • Manisha Kapoor

    This is perfect post