7 Beauty Products Worth Splurging On (and 5 That Totally Aren't)

Admit it: The exotic list of ingredients and the promise of supermodel shine are tempting. But then you hear a little voice in your head (hey, is that you, Mom?) saying, “It’s hype! You’re paying for a pretty box.” Some products are worth every dime; some not so much. How to tell the difference.

Photo by Serge Bloch

Shampoo = Scrimp
Springing for extravagant shampoo is essentially like watching your money go down the drain with the suds. However, if you’ve spent a small fortune coloring or highlighting your hair, you might want to go with the product that your hairstylist recommends.

Conditioner = Splurge
Yes, you rinse conditioner out, but these products are emulsions, which means they contain an oil or wax that doesn’t mix with water. So whatever healthy ingredients are in them adhere to the hair and don’t wash away.

Cleanser = Scrimp
Because the fancy-pants ingredients will be on your face for only two seconds—not long enough to be worth the expense. Have acne-prone or sensitive skin? Look for labels that say “gentle” or “noncomedogenic.”

Day cream = Scrimp
Make sure it’s the kind with sunscreen included; it should have broad-spectrum protection of at least SPF 15. You’ll find an aisle full of worthy options at the drugstore.

Foundation = Splurge
Since the chances that your face may end up looking like an Oompa Loompa are high. Instead head to the department-store cosmetics counters, where you can try out not only shades but also formulas before you buy. Do you prefer lightweight and sheer? Or something with more coverage to hide acne?

Powder = Splurge
Unless you opt for a colorless translucent powder (in which case, you can totally go thrifty), you’ll want to try this on before you buy, especially if you’re using powder as an all-purpose foundation/ concealer/makeup setter. A well-made one also gives you that flawless, practically Photoshopped look and will last longer, so you won’t need to apply as much of it.

Powder blush = Splurge
The pigments in blush are very similar to those in eye shadow. The less expensive the product, the more likely it is that the pigments have been diluted with talc and other powder ingredients. Also, cheaper blushes have a tendency to leave streaks.

Eyeliner = Splurge
You don’t want one with a crumbly tip that creates a shaky line. Generally, the more expensive the pencil, the softer the wax and the smoother the application.

Eye shadow = Splurge
Department-store–brand shadows adhere to the lids better, go on smoother, and offer richer colors than their drugstore counterparts. Certain pigments, such as deep blues and purples, are expensive, so companies that charge more can use more of them. But if you want to test-drive trendy shades, then, by all means, go economical.

Mascara = Scrimp
Bombshell: There isn’t a lot of difference between high-end and low-end formulas. Because bacteria grow easily in mascara, you should trash a tube after three months—which is all the more reason to cut corners.

Lip gloss = Scrimp
No need to go all out if you want just a hint of tint and a bit of shine. And who are we kidding? Half of it will rub off on your coffee cup anyway.

Lipstick = Splurge
If it’s your signature shade, don’t cheap out. You’ll get a creamier texture and possibly even extracts or vitamins that will prevent your pucker from becoming caked and flaky.

Excerpted from The Real Simple Guide to Real Life: Adulthood Made Easy. Copyright © 2015 Time Inc. All rights reserved.

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