15 Budget-Friendly Alternatives to Cult-Favorite Beauty Products
When it comes to the beauty world, there are some products that are seen as reigning high above others, garnering a wide (and typically very vocal) following of believers boasting their see-it-to-believe-it benefits. The good news is that many brands are making it possible to achieve high performance without the hefty price tags. While no two formulations are the same—and ingredients and processes can certainly factor into costs—we made it our mission to uncover affordable products that are comparable at tackling the same concerns.
From a $9 mascara that will replace your falsies to a $7 dry shampoo that will have you looking refreshed stat, read on for some cosmetic, hair, and skincare alternatives that promise—and deliver—big results on a budget.
If you like: Dior Diorshow Mascara ($30; sephora.com)
Try: Maybelline False Lashes Lift Mascara ($9; target.com)
Dior’s beloved Diorshow mascara, which has over 50,000 likes from Sephora customers, is known for its full brush, buildable formula, and ability to leave you with glamorous, extension-worthy lashes. Get a similarly lush look with this ‘false lashes’ pick from Maybelline. “It lengthens, thickens, and volumizes dramatically with just one coat. I personally like the brush a little bit more than Diorshow’s, as it offers a bit more control,” says Mary Irwin, a celebrity makeup artist in New York.
If you like: NARS Blush/Bronzer Duo ($42; sephora.com)
Try: e.l.f. Cosmetics Aqua Beauty Blush and Bronzer ($6; ulta.com)
Fake it ‘til you make it (in more ways than one) with this soft, blendable blush/bronzer from e.l.f Cosmetics, which will allow you to achieve a sunkissed, just-returned-from-vacation glow from your own bathroom and is reminiscent of NARS’ infamous Orgasm/Laguna duo.
If you like: Smashbox Photo Finish Smooth and Blur Primer ($36; ulta.com)
Try: The Ordinary High-Adherence Silicone Primer ($5; sephora.com)
Once restricted to Instagram and photo editing tools, Smashbox’s original primer proved itself among beauty pros by making it possible to create your own soft-focus face filter with the touch of a finger. “The Ordinary High-Adherence Silicone Primer is another great option for boosting hydration and creating the perfect canvas for smooth foundation application. It also helps makeup stay put longer,” says Blair Murphy-Rose, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York.
If you like:: Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Foundation ($64; sephora.com)
Try: L’Oreal Paris True Match Lumi Healthy Luminous Makeup ($13; ulta.com)
Armani’s luxurious, award-winning foundation is like a second (better, more radiant) skin, often cited as a must-have among makeup artists for red carpets and beyond (it currently has over 375,000 likes on Sephora’s website alone). It’s also been the subject of some serious dupe scouting, with the internet still considering L’Oreal Paris’ ‘Lumi’ among top contenders for those looking to recreate that dewy, lit-from-within ambiance.
If you like: Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk ($34; sephora.com)
Try: Milani Color Statement Lipstick in Naturally Chic ($6; ulta.com)
Contrary to what its name might suggest, beauty enthusiasts aren’t whispering about this lipstick from Charlotte Tilbury—they’re shouting from the rooftops. For a more affordable yet comparable satin-matte finish and sultry-sweet shade, Irwin suggests this formula and hue from Milani. “The ultra-pigmented formula comes in a ton of colors, but this looks exactly like the classic Charlotte Tilbury color! It’s long-wearing and has nourishing vitamins A and C for added moisture,” she says.
If you like: Oribe Free Styler Working Hairspray ($42; dermstore.com)
Try: OGX Renewing Argan Oil of Morocco Elevated Finish Spray ($13; amazon.com)
This hairspray from Oribe (the brand also behind one of the industry’s most sought-after texturizers) is considered prime for making hair pliable and keeping it (gently) put. Get a similarly-sophisticated, lightweight, and brushable hold with this humidity-resistant finish spray from OGX. It also creates a non-greasy, sateen coat that will make you look and feel like a million bucks.
If you like: Kerastase Paris Nutritive Hair Mask ($56; sephora.com)
Try: Neutrogena Triple Moisture Deep Recovery Hair Mask ($10; amazon.com)
Hair pros and celebs praise Kerastase Paris’ targeted products—and especially masks—when it comes to restoring hair back to its healthy (make that healthier) state. If your mane is in need of some moisture maintenance, we suggest you look into this deep recovery treatment from Neutrogena. Reviewers credit it for reviving the driest, most processed of strands.
If you like: Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk ($29; ulta.com)
Try: Renpure Rose Water Weightless Hydration Dry Shampoo ($7; target.com)
There are a lot of sweat-absorbing solutions on the market, but few are able to hold a candle to Klorane’s oil-sopping, blowout-level-root-lifting capabilities. If you’re looking for a close, cost-efficient second, we recommend Renpure, which also boasts a gentle, plant-based formula and delivers on reviving even the dirtiest, greasiest of strands in a matter of mere seconds.
If you like: Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray ($27; sephora.com)
Try: Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray ($5; target.com)
Bumble and Bumble’s Surf Spray made waves (literally and figuratively) in the hair industry for its ability to deliver sexy, texturized strands reminiscent of having spent a day in the ocean. Get the breezy look for less with this sea salt spray from Not Your Mother’s. The clean hair care brand also offers additional products in its ‘Beach Babe’ line for complementing your ‘do.
If you like: Moroccanoil Treatment ($44; sephora.com)
Try: Suave Professionals Moroccan Infusion Styling Oil ($6; walmart.com)
Recommended for medium to thick hair types, beauty enthusiasts flock to Moroccanoil’s lightweight, treatment for bringing dry, lackluster strands back to life and helping to control frizz. Suave’s $6 spray centers around the same power ingredient—moroccan argan oil—and has a near five-star rating for its ability to leave locks hydrated, smooth and shiny.
If you like: Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 ($240; brspa.us)
Try: Glossier Exfoliating Skin Perfector ($24; glossier.com)
Biologique’s ‘P50’ lotion is often referred to as the holy grail of skincare, revered for its exfoliating, hydrating, toning, oil-controling capabilities. Not quite ready to make the splurge? Marisa Garshick, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in New York, suggests giving this swap from Glossier—which has over 2,300 positive reviews—a spin. “It’s formulated with a combination of AHAs, BHA, and PHA for softer, smoother and brighter skin. Specifically, it contains glycolic and lactic acids (exfoliate and eliminate dead skin cells, while also improving skin tone and helping with dark spots), salicylic acid (a beta-hydroxy acid that helps to break down excess oils and unclog the pores), and gluconolactone (a polyhydroxy acid known for its exfoliation and hydrating properties),” she explains. Just be careful not to overdo it, as Dr. Garshick points out that skincare formulated with acids can tend to be a bit more drying by nature.
If you like: Fresh Brown Sugar Body Scrub ($67; nordstrom.com)
Try: Tree Hut Brown Sugar Shea Body Scrub ($9; ulta.com)
Fresh gourmand scrub has become a shower staple for removing dead cells and leaving skin soft and supple. For a budget-conscious, yet still sensory buff, scoop up this tub from Tree Hut. It also has nourishing shea butter and natural oils (such as sweet almond and avocado) for an added moisture boost.
If you like: SkinCeuticals C E Ferulic ($166; dermstore.com)
Try: La Roche-Posay Pure Vitamin C Face Serum ($40; ulta.com)
It’s a rarity to discuss anti-aging with a skincare expert and not have this potent solution from SkinCeuticals come up. “Skinceuticals C E Ferulic has a cult following for good reason—it’s a powerful anti-aging serum chock full of skin protective ingredients like vitamin C and ferulic acid," advises Dr. Murphy-Rose. "While La Roche-Posay’s serum also contains a powerful 10 percent pure vitamin C (the purity matters!). Apply it every morning before sunscreen to protect against aging and treat hyperpigmentation."
If you like: Kiehl’s Since 1851 Creme de Corps Soy Milk and Honey Whipped Body Butter ($40; sephora.com)
Try: SheaMoisture Manuka Honey and Yogurt Body Moisturizer ($9; target.com)
This decadent butter from Kiehl’s is like a (non-sticky) whipped cream dessert for the body. Treat your skin (and your wallet) with this seriously-moisturizing alternative from SheaMoisture, which absorbs quickly and boasts a similarly-sweet-but-not-overwhelming scent.
If you like: La Mer The Cleansing Micellar Water ($95; sephora.com)
Try: Bioderma Sensibio H2O ($15; dermstore.com)
La Mer’s gentle giant of a micellar water is known for its ability to micro-manage dirt and clogged pores for a macro clean. When it comes to saving, Dr. Murphy-Rose likes this ‘H2O’ from Bioderma. “This solution is my go-to for ‘washing the day away’ from my face before bed every night. It removes makeup softly, yet efficiently (even waterproof mascara!), along with excess oil and debris, and is especially great for those with sensitive skin,” she explains.