There are so many amazing, affordable brands not everyone knows about. Whilst I kept it to accessible Boots and Superdrug brands for my Drugstore Beauty Edit, I thought I'd do a post on affordable brands and products that aren't as obvious. Be warned: this is an epic, long, swatch-filled post...
Topshop's makeup range seems to fly under the radar but next time you're in there for a new pair of jeans, I totally recommend stopping by the beauty section. The packaging is really cute (though I do find it tends to get dirty easily) and the products are great quality, especially for the price point.
Favourite Topshop Beauty Products
The Everything Stick in Naive* | £10
One of Topshop's newest releases is this lip and cheek (and eye, though I personally wouldn't with this shade) crayon. It has a creamy but opaque formula that's not overly sheeny in finish. It's pretty much your 'Barbie' pink colour and the kind of cheek shade I used to wear exclusively. I was surprised at how much I liked this shade on the lips as it's not my usual! You definitely need to exfoliate your lips beforehand so it sits nicely on them but I do think the texture and consistency works really well for a lip product. Is also nice on the cheeks (it's great to find a product that says it does both and actually does) - I tend to dab it on with my fingers for a nice, natural look. It does fade throughout the day on the cheeks (I'd say it has average staying power of around 3 hours on the lips) however it doesn't go patchy or look greasy on my skin. This is a great quick fix when you're in a rush and want one product to do it all.
Cream Blush in Head Over Heels | £7
I can't seem to find this online anywhere but I'm pretty sure I've seen it in stock in-store recently. This is a gorgeous, matte, almost neon-pink cream blusher. It has quite a dewy finish so when my skin is more shine-prone, I don't tend to reach for this as it doesn't last as long. However when it's quite dry I find this applies really nicely and gives that natural, healthy flush of colour.
Glow Highlighter in Gleam | £9
I've talked about this product a LOT but just had to give it another little mention here. It's a little cream highlighter in a pot that's a gorgeous champagne-gold with a really beautiful metallic sheen. I love dabbing this on the tops of my cheekbones and blending it out for a dewy (buy not too wet or shiny) look.
Highlighter in Horizon | £10
This is a relatively recent find but I'm already in love with it. It's a gorgeous golden-bronze highlighting shade that I know will be perfect for that sun-kissed look this summer. It doesn't contain glitter - it just has this beautiful metallic sheen. the colour is quite close to my skin tone so it looks really natural. I find the formula blends out beautifully too even though this one is a powder.
Nails in Hayden* | £6
I knew from the first stroke of the brush that I loved this nail polish - it just applies so smoothly and so opaquely! I pretty much never apply only one coat but with this I honestly can, without feeling like I have to do another 'just in case'. The concept of Topshop's latest range is so unique: each nail polish is inspired by one of their styles of jeans. This one is of course the Hayden, which has been captured as a shimmer-free but high-shine mid-rinse denim blue. I can go 2-3 days without it chipping with one coat and 3-4 if I decide to go in with a second. A word of warning though: use a base coat! Otherwise this can leave a little blue behind after you remove it - I pretty much always do but wanted to test it without as well. You can see how it looks with one coat here.
Nails in Parma Violet | £5
I think we can conclude I definitely need more Topshop nail polishes in my life as this is another favourite! It's just the most gorgeous pastel lilac shade that I don't think would suit me but ended up a 'love'. The formula is fantastic again, though the lighter colour is slightly sheerer, meaning I do two coats to get the same effect as with Hayden. See how it looks once applied here.
Walking into a KIKO store you'd expect the prices to be closer to Clinique than to Collection, however they're actually slap bang in the middle (think a similar price point to Revlon, L'Oreal or Max Factor). The standard lines are amazing quality and super-affordable. The limited edition lines are a little more pricey but so worth it. They come in amazing packaging and each new collection has a different theme, cards and casinos for Daring Game, fairytales for Rebel Romantic, US colleges for Campus Idol and so on.
Favourite KIKO Products
Daring Game Queen of Hearts Eyeshadow Palette in 01 Essential Brown | £14.90
I'm going to get one of my favourite Limited Edition, no-longer-available products out of the way first! I thought I'd still include a couple of these because they are genuine favourites and it gives you a little flavour of what to expect from a KIKO Collection. The first product I have to show you is this eyeshadow quad, which is an amazing dupe for Charlotte Tilbury's Dolce Vita (though I actually prefer the gold shimmer in this one!) The quality, texture and longevity of these eyeshadows is amazing and I love the warm reddish browns and golds. The packaging is stunning and it's mocked up to look like a red heart playing card.
Water Eyeshadow in 208 Light Gold | £8.90
This is a pretty new addition but I've hardly stopped using it since it arrived so just had to throw it in here! It's a stunning true light gold shade that can be used dry on the eyes or on the face as a highlighter or wet for full intensity all across the lid. It has the most beautiful sheen and I totally recommend it!
Shade Fusion Trio Blush in 03 Abricot | £10.90
Apologies I mis-labelled this as it is, in fact, 03. It's a little annoying that this (along with the entire Perfecting range) was put up in price from its original launch, however I do still think the formula is very special and worth the price. This is a gorgeous pinky-apricot-peach shade that's matte in finish but so incredibly illuminating. It looks beautiful on the skin and doesn't go patchy or wear away during the day.
Rebel Romantic Perfecting Bronzer in 02 Medium-Dark | £12.50
I'd never really 'got' bronzer until I discovered this! This is from the Rebel Romantic collection and comes in a metallic pink compact with a gorgeous pattern engraved into it. Inside the hardware is gold and you can see the product has an outer shade (again embossed with the same pattern) and an inner shade. The inner part is a perfecting powder whereas the outer section is a more traditional bronzer. Combined, they're absolutely gorgeous on the skin and the product has such a nice texture. The shade is perfect; not too warm or too cool, so I use it to subtly define my cheekbones for a daytime makeup look.
Long-Lasting Stick Eyeshadows | £6.90 each
These are honestly some of my absolute favourite beauty products! They are near enough identical in texture (and some of them in colour) to the By Terry Ombre Blackstars (read my comparison here) but you could buy 4 of these for the price of one of those and still have a bit of change left over! They're so creamy and pigmented when applied but once they set they aren't going to budge, go greasy or crease at all. The shade selection is vast and beautiful; 06 Golden Brown is a bronze shimmer, 05 Rosy Brown is a taupe shimmer, 38 Golden Taupe has a matte taupe base with golden glitter running through it, 04 Golden Chocolate has a deep warm brown matte base with a gold glitter and 39 Dark Taupe is a metallic gunmetal shimmer.
Velvet Touch Creamy Stick Blushes | £7.90 each | post
Until I discovered these I'd kind of given up on cream blusher working for my combination skin but they changed everything! They're gorgeously pigmented and the 'velvet' part is definitely true as they aren't greasy in the slightest. This is one of the few cream blusher formulas that will last me all day, plus I love the natural look they give. 06 Geranium is an interesting matte reddish currant kind of tone whereas 02 Golden Peach is a light pinky peach with a fine, subtle gold shimmer running through it.
When Makeup Geek landed in the UK at the end of last year we all understandably went crazy! The brand was founded by US blogger and YouTuber Marlena (it always feels nice to support someone from the blogging community) who personally oversees the development of each and every product. I honestly think I'd own about 3 or 4 MAC eyeshadows if we'd had these in the UK sooner as they're half the price and in my opinion so much better! Makeup Geek has also branched into cheek products, brushes and loose pigments since its launch.
Favourite Makeup Geek Products
Eyeshadow Pans in Shimma Shimma, Cocoa Bear, Frappe, Homecoming and Taupe Notch | £4.95 each
I really love the original Makeup Geek eyeshadow formula and there's a wide array of shades and finishes available. The texture is that perfect mid-point between the super-smooth formula of Urban Decay and the solid formula of MAC. Though I love both of those eyeshadows too, Makeup Geek has the balance between having a super easy-to-blend, smooth texture and being extremely long-lasing. The shades are so pigmented and they have some of the best mattes I've tried; there's no chalkiness and they're just so creamy in texture. My must-have shades are Shimma Shimmer (an off-white shimmer I use as a highlight), Bada Bing (a deep, cool-toned coffee brown with gold glitter), Taupe Notch (a taupe-brown with a slight sheen), Cocoa Bear (a very warm mid-tone brown matte crease colour), Frappe (a warm light-medium brown matte crease colour) and Homecoming (a bronze-brown shimmer with neutral undertones).
Foiled Eyeshadow Pans in Magic Act and Grandstand | £7.95 each
These are slightly more expensive but so worth it for the unique formula! I don't find them quite as long-lasting as the regular formula but they're still pretty good. The texture is beyond smooth and so pigmented. They have this incredible, dewy finish that's almost like liquid metal. They're stunning and eye-catching on the lids. My favourite shades are Magic Act (a bright light gold shimmer) and Grandstand (a copper/rose gold shimmer).
Contour Powder in Complicated | £7.95
Obviously this is the shade that suits me but I was really impressed with the selection offered at such a low price-point. The texture does kick up a little fallout so I tap my brush lightly in the pan but I almost feel like that's why it applies so smoothly to the skin. They're pretty foolproof as long as you don't have too much product on the brush and they blend out so naturally. Complicated is the Medium Cool shade and is pretty much perfect for everyday definition.
Travel Vault Palette | £11.50
There are so many options for custom palettes I'm actually thinking of doing a post dedicated to them! Makeup Geek actually do their own. It's only available in one size but that's pretty much perfect for travelling. It's magnetic and totally customisable so as well as the above image you can fit in 2 cheek products with 6 eyeshadows or just 11 eyeshadows. It feels very secure and I really like how this looks - it's definitely the most stylish of these kinds of palettes I have.
H&M has always dabbled in beauty products but last year they totally re-vamped and relaunched with brand new products and packaging. I was dubious about how good the quality could be so I sat back and waited. The reviews came in and they were good, so I decided to pick up a few bits.
Favourite H&M Beauty Products
Cream Blush in Cameo Brown | £6.99
This is another great cream blusher that doesn't make my face shiny - it's only one step away from cream-to-powder in my opinion. It's just a nice, neutral brownish-pink matte colour that goes with just about everything. It's not the longest-lasting formula (like the KIKO) but it still wears well enough. All in all I think this is great for the price and the packaging is so pretty!
Eyeshadow in Act Your Beige | £4.99
I actually first picked up one of the palettes as I'd heard good things about H&M eyeshadows but wasn't really impressed. I still decided to get a single and see how I liked it and totally got the hype! It's a gorgeous light gold-beige that looks so pretty and natural on the eyelids. The texture is really nice and smooth as well as being long-lasting. If you buy one thing from H&M Beauty then make it one of these single eyeshadows.
Cream Lipstick in Rust Me | £7.99
This is a lovely lipstick formula; creamy and pigmented with a slight sheen. It's a gorgeous deep pink-rust shade that I'm really enjoying wearing at the moment. It lasts around about 2 hours before going to more of a stain and wearing away an hour or so later.
Zoeva is less affordable on the surface in comparison with some of these other brands but I've still included it here because the products are so incredible for the price in terms of both quality and packaging. Zoeva is relatively new as a brand - founded by Zoe Boikou in Germany in 2008 - that's reached incredible popularity through word of mouth and the power of the blogosphere. I usually order products directly from Zoeva or through BeautyBay, but the London Selfridges now has a stand (Manchester next, please...) and you can order Zoeva's range through the Selfridges website.
Favourite Zoeva Products
Rose Gold Brush Set | £65
I know £65 seems like a lot of money for an 'affordable' post but the quality of them is unbelievable! I regularly reach for these over high-end brushes that cost around £35 for a face brush and at least £20 for an eye brush. When I was putting this post together I had a little read around about Zoeva's history and it turns out that Zoe started the company because she couldn't find brushes that performed like high-end ones for a reasonable price. This is the 'starter' set I'll always recommend for people looking to invest in their first proper brush set because it just has everything you need and I use most of them every single day even over a year on. Even though they're all fantastic, I do have to single out the eye brushes especially as being some of the best out there (I much prefer my Zoeva 227 to MAC 217). Not to mention the stunning rose gold finish...
Cocoa Blend Eyeshadow Palette | £18
It actually took me a while to try Zoeva makeup but I haven't looked back since I did. This was the first palette I picked up in Autumn and it was absolutely perfect for that time of year. Firstly I love the sleek design and the concepts behind each of their palettes. I think the quality is just amazing; so creamy, so pigmented and so long-lasting. The true test of an eyeshadow formula is how the mattes perform and these are absolutely beautiful in texture. The shades are just perfect; they take your standard nude eye look to another level. You get the beautiful warm neutrals as well as these stunning pops of colour.
Nude Spectrum Eyeshadow Palette | £28.50
If you love neutral eyeshadow then you have to get this palette because it honestly does it all! This is a larger palette (hence the slightly more premium price tag) but is still nice and slimline. Again, the quality really is amazing and the shades are the perfect blend of golds, browns, taupes and nudes. There are also some lovely mattes in there. It's the kind of palette you can easily travel away from home with because it'll do everything you need it to.
Coral Spectrum Blush Palette* | £15
I was really impressed when I tried one of Zoeva's single blushes at the end of last year so it's great that they've released a line of blush palettes as part of the Spectrum range. These are seriously pigmented but so easy to blend and won't leave you looking like a clown. The texture is very smooth and I'm particularly impressed with the matte formulation as it applies evenly and wears well throughout the day without going patchy. There are 3 mattes and a subtle shimmer shade. The colours are bold but in a really good way. The warm pinky-coral shades are perfect for Spring/Summer.
Milani is another brand that you'd think is much more expensive than it is at first glance. I've long been a fan of their cheek products and now they've launched a UK site and become that bit more accessible, I'm sure I'll be delving into more of their collection.
Favourite Milani Products
Baked Blush in Luminoso | £6.99
I'm sure this is the one Milani product you've heard a lot about! This is a gorgeous, dewy highlighting blusher that seems to suit so many different people. It's a light peachy tone that adds a little bit of colour and a natural glow to the cheeks. It applies so nicely and gives the skin a healthy look on those minimal makeup days.
Rose Powder Blush in Romantic Rose | £7.99
This is a really lovely matte formula in a muted tea rose shade. It has that kind of 'good crumbly' formula where if you swatch it, it feels a little powdery but the texture applies and sits so nicely on the skin. It's a very classic shade and wears well on me.
Baked Bronzer in Glow | £6.99
This is such a nice, warm, shimmery light gold shade that I personally use for highlighting. It's perfect for that dewy, bronzed summer glow and looks very subtle on the skin.
I know I mentioned this brand in my drugstore post but some people may not be aware they can get their hands on this brand now or it may not be as accessible for them. However you can now pick it up in some Boots stores, on their website, through Selfridge or via ASOS or Feel Unique - they've gone all out in the UK market this year! I also love that the products don't come with a ridiculous uplift like so many other US imports that make it to our shores.
Favourite NYX Products
Soft Matte Lip Creams | £5.50 each
Of course these have to be one of my favourite recent(ish) beauty discoveries! They're sort of liquid lipsticks but everyday appropriate. As the name might suggest, the formula is creamy as opposed to watery and though they aren't as pigmented and long-lasting, they give such a non-drying finish that I really don't mind topping up every now and again (especially as it's not really noticeable with the nudes). My favourite shades are Zurich (a peachy-pink nude with a hint of brown), Cannes (a dusky pink) and Rome (a deep berry-toned mauve). There's something for everyone in the range, whether you like nudes, brights or deep shades.
Lip Lingerie | £6.50 each
These are more of a traditional liquid lipstick and though some people find them drying, I can't say I do any more so than the others I own (apart from cream formulas like the Soft Mattes, Sephora's and Bourjois's). I think there's a nude in the range for just about every skin tone, but be warned: some of them are quite similar to each other. I find them very pigmented and seriously long-lasting (even with eating and drinking I will still only need to top up once during the say). My favourites are Push Up (a mid-brown nude with a tiny hint of pink - think Velvet Teddy) and Ruffle Trim (a deeper warm brown shade with slight terracotta undertones).
Tinted Brow Mascara | £5.50
Along with lips, NYX does eyebrows really well. My favourite everyday product from their range that I've tried is the brow mascara. I have the shade Espresso, which isn't too warm-toned for my slightly ashy coloured brows. It isn't too clumpy or crispy; it just adds a bit of thickness and colour to my eyebrows in seconds.
Hot Singles Eyeshadow in Innocent | £3.50
I really need to get my hands on more of these as this is one of the few single eyeshadows I use and love! It's a lovely nude shimmer with hints of bronze and champagne that's lovely as a highlight or as an all-over lid colour when I'm going for a natural look. It's really similar to MAC's All That Glitters and the long-lasting formula is very similar in texture to MAC's.
HD Blush in Amber | £5.50
This is another one of those blushes that kind of feels crumbly but applies beautifully. Seeing it in the pan and swatches really don't do it justice as it's one of the most natural powder formulas I've tried. It blends out effortlessly and just gives this 'healthiness' to the cheeks that I love! Amber is pretty much my perfect everyday matte peachy-apricot colour.
This is one of those brands that YouTube (ok mainly Jaclyn Hill) really helped to build! It's super-budget and can be a little hit-and-miss but overall there are some gems in the collection so do your research to bag yourself a bargain.
35T Colour Taupe Palette | £18.25
I picked this up at the end of last year as I'd heard a lot about these palettes, couldn't find the 35O and felt these shades would probably be more wearable for me anyway. Obviously you're getting 35 eyeshadows for under £20 so the packaging is pretty cheap, however it feels relatively secure which is the main thing. For me, the main issue is the bulkiness - I'm actually considering de-potting my favourite shades but we'll see. Anyway - as you can see this palette is dominated by taupe shades but also has some gorgeous golds of warmer and cooler tones, browns and greys. The formula of these isn't giving Urban Decay a run for their money (or Makeup Geek, to get a little closer to the price bracket) but it's pretty good! Overall the shimmers are very smooth and pigmented and I find them easy to apply. The mattes are slightly more iffy so if I depot these, I probably wouldn't bother with those and mix my favourite shades in with my Makeup Geek eyeshadows. There's also a bit of a lack of mid-toned matte crease colours. I'd say of the 35 shades; 5 of them are duds, 10 of them are ok and 20 of them are very good. My favourite look is to go for a light taupe shade across the lid, a slightly plummier colour on the outer v and taking a little of one of the orange-golds on my finger and gently patting it onto the centre of my lids.
12NB Natural Beauty Palette | £11.95
I actually picked this up because I'd given up on the 35O after it was out of stock for literally about 4 months. Lo and behold, a week after getting my hands on this, the 35O returned - typical! I did still order that (naturally) so keep an eye out for a post soon. Anyway, this palette is much smaller and more compact and as a result far more practical than the 35s. I feel like the fact there are fewer shades means that the quality is a little more consistent. I don't think I'll reach much for those very light cream mattes but the other shades look really pretty on the lids. The mattes in this palette are also far better, being less chalky and easier to work with. I love the warm nude shades and they have a nice mixture of tones - there's peach, gold, brown, red, mustard and plum. For a budget palette, this is a really nice option.
Elite Brushes | £4.75-15.95
When I first tried Morphe Brushes I really wan't hugely impressed and wondered what I was missing but then I tried the Elite range! Apparently they're limited edition, which is disappointing but I definitely recommend getting some (any brush where the name begins with an 'E') whilst you can as the quality really is impressive. They're a little more expensive than the basic range but still so affordable and definitely worth that tiny bit more. They all have synthetic bristles and whether they're for the eyes or the face, they seem to pick up the perfect amount of product. They eye brushes make blending effortless and the face brushes apply product flawlessly without disturbing your base at all. I have the E18 Round Crease Brush (for precise eyeshadow blending), E3 Precision Pointed Powder Brush (can be used for cheek products but I've decided I like this best for face powder), E28 Round Blender Brush (tapered eye brush perfect for the crease), E4 Angled Contour Brush and E27 Pro Round Blender Brush (large fluffy eye brush I use to blend out harsh lines).
Phew - if you made it to the end of that then congratulations!
What are your favourite less-talked-about affordable brands?