May 06, 2023

Beauty Experts Swear By These Clever Things Under $25 On Amazon


Professionals share their best buys.

Finding the perfect brow pencil, a lipstick that lasts all night, or getting your foundation just the way you want it can be surprisingly challenging without some guidance. Luckily, there's a universe of professionals and influencers who have made a living out of solving these quests.

To find out what the experts do (and what's worth the money), I turned to those beauty industry professionals who have studied the science, fixed the hair and makeup problems of celebrities, and — in short — know what they are talking about. Here's what you need to know.

These Makeup Eraser Cloths are a simpler way to get your face clean, according to Danielle Gronich, clinical esthetician, acne specialist, owner of San Diego Acne Clinic, and co-founder and CEO of CLEARSTEM Skincare.

"[They] are fantastic for travel and on-the-go face cleansing," she says. "And [are] especially great at gently removing eye makeup! I don't like the disposable ones because they generally leave chemical residue on the skin and are terrible for the environment, so these cloths are better all around."

This set of seven — in a cute selection of colors, shapes, and patterns — will get you through an entire week. Just add water to remove everything from lipstick to mascara.

"This Kitsch ice roller for the face and eyes is elegant & compact," says Gronich. "It's great for waking up the eye area and calming inflammation." Just store it in the fridge — or pop it in there for 15 minutes — and enjoy the cooling treatment on red areas, soreness, sunburns, or puffiness anytime you like. It's said to work wonders on headaches, too.

"Those with acne can also ice roll multiple times per day without harming their skin so this is a great tool to have on hand," she adds.

"Mighty Patch pimple patches are a great wingman for the inevitable blemish," says Gronich. If you’ve got a spot bugging you, you can pop on a patch to cover it — you can even use them with makeup — and treat the area with a hydrocolloid at the same time.

"Patches are a reactive measure for acne," she says. "So we recommend dialing in your skincare and diet to minimize the need for these, but they are a great tool in your skincare routine."

This facial spray duo is "an easy and affordable way to add a little glow during the day," according to Isabel Madison, cosmetics developer and founder of NudeEnvie. "Especially when it's hot, it is a good way to cool down."

This two-pack of hydration spray mists your skin with a refreshing botanical spritz that is infused with green tea, rosewater, and cucumber to help soothe and lightly moisturize. The brand recommends using them before a moisturizer or as a final spritz atop your makeup.

The Rikans Colossal foot file "is one of my favorite things to use in the shower almost every day," says Madison. It has a scraper on both sides, each with a different coarseness, and is made from easy-to-clean stainless steel. You can use the tool in the shower when your tootsies are wet or do a dry pedicure.

"A little swipe on the bottom of your feet will make sure your heels look and feel soft, smooth, and clean," she affirms.

"This is one of the best foot balms out there," Madison says of this organic foot balm. Rich in botanical emollients like olive oil, sunflower oil, and sweet almond oil, it's also infused with lavender, which brings a delightful scent and is said to be anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antimicrobial.

"It is not too oily. It softens, seals, and absorbs into the skin beautifully," she adds.

Madison also loves this almond massage cream, which is a blend of paraffin, mineral oil, and beeswax. "This smells so amazing and feels good all over the body," she says. "Your skin will be glowing but not oily."

It's slick enough to use as a massage lotion but your skin will enjoy absorbing all that rich moisture. You can use it on dry skin anywhere from your face to your toes, and the smell of sweet almonds is icing on the cake.

If you are in search of a chic, subtle nail polish that's as notable for what's not in it as for what is, Madison's own nail polish contains no formaldehyde, toluene, DBP, camphor, parabens, fragrances, phthalates, or animal ingredients.

"Charm is my favorite shade all year round," she says. "This is such a happy and youthful color that goes along with anything I'm wearing any time of the year. The fact that it is formaldehyde free and free of other harmful ingredients gives me one less thing to worry about. It's long-lasting and chic."

There are 10 colors to choose from.

"For the times you don't want to use your expensive perfume but want a pick-me-up" Madison recommends this hair and body mist in Persian Rose. "I believe different scents can change your mood and this makes me happy!" she shares.

Made with a blend of botanicals including lilac, magnolia, heliotrope, ylang-ylang, hyacinth, and nectarine, you can spray your skin and hair for a light, delicate scent. It's formulated without animal products or testing and is 100% vegan.

"Many people don't know that pure coconut oil doesn't only nourish the skin, it's antibacterial," says Chelse Collins, licensed full specialist and owner of Hollywood, Florida's One Beauty Lounge. "It's also good for your teeth. It can be used for oil pulling, which can also help cleanse gums and whiten teeth."

Take this 16-ounce bottle of fractionated coconut oil for a spin and see where it leads you. It can be used for everything from eye makeup remover to moisturizer to aromatherapy (just mix with your favorite essential oils) and is clear and odorless without a greasy feel.

"Aloe is great for healing scars and detoxing skin," says Collins, in addition to its use for "healing after a sunburn."

Stock this undiluted, cold-pressed, organic aloe vera gel for times when your skin needs a bit of this botanical miracle — harvested in Australia — to feel better. This formula is undiluted with water for a major aloe punch, and you can use it on your hair, face, and body for soothing hydration.

Skip the high-priced branding and laundry list of ingredients and go back to a simple, plant-based formula people have been using for centuries. "Witch Hazel can be a great facial astringent for individuals with oily skin or who are looking for an affordable makeup remover solution," Collins tells Bustle.

This witch hazel toner from Thayer's is made from hand-picked, then macerated, witch hazel that is blended with soothing aloe and cucumber. It's gentle and alcohol-free, designed to help balance the pH of the skin.

"[Use] baking soda and peroxide to help whiten teeth," suggests Collins, "Especially for a special event or photoshoot" and "if you want to skip the $99 dollar teeth whitening special everyone is running."

"We love love love Dazzle Dry polish!" says Lilly Rojas, co-founder of Brooklyn's nail salon garden and wine bar, Lili and Cata.

"It's non-toxic and dries rock hard like a gel in 5 minutes," she shares. "You can go digging through your wallet and purse right after your mani or put your socks on immediately after your pedi and not have to worry. It's worth the hype." It comes in 22 colors, though "Prima Ballerina is the perfect sheer, milky pink, and a customer favorite," Rojas tells Bustle.

"This amazing non-toxic and vegan product erases imperfections in a beautiful milky color," Rojas says of LONDONTOWN's nail concealer. "It also dries super fast. You can apply it alone (no base or top coats needed) or actually use a base and top for a longer-lasting mani (or pedi)."

Choose from three subtle, neutral colors for an easy, delicate polish. The sheer veil of color is designed to complement all skin tones and covers any yellowing, staining, or imperfections. "It's the perfect look when you want to look polished but don't have the time to go to the salon," asserts Rojas.

The clever "solid gel formula" of this unique cuticle oil "melts into your cuticles, is mess-free, and exactly what your cuticles need, especially in the cold months," Rojas tells Bustle.

It's a blend of 12 oils that smells delicious and helps bring high shine and moisture to your nails and cuticles. The mess-free formula makes it easy to apply before it starts its nourishing work.

"Applied daily, cuticle oil makes your polish last longer and strengthens your nails making them grow out more. It helps that it smells amazing too," says Rojas.

When it's time to take the polish off, Rojas recommends this polish remover from ZOYA. "[It] is gentle and thorough," she says. It not only removes polish but also promises to moisturize and fortify your nails, acting as a conditioner that preps nails for longer-lasting manis.

Rojas shares that it has "won many awards through the years for good reason," and that "you need this in your medicine cabinet at all times!" The 4.7-star rating seems to corroborate.

Jordan Harper, MSN NP-C and founder/CEO of Barefaced skin care, is a fan of this micellar water that quickly and gently wipes away makeup and cleanse your skin. Developed in partnership with dermatologists, it's formulated at the skin's pH and is designed to soothe while cleansing away impurities.

"This is my favorite method of double cleansing and is well-tolerated by all skin types," Harper says. "I’ve yet to find a micellar water that works as well as this one!"

This pack of 200 cotton pads is the perfect accessory to pair with your cleanser or toner. "I use these when using micellar water," Harper tells Bustle. "They are so gentle on the skin and don't leave a residue like cotton rounds do."

They are woven from 100% cotton that has been grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers and are unbleached. They are big, too, making it easy to use just one to clean your entire face.

"If you find your arms, chest, and countertops getting soaked when you wash your face," says Harper, microfiber wrist towels "are a must." Just pull them on when you wash and they will help absorb the water that drips down your arms. This is a pack of six of them, in three colors. There are 11 color combo options.

"No more looking like the front row at Sea World," she jokes.

"Eye patches are great prep for makeup application," Harper tells Bustle. "They will temporarily get you smoother, brighter skin underneath your eyes." This pack of 20 eye mask patches is perfect for executing this trick. The individual packaging makes them perfect for travel — and makes them easy to use while preventing them from drying out.

"Pro-tip: store them in the refrigerator to maximize their de-puffing potential," she says. "(Also great for after a late night scrolling TikTok.)"

"Make your eyes pop even more by using fake eyelashes," Harper suggests. She likes these press-on falsies that come in a kit that includes a handy applicator and require no glue. The lashes come in small clusters so you can build up your look without going full caterpillar.

"These are my current go-to because they are just the right amount of thickness and length without going full-glam. They help me feel put together even on days when that's not the case," she shares.

Lacy Redway, Unilever stylist and celebrity hair artist, swears by this leave-in spray, "especially when prepping dry styles on set," she shares. "It helps me revive dry and dull hair, helps hair to detangle quickly making it easily manageable, protects against heat damage, and can help reduce unwanted frizz."

While you wear it, it helps strengthen your hair with a blend of elastin protein, silk, amino acids, hyaluronic acid, and biotin. It's suitable for all hair types and its range of benefits packs a big punch for the $20 price tag.

"Before a big event, it's a great idea to refresh your strands," says Redway. She's a fan of this pre-wash cream "to revive damaged and color-treated hair." She says that ingredients like keratin protein and black rice work together to help smooth your hair and provide heat protection, all while helping repair split ends.

This is a pre-wash formula so you apply it to damp hair prior to shampooing, then rinse out. It can also be used as a leave-in treatment.

To keep that style just the way you want it, Redway recommends this extra hold hairspray from TRESemmé: "[It's] the finishing product that helps me set the hairstyles I create," she shares. "It helps me hold styles in place without leaving hair feeling sticky and reduces unwanted frizz while adding shine."

This is a firm-hold hairspray that will keep that style looking perfect for as long as 24 hours. The formula is designed to lock in moisture, lock out frizz, and maintain your ‘do without feeling sticky or stiff.

"You can never have enough triangle sponges," says Aimee Carr, medical esthetician, makeup artist, and founder of the clean beauty line Voodoo Makeup. So keep these makeup sponge wedges on hand to help save time, money, and frustration. This is a pack of 100 that comes in just under 10 bucks so is ultra affordable. They’re suitable for applying everything from concealer to blush to eyeshadow.

Carr has a hack for using them: "Cut the front up so it makes little fingers. This now acts like a brush and it doesn't leave lines when you are applying makeup. Specifically foundation!"

Carr offers another genius beauty hack for your manicure. "If you have a French nail manicure and it chips," she says, "keep white out on hand and fill it in real quick." Carr continues, "It dries immediately so it will get you through whatever day or event you have ahead and no one will notice!"

This is a two-pack of quick-drying Wite-Out that's usually used to fix documents but has lots of unintended uses — including this one — too. It's a tried-and-true classic, and the spongey wedge applicator means you can dab it on with precision.

If you have trouble putting on mascara without making a mess, Carr has a plan for that, too. "Purchase a bunch of mascara wands and bend them in half," she says.

It turns the applicator into a handy shape for your hands rather than the dispensing bottle. "This works great so you don't get product on your fingers or your face," she tells Bustle. "Regular mascara wands that come with the tube are already straight and don't have the flexibility to change shape."

This is a 100-pack for under $5, so could not be budget-friendlier. Over 22,000 reviewers gave them five stars so you can rely on the quality, too.

"When applying eyeliner," says Carr, "warm up the tip of the pencil between your fingers to create the desired shape you are looking for in the application." She continues, "If you hold it lightly — instead of it being round — you will flatten it to a perfect fine line. You don't have to sharpen it, you can just warm your fingers together to mold it into shape."

And when it's time to sharpen your eyeliner pencils, she says, "Put [them] in cold water before you sharpen so it stays hard ... and doesn't melt into your sharpeners."

If your brows are looking thin — either because that's the way they roll or because you overplucked — this micro brow pencil will fix that with little effort. According to Katelyn Ellsworth, natural hair color and extension specialist and the founder of San Diego's The Roslyn salon, this is the "best brow pencil hands down. [It] compares to Anastasia products but better."

It comes in 13 colors so you can match it to your brows and the retractable tip is extra slim so you can fill in with realistic, hair-like strokes. It also has almost 40,000 five-star reviews on Amazon.

Another budget-friendly item that Ellsworth recommends is this fan-favorite matte lipstick by Maybelline."This long-wearing lipstick comes in neutral to bold shades for easy application," she says. "Plus no frequent touchups are needed."

With 42 options, this is an easy way to brighten your look without dropping your whole paycheck on the effort. The matte formula promises to deliver super-saturated color that can last up to 16 hours on one wear.

"When it comes to hair care," says Ellsworth, "One simple and affordable solution is using dry shampoo as an affordable way of refreshing locks between washes." She recommends Batiste Dry Shampoo. With tropical scents of coconut, jasmine, and vanilla your hair will smell yummy and look just washed, as the dry aerosol spray soaks up oil and helps give your hair renewed volume and body.

Instead of ruining your hairstyle to prep your face, use these no-bend hair clips to keep your hair contained without leaving a mark, says Ellsworth. "Love these hair clips that keep your hair out of your face when applying makeup but that do not crease the hair!" she gushes.

This is a pack of eight of them in neutral colors but there are lots of options. They’re made without teeth so won't leave marks in your hair, and are ultra-lightweight so they’re comfortable to wear.

"Everyone needs a good hair detangler brush for brushing through wet hair," Ellsworth tells Bustle. And the much-loved detangling brush from Crave Naturals is the one to own. With an ergonomic handle and cone-shaped bristles that don't tear strands, it's described as a pain-free and effective way to detangle wet or dry hair. There are lots of cute colors to choose from, too.

"These ones are the best," Ellsworth confirms.

Help keep your hair dry while cleaning your face — and look adorable doing it — by deploying this bubble headband. It catches all the strays and gets them out of your face while the absorbent bubbles are made to catch the water or soap before it splashes where it's not wanted.

"Love this headband for keeping hair out of your face while washing," says Ellsworth.

Tired of spending hard-earned cash on tiny bottles of face cream, sunscreen, and foundation? Ivana Pur, cosmetic chemist, founder, and president of cosmetics consulting firm Living Pur, suggests taking this affordable BB cream by Maybelline for a spin.

"I often go back to this little multitasker that triples as skin hydrator, tinted moisturizer, and broad spectrum, physical sunscreen," she says. Also touting its broad-spectrum SPF 30, Pur calls it "truly a one–and–done type of product."

Pur also loves this tinted lip balm by Honest Beauty. It's easy to apply and has a light, sheer color, and is also vegan, cruelty-free, fragrance-free, and made without synthetics.

"This lip balm is packed with skin-replenishing emollients, like plant oils, sterols, butters, and skin-identical fatty acids, as well as antioxidant Vitamin E," says Pur. "It glides on the lips for smooth application, and it seals in the moisture, without feeling heavy or sticky." She says it's perfect for daily wear. "Bonus: I love to also use it as on–the–go cheek stain that looks oh–so–dewy."

If you are trying to give up antiperspirants that are loaded with questionable ingredients, but are struggling to find a healthy option that does the job, Pur recommends this option from Lavanilla. "[This] aluminum–free deodorant is based on moisture–absorbing cornstarch and beta glucan technology that actually works!" she asserts.

She says it has delightful scents that aren't overpowering, and "[it] applies smoothly, without skin tugging or product crumbling," and "feels velvety and it's long–lasting." There are four scents and two sizes to choose from.

"Clay powder is probably the most budget-friendly-yet-efficient purifying face mask," says Valerie Aparovich, certified cosmetologist-esthetician at OnSkin. This European clay powder is a mineral silicate and it requires only one tablespoon out of the 6-ounce container to make a skin-toning clay mask. It's suitable for normal, combination, and oily skin.

"Clay can help visibly smooth the skin, possessing potent purifying, exfoliating, and oil-absorbent properties," Aparovich adds. "Mixed with plain water, it will cleanse and tighten the pores, polish and mattify the skin, even out the complexion, and promote a healthy glow."

"Alginate face mask is a speedy, multifunctional skincare solution that revitalizes stressed skin in 15 minutes," Aparovich tells Bustle. "It efficiently moisturizes, refreshes, and tightens the skin and lessens puffiness, thus promoting a more youthful and rested look and enhancing your facial contour."

The plant-based formula is said to stimulate collagen growth and is packed with greens like spirulina and chlorella. It's gentle enough for dry or sensitive skin and is designed to help skin retain moisture.

"I have hair ties everywhere but somehow lose them on a daily basis," says Naomi Furgiuele, cosmetic chemist and founder of Nuria Beauty. "With these plant-based Kooshoo hair ties, I never worry because they are made from sustainably sourced natural rubber and GOTS-certified organic cotton and are 100% biodegradable."

These plastic-free hair ties also come in cute colors, have an edgy flat shape, and look great as a bracelet, too. And most importantly, Furgiuele tells Bustle, "They really work, even for big curly hair like mine."

Prevent the pain of skin rubbing on skin by swiping on this anti-chafe stick before heading out. "Chafing happens, and you don't have to be a long-distance runner to experience it," says Furgiuele. Although, "Megababe works for that too!"

It comes in a handy stick and is loaded with soothing ingredients like aloe, pomegranate, and grapeseed oil that help moisturize your skin while creating a protective barrier against friction.

"This anti-chafing balm is key," she advises, "Especially in the summer along your thighs or under your bra."

Furgiuele also recommends this facial exfoliator from her own line at Nuria. "I can't live without this," she says. "It immediately gives me soft, smooth skin without irritating beads or other harsh ingredients."

It uses lactic acid from fruits as well as ginkgo to help slough off dead skin and give your face a deep clean. "It is so oddly satisfying (and a little gross!) to see my dead skin rolling off while I wash," she says. "The payoff is immediate."

Christina X. Wood