7 surprising drugstore beauty finds that are not only crazy cheap (under $10) but actually WORK—hooray!

shopping woman

Confession: Sometimes I feel like a jerk when I pull out my Chanel lip balm. Not that it isn’t amazing—it IS—and I am exceptionally grateful to even own a $45 designer lip balm (adorned with the interlocking Cs, natch).

But honestly? It feels so freakin’ extravagant, especially when I then realize that I’m carting around an awful lot of fancy schmantzy stuff. (Givenchy lip gloss? Check. Armani eyeshadow? Check. Dior brow pencil? Check. YSL lipstick, eyeliner and blush? Check, check and check.)

Yowza! I love it all—what girl wouldn’t?—but I don’t want to become the beauty equivalent of those label-obsessed women who feel compelled to adorn every inch of bodily real estate with loud, screaming designer logos. Hells no. The hi-lo approach applies to beauty too, which is why I want to tell you today about a few exciting prodz that I swear are as good or better than their pricey cousins. Because as thrilling as it is when you first swipe/slather/slick that designer beauty product across your bod… it’s maybe even more so when you get the same results for a fraction of the price.

INSTEAD OF… Nailtiques Nail Treatment (or any other pricey nail strengthener/hardener)

TRY… Revlon Calcium Gel Nail Hardener

Revlon Calcium Gel Nail Hardener 7 surprising drugstore beauty finds that are not only crazy cheap (under $10) but actually WORK—hooray!

Nobody needs weak-nail prodz more than I do. Although many (most?) of my beauty editor friends do Axxium, Shellac, or at least regular manicures, I find that without fail, every single time I get a salon mani, my nails revert to wimpy, peeling suckiness for weeks later. Which is the situation I’m facing right now, even though I WAS doing amazing on my life-changing Nailtiques at-home regimen. Anyway, after misplacing the bottle, I decided, in a pinch, to try this nail hardener from Revlon. You can’t beat the price… and surprisingly, it’s also free of DBP, toluene and formaldehyde (which is not the case for Nailtiques and many/most other nail hardeners out there). I’m not expecting the same level of results, but it’s early days and I’m already impressed at how much harder my nails feel. The formula also goes on a bit shinier than Nailtiques, so you could just wear it alone if you wanted to.

BUY IT NOW… $6.15 at Well.ca (free shipping in Canada with no minimum order)


INSTEAD OF… Kiehl’s Super Thick Volumizer

TRY… TRESemmé 24 Hour Body Root Boosting Spray

Tresemme 24hr Body Root Boosting Spray 7 surprising drugstore beauty finds that are not only crazy cheap (under $10) but actually WORK—hooray!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: just like the commercials imply, I think TRESemmé offers the best quality prodz from a drugstore hair line. As you may recall, I’m a big fan of the 24 Hour Body line, because it’s probably one of the few shampoo and conditioner duos I’ve ever used that actually delivers on the volumizing promise. (Seriously. Try it and tell me I’m wrong.) Anyway, after a few peeps inquired about root-lifting styling stuff, it reminded me of this fantastic little number, which is a close dupe for the Kiehl’s version (and almost $20 cheaper). The key (to both versions) is really the spray-gun type nozzle. It helps you get past all the hair and right at the roots, which is where you want the product to go if you want it to work properly. Just remember to either blow-dry upside down or lifting your hair away from the roots with your fingers or a round brush.

BUY IT NOW… $5.65 at Well.ca (free shipping in Canada with no minimum order)


INSTEAD OF… Moroccanoil Hydrating Styling Cream

TRY… Live Clean Argan Oil Smooth & Shine Cream

Live Clean exotic nectar argan oil smooth and shine cream 7 surprising drugstore beauty finds that are not only crazy cheap (under $10) but actually WORK—hooray!

I’m not the best candidate for styling creams, since the volume issue is usually a more pressing concern for me than frizz. However, I’ve dabbled with them here and there on occasion, usually when I’m in need of a haircut and my ends look fried and dry… and I have to say that I’ve noticed no difference between this one and its close cousin from Moroccanoil (a.k.a. “the miracle worker for any hair type”). Both contain argan oil, and you can either use on damp hair, or as a finishing styling aid (as I did).

BUY IT NOW… $7.77 at Well.ca (free shipping in Canada with no minimum order)


INSTEAD OF… M.A.C Concealer Brush

TRY… EcoTools Bamboo Deluxe Concealer Brush

ecotools concealer brush 7 surprising drugstore beauty finds that are not only crazy cheap (under $10) but actually WORK—hooray!

Concealer really needs to be applied with a brush—on top of your foundation, please—and when my old one started getting a bit mangy a while back, I tossed it and ran to the M.A.C store to buy a replacement. It’s great… but then I realized I already HAD a concealer brush (in the archives, of course) from EcoTools. So now I use both—which isn’t a bad strategy, actually, since it’s really important to keep your concealer brush squeaky clean instead of contaminating the pot and your face with dust and dirt and oil. Anyway, I have to tell you: it’s not one of those situations where I can’t wait for the M.A.C one to become dry so I can use it. They’re both great. And because concealer, like all “wet” makeup, NEEDS to be applied with a synthetic brush instead of animal hair, and synthetics can be had for far cheaper, you really don’t have to splurge in this category.

BUY IT NOW$4.77 at Drugstore.com (also available at Walmart in Canada)


INSTEAD OF… Crabtree & Evelyn Scented Soap

TRY… Yardley Naturally Moisturizing Bar

Yardley Naturally Moisturizing Bar English Lavender 7 surprising drugstore beauty finds that are not only crazy cheap (under $10) but actually WORK—hooray!

Yardley is back! Not that they ever left, really, but they’re in the midst of a big revamp where they’re ditching the grandma image and going for classic, timeless Englishness. (Obviously smart with the royal wedding happening this year and all of us going gaga over Kate Middleton’s hair and other grooming habits. Yardley’s an official royal brand, didja know?) Anyway, the brand did a media event here in Toronto about a month or so ago, where I learned that both the packaging and the actual fragrances are being upgraded. But not the price! I love all things lavender, as well as retro packaging, so these soaps tick off many, many boxes for me. Plus, where Crabtree & Evelyn gives you only one soap for $4, Yardley gives you TWO. Booyah!

BUY IT NOW… $3.69 for two bars (!) at Well.ca (free shipping in Canada with no minimum order)


INSTEAD OF… Marc Jacobs Daisy Solid Perfume (or any other solid perfume, eg. Stella McCartney, Juicy Couture, Tocca)

TRY.. Pacifica Solid Perfumes

Pacifica Solid Perfumes 7 surprising drugstore beauty finds that are not only crazy cheap (under $10) but actually WORK—hooray!

How great is the invention of solid perfume? Like I mentioned in my post about what a beauty editor packs in her carry-on luggage, I swear by it for travelling. (In fact, solid EVERYTHING is great when travelling—I have solid hand lotion, face moisturizer, blush… ) Compared to mainstream scents, however, these puppies are a little “greener.” (They’re 100 percent vegan, gluten-free and made with organic soy, coconut wax and essential and natural oils.) Plus, how adorbs is that floral packaging?

BUY IT NOW… $9.25 each at Well.ca (free shipping in Canada with no minimum order)


INSTEAD OF… Shu Uemura Flare Eyelashes

TRY… Ardell DuraLash Individual Lashes

ardell duralash individual lashes 7 surprising drugstore beauty finds that are not only crazy cheap (under $10) but actually WORK—hooray!

If it’s show-stopping, work-of-art false eyelashes you’re after, then Shu is definitely your ticket. But if you’re just looking to add a little (not a lot) of drama, Ardell gets the job done on the cheap with these fab individual lashes, which will give you a more natural look when you apply them just at the outside corners of the eyes. Janine at Beautygeeks has a fab vid that will help you apply!

BUY IT NOW… $6.15 at Well.ca (free shipping in Canada with no minimum order)

Have you tried any of these prodz?
Or do you think you’ll stick with the more spendy versions?
What are YOUR favourite drugstore beauty finds?


Thursday, March 31/2011 at 3:12 pm

This post is my FAVOURITE! Bless you!


Thursday, March 31/2011 at 4:46 pm

Just for your info, i bought the ”Live Clean – exotic nectar – argan oil oil treatment”, and it does not compare a single minute to the same oil treatment of the Moroccanoil brand. It made my hair all scruffy and oily :(
But I don’t know about the Shine Cream of Live Clean, maybe its not the case.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, March 31/2011 at 5:47 pm

Oh good to know! I think the creams are comparable… but like I said, I’m not dealing with tons of frizz so I just use a teensy tiny amount to smooth my ends sometimes.


Thursday, March 31/2011 at 10:11 pm

i really like the burts bees tinted lip balm that you recomended in a friday post, it pretty much hasnt left my bag since i picked it up. It is good to know about the live clean argan oil, i was looking at it the other day and it seemed like it wouldnt work that well because of all the synthetics in it. do you know how the shampoo and such is of that line? I dont usually use the oil creams because like you say it seems like a bit much. The morrocan oil knock-off thats actually quite good is the one from marc anthony curls line, called oil of morrocco. yes very sad name but actually works quite well. :)


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 1/2011 at 9:58 am

Yay for Burt’s Bees!

I do like Live Clean stuff in general… too bad about the argan oil itself but I think all the shampoos and conditioners are ok.

Just popped over to Makeup Alley and they give the shampoo a 4/5 whereas the oil only got 1.9.


Thursday, March 31/2011 at 11:41 pm

Queen Helene’s Mint Julep Mask. It’s about US$4. Tried it on a lark after reading about it somewhere and it just does such a fantastic job! It’s definitely chemical-y if you read the ingredients list, but it’s got a lot of good stuff too: kaolin, sulfur, zinc. I’ve really noticed a difference in my pores and it keeps spots from growing huge. So pleased I took a chance with my crumpled up dollar bills! And I do look awfully retro with the pale green mask as I watch tv…


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 1/2011 at 10:00 am

Oh YES! I’ve heard about that mask for years – why oh why can’t we get it in Canada. Next time I’m in the US I have to remember to pick some up.


Makeup Morsels
Friday, April 1/2011 at 12:56 am

I lovee TRESemmé’s hair products. Ok, I’ve only tried one (their heat protectant spray which is HG for me), but I’ve heard great things about the whole range. And speaking of nail regimes, have you tried Trind? It doesn’t fit into the whole drugstore-priced scheme of things at all, but their sets are awesome (I’d definitely recommend you check out the Nail Basalm in particular). I’m a fervent Nailtiques user too, must swing by CVS to get the cheaper version sometime soon!


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 1/2011 at 10:03 am

Thanks for reminding me – I have tried Trind, years ago. I remember their nail strengthening stuff was good too! Although I think I stopped using it because I was on a big anti-formaldehyde kick at the time…


Friday, April 1/2011 at 5:01 pm

I agree heartily with Tresemme root boosting spray. I have tried many, many products to add volume to my fine, straight hair with little success. Then I found Tresemme about a year ago–unbelievable! If you have fine straight hair, this product is a miracle


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Friday, April 1/2011 at 5:19 pm

Glad you agree! SO good and the price is ridic.


Friday, April 1/2011 at 5:40 pm

I love the ecotools brushes, so cheap and nice to use on your face. A definite keeper in my collection


Nomadic D
Saturday, April 2/2011 at 3:50 am

I love the pacific solid perfumes, I have the jasmine one and it’s saved me on a number of occasions. But I have to say, I, like you, am a total nailtiques addict, it is the only thing that has worked on my pealing flaking nails. And when I stop using it even for a few weeks they go back to their old ways, so I don’t think I would try the revlon one. Unless of course, you stick with it and tell us that it’s just as good. But I somehow doubt it. The thing that I am curious to try on your list is the ecotools brush. Going to have to add it to the shopping list. Thanks!



Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, April 7/2011 at 7:20 pm

I will keep you posted re: the Revlon nail hardener!


Sunday, April 3/2011 at 5:02 pm

haha I rotate three synthetic concealer brushes, one from ELF and two from the body shop, it’s great, I can postpone washing them a day longer because I get lazy…XD


Tuesday, April 5/2011 at 12:20 pm

Another great post, Michelle! I love reading about your product recos, but sometimes they’re too much on the pricey end for me to even consider. I REALLY appreciate this post!!

After earlier convos with you about volumizing and heat stying prodz, I MUST try the Tresemme 24 Hr stuff. I was also thinking about trying the new John Frieda Full Repair line (the Perfect Ends Sheer Mist spray sounds promising) — any reviews on that one??

BTW, the Pacifica candles are just as awesome and the solid perfumes. The Tahitian Gardenia scent is AMAZING. And in candle form, totally fills the room with fragrance.


Comment Avatar Michelle Villett
Thursday, April 7/2011 at 7:19 pm

Yes! The Full Repair would be a good choice – I haven’t had the chance to test yet but I love the concept because it’s damage-repairing PLUS volumizing. I haven’t come across any other line like that so it’s very exciting! And you can’t go wrong with anything from the Tresemme 24-hour Body collection – such great performance for the price.


Stephanie Andrews
Friday, April 8/2011 at 8:28 pm

Yippee! Love this post – thanks so much!


Thursday, May 19/2011 at 7:21 pm

Just got the Revlon Calcium Gel Nail Hardener, love searching your page when I’ve got a problem like my nails falling apart after usinf the Sally Hansen nails stickers. PS: love those!


Nomadic D
Friday, May 20/2011 at 2:22 am

Did the Sally Hansen stickers really make your nails fall apart?



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