The Beginner’s Budget Beauty Bag

It’s easy for us to forget that many of the things we take for granted, like knowing where to apply bronzer (on the high points where the sun hits your face), which drugstore brand makes the best bases (Bourjois) and how to make a red lip last all night (use a matching lipliner, apply a few thin layers and blot in between), aren’t so simple for some women. Camilla and I live, eat and breathe makeup and skincare but for lots of you, the industry and the related media is so confusing that you don’t know where to start.

Beginner's Best Budget Beauty Bag

To that end, I thought I would start a little blog series that addresses these issues, starting with the essential drugstore makeup for a beginner. I’m going to limit this to six basic product categories to try and keep it simple for those who get overwhelmed by the selection in the beauty aisles but if you have any questions about other categories (primer, highlighter, face powder, etc) then please leave them in the comments below. By the way, these are all locally available:

Beginner's Budget Beauty - Foundation


The drugstore foundation choices have improved a lot over the past couple of years and you can now find good options in every coverage category from lightweight tinted moisturiser to more traditional, heavy duty foundations. My favourite is the L.A. Girl HD Pro BB Cream which I buy in the bucketload when I can find my shade (it’s notoriously difficult to find in stock), which is ideal for day-to-day and looks really natural on the skin. It also comes in a lot of different shades so it’s suitable for a wide variety of skin tones. If I’m keen for more coverage, then the Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Cream takes things up a notch and has a luminous but not-too-dewy finish. L’Oréal Infallible 24HR Matte Foundation has medium-high coverage and a super-matte finish so it’s ideal for oily girls; those with more normal to dry skin should try L’Oréal True Match. I would also strongly recommend Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum Foundation which is an all-around superstar product but unfortunately it’s not available in SA.

Beginner's Budget Beauty - Concealer


For covering up blemishes and spots, the Bourjois Healthy Mix Concealer is great (I’m not 100% sure whether you can still get it here; I know you used to be able to), as is the L.A. Girl HD Pro Conceal which again comes in loads of shades. Highlighting concealers are another makeup category that has improved remarkably over the past few years, and my pick of the bunch are the Catrice Re-Touch Light-Reflecting Concealer (which I use every day), Bourjois 123 Perfect CC Eye Cream and The Body Shop Lightening Touch.

Beginner's Budget Beauty - Blush


If there is one blush that rules them all at budget level, it’s the Max Factor Creme Puff Blush, which comes in four gorgeous, wearable shades (in SA) that have just the right amount of pigment and give the cheeks a subtle, luminous glow. I also have Nyx Pinched (similar to NARS Orgasm but also difficult to find in stock) Revlon Naughty Nude and Racy Rose, and GOSH Flower Power, which is a fabulous everyday matte pink blush that suits lots of skin tones. Rimmel, The Body Shop and L’Oréal also make great powder blushes.

Beginner's Budget Beauty - Bronzer


It won’t surprise you to hear that I’m a die-hard fan of Topshop Mohawke bronzer (which, although it doesn’t technically fall into the “drugstore” category, is still very affordable). It’s the perfect mid-tone, matte brown that goes on smoothly, is easy to blend and looks wonderfully natural. Topshop’s makeup range seems to be on the way out of the country (saddies) so two really good alternatives are Revlon Bronzilla and The Body Shop Honey Bronzer, the latter being especially good for those with a lighter complexion (it comes in four shades). The Bourjois “Chocolate Bronzer” (real name: Delice de Poudre) is also fab and part of the local range.

Beginner's Budget Beauty - Mascara


People constantly ask us which is our favourite mascara, and my answer is always Max Factor False Lash Effect. It gives me loads of lashes without smudging or flaking and is just one of those completely reliable makeup products that will never let you down. Max Factor Masterpiece and Masterpiece Max are also great; the skinnier wand makes it especially good for those with very fine or few lashes. I’ve also recently tried out Revlon’s range of five new mascaras (all their other mascaras have now been discontinued) and two of them are also good enough for me to recommend: Ultimate All-in-One (red lid) and Volume + Length Magnified (blue lid). The All-in-One mascara is better at thickening up lashes and giving a more high-impact, chunky effect, while V+LM gives you more of a “plush lash”, so it looks like you have loads and loads of fine lashes.

Beginner's Budget Beauty - Lips


When it comes to lip products, you are spoiled for choice at places like Clicks and Dischem. I could do an entire blog post on good, affordable lip products as I have tons of them myself. When it comes to beginners though, I think a sheer, easy-to-wear lip is more practical than suggesting something rich and opaque that takes a bit more confidence (and experience!) to wear well. As much as I like these kinds of lipsticks, I also love a lippie that I can throw on without a mirror and one of the best is the Nyx Butter Gloss which I have in quite a few shades; Tiramisu being my fave. I also love a “chubby stick”-type product and Catrice make a lovely one called Pure Shine Colour Lip Balm that is sheer but can also be built up to really pack a punch. The Bourjois Rouge Edition Aqua Laque range is also fabulous because it gives your lips a colourful, glossy shine but acts like a stain, so it stays all day. You can see this one in action in this Get Ready With Me video we did a few months ago.

What other “beauty basics” would you like us to cover?

11 comments on The Beginner’s Budget Beauty Bag

  • Bianca

    I love this for newbies to the beauty world. Being a die hard beauty fan I’m happy to say most of these are in my collection too – such great products!

  • Heleen Soeters

    I feel like you girls had me in mind when you wrote this post;-)

  • Prettiful Blog

    Definitely agree on Bourjois, I love all the foundations/cc creams that I have tried. I can’t wait for City Radiance to launch here! I feel Palladio is a really underated brand for lip products. Totally with you on the Revlon Mascara!

  • Carla McCallum

    Awesome post and I’m sure it is appreciated by many! Please continue with skincare etc if you can. Love the Max Factor Creme Puff Blush…amazeballs.xoxo

  • Kim

    Great post! Does Clicks stock Catrice?

    • Jules (author)

      No, it’s at Dischem

  • Janita

    Agree with you on Bourjois – but surprised their blushes don’t get a mention? I would also love to see a “spend or splurge”? Version of this… As a very ” simple” girl, I eg find that slightly more high-end lip products are far better value as their shades tend to be more flattering and THE shade I purchased lands up working, whereas I land up buying shades and shades of cheaper stuff before I find “the one”. …

    • Jules (author)

      Never tried their blushes actually – they all look a bit sparkly to me :-/ Love the idea of a spend or splurge, maybe we’ll do a video!

  • Wendy Bean

    Great article! Gets the guessing out of the way and gives you a general idea of what the products can do for you. Pity you didn’t include the “budget prices”.

  • susan symondson

    Hiya. Great piece. I’m a lipstick junkie! So always looking for new ideas. I’ve recently found Palladiio at Dischem…they have a nice range of textures and colours.

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