Azadeh - Makeup Shopping Like A Millennial: Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget


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Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

So this post is near and dear to my heart because well, it is written by my sister, Azadeh. With a 10+ age gap, sometimes I feel like I’m more of a mom than a sister and I have to constantly remind myself not to be like that! Azadeh is one of those crazy beauty meets brain gals who really is a package deal. I don’t want to brag but I kind of got her obsessed with makeup 🙂 I mean, what big sister doesn’t do that? After college, she inherited all my old {now vintage} glittery makeup and bright makeup palettes I had graduated from. Of course, I’ve always had more expensive tastes in makeup so most of the makeup she inherited was prestige brands. So she has good taste 🙂 However, she’s a college student and has to watch her $$ and I’ve seen how and when she spends and saves. I think her advice could help a lot of gals save money or educate themselves on how to shop smartly. She’s one of the people I go to for advice! Like I said, she’s smart with her money and the products she uses nearly *always* impress me (which is hard). So without further adieu, here’s Azadeh.

Shop for Makeup like a Pro with a College Student Budget

A guide to having your cake and eating it, too.

Whether you’re in college, out of college, still feeling the aftermath of college, we probably have all felt incredibly burdened by that number in our bank accounts and the urge to spend money on things you want, like makeup. And with makeup, sometimes you get that inner monologue that insists, you don’t reallllllly need it. However, if it is something you enjoy, or just something you would like to delve into, I say just do it.

Before delving into a step by step analysis on how to shop with professional champagne tastes but a beer budget, let me just preface by saying that to maximize purchasing satisfaction, you should look at your own habits and needs; what may be affordable to some may not be affordable to others, and therefore you should always look at the context of your specific situation. That being said, let me get to my first point.

#1 Check Your Health

(get your fruit on..)

Sure you can buy numerous high end or even drugstore products to appear more glowing, more radiant, to get rid of the appearance of dark under eye circles, BUT it is so much more cost effective to take steps to ensure that the canvas that is your face is at its best, even with minor or occasional breakouts. This means drinking plenty of water to flush out all excess sodium and waste products in our diets as well as simply replenishing dehydrated cells. This also means eating foods that are not super fatty (note: seeds and nuts and other plant-based foods are quite good for you! However, not all fats are the same).

I personally follow a plant based diet (no meat, dairy, eggs) which is not only cost effective (I basically buy rice/grains, fruits, and vegetables in bulk and take a B12 supplement), but arguably one of the healthiest ways of living. While veganism perhaps is a turn-off to a lot of people, many who follow the lifestyle for health reasons show clear results inside and out from eating whole plant-based foods most days of the week and exercising at least 15 minutes a day (although 90 minutes of exercise a day is arguably the goal according to many health professionals). It certainly is my most important point because you will feel much happier if you are healthy.

If you feel great about your image, then you will most likely not spend a lot of money on products to deal with the side effects of a not-so-healthy lifestyle.

#2 Be a smart consumer

The internet can be an awesome place in so many ways! There are so many “coupon” plugins you can add to your browsers — and you can always find savings you didn’t know existed. Careful Cents has a pretty awesome list of the big saving sites here.

Nonetheless, the best method for not wasting money is to stay away from temptation and be smart about where your money goes. I do not even go to the makeup aisle of the drugstore unless I have something in mind that I need. I do not visit online stores, either. I follow up on makeup news through various makeup artists and blogs/social media sites that update the latest inventions, and make a physical list of things that I am interested in buying.

The easiest ways to get in the loop is to follow brands on Instagram, such as:

Tarte (@tartecosmetics)
Makeup Geek (@makeupgeekcosmetics)
Jeffree Star Cosmetics (@jeffreestarcosmetics)

#3 Buying Makeup Is Like Getting Tattoos (for some people)

Personally, the routine for buying makeup is very similar to how some people get tattoos.

I think of makeup as an investment or a commitment, but for my face.

I ever come across a product that looks interesting, I look up a bunch of pictures of it (swatches) and I look up multiple reviews from several different sources.

Sometimes I check with reddit on /r/makeupaddiction

Sometimes I check with temptalia’s website

A lot of times I just look at reviews on Sephora or Ulta

… and then turn to google and try to get as many different insights and images of the product as possible. Look for people with the same skin type as yours, or people of a similar skin tone (unfortunately for darker girls, makeup is SO much harder to purchase, but not impossible). Then I sleep on it for as long as I need. If you need help with that, Natalie has two amazing and free guides. Check out this amazing Skincare For Beginners guide and her  Makeup For Beginners guide — both of those’ll help tremendously!

A majority of the products that make it on my interest list will be forgotten or I will lose interest in it, which would have happened in my makeup drawer if I had purchased it right away before any contemplation or swatching.

Also, let’s not think that only someone with a lot of time on their hands can do this. Building a collection is process that takes time, but certainly not a crazy amount of time all at once. The research does not have to seem like work.

Because makeup is an interest/hobby of mine, I take the time to research when I would normally be watching Netflix (or maybe I’ll be netflixing anyways) or when it’s a holiday. I research and contemplate when I feel I am in need of a product. Also, even if I feel like I am in need of a product, I only really buy makeup as a treat.

Make goals for yourself, say “after I turn in all my resumes, I’m going to buy myself some lipstick” or “wow I lost 8 pounds, I’m gonna get me some new bronzer”. Make the process fun and rewarding because makeup is all about being fun and creative and new.

Picture of high end cosmetics with their dupes

Before I get to my list, Natalie has a popular post “To Dupe Or Not To Dupe” which goes into a little more detail!

But If you’re still unsure as to whether or not a product is worth it, just know once again that dupes are an incredible thing and not all upper-middle ranged products are worth the money. That being said, here is a list of products that I advise to either buy the splurge, the dupe, or find the exceptions.

What Beauty Products to Splurge vs. Save On

Skincare Products


Thayers Witch Hazel Pads
While yes, most skin care that is really amazing for your skin is super expensive, some of the best skincare products are natural products that you can buy in food aisles of the supermarket, and we’re on a budget here!! Witch Hazel was one of Natalie’s Top 10 Beauty Products of 2015.

There are also some pretty good products that are not terrible for your skin that are cheaper than you would expect.

Just look at the ingredients and avoid pore cloggers or irritants like alcohol, aluminums, lavender oil, mineral oil, etc…

Also, I get a majority of my skincare products from free samples that I get with makeup purchases, and these are typically big enough for me to use for a while.

Face Primer

It Depends

Nivea Mens Aftershave

If you asked me a few weeks ago I would have said splurge, but I recently tried the Nivea Men Aftershave for sensitive skin trend that was started by Nikkietutorials on youtube (who is an actual accomplished makeup artist as opposed to just a beauty guru), and it kinda looks better with my makeup than my $40 Too Faced primer. Ouch.

However, different primers serve different purposes (pore erasers, color correctors, illuminators, etc…), and I wouldn’t suggest everyone to use a primer as it adds another layer and can totally turn your makeup into cakeup real quick. Therefore, if you want to try it, buy the $6 product and see if it works for you.


$$$$ Splurge

Although there are some great drugstore foundations, when I upgraded to high-end makeup, I could hear the angels singing and my face looked so much better. If you can, get Make Up Forever’s HD foundation. If you think that is still expensive for a splurge, try Clinque’s Skin Perfecting Foundation and Concealer 2 in 1.



Maybelline Age Rewind ConcealerMaybelline’s Age Rewind concealer is a cult classic for dark under-eyes, and for good reason. However, I say save because I only really wear foundations that cover my problem spots or any discoloration for the most part, and because of that I don’t really need concealer as much as some people. If you need a little more and wouldn’t mind the splurge, try Makeup Forever HD Concealers or the Nars Creamy Radiant concealer. (Natalie just did a Sephora Haul and snagged the Nars concealer — subscribe to her on YouTube to see out how it applies & compares to her current go-to drugstore concealer).


$$$$ Splurge

Becca Highlighter Pressed Powder Opal

Becca (Opal is one of Natalie’s fave products, sadly discontinued) and Hourglass all the way. If that’s slightly too expensive, try Benefit’s High Beam. If it’s a hard year (and I totally get it), try L’Oreal’s True Match Lumi Powder or Sonia Kashuk’s highlighting stick in Persian Sunset *wink wink*

Eyeshadow Primer

$$$$ Splurge

Urban Decay Eye Primer Potion

I put it in parentheses because the primer that I buy last a really long time, has a lot of product, is of good quality, but are typically less expensive than some foundations at the drugstore. So try Urban Decay’s Primer Potion if you need things to stay put. Otherwise, use a concealer if you don’t have oily eyes.


$$ Splurge reasonably

Eyeshadow Palettes Natalie Setareh Makeup Artist

I say reasonably because eyeshadows are the type of product that you really want quality of, and sometimes the best stuff is unfortunately the most expensive, but this is not always the case with every individual product within a set price point. I have tried a lot of amazing drugstore products (like Wet’n’Wild, Colourpop) but a majority of the drugstore options are pretty atrocious in comparison to upper-end product. Trust the swatches.

On a side note: when looking for an eyeshadow palette, you are probably stuck with splurging. If you get one palette in your life, my tip would be to get a palette that has a lot of neutrals (that especially correspond with your skin tone) that are matte (translates as flat, IE no shimmer) and then has some metallic or glitter or satin finishes. I recommend looking at Lorac, or Tarte palettes (the Tarte Matte Palette will also be featured on Natalie’s channel as part of her Spring Makeup Haul vid–subscribe to see when that vid is posted).

Another side note: if you need crazy colored pigments that are super pigmented such as gold or silver or iridescent, try Sugarpill. Don’t expect any browns.



NYX Jet black eyeliner
Buy a cheap pencil liner… like, $2 cheap, brand doesn’t matter but I’d say I tend to buy NYX ($8) (pictured) just out of habit. I heat it with a lighter and wait until it cools (you should be able to touch it without even thinking “wow, that’s kinda warm” since your eye is 10x more sensitive). Then, I apply. It’s just as pigmented and creamy as the pro-stuff. Too extreme for you? Try a gel or liquid liner.

Either L’Oreal or Maybelline.

The only expensive liner that I have is Kat Von D’s Tattoo Liquid Eyeliner in Trooper, and even that isn’t too terribly expensive. Eyeliners are the one thing that should be thrown away regularly; so don’t bother spending a fortune on them!


$$$$ Splurge

I wear Giorgio Armani’s Eyes to Kill in Classico, and it was the best $32 I have ever spent. I know it seems excessive, but mascara is one of those products that take your makeup to the next level. In fact, just by wearing mascara makes you look so much more vibrant and awake (mascara is one of Natalie’s 3 Must Haves). If there is one product to buy (other than moisturizer with SPF), it would be an amazing mascara.



Elf has some amazing brushes. Sonia Kashuk has amazing brushes at Target (in fact, these were my first brushes that I ever used, which Natalie actually bought me ::heart::).

Real Technique brushes are quite affordable and great.

You really do not need super expensive brushes to look like a pro blended your eye shadow. As for sponges, I recently found the Real Technique’s beauty sponge and I have to say it’s pretty good. So if you’re not into buying the full-priced Beauty Blender, there is always that option.



So many great blushes for cheap in the market now, like Physician’s Formula, NYX, Milani , and Elf, so if you splurge, make sure it’s Orgasmic (bu-dum-tss). Personally, I really like Milani’s Bellisimo Bronze as I tend to prefer more bronzey cheeks rather than blushing cheeks. But I always try to mix it up, sometimes with NYX crème blush in Natural or ELF’s Fushia Fusion or Tickled Pink.

Contouring Products


Kat Von D Shade of Light To Set Cream Contour

I would say splurge because I only know of contour palettes in the upper-end or middle range category — Lorac, KVD ($46 & what’s in Natalie’s pro kit), and Senna’s contouring kit.


You could just get three different colors of concealer (one that is lighter, one that is slightly too dark, and one that is significantly darker but within range of your skin tone) and just contour with that. So it’s whatever works best for your routine.


This one is hard because I buy both

Red lipstick juliana-malta-751240-unsplash

I love Colourpop (see a great post about ColourPop here), which is $6 a pop. However, I also love upper end lipstick, like ones from MAC, YSL, or Chanel. Nothing makes me more confident than a really expensive, fancy lipstick. But it depends on your budget. So I recommend buying both because you should have both in your life. Buy your favorite colors, or two of each!

Setting Sprays

Save for the most part

Loreal Infallible Setting Spray

Setting sprays are really helpful if you, for example, want to go dancing with friends (or just alone in your bedroom…what’s up spotify?) but don’t want to melt your face off. Try L’Oreal’s Infallible Setting Spray (also what Natalie uses in her pro kit), it’s cheap and gets the job done. Personally, the only finishing spray I regularly use is Mac’s Fix+ (which is a splurge) because it helps blend and smooth all the layers of makeup, making it seem less like a 7-layer bean dip and more like your face, but better.

Transluscent/Setting Powder


Coty Airspun Powder

Dupe alert: Coty’s Airspun Loose Face Powder for Laura Mercier’s Loose Powder.

Closing Thoughts

If all else fails because you have a spending problem..spend.

Just go buy makeup. But there’s one catch though. Get a beauty box subscription.

Firstly, if you can’t justify spending ~$20 a month on makeup and skincare worth, say, $50, then you should be able to talk yourself out of spending just as much or even more just at the drugstore alone. Beauty boxes are also super useful for beginners because it introduces you to a world of products that you can form your own opinions on. A lot of times, you get popular stuff, you get new stuff from popular brands, or you get products from smaller, newer, or indie companies, which is great in terms of getting quality products before they sell out to the big man (*MAC*). Need help finding a good box? Check out Natalie’s Beauty Box Dilemma.

I hope all you beautiful people have wonderful days and remember that this is all for fun. Each and everyone of you is loved and the truth is that you don’t need capitalized goods to conquer the world. We can always just make things work!

Would love YOUR feedback! What do you splurge and save on? Do you have any money saving tricks? Let us know in the comments below. xoxo-Setareh

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Beauty is about perception, not about make-up. I think the beginning of all beauty is knowing and liking oneself. You can't put on make-up, or dress yourself, or do you hair with any sort of fun or joy if you're doing it from a position of correction.

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