Beauty products don’t need to be pricey to be exceptionally good. In fact, some of my all-time favorite gems — like my trusty, zit flattening Cosrx Pimple Patches, and lifting NYX Control Freak Brow Gel — cost less than a La Colombe latte.
I’m always snooping around friends’ makeup bags, reading interviews, and zooming in on shelfies in the hopes of spotting a budget-friendly find. Recently, I decided to formalize this pursuit by asking beauty-obsessed friends, colleagues, and industry professionals to reveal their favorite under $10 products. Their answers did not disappoint. Below, a list of some of the very best cheap hair care, skin care, and makeup out there, according to people who know.
Clara Leonard, a hair stylist who’s worked on shoots for Solid and Striped, Into the Gloss, and Miaou, among others, revealed that the Let’s Jam Hair Gel is a go-to “hairstylist’s secret” for on set. It’s medium hold, water-based formula allows for the perfect balance of flexibility and grip, she says, and she reaches for it anytime she’s doing braids (it keeps all the hair in place), a wet hair look (a la Margot Robbie), or a strong, sleek part (you can see it in use on a look she did for Iris Law here!).
Esthetician Cynthia Rivas swears by this affordable, fragrance-free sulfur ointment for treating pretty much any type of breakout — whether it’s a painful under-the-skin cyst or a pesky whitehead. She says that it helps reduce redness, takes down swelling and inflammation, and kills zit-forming bacteria. “Use a tiny amount right where you’ve broken out,” she says, “pat it in with your finger, then do the rest of your skin-care routine.”
Mollie Gloss, a makeup artist who’s worked with some of coolest girls in the music industry, from Clairo, to Megan Thee Stallion, to Phoebe Bridgers, says these portable razors from Muji are a must have for dermaplaning. She says that their stainless steel base does a better job than the “fancy Dermaflash” at closely shaving and exfoliating the skin.
Whenever Sable Yong’s, the co-host of fragrance-focused podcast “Smell Ya Later,” hair is feeling dry or fried or lackluster, she reaches for these $5 Pantene Ampoules. She says that each tube can be used about two to three times and that it instantly makes her hair “feel much smoother, softer, and look shinier.”
The Ordinary’s Niacinamide is a “holy grail” for Michaela Bosch, a Brooklyn-based makeup artist who has worked on shoots for Interview, Dazed, and Numero, particularly when it comes to combatting breakouts. She uses it, she says, in mornings and evenings, after cleansing, and before moisturizing, and it “stops her breakouts dead in their tracks.”
Fashion publicist Lisa Lupinski has repurchased Burt’s Bees Pomegranate Balm over and over again for its ability to moisturize her lips without any greasiness or stickiness.
Maddie Bailis, a buyer at Brooklyn boutique Bird, usually uses Kevin Acoin’s Glass Glow, but when she runs out, she says her tried-and-true trick is to use Aquaphor. It gives the skin a perfect glisten-y, high shine effect with no shimmer or sheen. And Marilyn Monroe, as it turns out, was known to do the same (she’d put it on her cheekbones and browbones).
“This is the only thing that makes me look a little less dead,” says Kyle Smith, a Los Angeles based stylist who’s worked on set with Billie Eilish, Amandla Stenberg, and Julia Fox. It’s filled with caffeine and EGCG which work together to depuff and wake up your eye area.
The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.