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Splurge vs. Steal: 25 Picks for the Makeup-Shy Beginner

I have a lot of friends and clients that tell me they’d like to venture into the world of makeup, but they aren’t sure where to start. I totally get it; it can seem overwhelming. When you ask for help at a makeup counter, you probably wind up with a makeover that has you looking like somebody else entirely. It’s not the makeup artist’s fault; sometimes we can’t help ourselves, but baby steps are best when it comes to entering the world of makeup. No one wants to look all-natural one day and then wear a full face full of makeup the next. It’s just too jarring.

In this post, I’m offering some great starter options, including a splurge and a more affordable steal for each product type. There is a lot on this list, and I would not expect any newbie to go out and buy all of these items. Start by taking a look in the mirror and thinking about what you’d like to hide or accentuate. Do you have dark circles and pale lashes? Start with concealer and mascara. Uneven skin tone and nice  lips? Go for BB cream and a soft lip color. Smaller eyes and pale skin? Try eyeliner and blush. You get the idea. Without further ado, here are my top picks for the makeup shy beginner.

  • 25 Makeup Picks for the Makeup-Shy Beginner 1 of 26
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  • Tinted Moisturizer Splurge: NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30 2 of 26
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    A moisturizer with tint is a great place to start for anyone new to makeup or for those who prefer light, sheer coverage. This one comes with built in sunscreen, essential for preventing signs of aging.
    Available at Sephora $42

     

  • Tinted Moisturizer Steal: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Enhancer Tinted Moisturizer 3 of 26
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    This top-rated drugstore pick is enhanced with line-smoothing retinol and SPF 20.
    Get it at Drugstore $9.03

  • BB Cream Splurge: Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream Broad Spectrum SPF 35 4 of 26
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    Along the same lines as a tinted moisturizer, BB creams offer multiple benefits in one quick step. This BB cream primes, hydrates, conceals, controls oil, and provides sun protection. It's a favorite among my mother's group aka my unofficial focus group!
    Found at Smashbox $39

  • BB Cream Steal: Garnier Skin Renew Miracle Skin Perfector BB Cream 5 of 26
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    This BB cream promises to blur imperfections, brighten skin, hydrate, and protect with SPF 15. Use in place of moisturizer and sunscreen and get the benefits of light coverage as well.
    Available on Drugstore $10.62

  • Concealer Splurge: Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat Concealer 6 of 26
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    I've written about this amazing concealer before. I chose this one for those new to makeup because it is nearly undetectable. It goes on smoothly, won't settle into fine lines, and has light-deflecting particles to mask dark circles.
    Get it at Yves Saint Laurent $40

  • Concealer Steal: L’Oreal True Match Concealer 7 of 26
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    This concealer is just a touch heavier than YSL's, but that's a good thing on days when you might want a bit more coverage. This product also goes on very smoothly and never looks cakey.
    Pick it up at Walgreens.

  • Blush Splurge: Nars Blush in Orgasm 8 of 26
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    This is an iconic product for a reason. It looks great on just about everyone. It's a subtle blend of pink, peach, and gold, which creates a beautiful and natural color.
    Found at Nars $29

  • Blush Steal: Milani Baked Powder Blush in Luminoso 9 of 26
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    This blush is widely hailed as one of the best lower-cost alternatives to Nars Orgasm Blush. Wearing a light sweep of blush is a fantastic way to brighten up your face and look younger without altering your overall look, making it a great pick for those who don't want to look like they are wearing makeup.
    Available at Drugstore $7.49

  • Tinted Balm Splurge: Clinique Superbalm Moisturizing Gloss 10 of 26
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    If you suffer from dry lips in the winter, you will love this intense repairing balm. The hint of color is just an added bonus.
    Choose from 8 shades at Clinique $15

  • Tinted Balm Steal: CoverGirl NatureLuxe Gloss Balm 11 of 26
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    Adding a sheer color to lip balm is an easy way to subtly brighten up your face. I'm particularly fond of these glossy lip balms from Covergirl because the tints are delicate but noticeable.
    Pick it up at Target $6.49

  • Pink Lipstick Splurge: Clinique Long Last Lipstick in All Heart 12 of 26
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    If you are ready to graduate from tinted balms, a subtle pink lip color is your next step. This shade of deep pink is utterly wearable and really flattering on a variety of skin tones.
    Found at Sephora $15

  • Pink Lipstick Steal: e.l.f. Essential Lipstick in Flirtatious 13 of 26
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    This sweet lipstick is a real a bargain! This pink tone is really flattering and the formula moisturizes and conditions lips.
    Get it at e.l.f. $1

  • Red Lipcolor Splurge: Nars Lipstick in Flamenco 14 of 26
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    It's almost the holidays, and even those who fear makeup want to glam it up a little bit on occasion, right? Red lip colors are a quick and easy way to go from day to night in one simple step. This awesome product goes on sheer, mixing with your own lip color for a gorgeously unfussy red lip.
    Check it out at Nars $26

  • Red Lipcolor Steal: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Romantic 15 of 26
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    When paired with minimal makeup, red lips are refreshing and elegant. This great lip product offers a lasting soft red stain and a soft moisturizing glossy balm in one step. It's sheer but it wears longer than most lip colors, making it perfect for a first venture into red. 

    Pick it up at Target $7.59

     

  • Mascara Splurge: Lancome Definicils High Definition Mascara 16 of 26
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    Many women would choose mascara as their favorite cosmetic. If you have light lashes, it will really bring out your eyes. Keeping it subtle is easy if you find a non-clumping formula, like this one from Lancome, and opt for a brown or grey shade instead of black.
    Get it at Sephora $27

  • Mascara Steal: CoverGirl Clump Crusher Mascara 17 of 26
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    This drugstore deal also comes in brown, and it doesn't clump for nicely defined, clean lashes.
    Found at Drugstore $6.89

  • Eyeliner Splurge: Smashbox Waterproof Shadow Liner 18 of 26
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    Shadow liners are great for makeup newbies. They are easy to apply, easy to smudge, and look much softer than other types of eyeliner. These shadow liners come in 6 shades, including several of neutral tones.
    Available at Smashbox $22

  • Eyeliner Steal: L’Oreal Studio Secrets Pro Eye Shadow 19 of 26
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    For an easy-wearing, subtle liner, I love to wet this eye shadow with a liner brush and use it to softly define my upper lash line.
    Choose from several neutral colors at Drugstore $3.79

  • Eyeshadow Splurge: Urban Decay Naked Basics Palette 20 of 26
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    When starting to experiment with eyeshadows, it's best to start with a great set of neutrals. This beautiful palette will give you all you need to create a little definition and still look fresh and natural.
    Found at Sephora $27

  • Eyeshadow Steal: Maybelline Expertwear Quad Eyeshadow 21 of 26
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    I absolutely love these great quads for anyone learning how to apply eyeshadow. They come with a cheat sheet on the back, telling you exactly where to put each color.
    Found at Drugstore $4.99

  • Palette Splurge: Bobbi Brown Bobbi and Katie Palette 22 of 26
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    This take-along palette was designed by Bobbi Brown and Katie Holmes, both of whom are known for their natural beauty esthetic. This compact kit comes with 8 shadows, 2 cream blushes, and a mini eye pencil. The colors are neutral and wearable with enough shimmer that you can transform your look from day to night … if you dare.
    Pick it up at Macys $68

  • Palette Splurge: Laura Mercier Colour-to-go Portable Palette in Natural Nude 23 of 26
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    I was torn between two splurges, so I'm including both. Laura Mercier is a master at creating a natural-looking flawless face, and her makeup line is very tasteful and elegant. This small palette houses 3 neutral eyeshadows, a cake liner, bronzing powder, blush, and a mini lip gloss.
    Found at Laura Mercier $50

  • Palette Steal: e.l.f. Studio 22 Piece On The Go Palette 24 of 26
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    This great little palette would be a great starter kit. It's small enough to take with you, and you can create a variety of looks with its 10 eyeshadows, 5 lip colors, 3 blushes, dual-ended eyeshadow brush, lip brush, face brush, and mascara.
    Available at e.l.f. $10

  • Bold Liner Splurge: Marc Jacobs Beauty Highliner Gel Crayon in Intro(Vert) 25 of 26
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    Okay, I may be way off base here, but sometimes I think my makeup shy friends and clients are not afraid of color, per se, but fear they lack the skills to apply makeup and/or are worried they will look too "done up." This gel crayon goes on super smooth, so you can add impact quickly and easily without needing to do a lot of shading and blending.
    Pick it up at Sephora $25

  • Bold Liner Steal: Boots Botanics Eye Liner Pencil in Green 26 of 26
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    This affordable eye pencil is formulated with conditioning jojoba oil. Swipe a line across your upper lash line for a look that pops but is still simple and modern.
    Found at Drugstore $5.99

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