REVIEW | Best of Budget Beauty Buys ♡ Affordable Recommendations

As I shared recently, I have moved back to San Diego and have been settling in. I have made it my mission since going back to esthetician school to discover the best in affordable skin care and beauty because I want you to know that beautiful skin is achievable regardless of budget. I have worked with dermatologists (professionally and personally) so here I’ll be weighing in on the budget buys that are actually worth the money. And yes, I purchased all these products myself

Sometimes people ask me if I use anything affordable and it makes me laugh. Not because I’m being snooty, but because I realized I should probably talk about my budget beauty staples more often! I’ve partnered with Walmart to share my go-to products, especially because they offer next day delivery so I don’t even have to go to the store. I keep my beauty stash stocked with these essentials and have repurchased them again and again::
  1. Neutrogena Hydroboost Gel-Cream was recommended by my dermatologist Dr. Chiu for use after she gave me the most intense (and most effective) chemical peel I’ve ever experienced. My skin was basically raw. Since it was so fresh, sensitive, fragile, and easily irritated, she told me I needed something gentle and simple, without any actives, to soothe and calm. I only like the Gel-Cream from the HydroBoost line because it feels the most comfortable on my skin. I still use this any time my skin is freaking out and also before going to the gym since it doesn’t clog my pores.   
  2. Differin Adapalene 0.01% Acne Treatment is a product that was once RX only, but now it’s available at Walmart for the lowest price I could find at $10.88 on rollback. My dermatologist had prescribed me a different big brand name adapalene topical treatment, and I paid an arm and a leg, even with my insurance. The Differen works almost as well for a fraction of the cost! Since my break outs are usually limited to period week, I tend to use the Differin as a spot treatment instead of all over the face. It works really well on wrinkles and fine lines as well, so it is a great multi-tasking skin care booster that you can treat as a serum.   
  3. Clean and Clear Night Relaxing Cleansing Wipes smell heavenly, a hint of lavender. I have been using these for two years, and my dermatologist gave me the green light to keep using them. No break outs, even when I fall asleep without rinsing after on those very rare drunken nights. These wipes are so thick and fully saturated but not dripping wet. I find a lot of wipes too dry or too greasy. These are just right! Although they're oil free, they are able remove all traces of waterproof mascara without stinging my eyes.   
  4. Dove Body Wash Mousse with Rose Oil is something I decided to try because my friend Sabrina of The Beauty Look Book raved about it. I have extremely dry body skin so I normally stay away from foaming products, but I find this hydrating. The whipped formula is fun to use, quite plush and velvety which makes it a convenient double for shaving cream. It smells like a heavenly rose garden. This is, by far, the best affordable body cleansing product that I’ve ever tried! I plan to try the Argan Oil one next.      
  5. L’Oreal Lash Paradise Waterproof Mascara is the best mascara under $10. Since it holds curl, lengthens, and doesn’t clump, I hoard this and use this on all my brides and bridesmaids. A lot of waterproof mascaras tend to flake off after drying, but this one does not. I test a lot of mascaras, but this is the best on the market for the price! I actually wear the regular (non-waterproof) on my lower lashes every day in the wintertime, but now that it’s summer I stick to the waterproof one.      
  6. Beautyblender Micro Mini Sponges were a surprise find! I had no idea that Walmart carried them, so I was thrilled to get these discounted. I think these tiny ones are underrated because they are versatile and much easier to keep clean than the full-sized one. I use them for concealer, foundation, and contour. Once I received my order and was sure the quality was the same as all the other Beautyblender minis in my collection, I ordered a few more sets to keep in bridal kit. They’re way easier to keep clean and I find the size, when damp, expands to the perfect size for smaller faces.    
  7. Eylure False Lashes are some of the very best in the business. I like all their natural styles and keep them well stocked in my kit, but their bigger layered styles suit my eye shape best. These Vegas Nay by Eylure Grand Glamour false eyelashes are only $4 which I think are quite a steal, making them my go-to pair for day to day wear. They’re light enough where I can wear them all day, but pretty enough where I can wear them alone or with eyeshadow.

The following products are new to my collection but they earned a two thumbs up: 
  1. L’oreal Infallible Pro-Matte Les Macarons Scented Liquid Lipsticks in Mon Caramel, Guava Crush, and Praline de Paris. I don't recommend drinking or eating while wearing these, but I absolutely LOVE the way they look on. I slowly build three layers, using my middle finger to firmly press the formula into my lips as it dries down. It helps the color adhere to the lips, creating texture and volume in a way that looks natural (without having to draw outside the lip lines).
  2. L’Oreal Infallible Waterproof Full Coverage Concealer is something I keep in my bridal kit lately. I use it like a foundation, since it is waterproof, and blend it out thoroughly on top of the Hydroboost Gel-Cream in addition to a hydrating primer if necessary. It works really well as a cream contour as well. I am highly impressed by this concealer and use it on myself! It reminds me of Tarte’s Shape Tape, but it blends out just as well and doesn’t oxidize whatsoever and is significantly more affordable. I mix shades Vanilla and Cashew with my Micro Mini Sponges by Beautyblender to create a seamless blend.
  3. Real Techniques Everyday Essentials Makeup Set is raved about by everyone online, so I finally caved. I use them mostly for cream products like foundation, concealer, and highlighter blush. Normally I find that synthetic brushes are a pain to wash, but these were a breeze. I really enjoy the largest fluffy brush for layering on base products and the smaller powder brush for concealer or highlighter. The construction of the brushes is top notch for the price and will be purchasing more in the future!
  4. Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish in Sheer Fantasy was a random splurge. Since I am an esthetician and touch people’s faces and skin, I no longer get acrylic nails and do my own manicures at home. I now prefer sheers since they are easy to apply and remove. Two thin coats of Sheer Fantasy exceeded all my expectations. The color is a slightly milky pale pink-nude, softening the appearance of my rather stark nail line. My nails look polished with minimal effort!
  5. Essie Gel Couture Platinum Grade Top Coat caught my eye while browsing through the gel polish colors. I wasn’t going to bother with the top coat since I change my polish every four days now to keep my nails short and pristine, but wow, it is an excellent dupe for the Chanel Gel Top Coat! I’m super impressed!! It dries quickly and it looks glossy without feeling thick or goopy. The glossy effect fades noticeably after four days, but I wash my hands constantly and use chalk when during my barbell work outs. 
  6. Maybelline Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter in Molten Peach is another beauty buy that was influenced by Sabrina. I am not sure I love this as a highlighter but it does make for a beautiful eyeshadow! There are some larger silver shimmer particles that make it pop on my lids. I put it on my lower lash lines in my Best of Budget Beauty Buys Video for a brightening effect.
  7. EcoTools Bristle Bath Brush is my latest bath time essential because it keeps my back acne at bay. The summer skin struggle is real! I really enjoy backless tops, but racebacks and sports bras tend to trap sweat and clog pores. The bristles of this brush are soft but exfoliate the skin well so I use it every day now. My shoulder mobility is somewhat limited from sleeping on my right shoulder, so the long handle of the brush helps me reach the areas of my upper back that are difficult to scrub with a handheld loofa.  

I am a creature of habit, but I keep an open mind and am always willing to try new products, especially skin care now that my complexion is calm and clear. I’d love to know any budget beauty buys that you can’t live without, so please let me know what you think I should try next in the comments!

Sponsored by Walmart. As always all opinions are my own.


JEWELRY | My Favorite Gold Earrings

I was inspired by my Charlotte Tilbury Pillowtalk Eyeshadow Palette to compile my most worn rose and rose gold earrings to share with you, since I get asked about the brands and styles I wear often.  My current favorite? These gorgeous vermeil Large Connection Earring Hoops by Au-Rate.

I almost exclusively don earrings since my tiny fingers are a size 4.25 to 4.5, making most rings impossible for me to wear, and necklaces tend to irritate my neck and get caught in clothing.  Hence, I consider earrings easy and low maintenance and accentuate my makeup as much as my clothing does  case in point, the Pillowtalk palette on my eyes in the photo above. I'll share my other favorite earrings after the jump!


TUTORIAL | La Prairie Skin Caviar Powder Foundation and Skin Caviar Loose Powder Review

I have had a 16 year long affair with powder foundation, as that is one of the first three makeup
products I ever tried and wore regularly as a teenager.  As a skin care conscious woman, I
appreciate luxurious complexion products the most.  I never, ever skimp on my foundations and
powders.  La Prairie’s powders are well known for their expert fusion of science and artistry,
enriched with Caviar Extract which is known for its firming and lifting benefits.


NIGHT OUT FIT | Reformation Venezia Butterfly Midi Dress and Static Nails Pop-On Reusable Manicure Set Review

As some of you may have heard in my Evening Skin Care Routine video, I am in esthetician school and have been rather preoccupied learning about skin and practicing facials. As much as I am obsessed with skin care, it is exhausting to be a 30 year old in school for five days a week for 8 hours a day. That’s why I look forward to nights out more than ever!

I actually make the effort to dress up and put on a full face of makeup now since I’m in scrubs and bare-faced most of the week. I’m also still shedding my winter weight which means a lot of sweaters and even more dresses. Nordstrom recently started carrying one of my favorite dress brands, Reformation, so I splurged on the Butterfly Midi in Venezia — a sweet yet sophisticated mini floral print. I fell instantly in love with the vintage-inspired silhouette, particularly the décolletage-highlighting neckline.

Reformation dresses are impressive in quality and flow beautifully, but do check out brands like Ali & Jay and Bardot for more affordable options that are equally pretty and offer an impressive selection in prints, sizes, and lengths. I luckily didn’t have to hem this dress because the flounced skirt of the “midi” length stops right at my ankles, but I highly recommend starting your night out search at Nordstrom early so that you can take advantage of their alterations department! 

I was hesitant to order a dress so expensive sight unseen being that it’s an online exclusive, but the fluttery feminine sleeves won me over. Reformation's dresses tends to run on the smaller side, so I sized up to a size 2 and it’s still a bit snug around the rib cage. It is, however, more comfortable than I expected since my arms have full mobility. Petite women like me, 5’0 tall and fluctuating at my heaviest around 115 or less pounds currently, are generally advised against wearing large print patterns or prints whatsoever because they can overwhelm our frames. This dress, however, has a botanical print that is whimsical without leaning bohemian, and I don’t think it is visually distracting at all!

Now I’m a traditionalist when it comes to heels because I mostly own pumps, but I really wanted to try something trendier. My friend Rachel, the Beauty Professor, raved about the Steve Madden Camille Clear Sandals, so I figured they would be a good investment for summer outings. They are so versatile and the block heel makes them both stable and comfortable! I normally wear a 5.5 in most pumps so I ordered those online first but went to #nordstrom to exchange them for a size 6. My toes are slightly longer than my big toe so sizing up gave them ample room without hanging over, and the clear straps subtly elongate the look of my legs in shorts and skirts.

One thing I’m rather gutted about since starting school is that I no longer maintain acrylics or even gel manicures, although seeing how sadly damaged my bare nails had become the first couple weeks were tough. It is a blessing in disguise; they are able to breathe and recuperate for a few months plus I found a solution to temporarily dressing up my nails without mess. Nordstrom recently started carrying Static Nails so on special nights out, I have been using press-on nails instead! 

I kept my expectations low, but they really are perfect for dates and weddings or just a feminine pick-me-up. They’re offered in multiple shapes and colors and finishes which keeps things interesting! I do think the Pop-On Reusable Manicure Set in Sugar Floss Stiletto shape and length is much more wearable and manageable straight out of the box. This is all preference, but I rarely get my nails done longer than 1/4 inch past the end of my fingertip for maneuverability’s sake. 

Plus, the pink-nude Sugar Floss color is so flattering, with just a hint of translucency that makes the set look convincingly natural. 24 reusable nails in twelve different sizes per hand are provided, so I’m able to create a short set and a longer set by trimming and filing. 

It took me approximately 15 minutes to cut and file the black Conjure set which is sold out everywhere. The glossy black nails are edgy but after gluing them on, I laughed because they looked like Halloween claws on my petite nails. This set has nails that are not only longer, but wider as well, which is not ideal for my extra narrow nail beds. I kept the right hand’s nails extra short and super round for the ease of contact use and skin care application, but I filed the left hand’s nails to a pointy oval shape at a length I normally get my acrylics to show versatility in this post. It was quite a massive reshaping so application to end took about one hours. Removal is quick with a hot water soak, and these nails can be easily reapplied with more glue, and even painted.

Nails are sort of a given on nights outs, but I hesitate to accessorize due to my tendency to lose things. Thanks to my twin sister, however, I’ve been converted to Kendra Scott! I have been known to have a strong preference for (overpriced) designer costume jewelry but I have to say, Kendra Scott is new go-to brand for earrings. People randomly drop me compliments whenever I wear them, and I have to admit, the quality is consistently good and the price point very reasonable. 

Nordstrom recently ran an online-only Kendra Scott promo so I jumped at the chance to receive a third pair for free! I chose a classic — the Tessa Stone Stud Earrings in Iridescent Drusy/Gold — to wear to school. Then I selected a fancier evening pair — Circe Drop Earrings in Lustre Glass/Gold — to match the Venezia dress, and the promotional pair is another lustre glass drop style with silver hardware but more casual. Personally I love translucent touches and have since the ‘90s so I felt it was only appropriate that the earrings matched my footwear selection! When it comes to accessories, shoes, makeup, and outfits I prefer to take a holistic cohesive approach (including matching hardware) to keep my look visually appealing especially if I plan to take photos for Nights Out. 

Again I apologize for being away so long, but as school becomes more manageable, I’ll be back full time to share everything I’ve been learning. Even though my heart will always be devoted to the luxe brands I’ve used my entire life, I have been researching and testing the best in affordable skin care. I truly believe good skin should be accessible to all, so I hope you’ll allow me to help you guide through the madness that is beauty nowadays. 

Last but not least I am wearing my favorite new everyday lipstick by Charlotte Tilbury called Bond Girl and my clutch is new from Senreve, called the Aria Belt/Convertible Bag. Many thanks to @Nordstrom for sponsoring this post and allowing me to share some new favorites!

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