When I was first getting into makeup, one of the things that shocked me the most was how unbelievably expensive everything was. The prices at department store beauty counters floored me, and even at the drugstore it was hard to find blush or eye shadow for under $10.
It wasn’t that I didn’t want to invest in the right products; it was that I had no idea which products were right for me. Sephora boutiques and beauty counters intimidated me and made me feel pressured to buy something, which left me purchasing a few things I’d thought long and hard about, but didn’t actually like.
My personal makeup lifesaver came in the form of e.l.f., which is an acronym for eyes, lips, face. The draw was simple: most everything--from eye shadow quads to lip glosses to foundation to brushes--was available online for just $1.
I could order a bevy of products for a truly cheap price, and then try them out at home without feeling any guilt or pressure if they didn’t work for me. Once I found something I liked (peach lipstick! blue nail polish! eyeliner!), I could think about buying a similar, higher priced item. But sometimes I’d still favor the cheap e.l.f. product.
Over the years, e.l.f. has upgraded its offerings, adding a Studio line with many products priced at $3, and a Mineral line made up of mostly $5 items. At those price points you really can’t go wrong, but these are the six products I absolutely love and use regularly.
1. First up: Brushes!
I've found e.l.f.’s Essential brushes to be pretty terrible. They shed, they’re coarse, and the bristles are unevenly or loosely packed, which makes them awful for picking up and distributing product. The brushes from the Studio line are a different story. They’re soft, tightly packed, and they apply product perfectly. My three favorites--left to right, as seen above--are the Studio Small Precision Brush, the Studio Flawless Concealer Brush, and the Studio Complexion Brush, all of which are totally multi-use. I use the Concealer Brush to apply powder concealer and blend eye shadow. Likewise, I use the Small Precision Brush for both eyeliner and cream concealer.
2. Tinted Lip Balm
Depending on your preference and budget, e.l.f. has a really great range of lip products. My favorite is the Studio Lip Balm, seen above in Rose, which delivers a balanced mix of pigment, sheen, and moisture. I’m pretty bad at wearing lipstick, but this is perfect for me. It’s not long lasting, but it fades very evenly, which is a fine trade-off.
3. Color Sticks
This Essential All Over Color Stick screams e.l.f. (and high school) to me. It goes on sheer and shimmer-y, and it triples as a blush, eye shadow, and highlighter. I also like to dot a little of the product, seen above in Persimmon, on my Cupid’s bow and on the center of my bottom lip. It makes my lips look fuller. You may recall that I am slightly paranoid about my thin lips.
While the color sticks perform fine as a highlighter, I prefer the Studio Baked Highlighter. Unlike other inexpensive highlighters, this one is refreshingly absent of disco ball glitter. I put it on the tops of my cheekbones, below my brow bone, and on the inner corners of my eyes. It doesn’t show up too well in photos (which I kind of like, since I err on the side of subtle sheen), but it’s fantastic in person. I’m using Moonlight Pearls above.
5. Eye Shadow
On a whim--and based off of its great reviews--I picked up the Studio Long-Lasting Lustrous Eye Shadow. It comes in a pot and has a sort of cream-gel consistency. I apply it with my finger and just pat it on, since it’s extremely difficult to pick up with a brush. I really, really love this product. It’s genuinely long lasting and has great pigmentation.
Above, I’m wearing it in Soirée, a warm, iridescent plum. I apply it to just the lower lid so it’s not so harsh when my eyes are fully open.
6. Finally, Eyeliner
This Studio Kohl Eyeliner has a thick tip, goes on super dark black, and includes a sharpener and a smudger. The crayon is firm yet great for smudging. I don’t normally wear eyeliner on my lower lash line, but this product is making me a convert. Blending really matters here; I like to blur the line so it isn't too overwhelming.
The Full Look
Non-e.l.f. foundation, concealer, mascara, and powder notwithstanding, my complete look was achieved with a grand total of $13 worth of product, not including brushes. Not bad, right?!