Recession-proof your beauty routine with our 12 budget beauty buys of all time

The cheap thrills you need to know about, all under £20

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We all knew it was coming but now it's official: the UK is in recession. This will naturally have an impact on our spending habits. We will be looking for value and timelessness over a fleeting moment of joy (though, those come in hand during hard times, too). The good news is that we have lots of beauty recommendations to ensure that your pennies go as far as possible from now on in. 

As a beauty editor, I try everything from the priciest serums to the cheapest new finds. Often the luxury products win out on looks and performance. But when I think of the products we’ve been raving about recently, the ones that are causing the liveliest discussions have been the budget buys. They don't always look as presentable as the luxury launches, but when it comes to performance, the gap is  narrowing.

In fact, the old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ couldn’t be further from the truth these days. With technologies advancing, ranges of shades radically improving and textures becoming evermore flattering, some of the more cost- effective offerings are giving their posh cousins a run for their money.

So, if you’re looking for a cheap thrill in these economically challenging times,  check out this curated budget beauty kit:  I’ve whittled down my favourites to an edit of can’t-go-wrong beauty products that would be a worthy candidate in any woman's bathroom cabinet. And they're under 20 quid! 

My top 12 picks

1. Total Effects 7-in-One Anti-Ageing Moisturiser SPF30, £9.99, Olay 

Total Effects 7-in-One Anti-Ageing Moisturiser SPF30, £9.99, Olay 

It’s not new but worth including for it’s sheer weight of benefits. Containing niacidamide, a top drawer firming ingredient, as well as a host of antioxidants and moisturising agents, including SPF, if I’m ever in doubt, I’ll pop into Boots and buy this. It’s like leaving your skin in a safe pair of hands.

2. Herbal Essences Bio:Renew Conditioner Argan Oil 400ml, £2.67

This hair conditioner has 0% colourants and uses 90% natural origin ingredients (purified water and natural-source ingredient materials with limited processing). But aside from all that good stuff, it leaves hair feeling in its best condition with no greasy residue. The shampoo of the same name is wonderful also, so invest in the pair and you won't be disappointed. And if your hair texture doesn't suit the nourishing Argan Oil variant that I rate, check out the rest of the Bio:Renew range by Herbal Essences, as there's one for most hair types. 

3. GOW (Garden of Wisdom) C-Deep Vitamin C Serum, £18

GOW (Garden of Wisdom) C-Deep Vitamin C Serum, £18

Searches for vitamin C have gone bananas over lockdown. Mainly, I believe, because the humble vitamin has been proven time and again to brighten dull, lacklustre skin and fade pigmentation. This affordable vitamin C serum also contains Squalane to keep it stable and to further hydrate. A great affordable targeted 'anti-ager' that actually works. 

4. Gentle Foaming Cleanser, £10.99,  Cetaphil 

Gentle Foaming Cleanser, £10.99,  Cetaphil 

I used to buy the original Cetaphil cleanser when I travelled to New York. This version is even gentler, giving skin a proper cleanse without stripping it of its natural oils, which as you get older is vital to maintaining healthy skin. Fragrance free, non irritating and dermatologist tested, the un-fancy formulation is what makes it so good.

5. Retinol Eye Cream, £12.99, Optimum 

There are so many good products in this range, but if I had to choose one, this is it. This one contains retinol, lady thistle and green seaweed to instantly make the skin around the eyes appear smooth and replenished. Over time, it also helps to reduce puffiness and gives the eye area a more lifted look. And, it's under £15.

6. Infallible Pro-Glow Foundation, £8.77, L’Oréal Paris 

Infallible Pro-Glow Foundation, £8.77, L’Oréal Paris 

I came across this little known base when I heard a group of fellow beauty editors gossiping about its glow-inducing powers. It’s so sought after many had been stocking up in the US. It’s finally available in the UK, but only available on Amazon, which makes it even more intriguing. I must warn you that shades are limited at the moment, but I'm told that's likely to change soon. For a lighter, summery alternative, check out Max Factor's Miracle Second Skin Hybrid Foundation, £12.99, which comes in 12 shades that seamlessly merge with your skin. 

7. Transforming Body Lotion, £9, Ameliorate 

Transforming Body Lotion, £9, Ameliorate 

An exfoliating body moisturiser with lactic acid that helps to naturally melt off dry surface skin while replenishing moisture - it’s one of the only body lotions I’ve come across that gets rid of keratosis pilaris (chicken skin appearance).

8.  Shout Loud Hydrating Satin Lipstic, £8, NYX Professional Makeup

Made with Mango and Shea Butter, this satin shade gives lips a vibrant pop of colour that doesn’t look dry or cakey. It’s like applying silk and looks decidedly chic against a natural face. A great ageless suits-all shade for winter, too. 

9. Maybelline Lash Sensational Mascara, £8.99

This gives even the tiniest of lashes va-va voom saving you time curling or extending your eyelashes with falsies. This gives me the volume and length I like in a glossy finish that’s non drying and clump free - in other words, age appropriate.

10. Rosehip Oil, £6.99, The Inkey List

Rosehip Oil, £6.99, The Inkey List

I have never met a skincare formulator who doesn’t rate rosehip oil as a natural smart ager. But many good ones are pricey. This is 100% pure and rich in essential fatty acids to hydrate and soothe while minimising pigmentation. Great on all skin types from dry to oily it’s great underneath - or overtop of - your makeup.  

11. Milky Oil, £10,  Glossier 

Milky Oil, £10,  Glossier 

Give it a shake, then this micellar water and weightless oil make-up remover melts off mascara and other long-wearing make-up without tugging on skin. Plus, I personally love the smaller size as it fits in my make-up bag.

12. The Ordinary Squalane Cleanser ( 50ml ) £5.50

This truly is the best budget in-shower cleanser I've ever tried. Maybe even one of the best, regardless of it's affordable price. A little goes a long way with this creamy gel cleanser that removes all trace of dirt while leaving skin silky smooth thanks to the addition of moisturising ingredient, squalane. I cannot recommend this enough.