Updated in 2020 with new picks!
Let’s face it: twenty dollars doesn’t get you very far when you’re shopping for makeup outside of the drugstore. If you look hard enough, though, you’ll find some gems even at Sephora that you can snag when you’re looking to treat yourself on the cheap.
I’ve rounded up my picks for what to buy at Sephora with only $20 or less that are either personal favorites or highly rated. I tried choosing permanent collection products, but if you’re shopping around the holiday season you’ll find a ton of great value gift sets around this price point as well.
Click the image of the product to find it online.
1. Peace Out Pore Treatement Strips ($19)
You’ve heard of acne dots, but Peace Out uses the same hydrocolloid method with their pore strips as well! Instead of being rough with your skin by using the rip-off kind, which can actually cause damage, these strips allow you to gently clear your pores overnight. They absorb sebum, oil and dead skin trapped in your pores and use DMAE and Vitamin A to reduce their appearance. Each box comes with 8 strips— four shaped to contour the nose and four larger rectangular strips for areas like the chin or forehead.
2. beautyblender Pro ($20)
Hear me out… yes, there are a ton of blending sponges that I actually like better than the beautyblender, and that are much cheaper as well. However, since the beautyblender is the original that popularized the tool in mainstream makeup routines, and still a standard for many makeup artists, I think there’s value in at least trying it once. That way, you can actually tell when a cheaper one is “that good,” and see where the bar is set. I just wouldn’t recommend it as something you regularly repurchase, because there are so many great alternatives.
3. Rare Beauty Soft Pinch Liquid Blush ($20)
Rare Beauty is a new beauty brand created by singer and actress Selena Gomez. Out of the entire original launch, people have been raving most about the liquid blush. It’s super pigmented so a little goes a long way, but it can be easily sheered out for a wash of color. It comes in both a matte and radiant finish and eight beautiful shades.
4. tarte Hamptons Weekender Contour Palette ($19)
This handy mini palette from tarte is an all-in-one for the face with a bronzer, blush and highlight. From the brand’s swatches, it looks like the bronzer isn’t going to work with darker skin, but the blush and highlight look workable across skin tones. The palette leans warm overall for a sun kissed look.
5. Nars Velvet Matte Lipstick Pencil Duo ($20)
This mini lipstick pencil duo is available in 3 color combos. These chubby pencils are sharpenable, though they’re on the thicker side so you’ll need a sharpener with a large opening. These swipe on easily with intense color that lasts all day and feels incredibly weightless on the lips.
6. Duo Brush On Adhesive ($9)
I prefer brush on lash glues because they are less messy than squeeze tubes, and you can be more precise with how much you apply. This was the glue I was loyal to for years (before finding a very cheap dupe from AOA). It’s available in clear and black, and will hold your lash in place all day.
7. Bite Beauty Mini Nude Lipstick Crayon Duo Set ($20)
Bite Beauty makes one of the most luxurious lipstick formulas on the higher end market, plus it’s a clean formula! I’ve purchased various versions of this lipstick duo set, which they update ever few years. They glide on with full color in one swipe, with a really creamy and comfortable feel. I like that the pencils are retractable, but there’s no sharpener so the tip will dull over time.
8. Benefit Gimme Brow Gel ($14)
Most Benefit brow product minis are only $14, and though you do get more for your money in terms of $/oz when buying the full size, this is a great way to find out which of their products work best for you without paying full price. I’ve compared the most popular Benefit brow products in this post, but one that I’ve been using a ton recently is their waterproof tinted brow gel Gimme Brow. It’s low maintenance and easy to swipe through the brows.
9. Tweezerman Mini Tweezers ($14)
I’ve been using these tweezers for about six years now, and they’re still work as well as the first day I got them! They are incredibly precise, and grip the hair well for easy removal. Personally, I feel that the mini size tweezers are easier to handle than the full size from the same brand. When I use other tweezers, both cheap and expensive, I often clip my skin or break the hair without getting the root. These are the most effective, and the fact that they stay in great shape with regular use over the years make them totally worth it!
10. tarte Tartelette Tease Palette ($19)
Tarte makes my favorite eyeshadows of all time with their Amazonian clay formula that is pigmented, easy to blend and long lasting. This mini palette gives you the basics for most neutral looks. You can get every day looks or a sultry smoky eye. This looks great for a minimal makeup collection or an on-the-go staple.
11. Sephora Collection Clear Skin Days ($10)
If you are looking for acne dots, though, these will give you the most bang for your buck at Sephora. For only $10, you get 96 dots, even more than a lot of drugstore packs! Acne dots are a really effective way to treat acne overnight— they help stubborn spots come to a head and heal quicker and usually reduce redness.