Essential Beauty Products Under $20

by jennine on July 27, 2010

frownies, armour lipgloss, l'oreal

It’s official,  I’ve become a beauty junkie. I don’t know when it happened, but all the sudden I realized, wow, I have a long list of beauty products and treatments I need/want and, quite frankly I’m obsessed with beauty. It’s not so much makeup, but all the stuff that goes into skin care, and with the help of Make Up Alley, I’m hooked on finding the best products for my money.

So here are three things I’m really loving right now, so much I can’t imagine life without them, and they’re all under $20.

Frownies ($12.72)

For the past four years or so, I’ve had 11′s (creases between the eyes). They are from reading, and frowning in my sleep. The obvious treatment for this is botox, and yes, I have had botox a few times (twice). Nothing works better than botox. However, it’s expensive, it’s controversial (injecting poison in your face), you actually can’t frown when you really want to, and, well,  botox can be a potentially slippery slope. After I had it done, all I could think about was getting restalyne.

Frownies are ‘natural’ they’re just paper triangles that prevent you from frowning in your sleep. You may not see the results right away, but they do work. I’ve used Frownies on and off over the years, and right now I’m using them on a nightly basis. My 11′s haven’t returned to anywhere near what they used to be. And I may just end up using them instead, as it’s nice to have the option to frown when I want to, and Frownies at $12 a box for 144 patches, using one patch a day, that’s one of the cheapest and most effective beauty treatments out there.

L’Oreal Studio Secrets Face Primer ($10.99)

Ever since Nars introduced me to their Skin Smoother, I have been obsessed with primers. I loved what it did for my complexion, however, it ran out rather quickly. Maybe I was using too much, but $30 a pot is too expensive for something that will last 3 weeks. The lovely Dana from the Art of Accessories, suggested L’Oreal Studio Secrets Face Primer, which goes for about $10 a pot. At first I was skeptical because it was much more liquidy than the NARS version. But, after using it for a while, I have to say that it goes on really smoothly and it helps keep my face hydrated, and not shiny throughout the day. It’s crazy that once you get into primers, it’s hard to go back. Especially if you really want a smoother complexion.

Armour Opaque Lipgloss: Last Dance ($19.00)

I have the hardest time picking out lip gloss. Getting the right color can be a real pain, because I always want fun or fresh colors, but really the best ones for my complexion are the autumny and wintery tones. Jen Paelmo, who did my make up for the American Living video, was really helpful in finding a good color for me. She sent a gloss from a new cosmetics company called Armour Beauty, called Last Dance ($19). They produce paraben-and-cruelty-free long wear glosses.  I’ve been wearing it all the time, it seems to go with almost everything I wear, a great neutral that’s not really neutral. As far as lipglosses go, it stays on pretty well, and it’s not heavily fragranced, which works because the temptation to lick it off is way less. Way, way, less.

So here is the ‘after shot’ now I just have to start obsessing on hair products…. Has anyone gotten a Brazilian Blowout? I think I need one. Or at least really want one.

What are your top three beauty products right now?

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Shannon July 27, 2010 at 11:59 am

I agree with #2. It’s utterly fantastic and makes you look 5 years younger in photographs.
Shannon´s last blog ..My New Fav- Rossmore LA Part I My ComLuv Profile

jennine July 27, 2010 at 5:09 pm

haha, you are so right, i love this stuff!

Dee July 27, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Great piece J!

I’m a big fan of the L’Oreal Studio Secrets primer too!
Dee´s last blog ..Candid Recommendations- Bon Weekend Kit from Sampar Paris My ComLuv Profile

Ashe Mischief July 27, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Damn girl, how much primer were you using? I love Smashbox primer, and get finicky when I’m without. I love that I can use a pea sized drop and a bottle lasts like 6 months. (I’m trying the Light/Oil-Free version right now, and I’m not sure I like it as much as the original…. it doesn’t keep me as greasy free as the original).

I can’t ever live without Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Stick, as lipbalm. Love love. One guy I dated hated it, and would wipe his mouth after we kissed. We didn’t kiss much.
Ashe Mischief´s last blog ..One Stop Lingerie Shopping My ComLuv Profile

jennine July 27, 2010 at 5:11 pm

oh yeah, well, i tried to be sparing, but if i didn’t get a good amount it was very dry on my face, and very uncomfortable. Maybe the smashbox primer is much better? I’m pretty inexperienced when it comes to primer, i’ve tried only two!

Love Palmers!

Grace July 27, 2010 at 12:02 pm


I, too, am a product junkie. Makeupalley is the best! I’ve been a member for 6 years. I love their community, and their product review feature has been such a help when it comes to finding good products.

I’ll have to try that primer. I am really partial to Cargo’s HD makeup primer, but it’s expensive.

For stopping shine it’s tracks, Peter Thomas Roth’s Anti-Mattifying Gel is like gold (and about as expensive!). When I work on films or weddings, or conduct any fashion photo shoots, EVERYONE gets a layer of this stuff. Even under the harsh glare of lights, or the extreme heat of summer, your face is never shiny. It’s $30 a bottle, and the bottles are small, but each one lasts me about 6-8 months.

Grace´s last blog ..Virginity Hit My ComLuv Profile

jennine July 27, 2010 at 5:12 pm

OMG I totally need that PTR gel, every time I go out and people take photos with a flash, I’m totally shiny. And have bad hair. And look crazy.

samantha July 27, 2010 at 12:07 pm

i’m getting a pack of the frownies today! what a genius product! my 3 beauty obsessions are interestingly enough all dermalogica products - the special cleansing gel, the daily microfoliant, and the active moist moisturizer. it’s a little on the pricey side, but lasts a long time and keeps me out of the dermatologist office.

now what about the crow’s feet that are starting to turn up? how do i get rid of those?

jennine July 27, 2010 at 5:13 pm

ooh i’ve heard good things about dermlogica… haven’t tried it yet!

DWJ July 27, 2010 at 12:21 pm

I’m beyond a product junkie, I’m a product whore. I call my guest bathroom the lab because I have so much makeup all over the place: airbrush machine, blush, brushes, foundations…you name it I’ve got it. I’m currently obsessed with the primer (hence the recommendation), Maybelline’s Color Sensational lipstick (Red Revival is GORGEOUSNESS and creamy too) and OCC Lip Tars have me hooked. I’m sure next week there will be a new list of makeup obsessions. Oh and I’ve heard Keratin treatments for hair are awesome too.
DWJ´s last blog ..How To Accessorize Flower Child My ComLuv Profile

jennine July 27, 2010 at 5:13 pm

hahah, well that’s how you always have good tips!

Eboni Ife July 27, 2010 at 12:25 pm

A girl at my job has EXTREMELY spiral curly hair and she got the brazillian blowout a couple weeks ago. I have to say that I miss her curls, but her hair is perfectly straight, but not flat and lifeless. It is voluminous, and shiny, and it looks fabulous all the time. She said she does have to blowdry it a little in the morning, and when she chooses not to, she has very soft beachy looking waves.

Another gal at my job tried the Keratin straightening treatment and her hair also looks fabulous, though not as voluminous as the gal who got the Brazilian blowout. That being said it could be that her is just not as thick in the first place.

I’m gonna have to try the primer. I don’t wear makeup on a daily basis (except mascara), but I feel like as I get older (I’m 28), I should start doing something… at least powder…

Eboni Ife’
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jennine July 27, 2010 at 5:14 pm

oh man, i really want a blowout now… i’ve heard story after story about this…

MSL September 17, 2010 at 11:25 am

It all depends on the type of hair. If you go someplace reputable, they will tell you if your hair is too fine or you do not have enough of it as the result will be lifeless and flat against your head. Not good. But fantastic results if you go to someone that has done it alot and you have a decent amount of thicker hair. I have learned that it is very important that they know what they are doing as the second time around can have some kinky areas if not used properly (clarify, clarify, rinse, rinse, rinse and shake the bottle very well, first!)

Now I just wanna know how frownies are supposed to do anything. I am such a skeptic but I have BIG problems in this area. Also need to try the primer but when do you put it on? I wear a sunscreen everyday and then lightweight foundation. Do I moisturize, then prime and then foundation?? :)

Tami July 27, 2010 at 12:37 pm

The frownies didn’t really work for me, perhaps I didn’t use it long enough. I might just give it another go. :P
Tami´s last blog ..Anti-Eco Tees and Totes My ComLuv Profile

jennine July 27, 2010 at 5:15 pm

yeah, they didn’t work at first either, it’s definitely a long term thing. i also think they work better in conjunction with botox, to stretch out the time between treatments. though a lot of people say they would never do botox. i was deperate enough to give it a try

Tami July 27, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Ahh, good to know. Botox, if done in moderation, shouldn’t be that detectable. Some of my ex-colleagues have done it and I couldn’t really tell.

jennine July 27, 2010 at 10:00 pm

yeah, it’s a common misconception that botox makes you look younger. it doesn’t. it just makes you look like you’re not frowning. most of the time you can’t tell, unless they have it applied to several areas of the face then it looks kind of crazy.

Kate July 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Ooh, I have been meaning to try primers & might have to give this one a go! Thanks for the suggestions!
Kate´s last blog ..Dance Hall Queen My ComLuv Profile

Andree Lachapelle July 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I picked up that L’Oreal primer a few days ago and it is wonderful, even in very humid weather. I had been using Lise Watier ( but it has a silicone feel that I don’t love (and is also quite pricey.) Now all I need is a very good concealer. Any recommendations?
Andree Lachapelle´s last blog ..Eroticallgirl- a Smutty Novella My ComLuv Profile

jennine July 27, 2010 at 5:16 pm

oh i use the laura mercier concealer (thanks to sonja of hello beauty) and its great, not too dry but has good coverage.

Korka July 28, 2010 at 9:11 am

The only concealer that I’ve found which can actually hide my Gothic black circles is MAC Select Cover Up. I have oily, light skin and this is the only concealer that doesn’t slip away after a couple of hours or crease. Use powder sparingly over it however, since it can cake just a little.
Korka´s last blog ..Photos from Vernissage Opening My ComLuv Profile

Maile John July 27, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Thank you so much! I didnt even know about Make Up Alley till now. Had a browse on their site and its really great! Also thanks for the info on the Studio Secrets primer. I have been hearing amazing stuff about it from everyone! Your opinion just confirms it’s greatness.

jennine July 27, 2010 at 5:17 pm

i wish makeup alley would have an iphone app. so helpful when going to sephora, or anywhere with beauty products.

Kasey July 27, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Once again we are lip-wear twins, and once again it pleases me that two people that look so diffrent can pull off the same color, first Cyndi Lauper’s Viva Glam and now Armour Opaque Lipgloss: Last Dance! AWESOME!

jennine July 27, 2010 at 5:17 pm

that is so funny! great minds think alike! well, maybe we should do a duo post of the lipstick we both have!

lisa July 27, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Interesting recommendations! Right now I’m hooked on Clinique Sheer City Block SPF 25 (it’s slightly tinted so I use it like a foundation), Cover Girl Lash Blast Length mascara, and Chanel lipsticks (Rouge Coco in Ruban Rose, Rouge Allure in Exotic). It’s so hard to choose just three though-I have a lot of products I want/need/use just like you!
lisa´s last blog ..From Solo Lisas Kitchen- Guacamole My ComLuv Profile

jennine July 27, 2010 at 5:18 pm

i love chanel lipsticks, it’s been a while since I got one!

Andree Lachapelle July 27, 2010 at 1:55 pm

Ooops, forgot to write my Top Three:

1- Lip Fusion gloss (After Hours - a shimmery red)
2- Make Up For Ever Aqua cream liner (5 - a deep plum/purple)
3- Aforementioned L’Oreal primer.

gail July 27, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I tried Frownies once, and they didn’t work too well for me. Part of the problem was they wouldn’t stay on. They would loosen up when I did frown (which is alot, a life-long habit),a nd either eventually almost fall off themselves or my kitties were always messing with them when I was trying to sleep. I would love to try Botox on my forehead, but I just don’t want to spend the money. Along with my product obssession, one of my kitties was obsessed with my face-creams! He could always smell it and when I was in bed all he wanted to do was lick it off. I will have to try the primer, thanks for the suggestion/reminder. I don’t know what happened to my Smashbox primer. Probably the kitty knocked it off the counter and it is hiding somewhere. My current “must have” is Le Metier de Beaute’s Anti-Aging Foundation and Corrector.

jennine July 27, 2010 at 5:19 pm

kitites love beauty products!

Trinidad July 27, 2010 at 4:39 pm

I love Loreal’s Primer! It’s top on my list of great drugstore beauty buys!
Trinidad´s last blog ..Celebrity Copy Cat- Jessica Alba My ComLuv Profile

eli July 27, 2010 at 5:07 pm

I think I may have to start using frownies soon, as well as getting my mom to!

My go to thing right now is Jojoba oil, this stuff is amazing on my face!

Annie Spandex July 27, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Brazilian Blow-Out sounds dirty, or maybe I’m justa perv. Ha.. I’ve never heard of frownies! Seems like a simple and classic product, like Botox at night without the Botox :)
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Meghan July 27, 2010 at 8:10 pm

i ADORE that l’oreal primer. it makes such a difference and is a steal of a price!
Meghan´s last blog ..Win a 100 Beso Shopping Spree My ComLuv Profile

WendyB July 28, 2010 at 7:27 am

“11′s” still cracks me up.
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Sheena July 28, 2010 at 8:48 am

I’ve been meaning to grab the L’oreal primer for the longest. I still have some of my Nars primer left, but I’ve heard the L’oreal works just as well and for a much better price, so why not?

I have gotten the Brazillian Blowout and honestly? I feel like it has changed my life (for the better). It’s expensive, but love the results!
Sheena´s last blog ..Dreaming Of…Kate Kanzier My ComLuv Profile

julia July 28, 2010 at 9:02 am

That Armour Beauty lipgloss looks PERFECT on you - great shade! And, I’ve been wanting to try frownies- the price seems great for the quantity you get!

Korka July 28, 2010 at 9:16 am

Jennine, thanks for the post. I’m gonna go to Beauty company on Polk today to check out those Frownies.

If you do get the Brazilian blowout, tell us how it went. I’ve never heard of it before, but judging by the before-and-afters, they seem really effective fro frizzy hair. I’ve got shoulder-length hair that’s slightly wavy an flat at the same time. If I could get volume and straightness, that would be heaven…
Korka´s last blog ..Photos from Vernissage Opening My ComLuv Profile

Korka July 28, 2010 at 9:29 am

Oh and I want to share that my favorite beauty products under $20 are:
Pond’s Cold Cream “Original Clean” Wet Cleansing Towlettes. You can get them for about 6 dollars at the drugstore and the pack lasts for a month. They really clean well and they are not oily.
Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. Buy the capsules at a drugstore or a health store. They are great for your skin, hair, nerves and brain.
Finally, Maybelline Mineral Power Finishing Veil Translucent Loose Powder. I get it at the drugstore for about ten dollars and it last me about 3 - 6 months. It’s amazingly luminous as well as mattifying. I’m on my second can.
Korka´s last blog ..Photos from Vernissage Opening My ComLuv Profile

Thea July 28, 2010 at 9:46 am

Great post! Who would have thought “frownies” would be so effective?

365 Fashion Rehab July 28, 2010 at 10:25 am

Thanks for tip about the Loreal primer! I am currently using Laura Mercier primer but unsure if my pocketbook can afford it. I love the concealer, too, it totally works wonders. My beauty bets under $20 would be : Benefit’s High Brow because I feel like it gives me a “lift” without the lift ( if you know what I am saying). I also recently became a fan of Urban Decay eye shadow (in Sin)- would not have chosen it except for cute girl at Sephora put it on my lids and I was sold! Also am loving the “say yes to cucumber” facial towelettes for those nights when you are too tired to wash your face. Love, A

Vanessa July 28, 2010 at 11:22 am

Thanks for writing about the Frownies! I’m getting the “11′s” problem and have been looking for “natural” ways to fight age. ;) Will try Frownies!


Michelle July 28, 2010 at 11:38 am

1. Nars casino bronzer 2. Nars taj mahal powder blush 3. Clean & Clear oil blotting papers (maybe I’ll need less of this when I start using the L’Oreal primer - after I find it, was sold out for a while.) Sorry - only the blotting papers are under $20. I really do need a cheap bronzer and need to start using more cheap blush (there is a good Ulta mineral bronzer that I use for a great blush but it broke super easily.)

Amber July 28, 2010 at 12:04 pm

I have really bad ’11s’ between my eyes - I think it’s because I’m really photo-sensitive, and tend to squint in any kind of sunlight at all, but it’s been really getting me down recently: it’s not so much that it makes me look older, it’s just that it makes me look like I’m permanently angry! I’ve been thinking about Botox, but it’s so expensive, and I get the feeling that if I get it once, I’ll want to keep on getting it every time it starts to wear off, so maybe I need to give Frownies another go - I did have a box somewhere, but I could never seem to keep them on my face somehow!

Oh, and my top three beauty products (although not all under 420):

Lancome Hypnose Drama Waterproof mascara - amazing
Smashbox Photo Finish Primer - also amazing, but expensive, so I’m adding the L’oreal one to my shopping list!
MAC Ruby Woo lipstick - all you need is this, plus a slick of black eyeliner = instant glamour
Amber´s last blog ..Miu Miu two-tone patent leather pumps My ComLuv Profile

Midtown Girl July 28, 2010 at 6:10 pm

Loving that lip color on you! And I am def getting into a beauty product ritual before bedtime. I had the same primer but never used it & ended up giving it away….now I want to try it :-) Maegan July 29, 2010 at 12:35 pm

um, I NEED frownies like NOW …I’ve been wishing for a product like this forever! If only I could prevent myself from making the lines …lol Thanks!
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charles July 29, 2010 at 5:03 pm

good choices! xx
charles´s last blog perfect My ComLuv Profile

Sarade July 30, 2010 at 5:50 am

Frownies have always been somewhat of a mystery to me. And do primers basically just plug all of your pores? I tried them years ago, and I have a pretty oily nose…it looked great at first, but by afternoon it was as if an oil well had burst, and there were little trails of oil seeping out of my pores. Also, within a week of using primer, my breakouts increased. The paraben-free lipgloss sounds wonderful! And I do end up eating a lot of it throughout the day. My favorite beauty products would have to be Benefit Eyebright, Korres Primrose Eyecream, and Korres Honey-Thyme moisturizing mask used on my cheeks, neck, and frown lines. I also love my Benefit cream shadows.
Sarade´s last blog ..Amethyst Heirloom Necklace My ComLuv Profile

Katie July 30, 2010 at 7:09 am

I’ve never heard of Frownies but I’ll definitely seek them out now! I’m in my late 20s and becoming verrrrry aware of wrinkles. I get the eye crinkles from smiling more than anything. Any great moisturizer suggestions?
Katie´s last blog ..You Should be Dancing My ComLuv Profile

Anna @ShoeHunting July 30, 2010 at 7:50 am

That face primer is THE BEST! I use it every day. I’ll have to check out Frownies and that opaque lipgloss next.

daisybabie July 30, 2010 at 9:03 am

LOVE primers! i’ve been using the smashbox original for a couple of years now and tis great. when i read the bit about the gloss, i laughed out loud. it’s good to know that i’m not the only one who has a tendency to lick away at the ‘tasty’ lipglosses. lol
regarding the hair straightening question whether it be brazilian or the keratin one…sounds like a lot of upkeep and expensive! garance dore wrote about her experience with brazilian a few months back. everyone who’s had it done is super pleased; so, if you get it done, i’d love to hear about it! good luck!

Closet Cravings July 30, 2010 at 10:34 am

I’ve used Frownies. I tried them after I read about a celeb using them. I like the “natural” aspect of it, but I have to say they are annoying to put on. I wish it were a peel and stick deal. It would make it so much easier to slap it on my face. I’m not completely convinced they work. =)

Amy July 31, 2010 at 1:46 pm

How does the L’Oreal Studio Secrets Primer compare to Smashbox’s Photo Finish? I love Photo Finish but it’s quite expensive.

My top three beauty products right now: Revlon Photoready Foundation, Cover Girl LashBlast Fusion mascara, and lip gloss. I have at least two tubes of lip gloss in each handbag I use regularly and whichever gloss I find first, I use.
Amy´s last blog ..A Preview of Payless Shoes’ Fall 2010 Collection My ComLuv Profile

old fashioned girl August 2, 2010 at 11:45 am

oooh I’d love to try frownies. I’d need them after driving!

maggie August 3, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Great post! I cannot LIVE without:
($) - Boots/Expert Sensitive cleansing & toning wipes (doesn’t leave an oily residue & removes all makeup including mascara!)
($$) - Amazing Cosmetics/Amazing Concealer (BEST concealer. Hands down. A bit pricey but lasts forever!)
($$$) - Bare Escentuals/Rare Minerals Skin Revival Treatment (A bit pricey again but the difference in my skin is worth the price)
maggie´s last blog ..LIVE EVERY WEEK LIKE ITS SHARK WEEK My ComLuv Profile

MJ August 5, 2010 at 7:49 am

Welcome to beauty junkie land!! LOL. My bathroom is being taken over between the stuff I buy and what I receive as review samples! Its insane but I love it anyway! You look great and I will add these to my wish list (which is about 2 pages long now!)

The Very Subjective August 6, 2010 at 4:12 am

wow, Frownies look like something worth knowing about and trying out!
this is a really useful info.

p.s. Frownies should pay you (with a supply of free Frownies!) for this unintended advertising! :D
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Courtney August 6, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Revlon makes a good primer, too!
Courtney´s last blog ..Making Your List- Checking it Twice My ComLuv Profile

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