Beautiful bargains

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Here’s a true story: one day, British make-up artist Lisa Eldridge was chatting to supermodel Helena Christensen, and gave her a handful of No7 make-up. Now, No7, for those who don’t know, is a British beauty brand favoured in middle England, in part thanks to its mid-level prices – not, in other words, the sort of stuff you’d expect a world-renowned face with access to top cosmetics would favour, but Eldridge is global creative director for the brand and, well, opportunity is opportunity. It turns out, however, that Christensen was so impressed by the eye shadow and skincare she bought more the next time she was at Heathrow airport.

That’s right: she paid for it.

In fashion, mixing and matching designer and high street has become a characteristic of contemporary style, suggesting as it does that a woman is not slave to a name but master of her own look, and it’s an approach that is gaining ground in the beauty world, too. While most skincare experts tend to agree that the more you spend, the more active ingredients you get, when it comes to cosmetics, just as with T-shirts and denim, “there are certain things you just don’t need to spend money on, and this frees you up to buying that one, incredible lipstick that makes you look fantastic”, says Eldridge.

The question is: how do you know where to save and where to spend?

The answer is, of course, subjective (people buy beauty products for all sorts of idiosyncratic reasons), but an informal poll of various beauty experts ranging from editors to make-up artists suggests that certain generalisations can be made when it comes to certain areas. Mascara, for example.

Max Factor Masterpiece – priced at about £8.99 – “has won the Harper’s Bazaar mascara ‘Hot 100’ most years”, says Newby Hands, health and beauty director at British Harper’s Bazaar. Indeed, mascara is often cited as the place to save, given that the product is a high-turnover item, both because of hygiene and because it dries out on a regular basis, and requires replenishment. Cheaper mascaras “are just as good as the expensive ones,” says No7’s Lisa Eldridge, in part, adds Hands, because high levels of competition mean high levels of innovation on the high street.

“Max Factor introduced the new, moulded wand,” points out Hands, an advance that resulted in a smoother application and later found its way into luxury mascaras, including those by Chanel.

By contrast, when it comes to eye shadow, “On the whole, cheaper varieties are still unstable and not as fine” – literally, in the grind – “as premium brands”, says make-up artist Kay Montano, who recently became artistic consultant of new mass market brand Myface. Likewise, “Cheaper foundation often has that terrible melted Barbie-doll colour,” says Hands, who is an advocate of spending money on a base. Ditto Millie Kendall of the cult beauty brand Ruby & Millie, who notes, “The mass market never comes close to the level of service that you get from a high-end brand when it comes to foundation.”

Myface, however, has emerged to fight the stereotype: a high street brand, it was founded by Gail Federici, who also co-created Frizz-Ease serum with John Frieda, and created in part by make-up artist Charlotte Tilbury. Its foundation, Myface Mymix (£12.99), is, according to Montano, currently a favourite of Thandie Newton and Nicole Kidman.

As far as lipstick is concerned, the quality of the texture and the colour pigment tends to be reflected in the price. Because of this, Hands argues in favour of putting your money where your mouth is – “When I use a Dior lipstick, for example,” she says, “it never beads and doesn’t bleed” – though make-up artist Ashley Ward sees the appeal of the high-end as less about quality and more about its “treat” element.

“It has very much gone back to the ‘I can’t buy an expensive dress but I will buy myself a Chanel lipstick’ approach,” Ward says. “Of my friends who are not in fashion, it is always intriguing to see what is in their make-up bag, and often there will be something like a Chanel lipstick, or a Guerlain mascara. It is what girls buy to make themselves feel better.” The more trends change ...

Trade secrets: Make-up artists’ cheap and chic favourites

Kay Montano: “Myface Mymix foundation is the only ‘value’ foundation I use. I like Bourjois blushers and Max Factor or Maybelline mascaras. Weleda skincare is inexpensive, natural and easy to find. The model Lily Donaldson insists on Simple cleansing wipes [£3.05].”

Sharon Dowsett: “I don’t believe in spending a lot on a cleanser; it is not on your skin for long enough. Pond’s Cold Cream [£4.07] is brilliant, I also like Simple cleansing wipes and sometimes combine the two for a more thorough cleanse. The Body Shop Vitamin E Facial Oil [£10] is good at night and I use Vaseline Rosy Lips Lip Therapy [£1.93] on lashes and brows.”

Andrew Gallimore: “I love metallic glitter red lipstick for the burlesque look and Barry M’s Royal Raspberry lip paint is probably the closest I have found that is still wearable. I was recently given a mattifying skin primer by Superdrug [GOSH Velvet Touch Foundation Primer, £12.99]. I found it ideal for creating a powder-free, shine-free look.”

Ashley Ward: “I have been impressed at how quick Topshop has been in getting the high-fashion celebrity colours into their make-up collection. They offer carefully researched products in on-trend colours.”

Lisa Eldridge: “Boots 17 matte lipsticks are highly pigmented and come in bright reds, dark purples and a fuchsia pink that is very Nars. Rimmel does a great cream eye shadow [Colour Mousse, £4.99], in Sassy, the kind of chic shade you would expect on a Laura Mercier counter. No7’s new Lift & Luminate [£15.50] and Beautifully Matte [£13.50] foundations have a luxury, silicone-in-water texture. Two new red and nude Moisture Drench lipsticks [£10] are joining the range in June and are straight out of my kit.”

Details (for No7 cosmetics) (for GOSH cosmetics)

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