Whether you’re on a budget or just love a bargain, here is our pick of tried-and-tested cheap makeup alternatives to Charlotte Tilbury, NARS and much more
When it comes to finding the perfect foundation, lipstick, or eyeshadow many of us assume we have to spend big but this isn’t always the case. Far from it, and this is where makeup alternatives come in.
We regularly find cheap makeup and skincare that outperforms premium rivals, sometimes coming in at five times cheaper. However, it’s one thing to uncover a hidden gem when you’re not searching for it. It’s quite another to find a cheap alternative that looks or performs as well as your favourite individual makeup items.
To make this easier, we’ve tested hundreds of products in the hunt for the best alternatives for bestselling products from the likes of Charlotte Tilbury, Hourglass, NARS, Huda Beauty and more. And many come in better than half price. We’ve also started listing the best skincare alternatives UK, if that’s more your bag!
Below you’ll find our most recent makeup bargain – under Makeup Bargain of the Week – and then we’ve divided the other alternatives by brand name. So you’ll find all the Glossier makeup alternatives together, all the cheap Charlotte Tilbury alternatives together and so on.
Rather than reading all the way through, we’ve also started bundling the makeup alternatives from the same brands in one place. Just click on the link in the list below to jump straight to your preferred section, or scroll through to see all the best makeup alternatives from a wide range of brands and product lines.
Every week we pick our favourite alternative and highlight it as part of our Makeup alternative of the Week.
THE ICON: NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer gives great coverage as well giving a radiant finish. It’s a medium coverage concealer that is buildable. It gives a softer smoother complexion while covering dark circles and signs of fatigue. It’s a favourite for many makeup lovers.
THE ALTERNATIVE: The NYX Professional Makeup HD Photogenic Concealer is just as creamy as the NARS original, it gives a medium to full coverage with a natural-looking finish. This concealer is perfect for building to full coverage without looking cakey, it helps blur out blemishes and pigmentation.
Charlotte Tilbury has been an iconic makeup artist to models and celebrities for years and her own makeup line, now available to us commoners, regularly sells out. She has a cult status and now sells a huge range of makeup and skincare essentials. However, none of it comes cheap. The good news is that there are a lot of very similar items that tick many of the same boxes for half the price or greater.
THE ICON: The Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Setting Spray (£26) offers 16 hours of setting power while being oil-free and lightweight. It can even be used as a primer to set the face before applying makeup. We’ve tried it and love it and there have been countless reviews with each one celebrating its staying power and how it leaves the skin looking dewy.
THE ALTERNATIVE: A fantastic alternative for Charlotte Tilbury’s Setting Spray is the Makeup Revolution Conceal & Define Infinite Setting Spray (£8). It’s so good, and so revered, that it’s sold out a number of times. It offers the same amount of setting spray as the Charlotte Tilbury version (100ml), promises the same 16-hour staying power and leaves the skin dewy. All for £18 cheaper!
THE ICON: The Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder Foundation (£36) was one of our editor’s favourites when she put all of the best Charlotte Tilbury foundations to the test. It goes on well and blends easily. It gives a skin-like finish with added brightness to lift your complexion. It is a sheer-to-medium coverage which is perfect for your no-makeup days and it has SPF15 that doesn’t create a white cast all over your face.
THE ALTERNATIVE: The L’Oreal Paris True Match Tinted Serum (£14.99) is the best Charlotte Tilbury alternative for Light Wonder we’ve found. The consistency matches. It gives the same shot of hydration to keep the skin looking plump. It leaves the skin looking radiant and is easy to blend. The only things missing are the addition of SPF, and the fact the L’Oreal version comes in one fewer shade – 9 instead of 10.
You can read how both of these foundations performed in our huge foundation group test via the spreadsheet here
THE ICON: Charlotte Tilbury’s Beauty Light Wand (£29) has won numerous awards and, as a result, is almost always sold out. Available in a range of shades – Spotlight, Peachgasm, Pinkgasm, Goldgasm, and Pillow Talk versions in Original and Medium – these wands use a soft cushion to gently apply the shimmering, lightweight cream formula to areas where you want to catch the light.
THE ALTERNATIVE: The Revolution Bright Light Highlighter (£8 ) wand is such an amazing makeup alternative for the Charlotte Tilbury icon that we honestly don’t think we’d be able to tell the difference in a blind test. For just £8, you get almost identical shades in the names Beam, Gold Lights, Radiance, Divine, Goddess and Strobe. The Gold Lights, in particular, is an identical match for Charlotte Tilbury’s Spotlight.
THE ICON: Charlotte Tilbury’s iconic Pillow Talk (£26) is so popular that one is sold every two minutes (according to the brand). This is because Pillow Talk is a matte nude-pink lipstick that is universal for all skin types.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Revolution’s range of matte lipsticks includes a number of cheap alternatives to Charlotte Tilbury’s bestseller. Choose from the shades Heart Race (£5), Icon (£5), or Chauffeur (£6.45). These are the closest we’ve found that comes to the tone, texture and finish of Charlotte Tilbury’s Pillow Talk. Each one is highly pigmented, glides on smoothly and they last for hours.
THE ICON: Charlotte’s Magic Away Concealer (£24) gives incredible full coverage for a flawless finish. It reduces the appearance of dark circles, blemishes and redness. The finish is natural and radiant. We like how the concealer stretches and keeps the under-eye area smooth – our one complaint is that it’s quite thick so can take a bit of work to blend out. This means it isn’t ideal for mature skin.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Revolution’s Makeup Revolution Eye Bright Concealer (£8) comes in 15 shades and is specifically targeted for under-eye dark circles. We love that this concealer contains Vitamin C, so it helps treat the eye area and brighten it naturally while giving you medium coverage. The texture is more creamy than Charlotte Tilbury’s thicker version and blends more easily.
THE ICON: Charlotte Tilbury sells 17 different versions of her £40 Luxury Palettes, each one offering a quadrant of shades designed to help you create an entire eyeshadow look with complementary colours and tones. Many of these are particularly suited for certain eye colours and this makes it easier to match and make a statement. One of our favourites is the Walk Of No Shame palette (£40). It contains three semi-shimmer, and one shimmer shade, with a mix of peach, champagne, sunset pink and berry blush crimson, which is like a rose gold sparkle.
THE ALTERNATIVE: We can hardly believe just how well the e.l.f Bite-Size eyeshadows mirror the shades offered by Charlotte Tilbury’s range. Especially when you consider that each four-pan palette costs just £3. The one that’s most similar to Charlotte Tilbury’s Walk of No Shame palette is the Berry Bad (£4).
FURTHER READING: How to choose a Charlotte Tilbury eyeshadow palette
It’s not cheap, far from it, but the entire Laura Mercier collection is designed to give a truly professional finish. This is because it’s been formulated by iconic makeup artist, Laura Mercier herself. We’ve previously reviewed the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturiser and we’re big fans of the Loose Setting Powder. However, neither is without great makeup alternatives, as we explain below.
THE ICON: We know the Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder (£32) is many people’s favourite setting powder and it’s almost sacrilege to suggest an alternative. It minimises the appearance of pores, fine lines and wrinkles without the caking effect we often get with setting powders. Being translucent, it’s also a universal shade that can be used on any skin tone although you can also buy alternative shades, in Medium Deep and Honey.
THE ALTERNATIVE: The e.l.f High Definition Powder (£6.50). only contains 8g of powder (compared to the 29g you get in the Laura Mercier version) but you could still buy almost four of these little pots of wonder for the same price. This High Definition powder is a great sheer powder that gives a soft-focus look, blurs pores and sets beautifully under the eyes.
FURTHER READING: Best setting powder
As you can read in our list of the best Glossier products, the brand sells a range of makeup and skincare items that have become staples in our collection. The brand regularly appears in our Best Buys lists – best concealer (Stretch Concealer), best primer (Glossier Futuredew) list and its Glossier Cloud Paint is one of the best blushers around. If you can’t stretch to Glossier prices, however, here are some cheap Glossier alternatives.
THE ICON: We love Glossier Boy Brow (£18) because it gives our brows an instant fluffy groomed brow look. It’s made of conditioning agents that give a flexible hold and it doesn’t flake. We love how Glossier also recently bought out an Auburn shade. The reason it’s so popular is that it picks up even the smallest of hairs to ensure a fuller-looking brow, without making them look fake.
THE ALTERNATIVE: e.l.f Cosmetics is one of the best cheap makeup brands around and it has a great Glossier Boy Brow alternative called WOW Brow Gel (£6). It comes in five shades to choose from and just like Glossier’s version, it gives full, voluminous natural-looking brows.
THE ICON: Glossier’s seamless cheek colour – Glossier Cloud Paint (£15) –has achieved almost cult status. It comes in eight shades and is a lightweight buildable gel-cream blusher that can also double up as lip tint or eyeshadow. It gives a lovely flush of colour to give a natural look to your skin. We love the shade Beam, which Glossier describes as a soft peach.
THE ALTERNATIVE: The MUA Makeup Academy Blushed Liquid Cream Blush (£3) is such an alternative for Glossier’s Cloud Paint we’re not sure we could tell the difference. It blends really nicely, just like Cloud Paint; it’s buildable, just like Cloud Paint, and it can also be used on your lips and eyes. It’s extremely pigmented for such a cheap product and feels soft to the touch. We’re big fans of MUA Makeup Academy and it features in our list of the best cheap makeup brands in the UK.
We’re obsessed with Huda Beauty here at mamabella. However, our bank balance is not. The brand’s eyeshadow palettes are highly pigmented, and we’re very big fans of her Wishful skincare range, but they each cost a pretty penny. Because of this, and because of just how popular the products are, cheap makeup brands tend to focus on duping them. Here are our favourites, like-for-like makeup alternatives for Huda Beauty.
THE ICON: As you can read in our Huda Beauty foundation review, the Faux Filter offers great coverage and all-day staying power. It’s one of the best foundations for oily skin and it comes in a great range of 39 shades. It doesn’t clog your pores and it’s transfer-proof, water-proof and smudge-proof. The downside is that it doesn’t come cheap, at £36.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Scoring an almost identical score to Huda Beauty’s Faux Filter in our best foundation group test, Maybelline’s 30H Superstay foundation is one of the best makeup alternatives we’ve found for the more expensive Huda Beauty version. It’s full coverage like the original. It’s water, transfer and humidity-proof. It lasts all day and gives a matte finish. The sacrifice you make for the cheaper price is that it’s only available in 20 shades, which is half the number of Huda Beauty shades.
Explore all of our favourite foundations in our best foundation spreadsheet
THE ICON: A remastered take on the original Rose Gold Palette (£56) from Huda Beauty is an absolute classic. It contains 18 highly versatile shades in a mix of rich mattes and pigmented shimmers ranging from brown nudes all the way up to deep berry reds. There’s even a black – which is unusual for an eyeshadow palette.
THE ALTERNATIVE: We have to admit, it was a somewhat tricky task to find a suitable Huda Beauty Rose Gold alternative but we think this palette from Revolution Pro Regeneration Palette Revelation (£8.99) comes close. It has 18 warm golds, nude and pink shades in a mix of mattes and shimmers that closely resemble the tones and shades seen in Huda Beauty’s version. Even black.
THE ICON: When Huda Beauty hit the market with its Liquid Matte Lipstick (£18), it soon became a sell-out. Within the collection, the shade Trendsetter is the perfect brown nude that will suit almost all skin tones and occasions. All liquid matte lipsticks in this collection are non-drying and feel light as a feather on the lips. They’re very highly pigmented with a suedette, long-lasting finish.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Maybelline sells a fantastic Huda Beauty makeup alternative called SuperStay Matt Ink (£9.99) and shade 70 “Amazonian” is a cheap alternative to the universal Trendsetter. We love that this matte lipstick has a precise applicator, like Huda Beauty’s icon. It’s non-drying and feels super comfortable on the lips. It’s also kiss-proof and lasts up to 12 hours.
£6 | Buy now
THE ICON: Huda Beauty’s Obsessions collection is a growing range of nine-pan eyeshadow palettes that are perfect as travel compacts. There are various Obsessions colourways to choose from – our faves are Gold Obsessions and Topaz Obsessions – but the most versatile of the bunch is the Nude Obsessions range (£27 each). Designed with three overarching skin tones in mind – light, medium, and dark – each palette has been designed to offer nude finishes no matter what tone you have. Each palette gives a mix of five mattes and four shimmer shadows and all nine shades are highly pigmented and blend nicely. These little beauties are great for creating everyday eyeshadow looks to smokey evening ones.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Makeup Revolution quite often rivals Huda Beauty for makeup alternatives and the palette closest to Nude Obsessions is the Makeup Revolution Ultimate Nude Palette range (£6 each). This range similarly offers three palettes for light, medium and dark skin tones, and each one contains nine shades along with five mattes and four shimmer eyeshadows. The sacrifice you make is that the Makeup Revolution palettes don’t contain a mirror, but everything else is almost identical.
THE ICON: The Rose Quartz Eyeshadow Palette (£58) from Huda Beauty is one of its latest palettes and it’s inspired by the crystal. The tones in this palette are rosy, earthy and pearly. It has a mix of eight velvety mattes, three high-shine buttery metallics, three pearly metallics, and three quartz-inspired shimmer marble creams. This palette is eye-catching and if you’re a big fan of soft rose tones with shimmer, this palette will be a dream.
THE ALTERNATIVE: The Morphe Coca-Cola X Morphe Cheerfully Cherry Artistry Palette (£17) has lovely pinky and earthy hues that match the Rose Quartz Palette. There is a mix of mattes, shimmers and metallics. We love the neutral tones and each row takes us by surprise. We love the pigment on this palette. The colours are a wide mix of cherry, peach, mauve and plum.
MAC Cosmetics is a staple brand for so many women but it can be a little on the pricey side. Here are some of the best MAC makeup alternatives for its range of lipsticks, foundations and more.
THE ICON: MAC Studio Fix Fluid (£29) is an iconic foundation. There are countless four- and five-star reviews from beauty users – including our own writer Lucy, in her Studio Fix Foundation review – and it’s particularly great for oily skin types. It contains SPF15 but doesn’t leave a white cast over the face and it offers medium, buildable coverage with a matte finish. We love this foundation as it gives great coverage and it lasts a long time.
THE ALTERNATIVE: There is only one worthy contender that could match Studio Fix for oily skin types and buildable medium coverage, and that’s Maybelline Fit Me (£5.99). It offers 40 shades which, while less than MAC is still great for a high-street brand and the Fit Me range is all about finding the perfect foundation match for your skin tone. Making skin look like skin. One small difference between this foundation versus the MAC Studio Fix is that the Maybelline version creates a natural finish, instead of a matte and doesn’t contain SPF.
THE ICON: MAC’s Velvet Teddy (£17.50) is an OG when it comes to matte lipstick. It’s the ultimate nude that is almost a perfect mix of brown and pink to suit almost all skin tones. This shade would be an ideal everyday nude and its matte formula gives a surprisingly high intense colour, zero shine and, most importantly, it lasts. It’s also creamy and rich so doesn’t leave your lips crying out for gloss or balm.
THE ALTERNATIVE: MAC’s Velvet Teddy matte lipstick is so iconic, we genuinely weren’t sure we’d be able to find an alternative. That was until we discovered the Wet n Wild MegaLast Color in Bare (£2.99). It’s the closest match to MAC’s lipstick we’ve found and if you’ve not heard of this brand, you’re missing out. Although it’s an American company, it’s one of the best cheap makeup brands available in the UK. This lipstick has a semi-matte finish which gives the lips more of a natural look and it keeps them hydrated for longer with the help of Vitamin E. Elsewhere, it gives four hour’s of wear, is rich in colour, and we think this is a perfect MAC alternative for that everyday nude lippy.
NARS is a favourite among influencers and makeup artists alike. Its concealer pot and its mascaras are bestsellers and the entire range has great staying power. However, as with all of the iconic makeup brands listed in this makeup alternatives UK guide, it doesn’t come particularly cheap. The good thing, though, is that because it’s so popular and so iconic, it’s attracted a number of brands looking to duplicate its success at a cheaper price point. Discover some of our favourite NARS alternatives below.
THE ICON: This foundation has become a cult classic. It gives such a beautifully lightweight, medium-to-full coverage and gives a natural glow to the skin. The NARS Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation (£37) comes in 33 shades and is transfer-resistant, long-wearing and has tone-balancing powders that mimic your own skin tone. We love the coverage we get for such a natural-looking finish.
THE ALTERNATIVE: NYX Born the Glow (£10) is a fantastic makeup alternative for the NARS Natural Radiant Longwear Foundation. Not only does it give a great medium coverage with a radiant finish but it offers up to 12-hours’ wear. Just like the NARS version, this cheap foundation works with your skin to help create that smooth and even-toned look. This formula is really buildable and does a great job reducing the appearance of pores. What’s more, this foundation comes in 45 shades.
THE ICON: The NARS Climax mascara (£22) gets rave reviews – which includes us – for its innovative brush. Not only does it curve and dip in the middle, but its ribbed bristles pick up a perfect amount of product each time, giving an intense black colour with plenty of volume.
THE ALTERNATIVE: If you saw the wand of the NARS Climax mascara next to that of Maybelline’s The Falsies Instant Lash Lift mascara (£10), you’d be forgiven for not being able to instantly tell the difference. It gives a very similar lift and volume. The only sacrifice you make is that it can take an extra coat to achieve the intense black colour you get from the original, but this is a minor inconvenience for the sake of saving £12 in our opinion.
THE ICON: NARS iconic Orgasm range is full of matching and complementary lipsticks, lip glosses, highlighters, eyeshadows and lip balms. This NARS blusher (£25) is red/pink with a golden shimmer and we love it. It gives a flush of colour to your cheeks; the kind you get after sex. Hence the name!
THE ALTERNATIVE: This NARS Orgasm X blusher alternative from Sleep MakeUP (£4.99) is uncanny, right down to the light shimmer of gold running through its red/pink. Sleek MakeUP is one of the best cheap makeup brands around because, despite being affordable, you don’t need to sacrifice too much on quality. This blusher glides on well and is highly pigmented, just like the NARS original.
THE ICON: NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer gives great coverage as well giving a radiant finish, it’s a medium coverage concealer that is buildable. It gives a softer smoother complexion while covering dark circles and signs of fatigue. It’s a favourite for many makeup lovers.
THE ALTERNATIVE: The NYX Professional Makeup HD Photogenic Concealer is just as creamy as the NARS original, it gives a medium to full coverage with a natural-looking finish. This concealer is perfect for building to full coverage without looking cakey, it helps blur out blemishes and pigmentation.
Hourglass is one of those brands that we’d love to be able to buy loads of, but the prices are just that little too high for one product. Let alone multiple! When we have bought them, they’ve more than delivered. This means finding alternatives is harder than usual, but we’ve managed it. Here are our favourite Hourglass makeup alternatives.
THE ICON: Hourglass’ Veil Primer (£53) is one of the most luxurious primers out there. It has countless reviews of how perfect it is at priming the skin before makeup. It’s even good enough to wear on its own. Among its many benefits is that it’s oil-free, waterproof and it feels so light on your face. What’s more, it contains SPF 15, minimises pores and reduces fine lines.
THE ALTERNATIVE: It’s hard to believe we have an alternative for the famous Hourglass Veil Primer, but NYX Angel Veil (£13) has very similar ingredients – sharing at least five including Cyclopentasiloxane, Isododecane, Alumina, Stearic Acid and Titanium Dioxide – that perform almost as well, for a staggering £40 less.
It feels as light on the skin as the Hourglass version and creates a great base for makeup. It’s also pretty decent at controlling oily areas of the skin. The one downside, and is part of the reason why it’s so much cheaper, is that the NYX version contains Palmitic Acid which is found in palm oil.
THE ICON: As iconic concealers go, you don’t get much better than the YSL Touche Eclat. It’s lightweight and blends like a dream and its brush applicator means you only use what you need. Not only does it brighten and illuminate the skin, but it’s also enriched with skincare ingredients including hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and caffeine to hydrate, nourish, and energise the skin. Perfect for dark circles. Available in 13 shades.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Just like YSL’s icon, Revolution Pro’s Brightening and Tightening Under Eye Concealing Wand is great for concealing and treating under-eye imperfections such as dark circles, puffiness, and fine lines. The wand applicator makes it easy to apply the product precisely where it is needed, and the lightweight formula allows for easy blending for a seamless finish. The downside is that the shades are very limited.
Benefit is an OG of department store beauty halls and for good reason. It sells a range of fantastic products in multiple categories. However, it doesn’t come cheap. If you want to get the benefits (excuse the pun) of the brand without paying through the nose for them, we’ve found these Benefit makeup alternatives.
THE ICON: The much-loved Benefit Hoola Matte Bronzer (£27.50) is hugely popular. For many people, particularly of a certain age, it will likely have been your first introduction to bronzer. This matte powder is dubbed ‘beach in a box!’ and it’s an award-winning bronzer that gives a natural-looking healthy tan all year round. Not only can this be used for adding a golden goddess look, but it’s also great for contouring. Speaking of which, it comes with a handy makeup brush to apply this bronzer.
THE ALTERNATIVE: NYX Professional Makeup Matte Bronzer (£8) is a great makeup alternative for Benefit’s Hoola. It gives an incredibly similar matte finish and the shade medium is the perfect match for the OG powder. It also gives a great natural healthy glow to the skin. We like using it for light contouring and it’s also great to use on body parts because it gives a smooth finish that is seamless. This bronzer comes in five shades.
THE ICON: Having been a child of the 1990s, which means we plucked our eyebrows into obscurity, we simply don’t have enough hair to take advantage of the modern trend of fuller and more natural brows. As a result, we turn to tinted brow gels daily and until recently, our go-to product was Benefit’s Gimme Brow (£23.50). It not only tints and darkens your natural hairs, but it also features a spoolie brush that’s coated with microfibres. These fibres grab onto the skin and natural hairs to create the illusion of natural-looking fluffiness.
THE ALTERNATIVE: At almost half the price of our icon from Benefit, the Tint n Tame Brow Gel from Florence by mills (£14) has the same small fibre-coated brush with tinted gel. It can fill in gaps in your brows while making the hairs you do have look natural and full. It has one fewer shade than the Benefit Gimme Brow but this is a small price to pay for a £9.50 saving. These five shades range from blonde to honey, brown, dark brown and black – with the addition of a clear gel that’s perfect for shaping and control, but without the tint.
THE ICON: Benefit is an OG when it comes to eyebrow products and its eyebrow pencil is one of the best in the range and on the market. It’s no surprise, then, that it’s a Benefit bestseller. The Benefit Precisely My Eyebrow Pencil (£22.50) comes in a good range of shades, creates natural-looking hair strokes and is smudge-proof for 12 hours.
THE ALTERNATIVE: The NYX Micro Brow Pencil (£9) may not offer as many shades as Benefit but it performs just as well. It helps create full, thick-looking brows with just as much ease as the original. It also has an ultra-fine tip that recreates Benefit’s natural-looking strokes.
FURTHER READING: Spotlight on…Benefit – the OG eyebrow and makeup brand
We’re huge fans of IT Cosmetics here at mamabella. It’s far from cheap – so goes slightly against our ethos of finding affordable, everyday favourites – but for IT Cosmetics, we’ll make an exception. Mainly because every makeup item is formulated with dermatologists. This means you get a whole load of bang for your buck in terms of getting skincare and makeup in one. If that’s your thing, check out our skincare makeup guide.
THE ICON: Regular readers of mamabella will know that we love the IT Cosmetics CC+ Cream (£32). It leaves skin looking like, well, skin while providing full coverage along with sun protection of SPF 50. This CC Cream conceals dark spots, reduces the appearance of your pores and leaves the skin looking dewy and fresh. It also has built-in skin-boosting properties. It can feasibly replace at least four products in one, but £32 is still a bit steep, especially if you’re on a budget.
THE ALTERNATIVE: We love that a high-street brand can hold its own against the likes of IT Cosmetics and that’s exactly what Maybelline achieves with its Dream Urban Cover (£10.99). It offers 20 shades, leaves skin looking natural, yet fully covered, and is buildable. Even the tubes are similar, and for such an affordable product we’re astounded that the Dream Urban Cover also comes with SPF 50. A true IT Cosmetics CC+ cream alternative.
FURTHER READING: IT Cosmetics foundation review
THE ICON: The famous Estée Lauder Double Wear foundation (£34) is a firm favourite for oily/combination skin types. Not only does it come in a fantastic 60 shades, each one promises 24-hour staying power. Double Wear leaves the skin with a matte finish, and the foundation is oil-free while keep shine, sweat and humidity to a minimum. It gives medium-to-full coverage and we rate it very highly. It’s why it appears on our best foundation, and best foundation for oily skin lists.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Another great high-street brand that can match a premium brand is L’Oreal with its Infallible Pro Matte Foundation (£10.99). Like the Estée Lauder original, L’Oreal’s £10 version similarly gives 24-hour staying power, creates a matte finish and offers medium-to-full coverage. The formula gives a blurring effect while still giving a natural look to the skin. Infallible Pro-Matte Foundation is also sweat-proof, heat-proof and transfer-proof. An absolute bargain and a great Double Wear alternative. If you’re a fan of Estee Lauder skincare, we recently found a great skincare alternative for the Advanced Night Repair serum that will save you £53!
Read our full Estée Lauder Double Wear review here
THE ICON: Too Faced Better Than Sex Mascara (£22) was launched in 2013 and to this day it flys off the shelf. According to Too Faced, one is sold every 7.3 seconds. It took the creators three years to make the perfect formula and, once created, co-founder Jerrod Blandino screamed “Oh my god that’s better than sex!” Hence the name. We love the soft pink metallic tube that it comes in. The brush is fluffy, it has very tightly packed bristles and has an hourglass shape. There is also a film-forming polymer to help lock the curl of the lashes in place and peptides in the ingredients to condition the lashes so they don’t feel too hard or crisp.
THE ALTERNATIVE: L’Oreal Paris’ Paradise Mascara (£5.49, usually £11.99) has been THE alternative mascara for Better Than Sex for years. The brush is soft, and while the bristles may not be as tightly compacted as its more expensive rival, it has the same hourglass shape and provides remarkably similar coverage, length and curl. Containing castor oil to ensure you’re left with soft-looking lashes, this mascara will also condition them. It gives the lashes a fluttery look that is buildable too.
Fenty Beauty has completely changed the game when it comes to inclusive beauty. Instead of offering a range of shades and products as an afterthought, to tick diversity boxes, the entire Fenty Beauty collection is designed with an inclusive ethos. The tagline is Beauty for All and it specialises in making sure it represents every skin type and tone across its Fenty Beauty and Fenty Skin ranges.
THE ICON: Rhianna’s Fenty Beauty Match Stix range has become a firm favourite. Within the range are three types of Stix – Contour, Shimmer, and Glow – and within these subcategories are a mix of shades. The Contour range is great for contouring but it’s creamy and buildable enough to double up as a bronzer, eyeshadow and (in the case of the lighter shades) concealer. The Shimmer Stix are used as highlighters and blushers, while the Glow Stix adds a dewy glow to the skin.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Coming with the same buildable, cream-to-powder formula as Fenty Beauty’s Match Stix are the Collection Cosmetics Gorgeous Glow sticks (£4.99 each). Just like their expensive rival, these sticks are available in three steps – contour, blusher, and highlighter. These Fenty Match Stix alternatives blend as smoothly as the iconic trio but we actually found that the cheaper formula lasted longer on the skin. The downside is that there is only one shade available in each category, but these shades will suit a range of tones.
THE ICON: The iconic Fenty Beauty Gloss Bomb comes in four universal shades, and, as huge fans of nude shades, our fave is the Gloss Bomb Fenty Glow (£17). It’s a lovely rose nude shade that compliments most skin tones and comes with the moisturising properties found across the line. In particular, Fenty’s Gloss Bomb has shea butter to keep lips plump and soft, and the shine on this makes lips look instantly fuller and smoother. It has a non-stick formula and, as Rihanna said: “I made it because I wanted the girls to get kissed more.” Pucker up!
THE ALTERNATIVE: It was tough to find an alternative for Gloss Bomb from Fenty but we did it! Maybelline Lifter Gloss Plumping Lip Gloss in Topaz (£8.99) is a near-on perfect, cheaper match. It leaves lips feeling as hydrated and plump as its more expensive rival and the shade match is pretty darn close. Even the shimmer in the gloss comes remarkably close. Packed with hyaluronic acid to give lips the look of smoothness, this plumping wand is XL to apply with ease in one swipe.
THE ICON: If you’ve read our cheat products article, you’ll be well versed in The Quick Flick. Australian entrepreneur Iris Smith was always fond of beauty and spent countless hours attempting the winged eyeliner before realising there must be a better way. She launched the first The Quick Flick Eyeliner stamps 2017 and they’ve quickly become one of the most sought-after ways to create even, smooth-winged eyeliner looks in seconds. The classic Modest version (£19.99) is one of the best sellers and we love how easy it is to use.
THE ALTERNATIVE: The perfect alternative for The Quick Flick is the Lottie Stamp Liner: Wing Edition (£5.95). It’s one of Lottie London’s bestsellers. It recently went viral on TikTok and it’s 100% vegan, which is also the case with The Quick Flick. It is chunkier in size, closer to The Quick Flick’s Grande version, but it shares the same double-ended. For the cheaper price, you only get one pen but it’s still possible to create effortless winged eyeliner in seconds, on both eyes. Lottie London recently made it onto our best cheap makeup brands page, so we can vouch for the quality of the entire range
THE ICON: The sheer Clinique Black Honey Almost lipstick (£19.50) has been on everyone’s lip (excuse the pun) and has been sold out everywhere for months. However, it’s now back in stock! It’s a transparent lipstick that has a pigment that merges and gives your lips a unique natural tone. It has a sheer, glossy, lightweight finish.
THE ALTERNATIVE: The colour of Black Honey is actually dark cherry and we did manage to find the perfect alternative for it – the e.l.f Hydrating Core Lip Shine (£6). It gives the same sheer yet glossy finish to the lips too. There is a cute heart-shaped core that is filled with Vitamin E to ensure that your lips feel hydrated. Absolutely gorgeous.
THE ICON: Victoria Beckham’s Beauty Brand was originally launched in 2019 and it was created as a clean way to get luxury makeup. One of its bestsellers is The Posh Lipstick (£34) It comes in nine shades and it offers next-level luxury for lips with great pigment. This means it gives lips rich colour, moisture and a soft shine. We got the Pout shade in one of last year’s beauty advent calendars and can confirm it offers great hydration with surprising staying power.
THE ALTERNATIVE: With a matching nine shades, the Glossier Ultralip (£14) gives the lips almost identical hydration with a sheen of gloss for buildable colour. It has a soft buttery feel, just like the Victoria Beckham icon. The Posh Lipstick has an iconic 90s shade that was worn by Posh when she was in The Spice Girls and the colour Cachet in the Glossier range is the perfect match for the famous shade.
THE ICON: The £17 Beauty Blender makeup sponge has become so popular and famous, many people refer to any beauty sponge as a Beauty Blender. Even if those sponges have absolutely no affiliation with the brand. This may also be because, how different can one beauty sponge *really* be when compared to another? Of course, the makers of expensive blenders will list all sorts of ways in which theirs is the best but, as a rule, little separates them. In its favour, the Beauty Blender is the softest sponge we’ve used and, when wet, hardly absorbs any makeup product at all.
THE ALTERNATIVE: For more than half the price, the Real Techniques Miracle Sponge (£5.99) performs as well, if not better, than the original Beauty Blender. In fact, you can buy four of these miracle sponges for the same price as just one Beauty Blender. It combines the soft material of the original, with the same tapered end and round edges. However, the Real Techniques sponge additionally has a flat side, adding greater versatility. It’s not as soft as the Beauty Blender, but if you get it wet enough (and squeeze out the excess) it comes close in both texture and performance.
FURTHER READING: How to clean beauty blenders
THE ICON: The Tattoo Liner Liquid Eyeliner (£18.99) from Kat Von D has garnered a cult status. The brand itself can be a little hit and miss but this eyeliner – as well as the Good Apple foundation which recently went viral on TikTok – but this eyeliner is superb. It’s waterproof and can be worn all day with any smudging. The fine line tip is inspired by tattoo artistry to get the most precise application possible. You can create thick, bold eyeliner looks if you press a little firmer. Or it’s great for layering so that you can get that perfect look.
THE ALTERNATIVE: L’Oreal Paris Flash Winged Eyeliner (£8.99) has a similarly great precision tip to create that perfect wing look. The formula is waterproof and stays all day without fading or smudging and it goes on just as smoothly as KVD’s Tattoo Liner. We LOVE the fact it comes with a stencil to help you nail the shape of the wing and this stencil can be stored on the cap, to avoid it getting lost.
THE ICON: Chantecaille has been one of France’s biggest luxury beauty brands for more than 20 years and its Compact Makeup powder foundation has been at the heart of the brand since the start. Despite being a powder, this foundation gives surprisingly good coverage. It helps conceal redness, balance skin tone and creates a mattifying effect making it great for oily skin types. For the high price, you also get antioxidant ingredients, including gooseberry extract, to protect your skin from pollution. There are eight shades to choose from, ranging from light with even undertones to deep tan.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Nude by Nature’s Radiant Loose Powder Foundation brings many – and more – of the same benefits as Chantecaille’s version at less than half the price. It comes in almost three times the number of shades. It has an SPF 15 rating (Chantecaille’s doesn’t contain SPF) and it protects and conditions the skin with skincare ingredients such as jojoba esters, kakadu plum and kaolin clay. Jojoba is used to soften and nourish; kakadu plum brings antioxidant protection and the clay helps absorb excess oil and boosts the foundation’s staying power. The coverage is just as good and the only real difference is that Nude By Nature’s foundation is a loose powder, whereas Chanetcaille’s is a compact.
THE ICON: The lovely cream-gel formula of Chanel’s Healthy Glow Bronzing (£43) is the secret to effortless, glowing, bronzed skin. It is such a lightweight easy-blendable bronzer and is so smooth, it gives the perfect sun-kissed glow we usually only get from a holiday! We love applying it to our shoulder bones, neck as well as on our face to make it look more natural.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Not only is it rare to find a bronzing gel-cream, as opposed to a powder or lotion, but it’s also rare to find one that is so cheap, but that’s what you get with the W7 Bronze Chic Bronzing Balm (£5.95). It’s just as easy to apply as Chanel’s £43 version and melts into the skin to give an almost identical flawless bronzed look. All for £37.50 cheaper!
THE ICON: Natasha Denona is a Croatian-born makeup artist with more than 20 years of experience. Her eyeshadow palettes are all superb and we are in love with the Natasha Denona Sunset Palette (£111). It’s full of rich burnt oranges, deep browns and gives a lovely Autumn vibe. It will suit also suit a wide range of skin tones, although it won’t suit most people’s budgets…
THE ALTERNATIVE: The Natasha Denona Sunset Palette is gorgeous and finding a makeup alternative was hard but we’ve found one that comes pretty close for a whopping 90% of the price! This alternative is called the Makeup Revolution Flawless Forever Fire Eyeshadow Palette (£12). The colours and shimmers are a great match and we feel this may be the best makeup alternative we’ve ever uncovered!
THE ICON: Setting spray is such a makeup essential, especially if you have oily skin, or you live somewhere humid. In fact, it’s an essential piece of kit regardless of skin type and location – yet finding a good one is much harder than it should be. The Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray (£26) is largely renowned as one of the best setting sprays there is because it does what it promises; it helps your makeup last for up to 16 hours. It controls the oily T-zone and doesn’t set into fine lines. This is suitable for all skin types and even contains a patented temperature control technology inside. Yup, it lowers the temperature of the makeup to keep foundation, concealer, eyeshadow and blush in place without it melting off our faces! An OG.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Whilst on the hunt for a setting spray that works as well as Urban Decay’s All Nighter but without the £26 price tag, we happened upon the e.l.f Stay All Night Setting Mist (£9). Not only does it feel as lightweight on the skin as the more expensive spray, but it also lasts up to 16 hours. Just like the All Nighter. It’s suited for all skin types and we like that it’s infused with green tea, cucumber and aloe to keep the skin look fresh for longer. The one catch is that it does come in 80ml bottle, which gives us 38ml less than the 118ml Urban Decay All Nighter bottle. However, the price of this little beauty means you can buy two bottles of the e.l.f version and still be under budget.
THE ICON: The Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops (£34) in shade Candlelight gives the most highly pigmented glow. The warm shimmery golden bronze sheen, which is similar to how your skin would look in candlelight, suits most skin tones and the enhanced droppers have been created to be used with foundation, highlighter, bronzer, or even on their own as a highlighter. We love the pigmentation and although they’re pricey, a little goes a long way.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Barry M Liquid Chrome Highlighter Drops (£6.99) is the best makeup alternative for Cover FX’s drops and they just happen to be a staggering £27 cheaper. Barry M is renowned as one of the best cheap makeup brands in the UK and has become famous for the pigments in its products. There are five shades in the Barry M Liquid Chrome Highlighter Drops collection but Liquid Fortune is the perfect match for Cover FX. The pigment is just as strong and Chrome is really eye-catching. Like its more expensive rival, there’s no need to use a lot because a small amount goes a long way. This can also be added to foundation, bronzer and even highlighter.
THE ICON: The gorgeous, and infamous Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation (£43) is largely revered as one of the best foundations around. We’ve featured it on our best foundation, and best foundation for mature skin lists because it gives a flawless natural finish. This lightweight foundation provides medium coverage and contains light-reflecting particles that give the skin a luminous look. Hence the name. It goes on smoothly with no effort needed and it is buildable so you can increase the amount of coverage needed, should you want to.
THE ALTERNATIVE: Finding an alternative for one of the most-loved foundations on the market was no mean feat but we think we’ve found one that comes remarkably close. Not only does the consistency match, thanks to containing almost identical ingredients, the Rimmel London Match Perfection Foundation (£8.99) offers uncannily similar medium coverage that is also buildable. Not to mention it keeps skin looking flawless and natural. It’s easy to blend into the skin, offers up to 24 hours of moisture to the skin and contains SPF 20.
Read our full Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk foundation review here
A makeup alternative refers to a product that performs as well, or better, than a more expensive makeup product but is cheaper. It’s not a rip-off of the original, nor is it a fake version of a premium product. We do not recommend buying anything that is an actual rip-off of makeup or skincare because you don’t know how safe the ingredients are.
What you’ll likely find with buying cheaper makeup and makeup alternatives, as a rule, is that they don’t always have the staying power of more expensive makeup. The pigment or finish may be identical but you may find it wears off quicker.
If this is the case, use some of the money you’re saving on cheaper makeup by investing in the best primer, or the best setting spray. This way, you don’t need to sacrifice a long-lasting finish for a cheaper price.
Victoria is founder and editor-in-chief of mamabella, freelance journalist and Mum. She has a passion for empowering people to feel beautiful whatever their age, size, skin type and budget