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Splurge or save? These are the beauty products worth spending (or saving) on, according to experts

Sometimes that expensive serum is worth investing in.
Vivian Le / TODAY
/ Source: TODAY

Building a proper beauty routine can be a daunting and sometimes pricey task. The good news is that, as with many things in life, this is one area where a little budgeting and expert intel can go a long way in helping you stretch those hard-earned dollars.

Since this might look different for everybody, NewBeauty’s Senior Editor-at-Large Sarah Eggenberger stopped by TODAY to share her suggestions on what beauty products are suitable for you and your budget. You'll find luxury finds in moisturizers, all the way to affordable picks in categories like hair treatments.

With that, she advises three guidelines to consider when shopping for beauty products: cost per use, expected results and area of concern. “Divide the cost of the item by the number of times you anticipate using it to provide your cost per use breakdown,” she suggests. Follow that with determining whether the product and quality of ingredients will provide you with your desired outcome. “If breakouts, aging, hair loss, for example are your concern, then prioritize those products and use more capital on [them].”

Nonetheless, each of these products are noteworthy mentions, especially for all that they do. But before selling yourself short on a skin-saving serum or a hydrating cleanser, read on to discover products worthy of their dollar signs.

Beauty products to splurge or save on as seen on TODAY | Beauty products for every budget

Beauty products to splurge or save on, seen on TODAY

Skin Care

Splurge on: Moisturizer

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream

“For the moisture-obsessed and those chasing an effortless glow, the First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream is exactly what you need,” says Eggenberger. “The moisturizer contains colloidal oatmeal that strengthens the skin’s barrier.” The award-winning cream also promises to provide 24 hour hydration, along with relief for those with dry and/or eczema-prone skin. 

Save on: Eye Cream 

CeraVe Under Eye Cream Repair

A good quality eye cream doesn’t need to break the bank. Case in point: This CeraVe eye cream. The product tackles multiple issues in one, such as dark circles, dryness and puffiness, according to the brand. CeraVe contributes this to the blend of ceramides and hyaluronic acid inside the formula. 

Splurge on: Antioxidant Serums

Dr. Dennis Gross Vitamin C Firm & Bright Serum

According to Eggenberger, antioxidant compounds — like vitamin C — are more difficult to formulate, which leads to them being more expensive. “[They] are worth investing in high quality, high concentration formulas,” she adds. Plus, antioxidant serums often tackle the most difficult skin concerns, including discoloration and hyperpigmentation. 

“The star ingredient here is vitamin C,  your sunscreen’s ultimate sidekick,” explains Eggenberger. “Vitamin C serums should be a staple in your skin care routine.” Be sure to not use vitamin C alongside chemical exfoliants (AHAs, BHAs and more) and retinol to prevent irritation and a damaged skin barrier. 

Save on: Hydrating Serums

Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Face Serum

Just like vitamin C, hyaluronic acid should also be your best friend. “The molecule, hyaluronic acid — a humectant — is popular among skin care experts, [and] acts like a tiny sponge that pulls in water to quench and plump skin,” explains Eggenberger. This Vichy serum has the molecule as its key ingredient, offering tons of hydration with a lightweight, non-sticky feel, according to the brand.  


Splurge on: Eye Pencils 

Dior 24H* STYLO Waterproof Eyeliner

The eye area is one of the most delicate parts of the face because the skin is thin, which is why a gentle eye product is a must. “Here’s where you want to spend your money,” recommends Eggenberger. “Pencils are made from wax and you want them to glide gently across your eyes. If they don’t, it’s like a record scratching and can cause damage to the eye, leading to Botox bills.”

This eyeliner promises bold color and a smooth line each time, offering you multiple ways to achieve a new makeup look. Eggenberger notes that “Its precise applicator tip dresses the eyes in deep color with a matte or pearly finish, depending on the shade of the eyeliner,” plus that the waterproof formula should allow the intensity of the color to last up to 24 hours. 

Save on: Eyeshadow 

L’Oréal La Palette Nude

For the cost, you get tons of play time with all of the shadows within this palette. There’s everything from soft pinks to dark browns, which also come in three shadow finishes: A shimmery satin, a classic matte and a lustrous sheen. The palette even comes with a blending eyeshadow brush to aid with application

Splurge on: Lipstick

YSL Beauty Rouge Volupte Shine Lipstick Balm

“The fact is, lip glosses rarely last, so why spend big bucks on them?” says Eggenberger. “As for lipsticks, the formulations from iconic and incredible makeup artist brands can’t be beaten. Given how much lipstick people accidentally eat over the course of a lifetime, it’s good to have a formulation you trust.”

Unlike some lipsticks, this pick from YSL Beauty claims to leave tons of shine and hydration to the lips, along with a sheer color. It has a balm-like texture because the product is infused with 65% essential oils. Additionally, it should last all-day and improve the appearance and feel of the lips after a few weeks. 

Save on: Lip Gloss

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Lip Shine

Glossy lips are one of the most popular makeup trends right now. Just as the name of this gloss suggests, this tinted product leaves a high-gloss shine that doesn’t feel sticky or drying. On top of that, the brand says the tint is as impactful as a lipstick, and the hydration is similar to that of a balm. Essentially, you get the benefits of three products in one. 


Splurge on: Hair Tools

T3 AireLuxe Blow Dryer

While there are affordable hair tools on the market, this category is where Eggenberger recommends investing in. “Not only does a good blow dryer save you time, but [it] also cuts down on heat exposure,” she says. “Less drying time means less damage. And a good blow dryer lasts forever.” 

Eggenberger defines this T3 product as a “sleek designed, professional hair dryer that auto-adjusts its heat and speed to your hair texture and styling goals for speedier drying and superior results with less damage.” And with these features, you’re able to dry, smooth, diffuse and volumize with this hair dryer alone. 

Save on: Shampoo & Conditioner 

Aveda Rosemary Mint Purifying Shampoo 

A purifying shampoo is a must for removing product build-up and other impurities, but it can sometimes leave the hair feeling overly dry and crunchy. But since this shampoo has micelles, a surfactant, and white vinegar, your wash should feel gentle and squeaky clean. And the minty scent? Eggenberger says it’s “iconic” to the brand. 

Aveda Rosemary Mint Weightless Conditioner

To pair with this shampoo is the matching conditioner, which is equally as light and invigorating in scent but does wonders for improving tangles, boosting shine and giving the strands more body.

Beauty products for every budget

Eggenberger was previously on the show to share some of her top beauty picks across various categories, such as skin care and makeup, that accommodate every budget.


“Cleansing is an essential step vital for removing makeup, product residue and excess oil, as well as for prepping skin for future product application and targeting concerns like dullness and congestion,” says Eggenberger. “If you aren’t cleansing your face properly with the best cleanser for your skin’s needs, it’s very hard for everything that follows in your routine to go right.”

Brandefy Superfood Nourish Cleanser

The secret to glowing skin? Feeding it with antioxidants. This Brandefy cleanser “helps whisk away impurities and makeup, prevent pore buildup and promote a healthy pH level,” says Eggenberger, all while pampering your skin with vitamins and other goods.

Youth to The People Kale + Antioxidant Superfood Face Cleanser

While on the pricier side, this cleanser is worth it. “One of the most popular cleansers for its green smell, green color and literally green superfood ingredients like kale, spinach, and green tea is Youth To The People Superfood Cleanser,” explains Eggenberger. “It’s a non-stripping, gentle gel cleanser that can remove makeup and dirt. The superfood antioxidant ingredients definitely kick up the efficiency and efficacy of this product.” Even better? It can work for all skin types. 


“When we’re looking for something dewy and easy to blend or layer, turn to cream eyeshadows for their innate ability to elevate an otherwise neutral makeup look with their luxurious textures, which also makes them a favorite among beginners and pros alike,” suggests Eggenberger. 

“Cream eyeshadows also offer a fast, no-fuss application, free of the fallout we often see in pressed powders. You can simply tap on the pigment with your finger without needing to spend extra time buffing it out.”

Clover by Clove + Hallow Plush Pigment Eyeshadow Stick

Don't want to spend a ton on a new eyeshadow? We got you covered. Simply glide this eyeshadow stick — which comes in at less than $20 — across the lid to revel in all of its pigment. Since it is made out of shea butter and plant waxes, the product should be as seamless to blend just as it is to apply. According to reviews, you can also easily layer the various eyeshadow colors together to create your own eye look. 

Charlotte Tilbury Eyes to Mesmerize Eyeshadow

The formula inside this cream shadow is a professional and amateur makeup artist-favorite. While it applies lightweight, the pigment is described as long-lasting and highly impactful. And in a sense, you could say this is a skin care-meets-makeup product since it's enriched with vitamin E to hydrate and condition the lids. “This is the secret to a shimmering chic eyeshadow look… These cream shadows will do everything you need them to,” says Eggenberger.” 

Shaving Cream

“‘Your shave is only as good as the cream you use," might not be age-old fact, but for many, it’s true. Whether you’re shaving your whole face or detailing around a beard, using the best shaving creams for men can make all the difference,” explains Eggenberger.

Aveeno Shaving Cream

Aveeno’s shaving cream was formulated to be gentle on the skin, leading to less razor bumps, less irritation and less nicks. The reason behind that is because it is highly lubricating with oats and vitamin E, according to the brand, which aid in moisturizing and protecting the skin. Plus, it's less than $5!

Dior Sauvage Shaving Gel

“Dior Sauvage shaving Gel is translucent, non-foaming texture which allows for a precise shave, ideal for grooming beards and mustaches,” suggests Eggenberger. It also claims to protect the skin against any cuts and other shaving concerns, offering your blade an impressingly smooth glide against the skin as you’re hit with the aroma of the woody Sauvage scent. 


The benefits of a moisturizer are aplenty: Preventing dryness, boosting your skin elasticity and maintaining overall skin health. It is one of the, if not the most important (besides sunscreen, of course), step in your skin care routine as it helps to lock all of your serums, toners and more in. And better yet, your moisturizer could have an impact on how seamless your makeup base blends. 

Mario Badescu Caviar Cream

At only $22, this Mario Badescu Caviar Cream is a treat for the skin and your wallet. "[It's] the ultimate moisturizer for dry and sensitive skin in need of some quenching,” raves Eggenberger. “With a concoction of luxurious ingredients, this face cream will nourish depleted skin, leaving a radiant appearance without dry lines and wrinkles.” Although it is labeled as a night cream, it works wonderfully as a day cream, too, according to reviews.

La Prairie Caviar Luxe Cream

This luxurious cream “contains the Exclusive Cellular Complex, La Prairie’s science signature/patented ingredient." The formula helps the skin appear lifted and assists in improving firmness and elasticity while reducing fine lines and wrinkles. While this seems too good to be true, the brand has the science to back it up. “After 8 weeks, instrumental measurements recorded an increase in epidermal thickness, density of collagen and increase in skin elasticity”

Hair treatments

“Hair bonding treatments work to undo the major breakage and dullness down to the minor tangles and major split ends,” explains Eggenberger. “Every product is different in how it ‘bonds’ the hair back, but they repair hair from within by mimicking internal bonds. When the bonds in the hair are repaired, the moisture of the hair holds better, creating shiny, silky and stronger hair, and prevents hair color from fading as fast.”

Not Your Mothers Intense Bonding Treatment

This bonding treatment is meant to be used before your shampoo. The brand says once it's in the hair and washed out, your strands should feel softer and bouncier. They contribute this to their ‘Active Bonding Technology,’ “which protects bonds from initial breakage and repairs broken bonds from severe damage,” says Eggenberger.

Olaplex No.3 Hair Perfector

“This novel technology penetrates the hair cuticle and forms strong, covalent bonds in order to repair the inner cortex of the hair in minutes,” explains Eggenberger. “By working on a molecular level to re-link the broken disulfide bonds, their Olaplex bond-building technology dramatically improves the strength of the hair while making it more durable and resilient toward future damage.” This means protection against chemical treatments, heat, styling and more.

Makeup to splurge or save on

Experts across all categories of cosmetics, from skin care to makeup, gave TODAY an insight of the kind of products are generally ideal for splurging on, and which are best to save on. Every budget is different and products are based on what the experts below have tried and reviewed by their own expertise and clients.

Save on: Blush, mascara, lipstick and eyebrow pencils

Maybelline Cheek Heat Gel Cream

With so many amazing new drugstore formulas on the market, New York-based makeup artist Mary Irwin says a healthy-looking flush is something that shouldn’t be hard to come by. Irwin's current favorite is this gel-cream from Maybelline for its natural finish and flexibility.

“The oil-free formula is lightweight and buildable, offering breathable color that you can control," Irwin said. "The squeezable tube is also convenient, especially for traveling."

L’Oréal Voluminous Original Mascara

For Tara Dowburd, a makeup artist and founder of Make-Up Therapy, nothing beats the tried-and-true L'Oréal Voluminous Original Mascara. “It thickens, lengthens and separates lashes just as well — if not better — than popular luxury formulas,” she said.

Winky Lux Uni-Brow

Katherine Dorn, a celebrity makeup artist at Pierre Michel Salon, has found that brow formulas don’t typically differ as much, with consumers often paying more for a brand name and packaging. In fact, this "uni-brow" from Winky Lux is as convenient as it is versatile.

“It has a slanted pencil on one side for drawing small hairs and filling in any patches, and a spoolie brush on the other for grooming untamed hairs," Dorn told us. "It creates a natural effect and the universal shade looks good on all hair colors."

L’Oréal Colour Riche Lipcolour

Swiping on, or swapping in, a pigment-packed lipstick is one of the easiest and cost-effective ways to switch up your look. And according to Dowburd, the Colour Riche Lipcolour from L’Oréal boasts saturated, lasting color without stripping lips of moisture.

“Each lipstick in this line has a silky-smooth texture and is super-hydrating (because of omega 3, vitamin E and argan oil)," Dowburd said. "It stays on like nobody’s business and comes in 40 brilliant shades that I can use on my clients, from the darkest to the lightest skin tones." Some of her favorite universal shades include Spice, Brazil Nut, Toasted Almond and Nature’s Blush.

Splurge on: Brushes, eye shadow, foundation and setting powder

Bobbi Brown Full Coverage Face Brush

When it comes to makeup, experts say application can be just as important as the formulas themselves. Dowburd has come to rely on Bobbi Brown for its sleek, comfortable-to-hold designs and durability.

“The bristles are tightly packed so they don’t shed easily," she told us. "This face brush cleanly blends liquid and cream foundations to give your face an airbrush-like finish, without having makeup look or feel too heavy on the skin."

Smashbox Cover Shot Eye Palette in Ablaze

“Smashbox eyeshadows tend to blend more easily, don't fade or crease easily, and have incredible staying power so you don’t have to worry about looking in the mirror constantly to make sure they're still on," Dowburd said. "They also tend to have more pigment so they last longer and you end up using less product, which may save you money in the long run."

Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Foundation

Often hailed as the gold standard of foundations, Neil Scibelli, a celebrity makeup artist and beauty expert in New York City, says he’s been using the Armani Beauty Luminous Silk Foundation on clients for years.

“It gives the perfect amount of coverage while still having your skin peek through," he said. "It has a soft luminous finish to it, which gives the skin a beautiful radiance."

Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder

According to New York-based celebrity makeup artist Shira Aaron, the Laura Mercier Setting Powder has earned its cult status. “The bestselling powder is finely milled, doesn’t settle into fine lines, and never looks cakey,” she told us.

More skin care to splurge and save on

Save on: Moisturizer and sunscreen

Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel Cream

If you're splurging on your serum, which goes on your skin first, Scibelli says you can typically save when it comes to your moisturizer. He suggests this gel-cream from Neutrogena for its lightweight texture and plumping, hydrating capabilities.

“Neutrogena’s use of hyaluronic acid in this product is a true example of powerful luxury ingredients made accessible," he said. "It also works great under makeup because there's no residue."

La Roche-Posay Anthelios Mineral Sunscreen Lotion with SPF 50

While many experts say sunscreen as a category is one of the most important investments you can make for protecting and preserving your skin, you typically don’t need to break the bank on the sunscreen itself.

“The best way to go is with a mineral or physical sunscreen," Sarah Akram, a celebrity esthetician and founder of Sarah Akram Skincare, said. "Chemical sunscreens work by absorbing the UV rays and turning them into heat through a chemical reaction, whereas physical sunscreens block UV rays. A mineral sunscreen has microscopic-sized physical SPFs, such as titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, that apply smoothly and sit on the surface of the skin, reflecting the sun’s UV rays."

Her favorite is this one from La Roche-Posay, which offers broad-spectrum protection. “It’s formulated to be safe for use on your face and body with a 100% mineral sunscreen," she said. "It’s also oil-free and noncomedogenic, so it’s safe for acne-prone skin.”

Splurge on: Serum and eye cream

iS Clinical Active Serum

This multitasking potion from iS Clinical has garnered a five-star rating for its ability to combat signs of aging while keeping oil under control. “It minimizes the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, improves blemishes, smooths the skin, and reduces the appearance of enlarged pores," said Dr. Anna Guanche, a board-certified dermatologist, beauty expert and founder of the Bella Skin Institute. said. "As with most serums, a little goes a long way!"

La Mer The Eye Concentrate

La Mer has made a name for itself with a range of ultra-luxury formulas, including its popular Eye Concentrate. “This concentrate is like a drink of water for my under eyes, keeping them bright, smooth and hydrated, while minimizing the appearance of fine lines," Dowburd said. "It contains the brand’s patented Concentrated Miracle Broth that absorbs right into the skin and, as powerful as it is, remains gentle enough for the most sensitive of skin types ... like mine!"

More hair care to splurge and save on

Save on: Masks, hair brushes and accessories

It's a 10 Miracle Mask

This mask from It’s a 10 is formulated with vitamins A and E for nursing dry, malnourished strands back to life.“The goal of a hair mask is to repair the hair internally," os Angeles-based celebrity hairstylist Bradley Leake said. "Typically women experiencing breakage, dry brittle ends, or damage from excessive hair color will benefit from the vitamins and proteins in this mask."

Wet Brush Speed Dry Hair Brush

“There are many affordable brushes that will leave your hair smooth and tangle-free just as easily for a fraction of the price,” Leake said. But he particularly loves the Wet Brush Speed Dry Hair Brush for its sleek and functional design. “This brush is great for removing tangles from wet adult and children’s hair. The vented design also speeds up drying time for a faster blowout"

Basic B Beauty Leopard Hair Scarf

Hair accessories are having a big moment, as they prove the perfect solution for styling in a pinch.

Leake loves the versatility of a hair scarf, which can be wrapped around a bun or tied around your head like a headband to conceal roots until your next color appointment. He especially loves the designs offered by Basic B Beauty.

“Who doesn't love a little leopard print?" Leake said. "This one comes in three different patterns to match your mood.”

Splurge on: Shampoo, extensions and heat tools

Color Wow Color Security Shampoo

Starting with a clean slate is the first and most crucial step to achieving a beautiful mane. Leake’s current obsession is the Color Wow Color Security Shampoo, which he says offers a deep yet gentle clean and helps to neutralize the hair’s pH.

“It’s sulfate-free, but does have a generous lather, unlike other sulfate-free shampoos," Leake told us. "Color Wow is also great for all hair types and textures, as well as extensions as it contains no silicones or pearlizing agents, which also dull color-treated hair.”

Hidden Crown Clip Ins

Leake recommends temporary extensions as an easy way to up the ante when it comes to volume or length, especially these from Hidden Crown. “Their double-drawn, human hair extensions come in shades for every color and have a range of styling options, including clip-less, clip-ins, toppers, and even ponytail pieces," he said. "The clip-in sets are very unique and such great quality.”

Boujee Beauty Boujee Infused Straightener

Stylists warn that regular — and especially excessive — heat styling can take its toll on hair. Leake recommends the Boujee Beauty Boujee Infused Straightener, which is designed with a special steam vapor technology that Leake says will smooth even the most stubborn of strands.

“The advanced technology will speed up styling time and efficiency, and the optional infused argan oil leaves the hair healthy, shiny, and styled to perfection," he said. "It also has six temperature settings, heats up to 450 degrees, and has a one-hour auto shut-off for added safety.”

How we chose

The Shop TODAY editors and writers search the internet to find the best products out there. We interview expert sources and use our own personal experiences with the product and brand to make shopping easier for our readers.

As an editorial team, we independently create content and determine coverage based on research, reporting and what we think readers would like to read about. The goal of our content is to provide a service and inform readers who are on the hunt for the latest products to help make their life better. Items are sold by retailer, not TODAY. Pricing and availability are accurate as of publish time. Learn more about Shop TODAY.