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Cheap thrills: Best summer makeup for under $12

Best Cheap Beauty Products

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By Kristin Granero

Don't believe anyone who says you have to spend big on beauty. Some of summer's best finds ring up for less than a double-scoop of chocolate swirl. We followed tips from celebrity makeup artist Vinnetta Scrivo and hunted down good-as-it-gets products that blow their pricier rivals out of the water. 

"I am loving a bright and bold lip this season," says Scrivo. "Pair that with fresh, clean looking skin, and keep the eyes simple with curled lashes and several coats of bold mascara. Add a touch of brightness with a fun eye-pencil, bronze skin and a cheery, bright lip." Read on for our favorite product picks.

H&M makeup bag


“I love this bag. It’s bright, fun and very roomy inside," says Scrivo. "It's perfectly chic to tuck all of your beauty products in for a weekend getaway!”

To buy: H&M Makeup Bag, $5.95,

Essie 'Haute in the Heat' collection


“My tropical-inspired go-to nail color from this collection is 'Reorrrrange.' I feel like I am instantly in St. Tropez," says Scrivo of painting her tips in the tangerine hue from Essie's 'Haute in the Heat' line. Summer's bright polish trend doesn't end with the fingers. Lacquering toenails in turquoise 'Strut Your Stuff' or emerald 'Ruffles & Feathers', "indulges [a] rocker chic personality!”

To buy: Essie 'Haute in the Heat' collection, $8.50 per polish,

Rimmel London Moisture Renew lipstick


This silver bullet of a beautifier is enriched with lightweight emollients (hello moisture!) to keep lips super-soft and washed in the season's freshest hues.

To buy: Rimmel London Moisture Renew Lipstick, $12.37,

Mary Kay at Play Bold Fluid eyeliner


Getting summer's vivid liner trend right might seem daunting, but the key is balancing vibrant hues (like these from the Mary Kay Play Bold collection) with more traditional colors, according to Scrivo. “Do a chocolate brown liquid line first on the top lid. A very fine and delicate line with a slight wing at the end is perfect," she says. "Then, take a bold color like 'Hello Violet' or 'Blue My Mind' and draw a fine line above the dark liner. You can still rock a fun summer color, but it’s much more sophisticated and flattering on the eye this way.”

To buy: Mary Kay at Play Bold Fluid Eyeliner, $10 each,

CoverGirl Ready, Set Gorgeous Powder Foundation


In unrelenting heat, you need to fight shine strategically. Instead of powdering your full face — which can end in cakey flakes as you perspire — target a lightweight powder like this one on your T-zone alone.

To buy: CoverGirl Ready, Set Gorgeous Fresh Complexion Powder Foundation, $8.99,

L'Oreal Voluminous Miss Manga Waterproof Mascara


Scrivo suggests curling lashes before sweeping on a waterproof volumizing mascara, like our pick, which has an easy-angle brush to layer on up to fifteen times more volume than bare lashes. When applying on set, Scrivo always pauses between each application, “and then I go in again for another, really working in the mascara. I wiggle the brush in at the root of the lash and sweep out." The reason? "If you spend a few extra minutes doing this type of application, you will look like you have false lashes on!”

To buy: L'Oreal Voluminous Miss Manga Waterproof Mascara, $7.99,

Boots No7 Stay Perfect Lip Stain


“Lip stains are amazing in the summer months. A bright, bold color will stay put for hours in the heat,” says Scrivo. This one from Boots No7 works a little like a magic marker for lips, featuring a felt-tip that draws on matte color and lasts for hours. 

To buy: Boots No7 Stay Perfect Lip Stain, $9.99,

Love & Beauty Striped Cosmetic Brush Set


We'd wager there's not a single makeup artist out there who doesn't consider a good brush set the cornerstone of her kit. This striped collection tackles everything from cheeks to lips, brows to lids.

To buy: Love & Beauty Striped Cosmetic Brush Set, $4.80,

Maybelline Expert Wear Eyeshadow Quad


“Ditch the spongy tipped brush that comes with [your eye shadow] and use your own brush," suggests Scrivo. When applying makeup from a quad like this one, "Layer the colors, going from lightest to darkest to create dimension and a long lasting application. Just apply the color to the bottom half of your eyelid, just under the crease. Then, blend up and out.”

To buy: Maybelline Expert Wear Eyeshadow Quad, $4.99,

Yes To Coconut Cooling Lip Oil


Sure, balms are a summer staple, but these ingenious coconut oils work just as well and offer a glossier take on moisturization. The addition of eucalyptus creates a cooling effect that might just help you forget it's 95 and muggy.

To buy: Yes To Coconut Cooling Lip Oil, $4.99. For stores see

Too Faced Glow to Go


The two shades of sunny color and streamlined kabuki brush of this bronzer set can help you fake a glow even if you're stuck in a cubicle all summer. When applying, focus on the plateaus where the sun would naturally hit your skin, such as your cheekbones, nose and jawline. “Buff in the product so that it looks nice and natural," says Scrivo, who recommends taking a leisurely approach to application. "Spend a few extra minutes doing this and it will look like a professional did your makeup. Take your time and blend. It lasts longer and looks much more natural.”

To buy: Too Faced Glow to Go, $12,