25 Cheap, Multi-Purpose Beauty Products
We all want to look our best, but let’s face it. Our financial bottom line often takes priority over the season’s hottest shade of nail lacquer. These 25 cheap beauty products serve multiple uses while also being extremely cost-effective. (See also: 5 Hair Conditioners You Can Make at Home)
1. Medium-Sized Nail Brush
While you likely won’t have room for a larger brush in your beauty kit, consider bumping up from the micro-sized variety to one that’s mid-sized. That way, the one you use regularly at home can come with you on the road and serve double duty as a skin treatment. That’s right; I said skin treatment. If you’ve ever had a body polish at your favorite salon, you know that full-body dry brushing is a common technique to prep your skin to receive the treatment products. It begins the exfoliation process and stimulates circulation, and it's something you can do on your own if your skin begins to look a bit dry.
In addition to this and the cleaning of your nails, a mid-sized, short-bristled brush can also be used to handle hand washing in your hotel sink when a trip needs to be extended and laundry amenities aren’t available. This triple threat level of functionality is what makes nail brushes one of my favorite gift ideas for adventure travelers and a guaranteed piece of grooming gear for every trip I take.
2. Cotton Swabs
My most frequent use for cotton swabs, other than cleaning the outer ear, is to clean particularly large manicure goofs that prove too strenuous for a wrapped orange stick. I’ve also used them to apply lipstick from tubes that have been used past the point of direct application, assist with eye shadow, and apply ointment to difficult areas like nostrils. However, cotton swabs can also be used for quite a few other things such as reducing post-surgical infections, dusting tiny grooves in furniture, and minor repair projects requiring glue.
3. Orange Sticks
Providing precision paint cleanup, orange sticks are great for your budget nail care routine. They allow you to do a sharper repair job and can also be used to clean under nails as well as push back out-of-control cuticles on fingers and toes.
4. Unscented Lip Balm
If you want to stay spiffy on the road and still adhere to your extreme packing standards, an unscented tube of lip balm is a great toiletry item to pack. You can not only use it to moisturize your lips, but also to treat cuticles and even rub on your elbows if they get dry.
5. Cotton Balls
Used to help remove eye makeup and nail polish as well as apply astringent and wound disinfectant, cotton balls are rock stars. Use them to stock your at-home spa bathroom, pack them in your travel bag, and even keep a few in your craft closet.
6. Clear Nail Polish
Not only do you want to have a good base coat on hand when you give yourself a manicure at home, it's also nice to have a strong top coat available to help preserve the color you worked so hard to apply. It helps prolong your paint job and provides extra shine to your nails. Clear polish is also a great way to stop hosiery runs in their tracks, making it another one of my go-to business travel items.
7. Bobby Pins
With as many uses for bobby pins as there are, these have to be one of the most flexible cheap beauty products on the market. Use them to craft your favorite hair styles, hold a hem until you can get home to mend it, serve as an emergency zipper handle, and more.
Use salt to craft homemade spa products like scrubs, make a gargle for oral hygiene, or even enhance exfoliation in a facial. When it’s off duty in the personal care arena, it can be pressed into service for baking, as a scouring powder, and as a craft project supply after being dyed into your colors of choice and layered like sand.
Sugar is always on my list for bulk buying. I love that I can bake with it, use it to create spa products for my shower, and even to remove unwanted body hair by making a sugar wax. Sugar scrubs make great gifts as well as provide a bit of indulgence at home. And who doesn’t love to save money on a spa wax?
10. Baking Soda
Baking soda can be used to remove buildup on hair, to brush your teeth, and as a light facial treatment. Bonus? You can use baking soda to clean your home, deodorize your fridge, and a myriad of other cool things.
If you are extremely careful, you can use peroxide to whiten your teeth. While I’m not brave enough to do a lengthy leave-on treatment without trusted medical advice, I do mix it with a little baking soda a few times per month and use the paste to brush my teeth. I always follow with a thorough water rinse and another traditional paste brushing to remove any residual amounts. Other uses include laundry whitening and first aid.
12. Basic Healing Balms
If you’re looking for easy ways to look great for less, then basic healing balms are something you should consider adding to your list. The one I’m using right now is a flat tin of Burt’s Bees miracle salve. I use it for many of the things I use the tube of lip balm for when I’m not trying to save quite as much space; it goes further and costs less per use. Chapped lips, split ends, rough elbows, and more can all be addressed with a bit of balm.
13. Lip Liner
One of my best budget tricks for travel beauty is to use lip liner as a multipurpose cosmetic item. It can be used for its original purpose of course, but also as a lip color and blush product in a pinch.
14. Sea Sponges
Women have been using sea sponges for centuries. From applying cosmetics to eco-friendly feminine hygiene, they are still being harvested and sold to companies and markets around the world. Other uses include custom paint jobs for your home’s interior and a variety of craft projects where a different paint finish is required.
15. Bar Soap
The uses for bar soap go beyond basic skin care, although a good moisturizing bar can certainly contribute to a nice complexion. Other uses include protecting the undersides of your fingernails while gardening and soaping a cloth to clean counter surfaces. If you happen to use peppermint castile soap, you can even press it into service for cleaning your teeth in a pinch.
I’ve always considered shampoo to be an extremely versatile beauty product. In addition to its obvious purpose, I also like using shampoo as a shower gel, face cleanser, and laundry aid for delicate hand washing, but there are other uses as well. Making homemade spray cleaners, for instance. Depending on the brand you prefer to use, this may be an item you can save money on by buying at Costco or other large box retailer.
If you want to have great hair for less, proper conditioning is part of the game. Turns out conditioner is also good for other things, like shaving, detangling, and deeper, overnight treatments. Find an effective, affordable brand you like and use a pump dispenser to control portions.
In addition to being an effective hair rinse, vinegar can replace several household products. It can also be used to settle a nauseated stomach, remove water stains, and disinfect kitchen surfaces.
19. Baby Wipes
Using unscented baby wipes as makeup removers is a great travel hack. They can also be used to tackle on-the-fly stains, to freshen up on the road, and as a cheap alternative to household cleaning wipes.
If you don’t have time to dye your own hair and you’re using a darker color, mascara can provide root touch-ups to deal with the grey until you get around to giving yourself a fresh color. Granted, it’s more appropriate for light touch-ups you need for dates or meetings than an all-over daily fix. But hey, in a pinch it will get the job done. Obviously, you can use it to coat and extend eye lashes as well. Teens using clear mascara instead of tinted can use the product for a brow-taming product as well, provided it’s used with a light hand.
21. Coconut Oil
Sure, it’s a baking ingredient you can pick up at Whole Foods. But coconut oil is also a great hair conditioner and homemade lotion ingredient, and if solidified, usable on lips, rough heels, and dry elbows. If you have the time, consider combing some through your hair and leaving it in for an overnight treatment.
22. Hair Spray
Whether you are dishing out for the salon-quality stuff at the beauty supply store or purchasing a bargain brand with a coupon, hair spray can seriously go the distance. Canned aerosol sprays can hold your style and also seal a hand-crafted charcoal sketch. Liquid hair spray in a pump dispenser, on the other hand, can be applied close to the scalp as a root lifter, sprayed into the palm of your hand to use as a scrunching medium, and of course, to hold your hair in place. It can also help get out ink stains and be thinned to last longer if you are trying to pinch pennies between paydays.
A natural skin moisturizer and acne treatment, oatmeal also goes the distance in cookies, breakfast porridge, homemade bread, and dessert bars.
24. Witch Hazel
I use it to make homemade astringent and treat insect bites, but there are certainly other uses for witch hazel. The soothing of bruises and razor rash are two. Sunburn treatment is another. Witch hazel is available affordably at pharmacies, health and beauty aisles of discount retailers like Target, and health food stores.
25. Aloe Vera
A great skin moisturizer that affordable gardening enthusiasts can grow in a clay pot, aloe vera is also a burn treatment that can bring relief to bruises and blisters. If you have the space to grow a large plant at home, it’s a great grab-and-go moisturizer. If not, you can buy whole leaves at the grocery store or the bottled product from health food stores and some pharmacies.
What are your favorite secret weapons when it comes to affordable beauty treatments?