Just like you should never judge a book by its cover, the price tag of a product isn't always indicitave of its power—a rule that the InStyle beauty team knows well from trying hundreds of them for our annual Best Beauty Buys, and staying on top of the hottest launches. A pricey staple that lives up to its lofty claims is always just as exciting as picking up that unexpectedly-awesome drugstore find, so we asked our beauty editors to fess up to the products they think are really worth the money, and the wallet-friendly picks they swear by.
Angelique Serrano, InStyle Beauty Director
Splurge: Perricone MD Blue Plasma, $95; perriconemd.com.
"Applying a layer of this cool blue gel over my face is like hitting the reset button on my complexion. It exfoliates with the help of salmon roe enzymes, eating away at the dull, dead skin cells without prompting redness or peeling. I reach for it at least once a week. It produces a 60-second glow that's totally worth my splurge."
Steal: Ardell Individuals in Flare Medium Black, $4; ulta.com.
"I'm totally letting you all in on my biggest beauty secret: individual false lashes. I just stick three falsies along the outer corner of each eye and my face looks instantly made-up. It's my go-to hack when I don't feel like putting on a lot of makeup. I stock up in bulk!"
Selene Milano, InStyle.com Senior Beauty Editor
Splurge: La Mer Crème de La Mer, $160; cremedelamer.com.
"My splurge is always on my skin. There really is no better moisturizer than Crème de la Mer. It's so rich, but my skin can take it! I wake up looking like I've slept for days. It's the best."
Steal: Neutrogena Makeup Remover Towelettes, $8; ulta.com.
"Hands down, Neutrogena's makeup remover wipes. I literally hoard them but I still never have enough."
Sheryl George, InStyle Beauty Editor
Splurge: T3 Whirl Trio Interchangable Styling Wand, $230; t3micro.com.
"I justify the price for this hot tool since you get 3 different wands! Each wand has a different sized barrel, so you can change things up depending on the type of look you're going for. For undone waves, I'll alternate two wands for a really natural beachy style."
Steal: Sonia Kashuk Velvety Matte Lip Crayon, $8 each; target.com.
"Sonia Kashuk is the goddess of affordable but high-performing makeup. I love plenty of things from her line (like her brushes), but I particularly love her velvety matte lip crayon. It glides on smoothly without tugging or highlighting any dryness, and it has great color payoff. Oh, and the shade Spicy Nude is perfection, it has just enough warmth so I don't look like have mannequin mouth."
Dianna Mazzone, InStyle Beauty Assistant
Splurge: Fresh Crème Ancienne, $280; sephora.com.
"Sure, two jars of Fresh Crème Ancienne could buy you a pair of entry-level Louboutins, but I stand by this product (and its price tag) because its saved my skin mores times than I can count. Since the formula is thick and almost balm-like, this stuff is seriously multi-purpose. Though I like it best as a face moisturizer when my skin is particularly dry, I’ve also used it to fade scars and smooth rough feet. Oh, and did I mention every batch is blended and jarred in a European monastery? It doesn’t get cooler than that."
Steal: Sephora Collection Rouge Cream Lipstick in It Girl, $13; sephora.com.
"I was 15 when a Sephora opened in my hometown mall. But, unfortunately for me, my babysitting business wasn’t nearly lucrative enough to finance designer makeup. Determined to leave with a black-and-white shopping bag in hand, I stumbled upon Sephora Collection—the least expensive line the store had to offer. Little did I know I’d discovered a goldmine of relatively low-priced gems—Sephora Collection Rouge Cream Lipstick in It Girl is so moisturizing, long-lasting, and all-around delightful to wear that I still purchase multiple tubes at a time."
Jennifer Velez, InStyle.com Beauty Assistant
Splurge: Bio Ionic 10X Ultralight Speed Dryer, $329; sephora.com.
"I’ve bought tons of bargain blow-dryers and they either made my hair look like straw, or would practically go up in flames within the first six months. This one has a way bigger price tag, but the powerful airflow dries my strands in half the time, doesn’t cause it to go frizzy, and it will literally last for years."
Steal: EOS Smooth Sphere Lip Balm, $4; ulta.com.
"I have a pretty serious addiction to lip balm—it’s the one item I can’t leave home without, and have an embarrassing amount stashed in my bag at all times. Luckily, the drugstore has tons of awesome options so my wallet never has to suffer. I usually reach for an EOS Smooth Sphere, though, which keeps my lips smooth and moisturized throughout the day (plus, I’m a sucker for cute packaging)."
Marianne Mychaskiw, InStyle.com Assistant Beauty Editor
Splurge: Tatcha Deep Hydration Firming Serum, $95; tatcha.com.
"If I've learned anything in my 26 years on this planet, it's that I cannot skimp on my skin care routine. I wish I could be one of those effortlessly cool girls who can use drugstore serums and moisturizers without a second thought, but my complexion is more sensitive than a mid '00s emo single. Jam-packed with hyaluronic acid, 23-karat gold, and red algae from Okinawa, Tatcha's Deep Hydration Firming Serum was a game-changer for me. Everything fell into place once my skin got the moisture it so desperately needed, and just a few drops leaves me with the most otherworldy glow. I'm really into preventative anti-aging right now, so the infusion of ingredients like green tea and licorice keep my Dorian Grey tendencies at bay."
Steal: Boots No. 7 Lash Impact Mascara, $11; drugstore.com.
"I'm a mascara fiend and go through a tube every few weeks, so while I love the luxury versions, it doesn't make sense to constantly restock when the Boots No. 7 Lash Impact is just as good as its department store counterparts. The brush is equipped with ultra-precise bristles that coat each lash sans clumps, and the blacker-than-black formula is easy to build up."