Grab your trolleys/ weird stretchy Primark bag: high street makeup has never been better. Here’s your essential budget makeup edit, because beauty and bankruptcy needn’t go together

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No doubt you’ve popped into H&M or added a few basics to an ASOS basket of late, but if you’re still sticking to traditional beauty territory to pick up your makeup staples, I urge you to roam free on the great British high street (or online equivalent). There are absolute gems to be had that outperform premium alternatives, and if you think that spending less means making sacrifices when it comes to packaging, ethics, colour payoff or longevity, think again. Granted, not all supermarket sweep style products deliver the goods, but there are standout options in almost every line that exceed expectations and leave you with pocket money to play with. Here are the ranges that impressed us the most, with an industry-first wildcard thrown in to hint at the future of inexpensive yet top quality makeup to come…

H&M Beauty

I struggled to find a dud aspect of this 700 strong line. Clearly I haven’t sampled all of the products (epic quest), but the Scandinavian tastemakers have brought the same value, style and eco-friendly hallmarks of their fashion range to the beauty market. All products are cruelty-free, with an Ecocert approved, organically certified Conscious offering  to pair compassionately with the brand’s Conscious clothing collection. Packaging is a) understated but beautiful and b) either already recycled or recyclable, and the savvy concept creators combine everyday beauty essentials with trend-led products such as nail mattifiers, BB hair cream and surprisingly chic rather than childish glitter liners.

The range starts at £1.99 , which is practically daylight robbery when you consider that this stuff looks as good on your face as it does on your shelves.

The makeup highlights: The array of powder blusher  and bronzer  shades, both £6.99, is possibly the widest I’ve seen on beauty counters, full stop, and I don’t know about you but I picked up a nod to Tom Ford in the compact design. There’s a convincing  dupe for an Urban Decay Naked palette  in the range, £9.99, and from the Conscious collection, pick up the Lip Balm , £5.99, available in an array of juicy, lightly tinted shades and infused with beeswax, jojoba oil and shea butter.


Good old Primarni doesn’t simply cater for the beauty bottom line- Primania extends to the very latest trends, with the most recent launches built around a workout precept . Think mattifying, longwearing formulas, SPF 50 lip balm and waterproof mascara that withstands sweat and downpours, although I wouldn’t go so far as to take it swimming.

The makeup highlights: You could have a field day with your Primark bucket as the range is so expansive, and starts at a Pick and Mix friendly 90p, but note that foundations, from £3, go pretty heavy on the mineral oil front, which could prove especially problematic for oily or acne prone skins, and shades are rather ‘off’- my usual ivory was definitely more orangey than anticipated. Onto the good stuff: the lipsticks, lip liners, highlighters and felt tip liners are all no brainers, and if you “invest” an extra pound or so in the newer PS PRO range, you’ll notice a step-up in pigmentation and general performance- the illuminating primer is particularly notable.

ASOS Beauty

While ASOS doesn’t yet have an in-house beauty range (although I feel in my waters that it’s only a matter of time), the online megastore clearly has some seriously clued up beauty buyers on its books, both from an economical and cosmetics calibre perspective. As to be expected with ASOS, the brands on offer have a sartorial edge, with quirky colour palettes and trend inspired products coming to the fore.

Products are also photographed comprehensively, as is the ASOS way, with clear swatches on a variety of skintones for many cosmetics, reducing the risk of having to return items that didn’t live up to their glossy or slightly deceptive online appearance. The selection is more premium in feel and price than many high street outlets, but it’s too good to bypass in terms of what’s hot in beauty.

The makeup highlights: Creatively innovative brand 3ina  recently made its debut on the site, and with a commitment to diversity and making colour cool again, it’s one the of most exciting makeup specialists out there. The  pencil eyeshadow , now £5.56, and liquid liner , £7.95, deserve particular kudos. Other brands to bookmark are EX1 , base and blusher experts that pride themselves on blending shades tailored to the often ignored southeast Asian market, and the cult NYX , whose soft matte lip cream , £5.50, is revered globally as a superior dupe for the sellout Kylie Lip Kit.


Not a newcomer to the beauty market by any means, but probably the most influential of this edit in terms of shaping the beauty landscape, given that backstage supremo makeup artist Hannah Murray  acts as beauty consultant for the brand, not to mention the fact that Topshop Unique shows secure the most in-demand models in the business. From strobing to lip contouring, Topshop  are normally ahead of the game, and the easy to use, light textured and finger painting friendly products reflect this. Foundation shade ranges have improved in scope dramatically since the brand launch, and the online Topshop Beauty Hub  hosts beautifully shot, easy-to-follow trend and how-to tutorials to ensure that you’re getting the most out of your products.

The makeup highlights: I’m a total sucker for the holographic effect of the now famed Chameleon Glow , £9.50, and the punchy lipsticks , £8, are as rich and long-lasting as any available at sky high price points. The Glow Highlighter , £10, is a steal in terms of versatility, and the  Glow Stick , £10, essentially does the same job on the run.

& Other Stories

The shop floor is fashion paradise, and veering into the farmhouse style beauty section (huge sinks and testers a plenty) is quite the Scandinavian adventure. Owned by the same company as H&M, which explains a lot when you clock the collection, & Other Stories beauty collection  comes in pricier, but the refined textures, bang-on shades and frankly luscious skin care makes the fairly minimal extra spend worth it. Designed in either the brand’s Paris or Stockholm atelier, each item is lovingly crafted in the way that an & Other Stories pristinely cut coat or white shirt might be, and beauty products are presented as ‘stories’, as the brand name might suggest. In short, it’s budget beauty for grown-ups.

The makeup highlights: The new  Lip Primer Pot , £10, straddles a nourishing balm and colour corrector to knock back natural lip colour so that your lipstick of choice looks all the more vibrant. Speaking of colour correcting, the CC Quad , £12, combines a hue for every lacklustre skin issue, while the  Duo Eye Pencil , £10, not only provides bang for your buck but the semi-metallic effects of Alkanet Earth in particular flatters every eye colour.

New Look

The New Look beauty spread  looks a lot sleeker than I expected- I’m convinced that no one would guess that the range starts at £1.99. Monogrammed labelling and monochromatic packaging contributes to the faux-luxe feel, and the textures and pigments aren’t half bad either, depending on the products that you pick. As PR and industry awareness goes this is the ‘quietest’ range, but while it’s low key it’s got some definite strengths, one being the range of inexpensive synthetic makeup brushes

The makeup highlights: The glow-giving Moroccan Rose Blusher , £7.99, will impress many a Bobbi Brown devotee, and in fact all of the baked powders, be they highlighters, blushers or bronzers, apply beautifully to achieve a luminous finish.

Beauty Pie

We were psyched when this brand new budget beauty concept launched, and we’re still devouring the pie now- this is one seriously smart beauty industry move by former Bliss and Soap & Glory boss Marcia Kilgore.

Essentially a beauty members club, joining  Beauty Pie  will cost you £10 a month, but your ‘subs’ will allow you to purchase three to six luxe makeup products at factory prices, with a comprehensive breakdown of exactly where your money’s going for each and every purchase. Wondering how much is being dropped on ingredients, safety testing, packaging, warehouse storage and VAT? Your forensic curiosity will be satisfied as every item you buy comes complete with a thorough explanation of expenses, with no middleman meddling with the finished article. As such, you can pick up a lipstick that’s normally on the market for £20 for a mere £2.84 and a pro brush kit worth £80 for a neat £17.13. The only qualms we have are the fact that it’s tricky to judge foundation and concealer shades onsite, and also of course the limit on products you can add to your basket per month, but then again we’re probably being greedy…

The makeup highlights: This is becoming quite a consistent theme with lower cost beauty, but the Pro Glow™ Highlighter , £5.46 for members, delivers the kind of covetable mermaid-tail glimmer that every beauty blogger dreams of. The foundations , if you can nail the correct shade, are also as superb as you’ll ever come across for a base hovering around the £5 mark. If you’re loathe to sacrifice performance and happy to pay a monthly fee, a piece Beauty Pie could be the ideal budget vs. blowout compromise.

Do you have a favourite high street product or brand? Comment below and let us know

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