The Independent's journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission. Why trust us?

10 best make-up products under £20, from palettes to foundations

From bargain blush sticks to a foundation that doesn’t cost a fortune, these beauty buys will lower the price of your make-up bag

Lauren Cunningham
Wednesday 06 September 2023 12:29 BST
Our beauty writer shares her top make-up must-haves all in a bargain budget.
Our beauty writer shares her top make-up must-haves all in a bargain budget. (The Independent)
Our Top Picks

Having scouted out the best budget-friendly skincare, haircare and all-around beauty buys, I’m turning my penny-pinching product attention towards a category that we can all get a little more creative with: make-up.

Although, to some, make-up may not seem as essential as shampoo, for others, a flawless foundation, non-cakey concealer and lash-lengthening mascara are everyday confidence-boosting cosmetics that are as much a part of our daily routine as brushing our teeth.

But, with a focus more on appearance than ingredient lists, much of what makes make-up so great really comes down to personal preference. And, as someone with a soft spot for luxury-labelled lipsticks, finding an affordable alternative isn’t always an easy feat.

So, after years of product testing and reviewing a never-ending number of brands from all budgets, I’m quite confident that these bargain beauty buys will impress even the most meticulous of make-up lovers.

Keep reading below to see my suggestions from Elf, Max Factor, Collection Cosmetics and many more, all sitting nicely under the £20 price limit. After all, your make-up bag should be enjoyable not eye wateringly expensive.

How we tested

Pulling together my long-time favourite finds alongside products I was recently introduced to and loved, I’ve curated this budget-friendly make-up bag wishlist over the course of quite a few months. Going above aesthetics alone, these are the products that delivered long-lasting, results time and time again.

The best make-up products under £20 for 2023 are:

  • Best budget lipstick – Elf O face satin lipstick: £9,
  • Best budget foundation – Max Factor miracle pure skin improving foundation: £14.99,
  • Best budget blush stick – Collection Cosmetics gorgeous glow sticks: £4.99,
  • Best budget brush set – Brushworks travel set pink and gold: £6.42,

Elf O face satin lipstick

Elf O face satin lipstick
  • Best: Budget lipstick
  • Size: 3.8g
  • Number of shades available: 20
  • Shade tested: Loud AF
  • Key ingredients: Squalane and jojoba esters

I’m starting to lose count of the amount of times I’ve raved about this lipstick. After naming it the “best overall bargain beauty buy” in my round-up of the best budget-friendly cosmetics guide, I’m going to sing its praises yet again as one of, if not the, best product to pick-up if you’re after an affordable lippy.

Available in 20 shades, this creamy, extremely potent lipstick has a shade to suit everyone and lasts for an incredibly long time once on. It’s easy to apply and includeds squalane and jojoba esters that moisturise and soften for a seriously impressive finish. I currently own it in five shades, which probably goes against the budget buying mentality, but at under £10 a pop, it’s hard to say no.

Back to top

Max Factor miracle pure skin improving foundation

Max Factor miracle pure skin improving foundation
  • Best: Budget foundation
  • Size: 30ml
  • Number of shades available: 20
  • Shade tested: 45 warm almond
  • Key ingredients: Vitamin C and hyaluronic acid

My favourite foundation of all time is a fairly costly find from Chanel, it’s lightweight, has a flawless finish and is packed with skin-boosting ingredients that hydrate while evening out skin tone and texture. But, when my budget doesn’t allow for this skincare-meets-make-up splurge, this Max Factor foundation comes in at a close second.

Costing just under £15, it really is an impressive beauty buy, offering a lightweight coverage that evens out my complexion while boosting skin from the inside thanks to the inclusion of skin brightening vitamin C and moisture boosting hyaluronic acid. It’s pefect for those with dry or “normal” skin types and is currently available in 20 shades, although I would love to see more.

Back to top

Collection Cosmetics gorgeous glow sticks

Collection Cosmetics gorgeous glow sticks
  • Best: Budget blush stick
  • Size: 4.5g
  • Number of shades available: 3
  • Shade tested: Blush
  • Key ingredients: Jojoba seed oil and shea butter

Blush has the ability to transform any make-up look. The rosey hue can instantly perk up dull, tired-looking faces, make a lipstick shade standout even more and leaves a natural, healthy-looking glow on almost every skin tone and type, and applying it in stick form makes it even easier. Available in both blush, highlighter and contour colours, these handy sticks are a great essential in any make-up bag. Although I really wish there were more shades to play with, the creamy formula efforlessly blends into the skin, taking mere seconds to apply, and a little really goes go a long way thanks to the potent pigment.

Back to top

Brushworks travel set pink and gold

Brushworks travel set pink & gold
  • Best: Budget brush set
  • Size: 4 brushes
  • Number of shades available: N/A
  • Shade tested: N/A
  • Key ingredients: N/A

While potent formulas, good ingredients and impressive shade ranges are all important when choosing make-up, having the right tools to apply the products with can make a big difference in how well they work. However, this can sometimes cost a small fortune. Luckily, bargain beauty tool brand Brushworks is here to help with a wide range of brushes that sit very nicely within budget, such as this four-piece travel set now coming in at under £7.

Although it’s called a travel set, the brushes are actually rather large. In fact, you wouldn’t want anything much longer or else they may not fit in your make-up bag. Fully synethic and vegan-friendly, they’re silky soft, apply products perfectly and are easy to wash too.

  1. £6 from
Prices may vary
Back to top

Maybelline lifter gloss plumping hydrating lip gloss

Maybelline lifter gloss plumping hydrating lip gloss
  • Best: Budget lip gloss
  • Size: 5g
  • Number of shades available: 15
  • Shade tested: 004 silk
  • Key ingredients: Hyaluronic acid and coconut oil

Lipgloss girls are sure to be well aware of this bargain buy. Created by high street beauty brand Maybelline, many have dubbed it a similar find to the much more expensive Fenty gloss bomb (£18, It’s incredibly hydrating, makes lips super soft and leaves a long-lasting shine that stays put for around two hours.

With 15 shades available, there’s something to suit every skin tone and style and my personal favourite shade, 004 silk, leaves a soft pink hue that sits somewhere between a shiny gloss and more potent lipstick. It also tastes and smells quite wonderful too, and although no lipstick should be actively licked off, having it taste so pleasant certainly is a plus.

Back to top

Collection Cosmetics lip liner

Collection Cosmetics lip liner
  • Best: Budget lip liner
  • Size: N/A
  • Number of shades available: 5
  • Shade tested: Caramel 2
  • Key ingredients: Vitamin E and castor oil

As Collection Cosmetics USP is all about affordable beauty, I’m adding another one of the brands budget-friendly finds to this round-up and it’s a real standout star for those who like a sharp lip. Not only is this lip liner already a bargain coming in at under £3, but it also includes an innovative sharpener sat in the lid so it’s always ready to go – a big difference from the last-minute panic of trying to fish one out from the bottom of my make-up bag.

The liner itself is soft enough to be easily applied with no scratchy feeling, lasts almost all day and also includes castor oil and vitamin E to prevent any excess dryness. Again, like a handful of other products in this round-up, I only wish it was available in more shades.

Back to top

Makeup Revolution superfix misting setting spray

Makeup Revolution superfix misting setting spray
  • Best: Budget setting spray
  • Size: 150ml
  • Number of shades available: N/A
  • Shade tested: N/A
  • Key ingredients: Aloe vera and vitamin E

When it comes to creating long lasting make-up looks, I’ve always counted on Urban Decay’s all nighter setting spray (£28,, a must-have product in any make-up lovers arsenal. But, after spotting many a beauty buff comparing this bargain buy to the bestselling Urban Decay option, I knew I had to try it and was not left diappointed.

The lightweight mist (although smelling a little like hairspray) will keep your make-up in place for hours, no matter how hot and sweaty you may get. It effortlessly glides on without any sort of wet feeling and after a minute you’ll forget you even sprayed it in the first place as all sticky feeling will subside leaving a flawless face of matte make-up behind.

Back to top

Elf perfect 10 eyeshadow palette

Elf perfect 10 eyeshadow palette
  • Best: Budget eyeshadow palette
  • Size: 10-pan
  • Number of shades available: 8
  • Shade tested: Nude rose gold
  • Key ingredients: Talc and mica

Elf, like Collection Cosmetics, is another famous bargain beauty brand quickly rising up the ranks of popularity amongst beauty buffs. Not only are its products incredibly affordable but they’re also potent, long-lasting and a real joy to use. This 10-pan eyeshadow palette is a great example of what the brand does best, curating a shade range perfect for creating a smokey eye for every occasion. Working out at just £1 per colour, it really is a no brainer buy and the colour payoff is just as good as palletes that are much more expensive as well.

Back to top

Lottie London bright bounce

Lottie London bright bounce
  • Best: Under eye brightener
  • Size: 5.5g
  • Number of shades available: 2
  • Shade tested: Light
  • Key ingredients: Vitamin E and cherry seed oil

If it’s dark under eye circles that you’re looking to hide, you may want to put down the concealer for just a minute as an under eye brightener could actually be the product that boasts the results you’re searching for. Working as a colour correcter, the peachy hues cancel out any blue-toned darkness, instantly brightening up the area without caking on too much concealer, it really is a gamechanger. Including ingredients such as vitamin E and cherry seed oil, this one also works to reduce signs of inflammation and moisturises the sensitive area.

  1. £6 from
Prices may vary
Back to top

Collection Cosmetics mile high mascara

Collection Cosmetics mile high mascara
  • Best: Budget mascara
  • Size: 9ml
  • Number of shades available: 1
  • Shade tested: N/A
  • Key ingredients: Bamboo extract

My third (and final) Collection Cosmetics addition to this guide is the new mile high mascara. While it isn’t the most lengthening or volumising mascara I’ve ever tried, it is one of the most consistent, softly coating lashes in a deep black colour without too many clumps or a spider leg effect. It’s straightforward, simple, and works incredibly well as an everyday addition to accentuate your natural lash without any worry of flaking. Bamboo extract is also included to help nourish lashes while wearing the mascara, although I’m yet to notice a big difference in lash health since using it.

Back to top

The verdict: Make-up under £20

While personal preference plays a big role in determining which products work best, as each item comes in at under £20, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with any of these buys. If looking for a pick-me-up purchase, I’d recommend the Elf O face satin lipstick everytime. For bigger, failsafe finds, Max Factor’s miracle pure skin improving foundation will work wonders at evening out skin tone while brightening your complexion underneath and Collection Cosmetics’ mile high mascara makes light work of lengthing lashes everyday.

Looking for more bargain beauty buys? Take a look at our skincare under £20 guide

Voucher Codes

TUI Discount Code
£250 off per bookings £2,500+ with this TUI discount code
ASOS Discount Code
15% off first orders over £20 using this ASOS promo code
Travelodge Discount Code
5% off all bookings with this Travelodge discount code
The Body Shop Discount Code
20% off everything with The Body Shop discount code
The Perfume Shop Discount Code
15% of all orders with The Perfume Shop birthday discount
Cult Beauty Discount Code
Up to 20% off all orders over £40 - Cult Beauty discount code

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in