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Ask The Makeup Diva
Welcome to Ask The Makeup Diva™! Our resident expert, The Makeup Diva, answers makeup and skin care questions sent in by readers just like you.

Q: I need inexpensive makeup and nothing I can find that's within my budget looks good! What do I do?

A: Great news! The old adage, "You get what you pay for," doesn't necessarily apply to makeup. With costly brands, you often spend excess money for a product's seductive packaging and signature name. There are numerous possibilities for economical makeup. Browse the Wet 'n Wild counter in your local supermarket or discount/drugstore. Lipsticks sell for about a dollar, and I never leave home without at least one. Most of them (such as "Mega Colors") contain a stain which lasts all day, so I no longer "fade away." I choose neutral, matte, or classic shades and then finish with gloss, clear or tinted. Wet 'n Wild's lip colors are superior to many pricey, department-store brands. The line includes foundation, eyeshadows, blushes, pencils, nail color, and much more. The prices are so low that you almost feel as though you're stealing them! I suggest you also visit Drugstore.com for more ideas. They offer many discounted brands and regularly include tempting "freebies."

The Web site My Beauty Center first lured me with free makeup and shipping; bonuses are commonplace. I use their lash-enhancing mascara in "Eggplant," a softer, flattering hue for almost everyone. It lengthens and thickens lashes without annoying clumps ($6.50). Right now, three of their best-selling blushes come together for $10.95 ("Mystic Mauve," "Colonial Copper," and "Maritime Merlot"-a "one-shade-compliments-most" tint).

"Fine makeup, sensibly priced," was once Maybelline's motto, and that is precisely what they offer. Always visionary (following the most current color trends), the Expert Eyes Trio shadows ($4.50) and Quadro shadows ($5.29) include vivid, popular "glimmer," and understated tones ($5.49). Colors blend beautifully and easily and have adequate staying power.

Cover Girl's "Waterproof" mascara ($3.99) withstands perspiration, swimming, and very long days. I haven't found a better one; neither have some female members of the U.S. Olympic Swimming Team.

You can locate virtually any item you need (from skin care to glamour) at CCB Paris. The agnes b. prices are surprisingly economical, the selection filled with multi-purpose, unique items. All catalog items are now at a 50% discount, and you will receive any product from their brochure completely free of charge if you buy any other (simply contact them to be added to their mailing list). When shopping online, you may select a free moisturizer with any purchase and also receive a product sample for a friend. Presently, they have another enticement (both online and via the catalog): A functional, compartmentalized, folding cosmetic clutch with a purchase of $30 or more (so easy to spend here), and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Some products I particularly enjoy (catalog prices): Lightly pearlized, scented blushes ($5.00), "Apricot Complexion Enhancer" (to even out skin tone--$8.00), a concealer kit with shades of green, lavender, and beige for $6.75 (quite similar to Lancome's "Palette Pro" at a fraction of the cost), and "Special-Effect Eyeshadow," pots which contain eye color to create a nuanced, holographic look ($4.25). Some of their products have been touted in Self and Marie Claire. And there's more . . .

La Femme Cosmetics were once used exclusively by movie and television makeup professionals, as they are specifically formulated to stay true and on your face under hot lights and during lengthy days. Now available to consumers, the hues are distinctive and irresistible; for example, there's "Champagne Gold," "Iridescent Taupe," and "Opalescent Blue"-for a paltry $3.00 each! Offering a plethora of colors, La Femme items can be purchased online at Makeup Mania. Textures vary from matte to lightly and heavily frosted, iridescent, and opalescent. Blush (just $3.00) is available in more than forty shades.

Some important advice: You may not be getting the appearance you desire because you aren't using the right tools. With the money saved on inexpensive cosmetics, invest in excellent brushes and application tools. They are imperative for faultless results. The little plastic/foam applicators accompanying most products are useless. Brushes and accessories can be bought inexpensively (Maybelline's highest-priced brush is $5.50; the rest are under $5.00, available at Drugstore.com). But it seems that true artists' tools work best. Philosophy's Pocketbook of three brushes retails for about $47 (available at Sephora.com) but makes any makeup look as though it's been applied by a professional. For the finest selection of quality brushes, check out Profaces. They sell tools which allow you ultimate control to blend, contour, line, and define (there's a wide price range here). Now you have only one problem: What to buy first?


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