The 30 best body lotions, hair and makeup products for under £20 | Sali Hughes


Tigi Bed Head thickening spray

As seen in countless stylists’ on-set toolkits, this is arguably the best hair volumiser on the market. Spray into damp roots, comb through and blow-dry for big, lasting pouffiness. I find that even without the heat of a hairdryer, I can still get some bulk in my hair by working the product through with my fingers and leaving it au naturel.

The Altruist Suncare Sunscreen

Please can we talk about how worthy and necessary Altruist suncare is? Created by two dermatologists on a mission to democratise what can be a lifesaving “beauty” product, Altruist makes extremely high-quality, cruelty-free sun protection, sells it cheaply and gives money from each sale to a charity for children socially excluded because of albinism. The Invisible Sunspray SPF50 (a fiver for 200ml) is all one needs for a family holiday. There really is no reason to spend more.

Soap & Glory Sugar Crush body lotion

When this returned after six months of stock issues, I immediately bought six huge bottles, such is my dependence on it to keep my body moisturised and smooth. Unlike other lotions containing de-flaking alpha hydroxy acids, this doesn’t stink – quite the opposite. The refreshing kiwi-lime scent is cheering rather than cloying, and the moisturising ingredients somehow allow for maximum comfort but minimal drying time. Magic stuff.

Neutrogena Hydroboost body gel cream

A body lotion for people who hate body lotion, this light gel cream comforts itchy, dehydrated skin instantly, leaving limbs smoother, plumper, noticeably hydrated and entirely devoid of grease. If I had to choose any one brand, I’d say that, product for product, Neutrogena makes the best body lotions in the world.

Love Beauty and Planet Volume and Bounty Citrus and Camelia Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoos are, in terms of efficacy, much of a muchness. All are useful in absorbing oils, bulking up roots and adding a grittiness to flat, fine hair. But what separates the good from the unwearable is invisibility and smell. Too many dry shampoos smell of sickly sweet, cloying perfume (think schooldays’ body spray), but this is clean, fresh, subtle and more expensive-smelling, and it leaves no telltale chalky residue to dull your hair colour. The adult’s dry shampoo.

Evolve Sunless Glow Body Lotion

This may seem at the steeper end of gradual-tanning products, but if each of its functions were fulfilled by separate products, it would prove pretty competitive. Shea butter moisturises like a rich body cream, papaya fruit enzymes slough away flakes and ashiness, aloe soothes irritation and a moderate amount of self-tanner gives a golden, radiant tint. Use daily for a proper “tan”, twice weekly for a subtle glow. It takes a little more rubbing in, but is the best I’ve used. I’ve just finished my second bottle and, at time of writing, am refreshing the webpage daily for a restock.

L’Oreal Magic Retouch Spray

Hands down, the best root touch-up product on the market. A pigmented hairspray with a thin nozzle to target the tiniest crops of grey or white, and conceal them with realistic, temporary colour (I wear Medium Iced Brown). Technique is important – depress the button quickly and without hesitation. Dithering causes the product to deposit droplets on the skin. Lock down with some light hairspray (Elnett or similar) to make it go the distance. There’s a very good hair mascara in the same range, if you’d prefer.

Schwarzkopf Got2be Glued Blasting Freeze Spray
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If you want feather-light, flexible, natural-looking hold, er, don’t buy this. Get L’Oréal Elnett instead. Subtlety is not got2b Glued’s vibe. If you want unbeatable, unmovable, all-day hold with not a hair out of place – even if you plan to wing walk with your hair in a beehive – this is your new best friend. There’s simply nothing like it.

& Other Stories Vegan Lärkstaden Shower Oil

If I needed to buy an affordable gift for someone stylish in need of a little self-care, I’d start here. & Other Stories may be known for its Skandi fashion, but it makes some of the best natural beauty products on the high street. This almost all-natural, vegan-friendly bodycare range is so terrific that I hesitate to single out the silky, moisturising shower oil as my favourite. The lovely recycled/recyclable packaging looks like something way more spendy.

Rimmel London Wonder’ full Brow

My most used brow gel of last year, this separates hairs and adds bulking fibres to create the illusion of thicker brows, while setting their shape without that horrible crispiness. Marvellous, though do note that the colours are way cooler (ideal) than the warmer-toned (to be avoided) outer tubes suggest.

Zara Emotions perfume

There was huge excitement when it was announced that Jo Malone CBE, creative visionary behind the Jo Loves luxury perfume house, had created a line of affordable fragrances for high-street giant Zara, and to give her full credit, she gave punters exactly what they expected and wanted – her signature light, extremely wearable, floral and botanical scents. There are no bad fragrances here, but try Amalfi Sunray to eke out the last of summer.

Maybelline Falsies Lash Lift

Here’s the thing about mascara: there is no “best”, only the best for you, your eye shape and your desired look. I cannot offer a silver bullet to address all your mascara woes, but I can say that this lifts and fans out adamantly straight lashes as though I’ve been at them with an eyelash curler, and doesn’t clump. Eyes immediately appear wider and more awake, lashes look instantly, and dramatically, thicker and longer. An exceptional all-rounder.

Revolution Makeup Obsession lip and cheek sticks

I’m a sucker for a 2-in-1 lip and cheek colour, but few deliver well on the former, washing lips in either a dullish veil, or a sheer tint so imperceptible as to be pointless. This is different. The colour choices are wearable and useful, the quantity generous and the price terrific. Stroke on direct from the stick and blend with a brush or warm fingertips. Dreamboat suits everyone.

Morphe Lipstick

Since the sad demise of Bourjois in the UK, this has taken pole position as my high-street lipstick of choice. There are three finishes – cream, matte and mega matte – but I include only two here, as the latter isn’t anything like as comfortable on the lips. Drenched in pigment, these have excellent opacity of colour and the silky, glide-on application of a luxury lipstick. The shade range is excellent (the nudes, in particular, are well thought out and varied, and mostly vegan) and none looks chalky on darker skin. Oh, and they last pretty darn well.

e.l.f. Putty eye primer
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Ostensibly a range of colour-correcting primers to underlay, grip on to and enhance other eye makeup – and they do it extremely well. Where e.l.f. has sold these superb cream shadows short, is in failing to also market them as long-wearing colours in their own right. A quick swoosh of Rose, Clay or Sand, with fingertips or brush, across the eyelid and up to the crease is the easiest, most effortless daytime eye look. Among my launches of the year – at any price point.

Body Shop hemp hand protector

What this no-nonsense hand cream lacks in glamour and sex appeal, it more than compensates for in efficacy. Rich, and unscented, hemp seed oil-laden cream makes short work of hands made dry, sore or cracked by constant hand washing, or by outside or manual work, while still passing the doorknob grip test. Extra points for the aluminium packaging, too. Outstanding.

LA Girl HD Pro Conceal

This concealer, from a great little brand, has an exceptional colour range and lovely texture – thin, silky, lightweight and blendable. It doesn’t cake, stays put and doesn’t have that dead, matte look so many concealers do. Lovely job.

No7 Pefect pressed powder

As a big lover of face powder, I’ve tried almost all, and this is the best on the high street. Sets makeup and mattifies light shine (if skin is oily, don’t keep layering on – remove excess first with skin blotting paper) without dulling and drying. The key is in the subtle, non-glittery, light-reflecting particles and the fine milling. Suitable for all skins and ages.

L’Oreal Paris True Match Liquid Foundation Golden Toffee

There’s some heated online debate around the best budget foundation (RIP Bourjois Healthy Mix, my own former choice), but this medium-coverage liquid is, in my view, the best all-rounder. Suitable for everyone, it has an SPF17 and a semi-matte finish that neither bastes oily skin nor cakes on dry types. A 40-strong shade range is wider than many at four times the price, and the colour stays true all day.

Intense Colour Long Lasting Eyeliner

A makeup artist friend first recommended these to me a while back and she’s right: they’re brilliant. Silky, intensely coloured pencils that stay emphatically in place all day – no transfer on to the upper lids or cheeks. They come in 16 colours (Pearly Brown would flatter anyone), and there’s none of that horrible, dry, dragging-along one gets with inferior pencils, meaning you can get the colour right against the lashline.

Nails Inc Remover Pot

In modern life, there is no need for most uses of cotton wool. This ingeniously takes care of one of them. To remove old nail polish, simply dip your fingertips one by one into the spongy cavity, twist and lift out clean. When it’s empty, you can add some remover to rejuvenate (or make your own with a jam jar and sponge).

NYX Bare With Me Tinter Skin Veil

How do you choose the best from a brand that is so consistently excellent and fairly priced across the board? I went for this barely there foundation (I almost included its excellent Born To Glow Foundation, but L’Oréal just pipped it for versatility), ideal for very light makeup wearers or teenagers. It strokes on with fingertips in seconds, isn’t matte and drab, and instantly perks up a complexion in need of a boost.

Nuddy Shampoo Bar
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Solid bars of sulphate-free shampoo, left naked or in recycled packaging, are undoubtedly the eco-conscious choice for hair washing. Unfortunately, too many leave a waxy film, causing fine hair to droop and greasy roots to feel heavy. This delicious açaí berry and peach-scented bar does neither. Lasts up to 80 rich, creamy, thorough washes. The best I’ve tried.

BeCo soap bar in Honey Blossom

Next time you’re in the soap aisle at the supermarket, cast your eyes downwards to where the global brands wouldn’t be seen dead, and all the independents jostle for attention. Here you’ll find Beco, a social enterprise manufacturing high-quality, eco-friendly, cruelty-free and affordable soap bars, thanks to a properly paid workforce of sight-impaired and registered blind employees. All Beco’s soaps are first class, but I’ve singled out Honey Blossom for its utterly beautiful scent.

Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Leave in Conditioner

This mask has superpowers on thick, curly, coiled hair, or on any hair that is overprocessed or heat-damaged. The coconut, glycerin, jojoba and castor oil blend adds intense silky moisture, bans frizz and gives great definition to curls and waves.

Vaseline Intensive Care 2in1 Hand Cream & Anti-Bacterial

At this point in 2020, I need scarcely mention that repeated use of antibacterial hand gel leaves many a palm dry and uncomfortable. This ingenious solution combines the germ-killing properties of gel with the cosseting moisture and barrier protection of hand cream, to give back what is simultaneously being taken away. So simple, so very needed.

La Roche Posay Lipikar Syndet AP+ Wash

Eczema, psoriasis, rosacea, photosensitivity, dermatitis, inflamed or extremely sensitive skin – whatever the skin complaint of anyone in your family (even newborns), this body wash (which can also be used on hair) will treat them with kid gloves. Foams nicely and cleans thoroughly without stripping skin or upsetting it with perfumes and essential oils. So brilliantly bland, it’s also good for anyone who suffers from cystitis or thrush and finds other soaps only make matters worse.

The Sanctuary Wet Skin Radiance Jelly

Truly, one of my favourite launches in the past decade. A humectant, watermelon-scented, no-rinse body jelly, containing the sort of hydrating and exfoliating ingredients often reserved for facial skincare. Stroke effortlessly over soaking-wet skin before leaving the shower (there are versions for super-dry skin – also great). The result: moist, smooth, comfortable skin with no sticky residue. A true innovation that I use almost every day.

e.l.f. Bite size eye shadows

I’m calling it: these are the best-value makeup items anywhere on the high street. Four good-quality, blendable, well-pigmented, vegan-friendly eye shadows in colours you actually want to wear, for an extraordinarily reasonable 75p a shade. The small, thin palette is ideal for throwing in your daily handbag, ensuring that you’re always equipped should you want to upscale your look. Awards must be given.

Dove Hydrating Care

Sensitive skins are often aggravated by sulphates (sodium laureth sulphates) (SLS), which used to mean spending more cash on an SLS-free shower gel. This newish product from Dove democratises things, and creates rich, sumptuous foam without the sulphates.



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