I Tested Pricey Products Against Affordable Options — and the Results Might Surprise You

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If you can't afford a $500 serum, that would put you with about 99 percent of the population — including me. Although my job grants me the privilege of trying a lot of beauty products for free, I've learned that a heftier price tag doesn't always mean better results. Ahead, find the pricey products I've found are worth your money, coupled with great affordable options if you just can't justify the cost. Cheers to looking great while also being able to pay your electricity bill.

Tom Ford Lip Color
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Tom Ford Lip Color

I can't even remember what I had for breakfast this morning, but I'll never forget the first time I tried a Tom Ford Lip Color ($55). I was a naive editorial intern in a magazine's large beauty closet, and I was drawn to the cubic design of the tube, not realizing it was Tom f*cking Ford. I couldn't believe how vibrant the color looked on my lips, and was seriously impressed when it lasted through both a bacon egg and cheese sandwich and a makeout sesh I had later. When I later learned the price, I wasn't exactly surprised — it's that good.

Sephora Collection Lipstories Lipstick
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Sephora Collection Lipstories Lipstick

Years later, the Sephora Collection Lip Stories Lipstick ($8) came into my life. If I tested it blind, I would never guess that the formula (which is available in 40 cream, matte, and metallic options), costs less than 10 bucks. It slides on your lips in one fell swoop and coats your mouth in a plush, velvety feeling.

Pat McGrath Subversive Mothership III Eye Shadow Palette
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Pat McGrath Subversive Mothership III Eye Shadow Palette

I knew about Pat McGrath's coveted, often-sold-out products before I tried her Subversive Mothership III Eye Shadow Palette ($125). Given the hype, my expectations were high — but the real thing blew me away. TBH, I didn't really know the term "blendable" until I met these 10 beyond-creamy powders. Yes, the shimmering, party-ready colors are not your everyday, meet-the-parents eye shadow fare. But it will bring your special-events looks to new heights.

Essence Cosmetics I'm With the Band Eye Shadow Palette
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Essence Cosmetics I'm With the Band Eye Shadow Palette

Remember that $5 Reddit-famous mascara? That came courtesy of Essence Cosmetics, which is a great affordable brand to turn to when you want the ramen-for-dinner version of fancy beauty products. While this I'm With the Band Eye Shadow Palette ($10) isn't as creamy as Pat's offering, the colors are just as vibrant and fun to play with. It also lasts forever, even on oily eyelids.

Christian Louboutin Les Yeux Noirs Lash Amplifying Lacquer
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Christian Louboutin Les Yeux Noirs Lash Amplifying Lacquer

The Christian Louboutin Les Yeux Noirs Lash Amplifying Lacquer ($70) might just be the most regal-looking beauty product out there, but the price tag isn't just reflective of its splash packaging. The slender applicator also applies evenly over every last lash, and it's practically impossible for it to look clumpy. What's more, it's jet black and super dramatic.

Maybelline Total Temptation Washable Mascara
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Maybelline Total Temptation Washable Mascara

Considering you should switch out your mascara every three months, it's understandable that you might enforce a strict drugstore-only rule on your eyelash products. If so, step right over to the drugstore aisle where this Maybelline Total Temptation Washable Mascara ($7) lives. The formula gives off an eye-opening effect that is chic enough to cost a million dollars. Plus, it's ridiculously easy to apply, which is great for scrubs like me who can often be found swiping on mascara while running to catch a bus.

Cane + Austin Miracle Pad + 30% Glycolic Facial Treatment
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Cane + Austin Miracle Pad + 30% Glycolic Facial Treatment

These Cane + Austin Miracle Pad + 30% Glycolic Facial Treatment ($88) were one of the first skincare products that helped turn around my acne. What's better is they're also the easiest to use. Just scrub this pad all over your face, and over time your skin will look like you get fancy-pants peels all the time.

Bliss That's Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads
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Bliss That's Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads

The whole point of giving yourself a spa experience at home is so that hopefully you save a chunk of change in doing so. That's why these Bliss That's Incredi-Peel Glycolic Resurfacing Pads ($20) are so genius. They contain glycolic acid that potently – but gently — helps decrease the appearance of hyperpigmentation and acne.

La Prairie Skin Cavier Luxe Cream
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La Prairie Skin Cavier Luxe Cream

The La Prairie Skin Cavier Luxe Cream ($485) is a classic for a reason. When even the Pope tries a product, you know it's serious. The Swiss brand keeps the secret sauce formula of Skin Cavier very hush-hush, but the luxurious feeling is super hydrating and melts into your skin.

Laneige Water Sleeping Mask
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Laneige Water Sleeping Mask

Can't swing such coin on your thirsty skin? No biggie — this Laneige Water Sleeping Mask ($25) is a gel option that works overnight to brighten your face back up and restore your natural glow. Since it does the deed while you sleep, this is the ultimate product for lazy people — and it actually works.

Viktor & Rolf Magic Dirty Trick
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Viktor & Rolf Magic Dirty Trick

No ifs, and, or buts about it — this Viktor & Rolf Magic Dirty Trick ($190) is sexy. Please reserve this warm and spicy fragrance for moments you need an unabashed surge of confidence. The super sensual fragrance is mostly musky, but has a sweet after note of iris.

Wild Spirit Chill Eau De Parfum
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Wild Spirit Chill Eau De Parfum

As we commence a season of apple picking and caramel lattes, know that this Wild Spirit Chill Eau De Parfum ($25) is the absolute essence of Fall's sweet side. It's a heavy vanilla scent that gives off a tinge of apple and caramel.

Sisley-Paris Volumizing Spray
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Sisley-Paris Volumizing Spray

I've been testing this Sisley-Paris Volumizing Spray ($90) all Summer in advance of its release this Fall, and it's cut my hairstyling time in half. I used to rely on heat tools to give my stick-straight hair any semblance of volume or texture, but this spray provides waves in a second, with just one spritz. I use the extra time I have now from not standing with an iron in my hand for 45 minutes by doing important things, like catching up on my true-crime shows.

Kristin Ess Dry Finish Working Texture Spray
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Kristin Ess Dry Finish Working Texture Spray

Kristin Ess, the guru behind the hair of Lucy Hale and Lili Reinhart, has her own collection of affordable products you can pick up at trusty old Target. The Dry Finish Working Texture Spray ($14) also gives a boost to lifeless strands, and let's be real — the minimalist-chic bottle looks super expensive.