My favourite luxe makeup essentials and their cheaper alternatives

There are some products in my makeup kit that I simply cannot live without. I use them every day on myself and on my clients.  I wanted to share my must have items with you all and then I realized they were all quite expensive “luxury, high end products.” Being a professional artist that is paid to apply makeup on others I think it is important for me to have the high end and best of the best products as I want to pamper my clients. However, for everyday use most of us don’t want to spend a fortune on makeup so below I have listed my luxury favourite’s and then I have listed a cheaper alternative. I must admit that most of the cheaper alternatives gave their expensive partners a run for their money, so now when it comes to my personal makeup shopping I will spend more time in Priceline and less time in boutiques and David  Jones.


makeup essentials and their cheaper alternatives

Luxe – Armani Luminous Silk $90 from David Jones

Cheaper Alternative – Bourjois Healthy Mix $32 from Priceline

Saving $58 *this is my favourite cheaper alternative that I think is better than many luxe options

My favourite luxe foundation is Armani Luminous Silk $90. It covers well but it isn’t thick and it gives a lovely dewy finish (so powder well if you get shiny). I use this foundation both on myself and in my kit. It literally looks like a second skin and gives such a beautiful light reflective finish. It also comes in a huge variety of shades so you are guaranteed to find one that matches your skin tone. The down side is here is Australia it sells at David Jones for a hefty $90. I try to stock up at Dubai Airport where I normally pay $50-$60 depending on the exchange rate.

My favourite cheaper alternative is Bourjois Healthy Mix Foundation $32 from Priceline for normal skin or Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum Foundation for dry skin. The Healthy Mix has a little more coverage and a slightly matte finish where as the Healthy Mix Serum is a little sheerer and dewy so better for a dehydrated or dry skin. I get a little oily so I bought the Healthy Mix. At $32 I think it is a bargain and it does give its expensive competition a run for its money. It has great coverage and a beautiful silky finish. I bought shade 54 (as that was the palest they had in stock). In conclusion, I will definitely be using Bourjois Healthy Mix on myself, I just love the medium coverage and the flattering light reflective yet velvet finish, I also love the $52 saving! It’s a big call to make but Bourjois Healthy Mix really is one of the best foundations I have ever tried, I encourage you all to go and try it!

Trade rumour – Bourjois Healthy Mix Foundation is apparently the same as Chanel’s Pro Lumiere. I can’t comment on that as I don’t use Chanel foundation but I thought you might find that interesting.


makeup essentials and their cheaper alternatives

Luxe – Nars Orgasm Illuminator $48 at Mecca Cosmetica

Cheaper Alternative – Face Of Australia Mineral Therapy Illuminator $14.95 at Priceline

Saving – $33

We all want dewy, radiant and glowing skin, right? Well most of us have to fake it so that is where illuminator comes in. I personally mix a little in with my foundation and then apply it to make application quick and easy. Pro tip – mix it in the foundation you apply to your cheeks only, not your T-zone if you have an oily T-zone.

I have tried many illuminators in the past for example Mac’s famous Strobe cream but I always come back to Nars Orgasm Illuminator. It comes in other great shades but this one is really subtle so it’s my favourite. On the skin it looks really natural, it creates light reflective skin as opposed to an OTT shimmery effect. It also feels light weight and not greasy.  The cheaper alternative at $14.95 is Face of Australia Mineral Therapy. At first glance they are quite similar but I soon realize the Face of Australia is stronger in colour and shimmer. It is more like the Nars Super Orgasm Illuminator. It feels great, has a lot of pigment and doesn’t have chunky glitter which I hate. My verdict is I prefer the Nars illuminator in my kit because it photographs better but the cheaper alternative is a great addition to your personal makeup collection. You will be saving over $30 but just be sure to use a tiny bit in your foundation because less is more when it comes to shimmer in illuminators and this one is stronger than its luxe competitor.


makeup essentials

Luxe – Nars Blush $45 from Mecca Cosmetica.

Cheaper alternative – Bourjois Blushes $20 from Priceline.

Saving $25.

I hate to keep talking about Nars but they are the creators of the famous and hugely popular Orgasm blush so I had to choose their blush for my luxe choice. I have every single one of their blushes in my kit but my favourite is Deep Throat as the soft pink suits my pale skin. I should mention that there are so many beautiful luxe blushes out there, I also use Chanel and Smashbox quite frequently. To find the best cheaper alternative I asked my makeup artist friends Helen Sotis and Rebekah Foxe to help me as I hadn’t tried any until I wrote this blog. They both spoke highly of Bourjois blushes as a cheaper alternative and said they used them on themselves. What I didn’t know until they told me is that Bourjois Cosmetics are the owners of Chanel cosmetics, so they are both made in the same factory. I bought Bourjois “Rose Tea.” It is highly pigmented and so you don’t need to apply much which I like. The colour is a little deep for me, but it would like great on someone with a slightly tanned skin.  They have so many shades to choose from so I am sure you will find one that suits you from their range. I will be sticking to my Nars as I love the light reflective finish it creates on the skin but I certainly think the Bourjois blush is a great performer for its price point.

Eye Shadow Palette

makeup essentials and their cheaper alternatives

Luxe – Urban Decay Naked 1 $80 from Beauty Bay

Cheaper Alternative – Chi Chi Glamorous Nudes $19.95 from Myer

Saving $60

Now this was a hard one to choose as I have many favourite eye shadow palettes that I can’t live without. I decided to choose the Urban Decay Naked 1 Palette $80 for my luxe choice as it is popular all over the world with makeup artists and consumers as it contains so many wearable colours that I know you will all love. I will mention it is definitely a choice for those that love their shimmers, you won’t love it if you prefer mattes. For a great matte palette I recommend Viseart Essential Matte Palette from Glamorous Nudes by Chi Chi $19.95 is a cheaper alternative to the Urban Decay Naked palette, in fact it is a blatant rip off. For a detailed comparison of the two you can read my friends blog but essentially all you need to know is Chi Chi is where it’s at if you want a wearable selection of 12 colours for only $19.95 from Myers. Now I didn’t say it is better than the Naked palette, I will definitely stick to my urban decay but I do think it is an absolutely great palette for a quarter of the price. The pigment is much better than I thought it would be and the colours are very similar. Below is a swatch of both palettes on my arm, you can barely tell the difference in the colours between the cheaper and the luxe.

Gemma Nichols Makeup Tips

Eyeliner (gel)

makeup essentials and their cheaper alternatives- Eyeliners

Luxe – Mac Fluid Line $32 from Mac Cosmetics

Cheaper Alternative – Maybelline Gel Pot Liner $16.95

Saving $15 plus you get a complimentary brush with the Maybelline one so you are saving on that too

My signature look is my liquid liner. I love it on myself and I love it on my clients. I like to use gels as they are waterproof and can also be used in the waterline in place of a kohl pencil (as they last much longer). My luxe choice is my Mac fluid line $32 from Mac, I have it in a selection of colours and it is great. It glides on easily and is rich in colour and very long lasting. My cheaper alternative is the Maybelline Eye Studio Gel Pot Liner $16.95 from Priceline. It even comes with a brush to apply it which you have to buy separately from Mac. I am really impressed with this product, it isn’t quite as creamy as my mac one but it does go on really nicely and last all day. It is definitely better than some of other luxe brands I have tried (like the Bobbi Brown one I was disappointed with) so I definitely recommend it.

Waterproof Cream Shadow

makeup essentials Cheaper alternatives-Waterproof Cream Shadow


Luxe – Make Up For Ever Aqua Cream $35 from PM Studio

Cheaper Alternative – Maybelline 24hr Colour Tattoo $11.95 from Priceline

Saving $21

Now everyone needs a waterproof cream shadow in their makeup collection as they are so easy to apply and last all day long. You don’t even need a brush you can apply in a few seconds with your finger tips.

My luxe choice is Makeup Forever Aqua Cream $35 from PM Studio which I use in my kit underneath eye shadows to intensify pigment but they can be worn alone. I have a few colours but my favourite every day colour is shade 13 which is a soft, light golden pink. The similar and fabulous cheaper alternative is Maybelline 24hr Colour Tattoo Metal $11.95 from Priceline. I bought 55 Inked in Pink as it is a pretty pink (I just love pretty pinks on blue eyes), 70 Barely Branded (a lovely creamy gold colour) and 35 Tough as Taupe (a lovely earthy colour that would be great for a soft smokey effect). The verdict is both are amazing with great pigment and longevity but the Maybelline wins as it is great value for money at $11.95 from Priceline, I just wish they had as many colours as the Makeup Forever range. Pro Tip – Wear underneath your shadow for a more intense effect.


makeup essentials and their cheaper alternatives-Mascara

Luxe –Lancome Hypnose Mascara $52 from Myer

Cheaper Alterntaive – Maybelline The Falsies $19.95 from Coles

Saving $32 *mascara is the only category that I think the cheaper option is nowhere near as good as its luxe competitor.

Every woman is in search of perfect mascara right? For me my absolute favourite (luxe) is Lancome Hypnose mascara. They have released different versions of the Hypnose but the only difference is the brush so just choose your favourite based on the brush. There are so many cheaper mascaras on the market but the one most makeup artists recommend is Maybelline The Falsies Mascara $19.95 from Coles.  Below is a pic of me wearing each mascara and as you can see there is simply no contest. I have long, thick full lashes with my Lancome Hypnose Doll Eyes mascara (right eye, splurge) but with The Falsies Maybelline mascara (left eye, budget) my lashes look long but not thick at all and I struggled to build up the layers to get a full effect. The verdict, splurge on the luxe if you want movie star thick, long lashes as the cheaper alternative just doesn’t come close. I know it’s an extra $30 but that works out to be $10 a month extra as they last around 3 months so personally I think it is worth it. Tip – if you are lucky enough to travel oversea’s regulary or know someone that does buy your Lancome mascara in a 3 pack at the airport (overseas not an Australian airport).  I buy my 3 packs from Dubai for between $90-$120 depending on the exchange rate.


Lip liner

Lip Liner-Makeup essentials Cheaper Allternative

Luxe – Nars Lip Liners $36 from Mecca Cosmetica

Cheaper Alternative – Rimmel Lasting Finish Lip liner $8.50 from Priceline

Saving $27.50

So those of you that have had a one on one or group makeup lesson with me know I love and adore the Nars Tonga Lip liner so it has to be my luxe choice. It is the perfect nude lip liner that isn’t too firm or too soft. Another great luxe choice are the Mac Lip liners, they have many more colours to choose from than Nars but for me they just don’t beat the texture and the longevity of Nars. When it comes to listing its cheaper alternative it has to be Rimmel Lasting Finish Lip Liner $8.50 from Priceline. Rimmel lip liners have a cult following in the makeup industry, they are absolutely fabulous for the bargain price of $8.50. To make it even better I bought mine on Friday at Priceline and they had a 2 for 1 deal so I actually paid $4.25 for a lip liner, my Nars one cost me $36! The verdict Nars is still my favourite for longevity but they lack in colour choice,  Rimmel are a fraction of the price and have many more colours to choose from and glide on really easily although they don’t stay on as long.

Long lasting liquid lipsticks

Long Lasting Liquid lipstics

Luxe – Hourglass Femme Rouge Liquid Lipstick $45 Mecca or Stila Stay all Day Liquid Lipstick $32 both from Mecca Cosmetica.

Cheaper Alternative – Revlon Colourstay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick $16 from Priceline (be careful where you shop as my local chemist in Potts Point were selling these for $27, $11 more than Priceline)

Saving $29 and the good news is the cheaper one is better than the luxe!

Liquid Lipsticks are my absolute favourite thing in the world at the moment. On weekends I get up for work at and don’t normally get home until 6pm and I don’t have time to worry about reapplying my makeup so I need something that will stay on all day long. I have two luxe options and they are Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick $32 from mecca or Hourglass Liquid Lipstick $45 also from Mecca. The stila ones are my preferred choice as they stay on better but they don’t have a big colour range. They tend to have more bright colours than soft neutrals.  Hourglass have plenty of neutrals which I use on my brides but they don’t last as long and I tend to go through my favourite Rose almost monthly so it works out to be very expensive in my kit. Recently many of my clients have been telling me about the Revlon and Maybelline liquid lipsticks so I had to try them out. The verdict is the cheaper alternative Revlon Colourstay Ultimate Liquid Lipstick $16 from Priceline is amazing, it is so long lasting I cannot get it off! They have a great selection of colours too, I am now absolutely hooked on this cheaper alternatives and I plan to buy every colour both for myself and my kit. I should mention Maybelline’s Timeless Liquid Lipstick are good too but they are more expensive at $21.95 each and I also prefer the packaging of Revlon.

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Gemma Nichols Makeup Artistry is a mobile makeup and hair styling service in Sydney that will pamper you & your group to perfection for all occasions.
Gemma also specialises in commercial & corporate print & film.