Beauty on a Budget

College students are held to a stereotype: poor and unkempt. In San Diego, college students kill that stereotype. College students here are no less economically challenged than other students, but they have amazing skin and hair. It begs the question: How is this possible?

It’s possible because there are many ways to save money on beauty products, services and tools. So, herein is a comprehensive breakdown of the best places at the best prices in San Diego to find it all.

First, makeup. Everyone knows about M.A.C. (Makeup Artist Company), Urban Decay, Esteé Lauder, Lancôme and Clinique. All of them have products that are well known and even loved by users, but drugstore brands have come a long way in quality that rival high-end brands. Drugstore brands can be challenging to navigate between what should be bought and what shouldn’t. Comparing costs, however, is not a challenge.

Urban Decay’s Naked eyeshadow palettes versions one and two each offer 12 eyeshadow colors and cost $50 each. Alternatively, NYX Cosmetics Nude on Nude palette offers 20 pigmented neutral shades and a slide out tray of 10 different lip shades for $25. If $25 is too steep, NYX Cosmetics offers single eyeshadows for $4.50 each. Palettes of varying numbers of shadows cost $6, $7, $8 and $10. Their eyeshadows are comparable to M.A.C’s shadows at a fraction of those prices. For more information about NYX Cosmetics, visit

Another makeup company that offers good products for even less money is Eyes Lips Face (e.l.f.). A pair of lashes packaged with a small tube of adhesive costs $1. Spending $3 on a flat top powder brush that blends foundation on the face just as well as the Sigma F80 brush that costs $81 is smart. So is spending $6 for e.l.f.’s eight grams of HD powder, which does the same thing that Makeup Forever’s HD powder does, but they ask $16 for 0.17 grams or $34 for 0.3 ounces. Most items e.l.f. sells cost $1, $2, $3 or $6. Their holiday sets are affordable with the most expensive set costing $36, which includes eye shadows, glosses, highlight powders, and blushes. For more information about e.l.f., visit

Other items for comparison include: Esteé Lauder’s Double Wear Foundation, which costs $37 for one fluid ounce and claims to have 15 hours of staying power. A good replacement that doesn’t stress the wallet is Revlon’s ColorStay foundation for $10 (Wal-Mart). This line offers colors for all skin tones as well as two formulas: oily/normal and dry/normal. Lancôme has several nice foundations, but they run between $29.50 to $60. Really. Lancôme is owned by L’Oréal, so whatever Lancôme foundations are sold, L’Oréal sells the same kind, with maybe a few differences in the formulation for $11 to $16. NYX, Rimmel and Hard Candy each have good foundations that cost even less.

A couple of items that most makeup wearers need in their arsenal are highlighters and contours. Highlighting and contouring the face has existed almost as long as the film business has. High-end contours like NARS Laguna can cost $36 and Hoola by Benefit Cosmetics costs $28, but inexpensive alternatives like Wet n Wild, e.l.f. and NYX have contour, highlighting and bronzing powders for as little as $3.

Finally, there are three items that should be in every makeup wearers collection. Maybelline’s Define-A-Brow Pencil for $8, offered in four different colors for all brow shades, mimics real hair and is a great substitution for Anastasia Beverly Hill Brow Wiz Skinny Brow Pencil ($21). Another great Maybelline product is their Eye Studio Gel Eyeliner. It’s blacker than M.A.C.’s Blacktrack Fluid Line ($16) and cheaper at $8. Milani’s Baked Blush in Luminous has been widely regarded as NARS’ Orgasm twin with a teensy bit more coral and without the $29 price tag.

A quick word about Milani Cosmetics: they are affordable with a price range of $4-$9. They have a tightly edited menu of products and they believe in strong pigmentation. Their lipsticks are not to be ignored, as the colors will get the wearer noticed from a block away and the formula is not tacky or drying. For more information about Milani, visit

About Hard Candy — their products are fun! Great colors, highly pigmented, great shine and color offerings, glitter (even in the mascaras), primers, body shimmer creams, wonderful lip products and eyeshadow palettes. Hard Candy was first noticed for their nail polishes, which were sold in Nordstrom and came with heart shaped plastic rings on the polish tops. A few years later, Hard Candy showed up with a whole makeup line, including the nail polishes, sans rings. For more information about Hard Candy, visit

Some of the best places for inexpensive products are Ulta Beauty (NYX Cosmetics); Target (e.l.f. makeup and brushes); Wal-Mart (the only place to buy Hard Candy brand and Milani); Sephora (sale items are greatly affordable); Bed, Bath and Beyond (also great drugstore prices); TJ Maxx and Marshalls (both have affordable hair products and bath, shower, skincare items); the Beauty Supply Warehouse (hair, nails, makeup and skin care); the 99¢ Only Stores (lashes) and Big Lots (makeup, hair products and skin care). Not all of these stores carry the same items, but they all can help save money on beauty products.

Affordable hair care is not difficult, but can be tricky. Always look at the ingredients. Many companies use sodium laureth sulphate, which is the same sulphate used in dishwashing detergents. The choice to use something with sulphates is strictly up to the shopper. Google and Wikipedia are ready references to learn about what is in shampoos and conditioners.

A hair care regimen should be simple, consisting of as few products as possible, such as a shampoo, a separate conditioner and a styling product for one’s own hair type. For those who like to change it up with different hairstyles, a ceramic and/or ionic blow-dryer, a curling instrument that is heat adjustable and a thermal spray can be added. Marshall’s and TJ Maxx have affordable professional lines such as Aveda, Tigi and Rusk. Two drugstore lines that give good results are Not Your Mother’s which can be found at Ulta and Schwartzkopf which can be found at Bed Bath and Beyond. Prices can be anywhere from $10 to $25.

Skin care and bath products are inexpensive. Skin care is important because it’s the first thing people tend to see and it is the first indicator of anything in the body that may be unhealthy. San Diego is a desert climate and the weather gets bone dry twice a year during spring and fall. A skin regimen for everyone should include a facial moisturizer, facial cleanser (for one’s skin type), a bottle of witch hazel (to tone the face and neck after cleansing) and a body moisturizer.

Two separate moisturizers are necessary because skin on the face and neck is different from skin on the rest of the body. Fortunately, skin products also fit nicely into a student’s budget because these items can be found (even the natural, organic and vegan products) in Wal-Mart and Target. For specialized organic and vegan products, Sprouts carries them at a slightly higher price point.

Products for men are recommended because the student population isn’t only female. Men should use a shampoo and separate conditioner if they have hair on their heads. When used consistently, conditioner keeps hair soft and manageable. Cowlicks need not apply when conditioner is in residence. Fella’s should have a facial moisturizer, as well as a body moisturizer, a face scrub (men’s faces have tougher skin and while the importance of a scrub may be questioned, just know that it helps prevent ingrown hairs and helps make for a smoother shave), a good razor, and a good pair of scissors to maintain facial hair. Wal-Mart, Target and Bed Bath and Beyond can fulfill all these needs.

If hair and skin needs are beyond a student’s capabilities or a little something extra is sought (glycolic peel? waxing? manicure and pedicure?), but find that prices for these products are out of reach, there are smartphone applications and websites that offer discounts for beauty services such as Amazon Local, Google Offers, and San Diego Reader Deals and Discounts. If these still don’t fit the budget, there is a place right on San Diego City College’s campus that can help with beauty woes: the Cosmetology Department of San Diego City College. For more information and their menu of services with prices, visit

The Cosmetology Department is located on the first two floors of the CTC/V building on 16th Street at the corner of C Street. The head of the department is Professor Sudabeh Phillips, who has been with the department since 1990 and has been a licensed cosmetologist since 1981. Prior to City College, she was a chemist with Joico in color development, an educator and a platform artist. She has earned a Bachelor of Science in chemistry, a Bachelor of Arts in education as well as a Master of Science in chemistry. Professor Phillips is part of the five person panel that oversees and supports the department and was a member of the planning committee for the CTC/V building in 1995. “Our panel is heavy on education,” said Phillips.

The Cosmetology Department is clean (to say the very least). Professor Phillips stresses cleanliness and professionalism: “Sanitation is key,” the like of which cannot be found in many other salons in San Diego, no matter the price paid for services. Under Professor Phillips’ guidance, senior cosmetology students practice their chosen trade on paying clients, using the most modern processes. These students also have the opportunity to work with photography students for the knowledge of angles, shadows as well as the commercial side of their chosen industry.

Student cosmetologists color, cut, shampoo, blow-dry, style and promote healthy hair. They are taught how to conduct a complete consultation prior to services being performed. The Joico hair product line is almost exclusively used on clients. Nail services are also offered, but rarely are acrylic nails applied. If they are, OPI Odorless products are used and all state board procedures are strictly enforced and observed. Pedicures are performed but if there is fungus on client toes, they are professionally declined to prevent the transfer of it to students.

Skin services in the Cosmetology Department have been temporarily suspended due to budget cuts, but they will resume and be expanded at the start of the spring 2014 semester.

San Diego City College students look good because the city of San Diego has the most affordable products and services available. With a fully operational cosmetology department, who can afford look bad?

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Beauty on a Budget