The cult (and affordable) beauty buys backstage at this year’s fashion festival


All under $35.

Introducing new makeup into your beauty routine is quite like welcoming a new person to your already established friendship circle – it’s risky and first impressions are make or break.

So within this context, recommendations from professionals are golden.

And while I love to know the expensive products that are worth splashing on, what I really want to know about are the superior bargains – and whether they’re worth it.  (I’m very open to any product that might overthrow my expensive $70 mascara and $120 moisturiser.)

Let’s be honest, when it comes to surveying pharmacy products, it’s like walking into Aldi’s wine section without having first looked up the reviews. It is near impossible to decipher the good from the bad.

Fortunately, Sarah Laidlaw has done it for us. She’s the Hair and Beauty director at Priceline and the woman responsible for creating the beauty looks for this year’s upcoming Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival.

As she gears up to take over all beauty looks on this year’s runways, we can feel confident that only the cream of the pharmacy-sourced crop are making the cut.

Keep it clean

The eminent beauty theme continuing into 2020 is the no-makeup makeup look. At this year’s VAMFF runways, we can expect to see bold makeup take a back seat, as  an increased respect for a natural canvas emerges.

Sarah’s team will be using pharmacy products to mimic a post-facial glow, with no mascara featured and only a single colour applied to lips, cheeks and eyes. She’s also working with each model to ensure their unique features come forward, like bushy brows or chubby cheeks. 

In what came as a very happy surprise, Sarah told me I could pretty much achieve this year’s complete runway look with only three products: a lip balm, a multipurpose moisturiser and a dual blush/bronzer.  

The 101 Lanolips ointment $18.99

This multipurpose balm, made from medical-grade Lanolin, mimics the oils of the skin; doubling the skin’s moisture levels and promoting self-hydration. It’s ideal for dry skin patches and cuticles, but Sarah also uses this on lips for extra hydration and on cheeks to increase plumpness. It can also be added into your favourite moisturiser for an extra glow. 

The Egyptian Magic all-purpose skin cream $24. 

With its already-deemed cult status, it was no shock to see this one in the mix. I had purchased this last year with absolutely no knowledge of its superpowers or even how to apply. After Sarah’s tutorial, I can now tell you it can be used as a moisturiser, lip balm, eye cream and even a hair mask. With only six ingredients, all derived from living organisms and plants, you have to wonder at how much it can do.

On the runway, it will be applied to the tops of models’ cheeks, bridges of the nose and inside eye creases to achieve a natural highlight effect.

Hot Mama by The Balm $27.95

This is a dual blush and highlighter that also acting as a skin booster, leaving a radiant and summer-flushed coat to the skin. With a pinkie-peach hue and light shimmer, it’s a strong dupe for the iconic Nars Orgasm blush. Sarah has also tapped it as an eyeshadow, creating a subtle ‘slipped in’ effect, by working the product into the eye crease.

Levelling up

For those looking to build on the above-mentioned canvas, Sarah points to these products as maximising bang for buck.

Napoleon Perdis Loose Eye Dust in Stardust $35

A top contender for best affordable eyeshadow, as it is highly pigmented and easily buildable. Sarah has been using it along models’ eye creases to add a defined shimmer.  She also suggests sweeping it along the cheeks or across the body for an extra glow.

Bioderma Sensibio H2O Micelle Solution $29.99

Sarah tells me this is her favourite backstage solution. It’s an extremely gentle makeup remover that, unlike many other micellar waters, leaves an even finish and balanced complexion. It’s suitable for all skin types, and will be used repetitively backstage to remove makeup for a quick reapply. 

L’Oréal Paris True Match Liquid Foundation $29.95

Before meeting Sarah, I was under the impression you couldn’t buy a flawless foundation under $60. After meeting Sarah, I know I was very wrong. The True Match line spans a huge selection of shades covering a wide range of skin tones, and it leaves a tight matte finish and smooth texture. Each shade is designed to blend with your skin tone to create a perfect match.

Real Techniques Expert Concealer Brush $17.99

All the Real Techniques brushes have achieved well-deserved cult status. Their professional application and budget price tag have made them a mascot for Priceline stores. According to Sarah, the Expert Concealer brush is probably the most important addition to your already-established kit. Use it to apply concealer for an airbrushed look around the eyes. 

Maybelline Tattoo Brow Tint Pen $22.95

Sarah is using this backstage to achieve the same flawless texture as tattooed eyebrows with a natural filling effect. The pen is new contender to the scene, and has a fibrous brush and angled tip to easily create more defined brows.  

Revolution Professional Fixing Spray $12.50

Backstage can be a hot and sweaty place, and models will often need to wait in their makeup well before the show. So it’s important that once a face is made up, it sticks. Sarah is using the Revolution spray to help keep models’ makeup intact and keep skin hydrated. For us normal people, it’s available in four different varieties –  including oil control, sports fix, professional fix and hyaluronic fix – with each tailored to individual skin concerns and weather conditions.

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