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(Darren Calabrese)
(Darren Calabrese)

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Sticking to beauty on a budget Add to ...

The top spring and summer beauty trends have arrived, heralded by the breathless prose of every beauty magazine now on the newsstand. Bright red lips and purple eyeshadow are apparently important features of the 2010 face, although they're not to be worn at the same time.

I like to remind my husband how fortunate he is to be married to someone who has never really cared about make-up. I don't spend much on the stuff, mainly because I don't know how to apply half the products on the market.

And a big market it is. Each year, according to Health Canada, Canadians spend more than $5-billion on cosmetics, including make-up perfume, skin cream, nail polish and grooming products.

My husband claims to like my natural look and I like to think I can get away with it. Perhaps, though, this is the kind of household expense that will increase as I age, along with spending on prescription drugs and anti-varicose stockings.

It's clear that some of us spend a good deal more of our budget than others on this brand category.

My make-up arsenal consists of a good moisturizer, a couple of tubes of lip gloss, mascara and a stick of cream blush. My one beauty splurge so far this year has been a tin of organic vegetarian lip balm for $21. It has a built-in mirror.

I have friends whose make-up habit consumes a few thousand dollars a year. In their hands the application of coloured creams and powders is elevated to an art form, their faces transformed into exhibits one admires but is afraid to touch.

My mother recently dropped $500 at a department store cosmetics counter to get the new face of the season. "I got sucked in," she told me. The saleswoman applied the "romantic look" and convinced her she needed all the products to get it right.

My mother walked away before getting sold on the "sensual look" as well, although she did buy a small pot of eye moisturizer that promised to erase her dark circles and crow's feet for $108.

The cosmetics industry's fortunes are built on this combination of impulsiveness and quest for perfection, but there are ways to achieve beauty on a budget.

"It can be very enticing. They're trying to lure you," warns Debbie Frye, general manager of popular coupon site Flyerland.ca and a self-confessed beauty products fan. "You need to have a plan and be empowered with research and pricing before you go."

Ms. Frye has several tips for saving money on make-up:

Comparison shop. Before heading to the cosmetics counter, check out magazines and online beauty sites to compare products. "It's not always the most expensive product that can keep you youthful and beautiful," Ms. Frye says. Look for the least expensive products that will get you the result you want.

Shop the sales. The pharmacy cosmetics section often features items on sale or offers promotional packages. "Everyone is competing," says Ms. Frye, so hold off for the sales and stock up on your favourite products. It's best to avoid shopping just when your best lipstick runs out.

Take advantage of rewards programs and free gifts. Many stores offer rewards programs that apply to purchases of cosmetics. For example, at the Rexall chain of pharmacies you can earn Air Miles. At Shoppers Drug Mart you can accumulate reward points that you can apply towards more make-up.

Most of the big beauty houses advertise free gifts with purchase throughout the year and it pays to wait for these promotions as Ms. Frye does. "I don't buy things I don't want," she says, "but I buy the item I want to get the extras. I always have mascara and I never have to buy lipstick."

Swap or gift unwanted items. If you don't like that mauve lipstick you got with your free gift with purchase, give it away to a friend or trade it. You can hold a make-up swap in your home, as Ms. Frye suggests, or you can exchange with like-minded strangers through websites such as MakeupAlley.

Sometimes, after I've accumulated several products I know I'll never use, I let my four and six-year-old daughters play a garish game of dress-up. The hours of free entertainment are worth the clean-up.

Ask for samples. The salespeople at beauty counters are usually happy to ply you with free samples. For products you don't use much, or like to change often, a sample may be all you need. I find this budget beauty method works especially well with perfume.

Sell make-up to get make-up. There's a reason that the Avon lady is still around. Not only can you earn extra income selling Avon products, you get access to the products at a discount. "If you're really tight with money and find a product you want to represent part time, sell it," advises Ms. Frye.

The most important part of sticking to a make-up budget, according to Ms. Frye, is to avoid that impulsive urge and to be prepared. "You don't have to be ultimate coupon clipper. It takes five minutes to save money on anything you're going to buy."

To start your research, there are many sources for frugal beauty information. Blogs such as The Cheap Girl feature the latest sales, promotions, deals, freebies, coupons for beauty products. You can also learn from beauty industry gurus such as Diane Irons, whose book Bargain Beauty Secrets shares insider tips for make-up on a budget.

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