If you’re like me and have ever wondered what top estheticians would buy on *somewhat* of a budget at Sephora, you’re in luck. I’ve taken the liberty of asking said estheticians what they would throw in their cart at the retail giant that costs
less than $50. Some of their picks may even surprise you.
It goes to show that even folks like celebrity facialists love a good deal and are interested in finding products that work but don’t cost a fortune. Here, you’ll find their top selections for everything from
face creams and oil cleansers to lip masks. They even use some of these items themselves —that’s how you know they truly work.
Although the standard container is technically $54, the refill size is only $44 and is environmentally friendly—a huge plus. Facialist to the likes of Mandy Moore and Dove Cameron, Candace Marino can’t get enough of this eye cream for its texture and benefits. “The antioxidants in this product protect the skin from free radicals that can break down collagen and cause discoloration,” she shares.
Another favorite of Marino’s as she begins all her facials with it. “Cleansing oils are my favorite way to remove makeup or sunscreen at the end of the night,” she says. “The omega-rich formula gently removes makeup, dirt, and debris while nourishing the skin. It [also] smells like tea and is a beautiful way to wind down at the end of the night.”
Sean Garrette, a top New York-based esthetician, considers this serum from the Inky List an absolute essential. “This is a great affordable option available that helps hydrate the skin and doesn’t leave a sticky or tacky film like some [other] affordable HA serums can do.”
Garrette recommends this foaming oil cleanser for anyone with dry, sensitive, or reactive skin.
Marino considers herself quite the Sephora lip balm connoisseur, having tried every one they have to offer. Fresh’s Sugar Recovery Lip Mask is the brand’s newest launch and is a game-changer for dehydrated lips. “The texture is more rich and nourishing feeling, and less sticky than other brands. When applied at night it repairs and heals the skin as you sleep and you wake up with plump and supple lips.”
Marino’s SPF of choice? Supergoop! Glowscreen. “I wear this SPF every single day as the last step of skincare and first step before makeup. The formula features hyaluronic acid and vitamin B5 to keep the skin hydrated and balanced. It also leaves a pearlescent finish to the skin which instantly illuminates and allows it to double as a makeup primer.”
During the winter months, Garrette considers this Laneige toner and moisturizer a staple in his routine for round the clock hydration.
“This is the most decadent bath soak you’ll ever own,” Marino says. “The coconut milk base is softening, moisturizing and leaves the skin extra silky.”
For a good mandelic acid, Garette turns to none other than cult-loved The Ordinary. “Mandelic Acid is probably my favorite AHA. It helps with acne, hyperpigmentation, and smooths skin texture. This [particular] serum is super effective, gentle and only $7!”
Garrette also loves the scary effective products from Topicals almost as much as I do. “This Black woman-owned brand makes one of my favorite serums for treating hyperpigmentation! Faded is formulated with dark spot banishing ingredients like Tanexamic Acid, niacinamide, Azelaic Acid, and Kojic Acid.”
This vitamin C serum from another Black, woman-owned brand at Sephora stops hyperpigmentation in its tracks. “This has been my go-to vitamin c serum for over a year now,” Garrette adds. “I use this every morning and it is packed with ingredients that help treat hyperpigmentation, hydrate, and protect the skin from environmental stressors.”
Garrette touts this lightweight SPF as especially great for oily or combination skin. It has a water-like texture that blends seamlessly into the skin.
Lily Njoroge, a top New York-based esthetician and Head of Education at Topicals, loves this gentle cleanser from Fresh. “It removes makeup and can be used even when my barrier is damaged without causing irritation. It also removes super stubborn mascara without causing stinging in your eyes, and it smells like a refreshing summer drink from the cucumber extract.”
Njoroge is also a fan of cult-loved brand Glow Recipe. “[This serum is] insanely hydrating, but it’s not tacky or sticky and doesn’t cause my other products to pill. It provides a beautiful glow without making me look oily (even in the summer) and has really helped calm my skin down by providing adequate hydration on hot summer days when my skin is irritated and dehydrated from being in the sun for prolonged periods of time.”
“It’s a maskne life saver,” Njoroge says. Benzoyl peroxide doesn’t need to be at high concentrations to be effective, 2.5% is highly effective and Paula’s Choice also has Bisabolol and Allantoin to help mitigate irritation. My clients at the clinic also LOVE how quickly and gently this works on their inflamed acne. I incorporate it into acne treatment plans often. It’s a favorite! I’ll never go without this. I also use it on any ingrowns and it helps them be less inflamed overnight.”
“I have eczema and experience really flaky skin when I’m having an active flare up,” Njoroge shares. “This [product] really helps manage those flare ups and reduces the flakiness. It calms down the itching and irritation that my eczema causes, primarily on my neck. I also have lip eczema so I’m a pro at lip care now. At night, I exfoliate my lips with the Fresh Sugar Wonder Lip Drops or the Stacked Lip Peel and apply the Farmacy Honey Savior right after. Softest lips ever by morning!”
Njoroge’s go-to body scrub is First Aid Beauty’s KP Bump Eraser. “It really helps with rough knees, elbows, and feet. If I don’t have time to do a foot peel for exfoliation (they take a minimum of seven days to peel), and I need smooth feet, this is my go to. It works really well for removing that rough, flaky layer of skin that makes feet appear dry or ashy.”
If you have eczema, this body serum is a great option, according to Njoroge. “This is the first exfoliating body serum that my eczema has responded well to and has kept my skin feeling soft and hydrated all day. I used it during a flare up and my skin was significantly smoother the following day. It’s both exfoliating and hydrating, which I love as it gives my skin a really healthy glow.”
Of course, like Garrett, Njoroge uses Topicals products in her daily routine. “Like Butter can help calm down irritated skin, reduce redness, and help reduce itching and other uncomfortable symptoms associated with chronic skin conditions.”
Shani Darden, a facialist to the likes of Shay Mitchell, Kelly Rowland, and Jessica Alba, loves this Ouai mask for thick hair. “It keeps [my hair] shiny and healthy. It also smells amazing!”
Her self-formulated cleanser is absolutely key. “A gentle cleanser is a staple that I recommend for all skin types and routines,” she says. “[My] cleansing serum has a soft lather to [it] to remove all makeup and impurities without stripping the skin. It features Oat Bran Extract to repair the skin’s barrier and protect it from future moisture loss. It also has olive and Chicory Leaf Extract to fight inflammation and calm the skin.”
“Lip balms and glosses are one of my obsessions, and this is one of my absolute favorites, Darden shares. “It’s perfectly hydrating like a balm should be with the shine of a gloss and none of the stickiness. The new, recently launched tube makes application even easier too, which I love!”
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