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Makeup Challenge: Shrinking My Routine to 5 Products for Under $20

Last Updated: October 15, 2021

Have you ever considered just how many products we use when doing our makeup? Without even giving it much thought, your makeup routine can easily use 10, maybe even 20+ products for just one look. 

It may not seem like a big deal when you’re at home, but it becomes the biggest headache when you need to take it on the go. We all know the pain it is trying to get everything you need in one place. On top of this, requiring a ton of products for your routine isn’t friendly on the wallet. 

So, I wanted a set of products that was able to give me a full face of makeup, while also being small enough to travel with (TSA-approved). I also wanted them to be inexpensive and accessible enough that I could easily replace them at any drugstore if I forgot it.

This was my challenge and I’m calling it the 5/20 Makeup Challenge: shrinking my makeup routine to 5 products for $20. 

Let’s see how I did. 


For any good look, you need a good base. You can opt for a nice foundation, but I’m partial to just using concealer. My favorite part of doing my makeup is the eyes anyways, so I’m fine with keeping my base simple.

All you need is a little under the eyes and a little dot on a blemish or two and you’re good to go. It’s easy and quick so it’s great for those hectic mornings. Plus, you really show your skin some love. What better base could you get then your own skin?

To pick the right one, there are definitely some winners. We’ve all heard of the e.l.f 16 HR Camo Concealer and it’s definitely a real bang for your buck, but it can be a little dry. Thankfully, they came out with a Hydrating Camo Concealer if you want more hydration with your full coverage. 

I’ll also give a shout out to the Wet n Wild PhotoFocus Concealer. I’m currently using this concealer and I’m loving it – it’s lightweight and you can build it up for some good coverage. It’s great paired with a hydrating primer, but I’d still use it regardless. 

If you prefer foundation, you can switch out concealer for a good coverage foundation that can double as both foundation and concealer. 


I’m going to be honest, I’m not much of a lipstick person. While I don’t hate it, it’s definitely the first thing I’m going to skip when getting ready.

However, in this case, it’s not just lipstick. When breaking down your makeup to less than the essential, you have to get as much use out of your makeup as possible.

I may not always use lipstick, but I almost always use blush. Fortunately, a little lipstick on your cheeks can add a nice little rosy tint to them. Think of it like a cream blush that you can use on your lips. 

Honestly, any cream lipstick will do and you can find a variety of them at any drugstore for just a few dollars.  

What you should really be focusing on is color because it needs to look nice as a lip color and blush. I love a nice peach blush, but peach lips don’t always work out for me. If you need someplace to start, go for a nice pink or red. 

If you’re not partial to keeping this challenge under $20, there are some higher-end products that double as a lip color and blush (like the Benefit Lip & Cheek Tint). 

Eyeshadow Quad

Speaking of multi-use, if you’re looking for something versatile for your collection, a small eyeshadow quad will be your Swiss army knife. The right quad can be used anywhere, from your eyes to your brows to your cheekbones.

The right one will vary from person to person, but for me, The e.l.f Bite Size Eyeshadow in Truffles is perfect. Their formula is amazing for just $3 and the simple colors will take you far. You can go from natural to glam with just 4 colors! 

On top of that, you can dip into the browns to fill in your brows and the glitter shade makes a gorgeous highlight. These are makeup tricks I’ve done throughout the years and I fully stand by them. 

Whatever you choose, make sure it’s still travel-friendly and has a good shade for your eyebrows. If you want a black eyeliner, try to also find one with a matte black shade (but brown can work too). 


Here’s where the challenge gets tough for me – I love false lashes. If I am wearing makeup, I am wearing lashes. However, they won’t work for this challenge.

Sacrifices need to be made and one thing that I love more than long lashes is eyeliner. I feel naked without lashes, but I am incomplete without my winged liner. It’s a shame I can’t choose both, but I can get something close.

To make sure my lashes will be long and my liner will be sharp, I’m going with mascara. You can give your lashes a little lift and you can dip your brush into it like it’s gel liner. You get two for the price of one.

If you’re looking for a good affordable mascara, try the Essence Lash Princess. It took the internet by storm and when you use it, you’ll see why. 

Eyebrow Duo Brush

Yes, I’m counting tools and brushes into the challenge. Again, I’m just making it difficult for myself, but brushes take up space and we’re being conscious of that. Plus, some tools like an eyelash curler don’t easily fit in a carry-on, so it’s good to really consider what tools you need.

When in a pinch, the best makeup tool is your own fingers. You can very easily use your finger for cream blush, highlight, and eyeshadow with just your clean ring fingers. However, you’re going to want something a little more precise to get some neat and clean brows and eyeliner. 

To make sure your wing liner is nice and sharp, get yourself an angled brush. If you find one that is specifically for eyeliner, it’ll work great, but I highly recommend grabbing an eyebrow duo brush.

The eyebrow duo brush with work for both eyeliner and eyebrows because it features an angled brush on one end and a spoolie on the other end. This is what will make doing your brows so much easier. You don’t want your brows to look too harsh, you want to be able to brush them out to get a softer look.

Again, the brush doesn’t need to be special. As long as you can get both, you’re good. The e.l.f Eyebrow Duo Brush is a few bucks and it works great – I use it everyday for my brows.

Bottom Line

This may seem like a silly challenge, but it was fun to create and can even come in handy for travel. Like I said, you never know how light you need to pack or what you’ll forget. I think it’s good to have a plan B and even a plan C. 

If you struggle to pack up all your makeup, try finding out what you really need to create your go to look. Break it down to 5 things or even 10 easy-to-pack essentials. 

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