The big make-up shake-up COVER STORY
Beauty director and self-confessed make-up elitist Joely Walker swaps her £315 make-up bag for an £85 one and takes a long, hard look in the mirror
Hi, my name’s Joely and I’m a make-up snob. I’m also Grazia’s beauty director and, as such, I’m lucky enough to put the beauty world’s greatest and latest launches through rigorous testing on a daily basis, to filter out the fluff from the seriously good stuff. Here, I like to think my snobbery comes in quite useful: if a product doesn’t impress almost instantly on multiple fronts, it’s lost my attention. But then there’s the flip side: while I make it my mission to test a wide spectrum of products at different price points, I find myself naturally gravitating towards the more expensive beauty booty, basically judging the palette by its proverbial cover.
But, when it comes to make-up, is it really a case of ‘ You get what you pay for’? Or, is my penchant for fancy packaging masking the fact that it’s what’s on the inside that really counts – and that often, on this front, they’re one and the same?
I decided to ditch my beloved £315 make-up bag for one month to find out once and for all. The mission: to not put a single product over the value of £14 on my face and to see if anyone – including myself – could even tell the difference.
First up, research. I trawled the beauty cupboard for the latest launches from my most trusted bargain brands, searched on forums and websites for the very best cult classics that don’t blow the budget, and pestered my friends and colleagues for their favourite pocket-friendly finds. Then came the testing. For two weeks, I lugged bags of products home and sat swatching and swiping, blending and buffing.
I’m not going to lie; this part wasn’t a smooth ride. There were some things I didn’t want to put on my face – formulas that felt sticky, highlighters that I feared might blind colleagues, matte lipsticks that left my lips chalky and dry. And, as I expected, I struggled most on the foundation front. When my complexion is thrown off-kilter, the best smoky eye in the world can’t make up for it. Foundation aside, however, I was unearthing gems left, right and centre – products that were changing the game for me entirely. Like snapping up that khaki Zara coat I’ll live in for the rest of winter, these weren’t great high-street products, but great products – full stop.
And so they should be: many big high street brands are owned by global companies with access to the latest laboratory formulations used by their luxe counterparts. They’re able to keep costs low due to bulk buying and consequent mass quantity of sale. So, if that single £5 tube of wax, oil, pigment and emollient (or, lipstick) feels like the real deal – it’s likely it is. It might not come emblazoned in gold and silver with nifty packaging tricks (that I love so dearly), but you can bet it will get the job done.
So, what did everyone else make of my new slap? The big-name celebrity I interview on day two compliments me on my glitter eyeshadow (score!) and I have an Instagram message asking what foundation I’m wearing at a wedding. Other than that, my quarterthe-price make-up goes entirely unnoticed, in a good way. Even my beauty aficionado colleagues are genuinely impressed that I ‘look exactly the same’, since they too were expecting me to spend the weeks looking like a budget version of myself.
Of course, I won’t be ditching my luxe swag for good. What I’ll now be doing, though, is approaching my make-up bag like my wardrobe: mixing and matching high-street finds with pay-day buys.