We Gave 4 Makeup Artists $100 To Restock Their Kits. This Is What They Bought

By Ashleigh Cometti
Collage / Julia Gessler

Figuratively, of course. It’s a cost of living crisis after all.

What would you buy if you were told you could go wild with $100 in your local beauty department store or pharmacy? Would you invest in a few makeup signatures, or try and stretch your dollar as far as

We asked four of Aotearoa’s top makeup artists to share how they’d splash their cash, and the results may surprise you.

From cult-favourite miniatures through to multi-use products to suit face, eyes and lips, each artist takes a completely different approach to restocking their kit with a $100 limit.

Photo / @Gabriellehoughtonmua
Photo / @Gabriellehoughtonmua

Gabrielle Houghton

Total spent: $92.99

For Hamilton-based makeup artist Gabrielle, only a few key items are needed to build a simple, day-time look, one that highlights a healthy complexion and accentuates natural features.

This is such a divine skin prep product that manages to be super-affordable due to it being a French pharmaceutical brand. I love to prep almost all skins with this as it is super-hydrating and plumping yet it dries down to the touch, meaning even oily skins can handle it.

If you have long lashes, hooded eyes, or deep-set eyes, then tubular mascara is a must-have. The tubular formula delivers no smudging, no transfer and no flaking throughout the day.

Mecca Max Pout Pencil Lip Liner, $18 (particularly in the shades Chic and Lavish).

These lip pencils have a beautiful formula, which rivals some other lip pencils twice the price. Cheaper formulas often struggle to get the nude colours right, but the Mecca Max Pout Pencils come in a great variety of nudes.

The ingredients in this product are pretty top-notch for the price. It contains both hyaluronic acid and squalene, and I’m finding it to be a really good dupe for some much more expensive foundations. I am loving using this on myself at the moment for day-to-day.


I recommend saving on your fun colour products. There are a bunch of affordably priced, newer indie brands producing amazing eyeshadows and lip colours, for example. Absolutely save money on your clear brow gel, essentially these are just alcohol and a few other ingredients.

Some New Zealand cosmetic and skincare brands like Raaie offer a discount on your next purchase when you return your old packaging to them. This is a great way to care for Papatūānuku while supporting local and saving a few pennies.

Photo / @Graysoncoutts
Photo / @Graysoncoutts

Grayson Coutts

Total spent: $103.23

Savvy with his spending, Grayson managed to stretch our $100 budget to encompass what he calls a “well-rounded makeup kit with essential items for face, eyes and lips covered”. We tend to agree!

This foundation offers a fantastic range of shades from cool to warm undertones and provides a natural radiant finish with buildable coverage, making it suitable for various skin types.

This concealer provides excellent coverage for blemishes, dark circles, and uneven skin tone. It even comes in colour-correcting tones for those needing additional help with coverage.

These affordable palettes offer a good variety of shades suitable for both everyday and more dramatic looks. Personally, I love the ‘Velvet Rose’ or ‘Affection’ palettes.

This mascara provides volume and length to the lashes, giving you the option to create a natural or dramatic effect, and is good for sensitive eyes as well.

This provides excellent colour with a very hydrating texture, and an extensive shade range. Use this on the lips and blend a dot onto the cheeks for blush. I like ‘Bare it All’.


While it ultimately depends on personal preference, there are a few makeup items that I would always invest more of my money in due to their quality and performance.

Investing in a high-quality foundation can make a significant difference in the overall appearance and longevity of your makeup. Primarily, when people look at you, they’ll be looking at your skin as this makes up the majority of a face, so if the skin looks incredible then most people don’t really notice much beyond that in terms of makeup. Look for foundations that offer a good shade range, long-lasting coverage, and a finish that suits your skin type.

For similar reasons, a top-quality skincare routine is the foundation of flawless makeup application. Splurging on high-quality skincare products, with high-potency, quality active ingredients can help improve the texture and condition of your skin, enhancing your makeup results.

And finally, I’d always invest in good brushes. While it’s true you can get some fairly good options at lower price points now, quality makeup brushes make a significant difference in the application and blending of your makeup and, if you take care of them, will last for years. Investing in a set of high-quality brushes can improve the overall finish of your makeup and make the application process easier and faster.

Of course, while these items may be worth splurging on, it’s critical to consider your budget and prioritise based on your needs and preferences. It’s always a good idea to do research, read reviews, and test products before making any high-end purchases to ensure they live up to the hype. Just because something is more expensive doesn’t automatically mean it is better.


Of course, everyone will be different but, for me, there are a few items that I generally wouldn’t consider worth splurging on.

Mascara is the key one that comes to mind for me. Drugstore mascaras often perform just as well as high-end mascaras. They can provide length, volume and definition to the lashes without breaking the bank. Also, since mascaras have a relatively short shelf life (you need to change it every six months), it’s better to opt for affordable options, especially when the results are similar.

Drugstore lip liners can also provide smooth application and long-lasting wear. There’s no need to splurge on high-end lip liners when you can find quality options at a lower price.

I’m not a massive fan of makeup wipes but every now and then they come in handy. And while they’re convenient for removing makeup quickly, splurging on high-end options is absolutely unnecessary. I actually find drugstore makeup wipes to be more effective at removing makeup and cleansing the skin. But, please, always follow up with a proper cleanser.

You can also save money by cutting down on the clutter in your kit. Challenge yourself to do your makeup with the bare minimum required and see what it is you actually need and love using. Makeup goes off relatively quickly so buying lots of different products and shades is a quick way to waste your money in the long run. You’re better off purchasing fewer products of better quality and getting full use out of them.

Photo / Babiche Martens
Photo / Babiche Martens

Kiekie Stanners

Total spent: $102

In-demand freelance makeup artist and long-time friend and contributor of Viva, Kiekie opts for her favourite products in mini or travel sizes when trying to stick to a budget. Her picks include miniatures of cult-favourite beauty buys from two of Sephora’s most popular brands, Tarte and Too Faced, alongside two multi-use products from M.A.C and locally made brand Aotea.

I can’t live without some kind of quick coverage on skin — to even out skin tone, take away winter dark circles or breakouts, and an easy-to-apply concealer is the best for on-the-go. Use it with a foundation brush to create an all-over finish.

Good lashes are one of the best instant pick-me-ups, and while this name’s claim is a bit outrageous, it is still a great volumising texture. Since mascara is the one product that needs to be replaced the most often for hygiene reasons, the mini mascaras are a great option.

I love a multi-use product for a pinch of colour, especially in a cream format. Using these mini lipstick bullets as a cheek and lip tint is a great economical choice. Since the bullet is so small, I like to use my fingertip to pick up the colour and press it into cheeks and lips as a stain. Choose a shade that is just a little deeper than your natural skin tone for a natural tint. It’s also fun to select from the mini lipsticks, so you can build a wardrobe of colours at a cheaper price point than a full-size lipstick.

My final makeup bag addition would be a balm, as during the winter months my skin feels the effects of changing seasons and artificial heating. A nice product for dry lips and irritated skin — but I also love tapping it onto my cheekbones and eyelids for a dewy, balmy glow.


The makeup items I believe are worth splurging on are great skincare that works for you — try to take samples first before purchasing to give your skin time to see if it is appropriate or not, and wear test for at least a week for adjusting to new formulations.

And a great eyeliner! There is nothing worse than skimping on a black liquid liner for it to only smudge/disappear/crease as soon as you’ve applied it. I like to test a liquid liner on the back of my hand and wear it around the shop until it’s dried completely to test how smudge-proof it is and just how black the final finish is.

Photo / Babiche Martens
Photo / Babiche Martens

Shirley Simpson

Total spent: $108

The Viva team has had the pleasure of working with freelance makeup artist Shirley for many years, both on editorial photoshoots and on Team Picks stories where she’s been trusted to glam us up a little (and always does a fabulous job at that). Rather than purchase a hoard of affordable products, Shirley is restocking lightly by selecting just two makeup items. The first from her go-to complexion perfector from Aleph Beauty, and the second a timeless eyeliner from M.A.C.

The main thing I would splurge on is essential in my kit: Aleph Beauty Concealer/Foundation. These little pots are magical goodness. They feel so nice on the skin and you can mix with a serum or build up the coverage. A skin treat foundation! The best of both worlds and it actually works, unlike other “organic and natural” ones.

I have very boring, basic needs and another is the M.A.C Eyeliner in Coffee. There’s something about the formula, and the colour is unbeatable, a beautiful, rich, dark brown that adds depth to any eye look. I’ve tried dupes (expensive and not) and I can’t find anything like it.


The classic Maybelline Great Lash Mascara, $18, is in my kit for when I’m doing bigger jobs, as is the Maybelline Super Stay Lip Lifter Lipgloss, $23, which is a dupe of the Fenty Beauty one. It’s nice to pat over an existing lip colour. A pressed powder by any brand will do the job of setting your foundation (try Australis Ready Set Go Pressed, $21).

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