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Three ways to look beautiful on the cheap

Red-bottom shoes. Birkin bags. That Hermes H belt. Sometimes it seems like the products on everyone's lips are also well out of most of our price ranges. By a mile.

But this week I've rounded up three beauty products that are not only priced accessibly, they'll also make you look like a million bucks. Take it to the bank.

Miracle Blur

Flipping through my monthly glossies, I noticed beauty editor after beauty editor gushing about L'Oreal's Miracle Blur, which of course made me think ... pay for play. And so, I headed to the closest drugstore, cynicism firmly by my side, and plunked down a whopping $20 for Miracle Blur Instant Skin Smoother Finishing Cream.

Much to my surprise, this "30 second miracle," which L'Oreal calls a finishing cream, is actually pretty darn amazing. It promises to instantly blur lines, wrinkles, pores and uneven skin texture while leaving a soft matte finish. The trick, the company claims, is "Opti-Blur Technology," which diffuses light for a softer effect likened to the endless supply of filters you are probably familiar with from Instagram, Facebook, et al.

Maybe it's the strange sounding technology, maybe it's some kind of voodoo mind control, but I was so impressed with this product that there's now a tube of it in my makeup bag and on my vanity. Because real-life filters are even better than virtual ones.

Longwear Enamel

Gel manicures seem to be the manicure de rigueur of late. And while the gel manis, or no-chip manicures as they are often called, boast a bevy of benefits — including long-lasting wear, not chipping, of course, and no post-polish drying time — there's also been discussion about potential skin cancer dangers with UV light curing of such manis.

Enter Revlon and their Colorstay Longwear Nail Enamel. The drugstore polish promises to act like a typical gel manicure, lasting up to 11 days without any UV curing. And it does. I tested the lacquers, available in a range of 30 hues, and got well over a week of no-chip, shiny polish. The catch, if you will, is that this affordable polish only really works well when worn with Revlon's Colorstay Gel-Smooth Base Coat and Gel-Shine Top Coat. And while this polish proved to be long on wearability, it's short on cost, selling for just $5 a bottle at Target locations and other mass-market retailers.

Turn Up the Heat

Practically from the moment my curly little head came into the world, I've been applying some kind of heat to my hair daily in an effort to coax these kinky locks into submission. I regularly crank my flat iron up to 410 degrees, and that's only after blow drying my hair with the settings on my dryer set to high and hot, of course.

Enter Beyond the Zone's "Turn Up the Heat," hands down the best heat protection spray I've ever tried. Like, ever.

First there's the scent, which is delicious, lightly reminiscent of freshly picked berries. But mostly, it's the fact that Turn Up the Heat, a flat-iron protection spray that works with flat irons, curling irons, and hair dryers, protects my hair from damage, makes hair look ultra-shiny and locks out humidity. All that at the bargain price of just $8.79 for an 8.5-oz. bottle at Sally Beauty Supply stores means you can cash in on perfect hair without breaking your beauty budget.

— Carolyn Brundage is the founder of TampaBay.PrettyCity.com, a guide to the best in local beauty. Need beauty advice? Tweet up with ­Carolyn via @tampabaypretty.

Three ways to look beautiful on the cheap 11/07/13 [Last modified: Thursday, November 7, 2013 1:03pm]

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