7 Clever Substitutes for Your Favorite Beauty Products

It’s been several months since we’ve been social distancing to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and chances are, you’ve run out of your everyday beauty products and had to make a trip to the drugstore once or twice. Even if you’re taking a break from your regularly scheduled full-face looks, you might still be playing with makeup for a Zoom meeting, a Bumble video date, or just for fun

But what if you run out of your favorite mascara or eyebrow gel and you don’t feel like battling anti-maskers at Walmart if you live in a state seeing a spike in COVID-19 cases? Maybe you completely spaced on ordering body wash. You can search online wait for your stuff to be delivered, or just sub them out and use other beauty products you might have lying around.

We chatted with cosmetic chemists, hairstylists, makeup artists, and trichologists to make sure you’re not going to damage your eyes or irritate your skin with these simple hacks. Whether you’re stuck at home, traveling light, or trying to save a few bucks, you’ll be surprised by how well some of these product swaps work. Grab a well worn-in mascara, neutral brown eye shadow, and some body lotion and get creative.

Use body lotion as leave-in conditioner

If you have dry or textured hair, you probably need a leave-in conditioner to even get a comb through your strands. But if you run out, you can forget doing a decent-looking blowout at home. And even if you’re not using a hot tool, your hair might feel dry as hell without a leave-in base.

In a pinch, that’s where body lotion comes in. You don’t want to use it all the time, but while under stay-at-home orders, we’ve found it can be a decent alternative. “If you’re considering it, reach for a product with more silicones,” says Victoria Fu, cosmetic chemist and cofounder of Chemist Confessions. “[But] expect the outcome to be a little more greasy [and] heavy.”

Bridgette Hill, trichologist and stylist with Paul Labrecque Salon & Spa, agrees but warns that body lotion might not work as well on all hair types. “Generally speaking, body lotions are cream-based [and provide] moisturizing humectants and lipids that may be beneficial to hair fibers,” she explains. “Body lotion may only be beneficial to someone who does not have chemically-treated or colored hair.” 

Allure editor Jihan Forbes, on the other hand, swears by this hack. “I took a trip in February and forgot to pack my leave-in conditioner,” she says. “I did, however, have a full bottle of Nubian Heritage Goats Milk & Chai Body Lotion. My hair felt so soft after using it.”

Keep in mind, though, she’s got drier, kinkier hair. “I didn’t feel like it weighed my hair down, and I couldn’t stop touching my curls.” The moral of the story? Give body lotion a chance if you don’t have another option, but hair types prone to getting greasy should use it sparingly.

Use shampoo as body wash

If you’ve ever washed your body with shampoo and felt like it’s basically the same thing as body wash, you’re not too far off. “Shampoo cleans and so does body wash, so there is absolutely nothing holding you back from using these products interchangeably,” says Los Angeles-based board-certified dermatologist Jason Emer. He’s totally cool with you using shampoo as body wash in a pinch, but long term, it could be tough on your skin, especially if you’re already on the dry side.

<h1 class="title">Woman brushing back in shower</h1> <cite class="credit">Getty Images</cite>
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“Since shampoos are specifically intended to remove the hair of sebum, sweat components, dead skin cells, styling products, and environmental dirt, you will get clean but also pretty dry,” he explains. It’s maybe too much of a deep clean. But that’s not to say you can’t do it. Just grab a shampoo that’s free from too many skin-irritating chemical additives, such as sulfates and SLES/SL, says Emer. And don’t forget to moisturize.

That said, feel free to use shampoo as a substitute for body wash, but you probably don’t want to try this hack the other way around. “The long-term effects of not using a specialized cleaning agent may lead to disastrous effects to the hair fiber and scalp,” warns Hill. “The evolution in product formulation, technologies, and active ingredients in today’s shampoos and body washes result in more beneficial hair fiber-friendly specialized shampoos that can be moisturizing, anti-drying, body-inducing, and frizz-fighting.”

Emer agrees, saying body wash on the scalp c
ould strip the scalp of oil and “cause an unregulated compensation of dandruff production, eczema, or inflammation on the scalp.” Basically, shampoo doesn’t just cleanse your scalp — it has other benefits you don’t want to skimp on.

Use body lotion as shaving cream

<h1 class="title">Young Caucasian woman depilating the leg hair in the bathroom</h1> <cite class="credit">Getty Images</cite>
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When you shave, you want to have a nice, slick barrier between the skin and the razor to minimize irritation, clogged or angled-cut hair follicles, and eczema, says Emer. Body lotion can do this but, he warns, you might have to use a little extra product to get a good, spreadable consistency.

That’s fine if it’s all you have around. Look for a lotion that’s made with oils in the formula. Or, if you don’t have lotion, Emer does prefer products such as Baby Oil or coconut oil over body lotion. “[They] have the ideal consistency to create a smooth, protective barrier when gliding,” he says. Plus, you’re less likely to clog up your razor.

Use mascara and eye shadow to fill in brows

Even if we’re working from home, some of us want to at least fill in thin eyebrows, especially if we’ve got to hop on Zoom. If you have brown or black brows, use a little brown or brown-black mascara to apply a tiny bit of color and hold. Again, just use only a tiny bit of product and, as always, don’t pump the wand in the tube.

“Wipe off the excess product onto a tissue, then use the wand to groom your brows,” says makeup artist Melanie Inglessis. “To set, just comb through. To fill, be a little more precise and turn the wand vertically to draw stroke-like hairs.”

If you want to take your brows a step further (for that virtual date), pick up any neutral brown eye shadow you have in your kit. It can work well as eyebrow powder on almost any brow color depending on the heaviness of your application. Inglessis loves a medium-brown shadow “that can be used as a shadow when you blot with your finger or a brush, a liner when applied more liberally, and even a brow gel or tint,” she says.

Use edge control or hair spray as brow setter

<h1 class="title">Portrait of Young Confident Woman Brushing Her Eyebrows</h1> <cite class="credit">Getty Images</cite>
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Brows feeling unruly? There are a few products in your arsenal that can work as close to brow gel. Apply edge control, like the Uhai Edge Gel, or even hair spray to a clean spooley and brush your brows up and out to set them in place.

Just pay attention to any skin sensitivities. Steer clear of products containing alcohol as it can “dry the hair, make it brittle, and can damage it,” says Emer. If you frequently use edge control around your hairline with no irritation or issues like milia), chances are, you’ll have “minimal skin issues” on your brows, Emer reassures.

Some edge-control products might even contain ingredients that are great for your skin, such as aloe and coconut oil. “Aloe is anti-inflammatory and soothing so it protects the hair and surrounding skin as well,” Emer notes.

Use mascara for eyeliner

Maybe you don’t want to bother with your hair or eyebrows but are like Ariana Grande in that you’re never seen without eyeliner. Well, mascara can help. “Get excess product from the mascara wand and apply on the back of your clean hand,” says Inglessis.

Then, use either a small angular brush or a very fine brush to pick up the mascara, like you would a potted liner, and draw on the eyelid.” Mascara is tested to be eye-safe, but Inglessis says it should not be used on the waterline.

Plus, it might be a little tougher to get off than your usual eyeliner. “Hair follicles and eyelids are very different surfaces,” says Fu. “Make sure you have a really good makeup remover handy. Let’s not scrub our eyelids off.”

Use lipstick as blush

To create a m
onochromatic makeup
look, we’ve been known to apply the same lipstick to our lids and cheeks as well as lips. It’s quick, easy, and gives a pretty flush of color all over the face. But be careful — unless noted otherwise in a multi-use product, some lipsticks may be irritating on the eyes.

Luckily, your cheeks aren’t as sensitive as your eyelids and don’t have the same scary risks. “Use your fingers and apply like a cream,” says Inglessis. It’s a simple trick that will make you look put together, even if you’re in sweats.

Emer notes to use less product overall, as lipstick tends to be thick and greasy, especially when you compare it to a lightweight blush. This isn’t the product you want to apply all over your face. And if you’re prone to clogged pores or breakouts, maybe skip the blush and do the old cheek-pinching trick your mom taught you for a light flush.

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Originally Appeared on Allure