6 Ways to Look Good for Less

Juanita Dillard, make-up artist to celebrities, shares her tricks of the trade

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Hairdressers working at a hair salon
Hairdressers working at a hair salon

Make-up artist Juanita Dillard knows how to make people look good. While her clients include the wealthy and famous – she counts President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York among them – she says even people without a lot of cash can look well-heeled.

(Courtesy of Juanita Dillard)

Juanita Dillard

The key, Dillard says, is to invest money where it matters, such as on a pair of form-fitting shapewear, and to save where it matters less, such as on nail polish. (Drugstores sell beautiful colors for less than $20, she says.) And sometimes, you can have both high-end luxury and a low price, as long as you know where to look.

Here are five of Dillard’s top strategies – and most of them are so good that she says even her clients that don’t need to pinch pennies use them.

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Whiten those teeth: “If you have nice teeth, or nice-looking teeth, it automatically makes you look expensive, like you’re taking care of yourself,” Dillard says. But you don’t have to spend $500 or more at the dentist’s office. Instead, she recommends Crest White Strips, which are available at drugstores for less than $50.

If that’s too much for you, Dillard offers what she calls the “poor man’s version.” She suggests making a paste of hydrogen peroxide and baking soda for a temporary whitening effect. (Just be sure not to scrape the enamel off your teeth and consult with your dentist.) Brushing your teeth with strawberries can also work, she adds.

Focus on what’s under your clothes. “Lots of people buy expensive things, but they don’t take care of what’s underneath,” Dillard says. That’s why she says everyone – men and women – need to invest in some kind of shapewear, like Spanx. “If everything looks nice and smooth, and you don’t see all the bumps and jiggles, then it looks like they spend a little money,” she adds.

[Read: The Secret to Snagging the Best Discounts.]

Get fitted. The clothes on top need to fit properly, too, Dillard cautions. She recalls going on photo shoots where the men will ask her what she thinks about the tie they selected. She says the tie hardly matters when the jacket is too tight or too big. “Spend $20 and go to a good tailor,” she says.

Get designer discounts. Consignment shops offer designer dresses at rock-bottom prices, Dillard says. She bought a $480 Escada dress at an online consignment shop for just $75, and has been receiving compliments on it ever since. “This will be worn until it gets holes – it’s the most amazing dress. And I had the foundation underneath, so there are no bumps or jiggles,” she says.

Dillard recommends the shopping websites Modnique.com and NoMoreRack.com for great designer deals. Goodwill – as long as you visit locations in the “nice neighborhoods,” she says – also contains high-end clothes that might even still have the tags on them, or have been worn only once. “You can get Manolos that were $500 for like $90,” Dillard says.

Get a cheap haircut. Dillard says Hair Cuttery stylists are incredibly talented, but don’t cost nearly as much as a high-end salon. Beauty schools also often offer inexpensive cuts by students with the oversight of a teacher. “You could spend $10 or $20 for something that would otherwise cost $125,” she says. Drugstore hair products also work great, she says, which means there’s no need to splurge on pricey salon products.

[Read: The Best Beauty Products for Smart Shoppers.]

Moisturize. Drugstores also offer great skin care products for $20 or less, and Dillard recommends stocking up on moisturizers. “Whenever I do men, like Vice President Biden, I’m always giving him skin care products. I always tell him, ‘Put this on your skin,’ and give him samples. He does it,” she says.

The best tip, Dillard says, is not to overdo make-up. “Don’t try to look like someone in a magazine,” she says. “When you use a lot of make-up, it tends to make you look cheap.”