I’ve been getting a lot of asks about how to look like a Barbie when you’ve got a limited budget (I certainly do)! I’ve had to adapt to keeping up appearances while spending little money. I’m going to make a list of Barbie-essentials: the best (and usually most expensive), some good alternatives (for those on a “medium” budget), and then some great hidden gems for those of us who are poor. I’ll also list items that are not worth splurging on, and items that require some cash to be worn right. I apologize ahead of time: the prices and availability I’m listing are based on living in the U.S. If anyone from outside of the U.S wants to add to this list or convert the cost on some of this stuff- that’d be great! Here we go:
Extensions: (these are in no way a Barbie essential, but having unicorn hair down to your ass can certainly aid in doll-like aesthetics):
$$$ Best: Salon-quality, permanent extensions. Fused, sewn, taped- you name it. Prices can range anywhere from about $500 to $5,000. I have no personal experience with these types of extensions.
$$ Great: Clip ins! These are an investment, but if you take really good care of them, they can last you half a year- a year (depending on how ratty you’re willing to wear them…) HeadKandy is my favorite ($200 without shipping for 24-26 inches- the longest length). LuxyHair is also good, $160 without shipping for medium-thickness of 20 inches- the longest length). I hear great things about Bellami as well but have no personal experience.
$ Okay Alternative: Sally’s! This is a good alternative if you’re on a budget and want a quick option or don’t want to pay for shipping. Your nearest Sally’s Beauty Supply should have a selection of extensions for around $90. In my experience, quality is surprisingly awesome. Problem is- if you’re a blonde, the color selection sucks and you’ll probably want to color them yourself. The longest length available is also only 14 inches.
Color: (Obviously coloring your hair is not part of being a Barbie, but it’s something many of us do! Blonde hair, especially very light blonde, is the hardest to maintain- so that’s what I’m talking about here).
$$$ Best: High-end, trusted salon with great reviews. Well-trained and professional colorists who are experienced in hair coloring. They will get you to a blonde shade with the least amount of damage, as well as the most natural looking color. High-end salons also offer some really top-of-the-line hair treatments to keep your hair hydrated and healthy-looking despite the trauma you’re putting it through. I paid about $200-$300 every 6-8 weeks to maintain my hair at such a salon.
$$ Great: Get on Google and read reviews for salons near you. Locate a salon and stylist with good reviews, and bring in a picture as well as a good idea of what you want. Your color will not look as natural, and the process may be a little dirtier and more painful- but I personally always come out very happy. At the high-end salon I had gradual highlights using foils. I now go to a hairdresser who just bleaches my roots- no foils. No expensive conditioning treatments. However, my hair isn’t too damaged, though this route is a little less predictable. Your hair may be brassier than you’d like at times with a less-experienced stylist (but this is easily corrected with some toner or purple shampoo). I pay $70 every 8-10 weeks and this is what I currently use to maintain my bleach blonde hair.
$ Okay Alternative: DIY! This is a super tricky process (especially if your roots are very dark, like mine). If you can, enlist in a friend to help you (though it is possible to do yourself). Watch as many YouTube hair coloring tutorials as you can. Results can be unpredictable (but almost every mistake can be corrected). You’ll want to get your supplies from Sally’s, and they’ll probably include a bucket of bleach, developer, toner, a mixing bowl, foil, and some gloves. All should cost under $30. Put baby-powder, white/yellow eyeshadow, or root-covering spray (I found some at Walgreens) over your dark roots if you can’t afford to touch them up as often.
$$$ Best: You get what you pay for with these. Online you can find many high-quality wigs. Look for a lace-front, made of human hair (so you can heat-style it). These can be incredibly expensive. Typically over $1000. I have no personal experience with these wigs, but they’re what you see celebrities sporting.
$$ Great: Still pretty expensive. As said- you get what you pay for. Go to a local wig-shop and try some on. You still want to be looking for a lace-front, though the hair will probably be synthetic. Make sure the wig you purchase isn’t too “shiny” looking. The shinier the hair, the lower-quality the wig. I paid $250 for my wig, and I am happy with it. Whether or not you can tell it’s obviously a wig is debatable.
$ Okay Alternative: If there is a cheap alternative for wigs- I have not found one. If you buy a cheap wig, it will look like you are wearing a cheap wig. There are tons of wigs on the internet for as cheap as $30. Proceed with caution.
I’m not going to discuss ocular implants in this section, as I have no personal experience and they are not yet available in the U.S. However, as mentioned by some followers in previous published asks: there is a procedure that permanently changes your eye color, like a permanent colored contact (though the color can be taken out and changed). Natural-looking. Cost at around $3500. This would probably be ideal for an eye-color change if you have the funds for a procedure and for travel.
$$$ Best: FX Eyes. These are the colored contacts most celebrities opt for. Almost all are $475 without shipping. I have no personal experience with this brand of contacts, but they are apparently natural-looking and comfortable. These are the best-quality lenses you will find. The downfall is the obviously high price, and the fact that contacts need replacing and tend to be fragile.
$$ Great: Desio eyes. They have an awesome Instagram page. This is the brand you see models/makeup artists/YouTube gurus sporting. Desio eyes are becoming ever-more popular. They are an Italian brand, and the price is about $54 without shipping. The downside is: It takes a month to arrive in the U.S! For this reason, I have not ordered from Desio (but plan to as my next purchase).
$ Okay Alternative: Turtle Contacts! Despite the name, these are delivered relatively fast in the U.S. My favorite is “Dual Color Sky Blue”. $50 without shipping. The website seems kind of sketchy, but I’ve ordered from them a handful of times with no trouble. Contacts are not as natural-looking or as bright as Desio. Comfort is good.
I have not personally found a brand I find to be superior to MAC. There are many brands of expensive designer makeup (Dior, Chanel, YSL, etc.) However, I would not label any of these brands as the “best”. For this reason, I’m only going to list “Great” and “Okay Alternative”, as MAC is in the “medium-budget” range.
$$ Great: I have not tried a MAC powder I didn’t love. The one you pick will depend on your skin-type. Around $27.
$ Okay Alternative: I currently wear Loreal True Match and love it! It’s just a nice, reliable powder. Medium converge, keeps shine away. Does what a powder needs to do. About $9.
$$ Great: MAC Snob is the best Barbie-pink for any skin tone. (Saint Germaine is a very Barbie-pink as well, but also a little dramatic and not flattering on everyone. MAC Russian Red has been, and always will be, THE best red lipstick. $16.
$ Okay Alternative: I have yet to find a good drugstore dupe for “Snob”. Ulta or Sephora may have some okay dusty pinks, but they won’t be much less expensive than MAC. I suggest splurging on “Snob”. Drugstore lipsticks are going to be around $7-$12 anyway, and I’ve not tried a drugstore lipstick with a texture I didn’t hate. However, Revlon’s “Certainly Red” is a great and vibrant color (and apparently a favorite of Alena Shishova). $8.
$ Okay Alternative: In this case, the cheapest is the best. This should not be “okay alternative”, this should be labeled “only logical choice”. Maybelline Falsies is the best mascara. Ever. Handsdown. No debate. $7.
$$$ Best: A good, old-fashioned spray-tan. They’ve really improved in quality over the past 5-10 years. (If any of you got your first spray tan for the middle school dance back in 2006 and ended up being nicknamed “Pumpkin Girl” for the rest of the year- you know just what I mean). No, the modern spray-tan is great. I’ve basically tried every single provider, so I’m not even going to differentiate between salons/brands. I’ve also gone to a personal spray-tanner (i.e, done by a human and not a machine) and the results have always been equally as good. Spray-tans are nowadays a reliable way to get an even, dark color. They last about two weeks. Downside is, they cost about $20-$30 per session, and at the end of the first week, can get sort of splotchy in places (exfoliate beforehand)! Also, standing naked and being sprayed by cold liquid for 15 minutes either by a scary machine or a person is not pleasant. The chemical smell and sticky-feeling over the next day is not ideal either. I prefer the cheaper alternatives. Though it is worth noting, this is the only option that can quickly cover the entire body and is almost guaranteed not to be streaky. For this reason, I suggest a spray-tan for occasions/outfits where you’ll be showing a lot of skin (i.e the beach, a revealing prom/pageant gown, etc.). Self-tanners are difficult to spread evenly on the back and torso.
$$ Great: XenTan. Been using this one for five years now. Love it! I spread it on my face, neck, chest, and arms. It’s tinted, so you can see where you’re spreading and smooth out streaks. I’m never streaky with this lotion and it is never orange. $40 for a bottle that lasts me a year- year and a half. The only downside is that it takes a lot of lotion to get the legs, and can be time-consuming to apply if you’re tanning your whole body. Ideal for an every-day tan that requires little effort/time and you’re only going to be showing your chest/arms. One application lasts at least 2 weeks.
$ Okay Alternative: Sally Hansen leg makeup! This stuff is amazing. My favorite drugstore product of all time. Severely underrated. It’s not a self-tanner, but a makeup. You spray it on your legs (I do a little on my arms sometimes as well, or upper-back), and immediately you have a dark, even tan. It’s water-proof and I haven’t had a problem with it coming off on my clothes (however my boyfriend has been unhappy with me for it ruining his white jeans). $13 at any drugstore.
(Of course just painting your nails like everybody else is always on option- but where’s the fun in that?! I’m going to be discussing fake nails/acrylics. They’ve become really popular in recent years- as seen by all those fierce talon-nails plastered all over every Rosy blog in existence).
$$$ Best: Salon acrylics. This is the obvious best option. If you’ve got the time and the money- go to a salon. Your nails will look beautiful and perfect. Downside is, it requires maintenance (also remember acrylics will damage your natural nail- making the upkeep of acrylics essential, as your natural nails will not be pretty to look at without them)! Salons typically charge somewhere between $20-$40 for acrylics. You also will need to revisit the salon as your nails grow to get the acrylics filled, which costs about $15.
$$ Great: At-home acrylic nail kit. I found one of these at Walgreens. This kit costs about $25 and comes with many long, plastic “nails” and the tools to make your own acrylics. Downside is, though cheaper and saves trips to the salon- you must cut/shape the nails yourself. They are not going to be as beautiful or polished-looking (sorry) as what you’ll get in a salon.
$ Okay Alternative: Drugstore acrylics. I know, I know- you totally associate these with the tacky gems that completed your glam-trash prom look way-back-when in 2004. They’re not all bad. I personally love the plain, french manicured sets. They take only a few minutes to apply, and last up to a week and a half. $6-$8. Downside is, they tend to pop off easy. I suggest carrying the small tube of nail glue in the package with you everywhere. There is nothing worse than sporting half french-manicured- perfection and half mangled-naked-nails that look like they’ve been stuck into an electric pencil sharpener.