I am a drugstore makeup convert. I should say a reconvert since the drugstore is the first place I ever bought make up. Back thend I had one blush, one eyeshadow, both fron Jane (a company that sadly no longer exists), one foundation, (the Maybelline dream mousse which surprisingly still exists) and Lipsmackers lipgloss. Then, I discovered M.A.C and the addiction began. I only glanced back at drugstore makeup brands when I wanted a funky lipstick or coloured eyeliner I would likely only wear once.
Over the past couple of years it’s been hard to ignore the fact that drugstore makeup has upped it’s game. Many have expanded their lines to include foundation, eye shadow pallettes, even brow products.
DRUGSTORE MAKEUP TESTIMONY
My turning point came after months of beauty youtubers and bloggers shoving drugstore makeup in my face and I decided to take the plunge. I purchased a Loreal True Match Liquid foundation. It was good, very good. And it cost 1/3 the price of M.A.C. There were trumpets sounding and golden gates opening at that moment. I walked into the Drugstore makeup Nirvana and never looked back.It’s a great time to be alive and a great time to shop drugstore makeup.
ABOUT THIS POST
This list is meant to recommend the actual types of products you need to start a collection( foundation, blush etc). Additionally, I will suggest some brands that I either have personal experience with, have read/heard good reviews about and that I know are widely available either in stores or worldwide. They will be divided into face, eyes and lips if you want to skip through a particular section and I have listed any prices I can.
To look your best in your makeup you want your skin to be at its best. Of course this begins with a balanced diet, minimal alcohol intake and avoidance of smoking, adequate hydration, rest and exercise. After that is skincare.
I recommend two. A gentle cleanser for daily use and one containing an exfoliant. If you wear makeup regularly you need the exfoliant to help remove buildup and skin dullness. HOWEVER, you don’t need to exfoliate daily ESPECIALLY if you have oily or sensitive skin, that is a recipe for disaster. I have combination and sensitive skin and I exfoliate twice a week maximum.
For the daytime make sure your moisturizer includes an SPF. A moisturizer can double up as a primer, in fact most of the time I don’t use a primer in addition to my moisturiser. Try it with and without a primer to see if you really need one.
Face wash and Daily moisturizer
Based on what I said in the last paragraph this isn’t an absolute MUST have (I know some would wholeheartedly disagree with that statement). A primer is useful in smoothing and filling your face and creating a nice base for your makeup to sit on, it also helps to prolong the wear time.
The NYX photo ready primer $12 US
Translucent(gel) vs regular primers
You will probably see many brands offer two main types of primer, a white one that looks like a moisturizer and a clear gel one. The consensus is that the regular primers are more moisturising but can create flashback (white cast) when you take photos. The clear ones don’t. You decide which one you prefer. For me, in this day and age where pictures get taken so often I prefer the photo finish. Smash box photo finish primer is considered one of the best gel primers and this one by NYX is meant to do the same. Wet n’ wild and Rimmel also carry a gel primers.
You need a foundation. It’s meant to even your skin tone and create a blank canvas for the rest of your makeup. There are creme and powder foundations but the best option is liquid. Liquid foundation is easier to work with and build up.
I recommend one foundation. Many people will buy two or three to match their shade depending on the time of year. I say only buy a new one only when you realize you need it. However if you cannot get a good shade match you may have to purchase two and mix them.
Milani, Maybelline dream liquid mousse, Maybelline Fit me, Loreal True Match and Loreal True match lumi
For my recommendations I have 5 foundations coming from 3 companies.
1) Milani– This is a company that really came out from the woodwork of obscurity and is shining. I bought this after hearing Tati of GlamLifeGuru on YouTube rave on and on about it. She has good reason. It really does perfect the skin and wears well. Gives full coverage and comes with a pump.
2) Maybelline dream liquid mousse – This is the modern version to my first ever foundation and I remember why I liked it so much. Though it is liquid it is still moussey and easy to blend. It gives moderate to full coverage.The best part is the addition of a pump. It also has a wide shade range from very light to very deep.
3) Maybelline Fit me– I like this as much as I like the Loreal True Match and I like that almost as much as my M.A.C liquid foundation. It is not too thick and it goes on easily. It blends well and gives moderate to full coverage that is buildable. The drawback is no pump.
4) Loreal True Match– There is a reason why every beauty guru recommends this. It’s good. It is lightweight, easy to blend giving moderate coverage.No pump.
5) Loreal True Match Lumi– This is a similar foundation to the True Match except it provides a more luminous finish and it comes with a pump.
All of these foundations are 1 FL Oz (30mL) and go for between $9-$12 US
A concealer is meant to find those spots your foundation missed and cover them. They tend to be used over areas of hyperpigmention such as under eye circles and acne scarring. I say you don’t absolutely need this if you don’t have a lot of discoloration or if your foundation gives good enough coverage. I class colour correctors in this group as well.
Loreal True Match concealer
The Loreal True Match concealer is a liquid concealer with a brush applicator. I recommend t whatever brand you choose to get liquid with a brush or doe foot applicator, it makes it easier to use and blend than the creme or stick concealers.
Finishing Powder/ Fixing Spray
Each of these items do a similar thing but in a very different way. Fixing sprays keep make up in place and can either mattify or give a dewy finish while finishing powders set the makeup in place. Setting powders can be translucent or tinted, you may have to try a few out to decide what type you prefer.
NYX Translucent Finishing Powder, NYX setting spray in matte
The gold standard finishing powder (according to the beauty gurus) is Laura Mercier and the NYX is supposed to be a decent alternative. Wet n Wild and Rimmel also carry finishing powders.
The NYX fixing spray is amazing. Many people prefer this over higher end brands including M.A.C prep and prime fix +. It comes in both matte and dewy finishes.
Blush should make your cheeks look slightly flushed, rosy even. I find if my face looks as if something is missing and I put on a little blush the problem is solved. You only need one blush. In fact for about four years I only used one single blush. When you find a nice shade that goes well with your skin tone, stick with it. Alternately you can purchase a blush palette. Blush palettes usually have four or six shades that can be suitable for any look.
Milani blush in Awakening rose
Elf blush palette
Milani – Milani makes good blushes, they do regular as well as baked blushes in a wide variety of colours that can match any skin tone. This one is a peach colour which I personally believe compliments most skin tones.
E.l.f palette– E.l.f makes decent quality blushes like most of their products and they also offer a wide variety of options. This quad for example has varying shades of pink that can match many skin tones and create different looks.
Bronzer is meant to make your skin look sunkissed, like you were partying all summer in Ibiza. I never wore bronzer until I saw YouTube beauty guru Jackie Aina put some on , and she looked so lit from within I decided to try some and I was not disappointed. Apply your bronzer along your cheek bones and feel free to dust it over your collar bones. If you aren’t sure you’re ready skip the bronzer for now.
Bronzer palette by E.l.f
Elf bronzer quad has multiple shade options from gold to copper tones. Goes for around $6US. Milani carries beautiful bronzers as does wet n wild.
Contour and Highlight (optional)
I think by now the entire world is aware of the magic of contouring and highlighting the face. Contouring (made mainstream popular by Kim K) is using a darker powder or cream stick over certain parts of the face (cheeks, side of nose, forehead ) to sculpt the face making it look more angled. Highlighting uses a lighter powder often with some shimmer to draw attention to the parts of the face which naturally pick up light making you look illuminated. Recently highlighting has become so popular that there are pallettes with just highlighter. I only do the contour highlight bit on days I really want to go all out, this is not an everyday look for me. If you want to keep it basic for now you can leave these out.
E.l.f illuminating (highlighting) palette $6 US
E.l.f contour and highlight palette $6US
E.l.f -Delivers again. They have quads for highlighter and highlight/contour pallets in varying options to suit your skin tone. BH Cosmetics also makes affordable good quality highlights/contour pallettes as does NYX.
Eyelid primer (optiinal)
This has a similar function to face primer. It allows the eyeshadow to stick to the lid better, reduces creasing and allows some shadows to be seen better. It is especially useful for persons with oily eyelids.
E.l.f eyelid primer
Elf primer– This came with an eyeshadow palette and that’s the only reason I own it. NYX eyeshadow base(in the tube) is reported by many as the closest drugstore eyeprimer to the incredibly popular Urban Decay eyeshadow primer potion.
Deciding what eyeshadow to buy can be somewhat perplexing. Do you buy singles or a palette? Do you buy a smokey palette or a nude one? Shimmer or matte? There is no real answer to this as it is extremely subjective but whatever you do buy, your selection should have these three things:
1) A lid colour
2) A brow highlight
3) A crease colour
After this it’s all extra. I personally recommend getting a palette with neutral colours to start with then incorporate extra colours you want. I know there are a group of people against the neutral eyeshadow movement but I think it necessary to have something to form a basic everyday look.
NYX Natural palette
NYX Natural palette: The mid tone 5th shade is a great allover lid and transition shade, the 2nd shade is excellent for highlighting the brow bone and the 6th shade is a great dark shade that can be used in the crease to add depth or smoke out the eye.
Wet n wild palettes in “Bare Necessities” on the left and “”Nude Awakening” on the right.
These palettes contain more colours. They include good lid, brow and crease shades as well as an array of accent colours. There are both mattes and shimmers in these palettes ( more shimmers than mattes) These have decent pigmentation, blend okay but have A LOT of fallout. They cost about $6 US each.
Bare Necessities palette – You can create some neutral looks for both day and night as well as some smokey looks.
Nude Awakening –has some great neutral as well as nude/pink shades.
E.l.f 32 shade palette
E.l.f palette – This is a 32 shade palette for those who want more options. This palette has a mix of matte and shimmer shades. It has plenty of neutral colours for everyday looks and then pops of colour to diversify your look. E.l.f makes a lot of similar palettes there with differing colour variations to suit you everyone. The colours have decent pigmentation and also go on great when wet, they blend well and have moderate fallout. This palette goes for about $12 US.
BH Cosmetics and Coastal Scents make a lot of palettes varying from travel friendly six shade palettes to 88 shades for very good prices and quality.
Maybe you can’t find a palette you love or maybe you have your base palette and you want to add a few extra colours but you don’t want an entirely new palette. Single eyeshadows may be a good option. Buying more than two or three single shades will likely add up to more than one of these affordable palettes but if there is one specific colour you’re after then go ahead.
Milani eyeshadow singles
Milani-When it comes to quality drugstore eyeshadow singles I recommend Milani. These shadows have good pigmentation, blend beautifully and have minimal to no falllout. They also come in a lot of colours and go for about $3 or $4 each. Another brand I highly recommend is Maybelline eye studio color tattoo shadow. These have been around for some time and continue to be because they are excellent. They are creamy, fantastically pigmented, easy to blend and are long wearing. They cost around $6US each.
The winged eye is a super trend and the best type of liner to achieve this is a liquid liner. Liquid liners are also the easiest to use so if you are new to eyeliner this is a good place to start. However there are two other main types of eyeliner: gel liner and eye pencil (I put kohl in this catagory) The gel liner is excellent for a solid thick line that stays put. Pencils give good solid lines and are best for lining the water line of the lower lid.
NYX gel liner, Rimmel eye pencil and NYX eye marker
NYX gel liner– This goes on smoothly and gives good deep colour. It has been compared to the Bobby Brown gel liner which I can attest is the bees knees. Wet n wild also sells a good quality gel eyeliner. This costs $9
Rimmel eye pencil– When it comes to eye pencils there are many in the drugstore and they are mostly good. However Rimmel’s pencil stands out. It is very dark, very soft and smooth and glides on beautifully. This is as good as my M.A.C eye pencil. You do have to sharpen it often so it can go down rather quickly. NYX, Jordana and Wet n Wild all make good qulaity eye pencils. This is around $3-$4US
NYX liquid eye marker– This works okay. It is a bit bothersome to get a solid line, you have to go over it a few times but it stays on pretty well. ($9)I have to say I am yet to find a top notch drugstore eye marker but I have been told (via the beauty gurus) that Jessie’s Girl (around $7US) and Wet n Wild make the best. ($5-$7 US)
Mascara is one of my favorite makeup items. IMO it makes you go from “bleh” to “BOOM”. When it comes to mascara (and I have used many mascaras) the drugstore brands almost always come out on top. Mascara purchasing can get overwhelming. There is black then ultra black, there is lash lenthening then lash separating, it can be a lot. I have devised 3 easy steps:
1) Colour-For everyday wear I recommend either dark brown or black. Ultra black gives a very dramatic look while lighter and more colourful shades aren’t that wearable everyday.
2) Volume-Decide if you want more volume, this is useful if you have very fine lashes. If your lashes are thick and luscious you don’t need this.
3) Length-Decide if you want lenthening or not. Again this is useful if your lashes are very fine and short but not so much if you have decent length eyelashes.
After that just pick one. If you love it then stick to it and repurchase. If not you try another.
Rimmel Scandal eyes mascaras
Rimmel is my no.1 recommendation for mascara. Their products deliver all the promises they make on the package. The colour is good, they all naturally add length and separate the lashes evenly. They also have excellent staying power. These go for around $6US each.
False lashes (optional)
False lashes add even more drama than mascara. A lot of people wear them daily. I don’t. I find they take too long to put on, they get uncomfortable halfway through the day and they add up in terms of cost. That being said I will pop on a pair for a special occasion. If you aren’t sure then skip these and only purchase when you have a specific reason to wear them. I recommend buying the complete strip rather than the individuals if you are a novice.
E.l.f natural lashes
E.l.f makes some of the most affordable lashes at under $3US per pair. Other popular drugstore brands are Ardelle and Kiss lashes.
Brows have really come a long way since the super thin over tweezed look of the 1990s. People now fill in their brows to make them fuller. This doesn’t mean they shouldn’t still be manicured to get a good shape but the brow movement means there is now a slew of products available for the brows. There are brow contour kits, stencils and the like. I recommend less gimmicky products such as a brow pencil or a brow pomade.
NYX brow pencil
NYX brow pencil – It has an angled pencil which is very similar to the Anastacia of Beverly Hills brow definer pencil. NYX also has one that has a more rounded pencil that resembles the ABH brow wiz.
NYX and Rimmel also carry good quality brow pomade.
Lip colour has also recently undergone a revolution with the liquid matte lip being the order of the day. However there are still a lot of great regular lipsticks hanging around. I recommend trying a liquid to matte lip colour for that retro matte look as well as a regular lip colour. The colours you choose are highly subjective but I do recommend trying a nude or a brownish colour as well as a mauve or pink colour and then a darker colour either a berry or plum.
Revlon liquid matte colours
Revlon liquid matte lip colour– These go on well and dry down almost completely, they aren’t too drying and will last about 4 hours before you need to reapply so you should walk with it. These go for about $8
NYX matte lip cream
NYX liquid suede lip colours
NYX Lip lingerie
NYX Lipcolours – When it comes to drugstore liquid lip colour, NYX is hands down the winner. The matte creme as you might expect are a bit more moisturising and comes in many colours. The lip suede is their newest liquid lip line and has a range of darker reds and browns that are somewhat drying, very matte and longwearing. The lip lingerie line contains a lot of nudes and neutrals , is extremely drying and long wearing.
There are a lot of drugstore lipsticks to chose from. Many companies are expanding their lines to include more modern colours such as nudes and deeper reds.
Milani- Like most of their other products , Milani makes great lipsticks. They smell faintly of watermelon, they are moisturising and smoothing and there is a wide array of both classic and more trendy colours. Other good drugstore lipsticks come from Maybelline, Revlon, Rimmel and Cover Girl.
Lip pencils are used to line the lips, something especially important when wearing liquid lip colour. Your lip pencil need not be the exact colour of your lipstick but rather close so it can blend well. I recommend a colour to match with each group of colours e.g a brown to be used with all your browns and a purple to go with all of your plums.
NYX lip pencils
NYX Lip pencils- As with eye pencils there are A LOT of good lip pencils at the drug store. NYX is one of the best but other good ones include Jordana and Wet n Wild.
You can’t hope to do a bomb makeup look without some tools. There are alot of brushes out there and it can be confusing. I remained confused for many years as it’s highly debatable what you need. This list states the brushes I think you need to form a core collection in order to create most looks.
We have ALL heard of the Original Beauty Blender and all its magical wonder. I get it, it works. However I just cannot bring myself to pay $30 for sponge. Fortunately there are loads of similar products now on the market. These types of sponges are good for blending and creating a more even airbrushed look, very similar to a stippling brush, so if you are tight on money I say choose one not both.
Real Techniques blending sponge
Real Techniques Blendin Sponge– This has been dubbed the best (or only )dupe for the Original Beauty Blender. I have never used a beauty blender but I have used this sponge and I recommend it. It gets to about 1/3 greater it’s size when wet, it is soft and it works well. These sponges are approximately $5 each.
For the face you need something to help apply foundation, blush/bronzer, highlight and contour and then buff it all out.
Stippling brush, buffing brush, foundation brush, angled brush, kabuki brush
Stippling brush– This blends foundation out evenly. Can be used in place of a blending sponge.
Large fluffy face brush (buffing brush)- This is good for blending out your finished look or addding finishing powder.
Pointed brush– This is good for applying liquid foundation particularly in angled areas such as under the eyes. Also useful for spreading on liquid concealer, for applying under eye powder and using edgeways to apply highlight or contour to the nose.
Angled Brush– And angled brush is best for applying anything along the cheeks namely highlight, bronzer and even blush(although a slightly thicker angled brush is better for blush)
Kabuki (this one is by e.l.f) – A kabuki is basically a densely packed flat topped fluffy face brush great for applying finishing powders and blending. The plus side is that most oF them are fairly small like this one and are great to travel with. (There are long handled kabuki brushes and if you have this you may not need the fluffy face brush )
Lid shadow brush– A brush with fairly densely packed fibres allows you to pick up a good amount of product and pack it onto the lid well.
Fluffy brush– This is good for blending out the crease colour and I use it to blend my shadow in general.
Flat angled brush-This is excellent for the brow, the angle allows you to create hair like strokes if you are using a pomade or brow powder.
Lining brush-This is good for applying your gel liner if you want a thin line.
Flat domed brush– This is useful for applying thin line of shadow especially on the lower lid line, good for smudging.
Flat thin brush (not shown)- For applying a bolder gel line look.
Elf flat brush
E.l.F flat brush-This shape is excellent for applying shadow to the brow bone and can also be used to put shadow into the crease.
You will see that most of these brushes are by Real Techniques. This company is absolutely slaying the affordable makeup tool game. The products are versitile but with great variety, aesthetically pleasing and well priced. The quality is good, there is little to no shedding, soft and easy to clean. If you are starting a makeup collection this is a great place to begin.
Two other drugstore brands with highly recommended brushes is Sonia Kashuk and Cala ( the ones with the wooden handles) E.l.f has a massive array of brushes which for me personally are either hit or miss. That being said they have one of the lowest price points so for those on the tightest of budgets this is a great brand to start with.
To get the most out of your tools you need to keep them clean. There are instant spray brush cleaners for everyday quick fix and then you can do a proper deep clean approximately once a week.
E.l.f and NYX instant brush cleaners
E.l.f and NYX instant brush cleaners– The best brush cleaner I ever used was the Sephora brand brush cleaner, one spray and the brush is clean. These both work okay but require multiple sprays. I suspect that considering the amount you need to get your brush clean that they may not be much cheaper than the Sephora or M.A.C ones.
Real Techniques brush cleaning palette
Brush cleaning palettes are becoming more popular. They come in many shapes and sizes. Their primary role is to provide an abrasive surface to enable a deeper better cleaning of your brush. My opinion is these are somewhat useful especially if you have alot of product build up but they are not life changing. You can clean your brushes using water, soap and a towel.
Real Techniques brush cleaning palette – This had great reviews because it has varying sizes of abrasive nodules to clean different sized and shaped brushes. It works okay for me.I costs $14 US.
Makeup is removal is often aided by makeup remover either in wipe form or liquid/oil form. These substances help dissolve the makeup making it easier for you to wash your face. Wipes are useful because they can cover much of the face easily but the choice between liquid and wipes is personal (I use wipes)
Equate makeup wipes
Equate is Walmart’s store brand wipes and they work perfectly fine for me. I’ve used quite a few brands of wipes and I don’t find the more expensive brands to have any benifit. Some good drugstore brands include Cala and Yes.
Sample size (higher end products)
This is a great way to get something a little fancier for a little less. Many department and cosmetic stores sell mini or sample size versions of their products often promoted as travel friendly. The product itself is not necessarily cheaper and in some cases it may cost more per unit but what you pay for a mini palette is often one third of what you’d fork over for fullsize. This is a good way to try out a more expensive brand before taking the plunge and spending a lot of money or this may be the way you chose to use higher end products.
Kat von D sample sized eyeliner in black and wolf (grey), Tarte 6 shadow mini eyeshadow palette, ABH mini eyebrow pencil and brow gel.
Thank you for reading. If you made it this far you are truly dedicated. I hope this information can help someone looking to start a new makeup collection who maybe on a tight budget and I hope you have an awesome day!