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It wasn’t that long ago that beauty aficionados would be quick to shut down the idea of shopping for makeup at the drugstore. Face wash and deodorant, sure, but foundation, eyeliner, bronzer—these were things to be bought at Sephora, not the drugstore. Not anymore. Now, the drugstore is now a veritable treasure trove of insanely great makeup—and everyone knows it.
“Drugstore makeup is becoming extremely comparable to luxury formulas because of the accessibility mass brands have to developing, testing, and distributing. Drugstore brands often have the budgets and the ability to test and create new products using cutting edge technology, which I’ve always appreciated,” explains New York City makeup artist and beauty expert Neil Scibelli. “While I do love and respect the specialty of a luxury brand, I also think it’s worth checking out some of the formulas at your local drugstore for a more affordable option.” From undetectable concealers to long-lasting lipsticks to lash-popping mascaras, you can find covetable makeup picks in the aisles of your drugstore—and for cheap, too. To help you find the best drugstore makeup products, we’ve rounded up our favorites, all of which ring in for less than $20.
Read on for the best drugstore makeup to add to your kit.
Best Overall: CoverGirl TruBlend Matte Made Liquid Foundation
Extensive shade range
Feels lightweight on skin
Some reviewers note that it does have a tendency to transfer
Makeup artists go crazy for this foundation, making it our all around best overall pick. Scibelli says this is his favorite drugstore foundation right now, adding that it’s especially good for someone who is looking for more of a matte finish in the spring or summer. “It has medium to full coverage, so a little goes a long way, and it helps to minimize pores and control oil production in the skin without looking cakey or heavy,” he adds. Also nice: The wide range of shades in a variety of tones and undertones.
Shades: 36 | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Foundation: Revlon ColorStay Liquid Foundation
Comes in different variants for all skin types
Not clean or cruelty-free
This is another amazing drugstore foundation pick and favorite to the pros. The foundation not only boasts incredible staying power, it can deliver a flawless matte finish to those with oily and combination skin. Its formula is hydrating and packed with humectants, which makes blending it a breeze.
Shades: 16 | Size: 1 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Concealer: NYX Professional Makeup Can't Stop Won't Stop Contour Concealer
Extensive shade range
Long-lasting and waterproof
Some reviewers note it dries too fast to be easily blendable
We love this concealer, which is packed with hydrating ingredients so it doesn’t crease or cake but also has enough long-wear staying power to last all day. It can also be used to color correct and brighten, making it ideal for use beneath the eyes.
Shades: 24 | Size:.11 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Concealer, Runner-Up: Neutrogena Hydro Boost Hydrating Concealer
Limited shade range
Not clean or cruelty-free
According to Scibelli, this pick is perfect for those seeking a concealer with more of a natural finish. “The hyaluronic acid-infused formula helps to bind the product to the skin, which also minimizes creasing,” he explains. (The hyaluronic acid also ensures it’s nice and creamy and minimizes caking.) To that point, it’s great for using under the eyes, where concealers can often tend to crease.
Shades: 5 | Size: .12 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: N
Best Powder: BLK/OPL True Color Soft Velvet Finishing Powder
Touts ShadeID technology/color-adjusting pigments
Only comes in four shades
A lightweight loose powder, this product sets makeup without caking like heavier formulas that tend to visibly settle into pores. It’s also hypoallergenic for those with sensitive skin.
Shades: 4 | Size: N/A | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Bronzer: Maybelline New York City Bronzer Powder Makeup
Works as both bronzer and contour
Only comes in three shades
We love this bronzer which can be used to highlight and contour your complexion without a heavy finish. The hydrating formula settles nicely into skin, without creasing or making pores appear more prominent.
Shades: 3 | Size: .24 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Mascara: Milani Highly Rated 10-in-1 Volume Mascara
Multi-tasking formula that volumizes and lifts
Can sometimes smear a bit when being removed
This top-rated, buzzy drugstore mascara applies easily and adds instant volume without weighing lashes down or clumping. We also love its pigment, which makes lashes pop.
Shades: 1 | Size: .41 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Lipstick: Maybelline New York SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick
Extensive shade range
Is so long-lasting that it can sometimes be hard to remove
This lipstick is super fun to apply, as it glides on easily creating buildable pigment. We love its smooth texture and its long staying power.
Shades: 31 | Size: .17 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Brow Product: Wet n Wild Ultimate Brow Retractable
Unique triangular tip makes for easy application
Only comes in two shades
A creamy formula that settles into brows easily, this brow product can help you define the shape of your brows with one swipe. We also love how easy it is to remove as you’re perfecting your look.
Shades: 2 | Size: .007 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Tinted Lip Balm: Physicians Formula SPF 15 Murumuru Butter Lip Cream
Can sometimes smear a bit
This creamy, pigmented lip balm glides onto your lips for subtle and buildable color. We love the formula of hydrating and moisturizing ingredients that keeps lips from drying out.
Shades: 5 | Size: .12 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Blush: Flower Beauty Blush Bomb Color Drops for Cheeks
Pretty range of wearable shades for all skin tones
Some reviewers note that it can tend to pick up any makeup underneath
The unique, gel-cream texture of this blush makes for a totally natural flush. The color is both richly pigmented and easily buildable; apply just a drop or two for a more subtle wash of color, or layer on more to amp up the effect. Bonus points for the finish, which is perfectly radiant, though not shimmery.
Shades: 8 | Size: .3 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Eyeshadow: Burt’s Bees Color Nurture Cream Eye Shadow
Clean and cruelty-free
Double as highlighter
Only three shades
Can dry out quickly if you don’t close the cap properly
There aren’t a ton of cream eyeshadows to be found in the drugstore, making this standout all the more noteworthy. The shimmery shadow is creamy and blends in seamlessly with just your fingertips, no brush required. And while we do wish that it came in more than just three colors, all three of the nude tones do pull double duty and work equally well as highlighters.
Shades: 3 | Size: .25 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Eyeliner: Revlon ColorStay Liquid Eye Pen
Color glides on evenly without skipping
Comes with three different types of tips
Removal can be a little bit challenging
This pen is another makeup artist favorite. “This is truly comparable to a luxury formula, with a deep dark finish that lasts for up to 24 hours,” says Scibelli of one of his favorites. To that point, the liquid formula is waterproof, transferproof, and smudgeproof, perfect for creating sharp, crisp lines. “I’ve tested this one out on clients during long days of events, including even being on stage. It really holds up!” But perhaps most noteworthy is that it comes with three different tip types, making it easy to create any kind of line of your choosing.
Shades: 1 | Size: .05 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: N
Best Lip Gloss: L’Oréal Paris Glow Paradise Lip Balm-in-Gloss
Full color coverage in one swipe
Not clean or cruelty-free
As the name suggests, this is a gloss-balm hybrid to create a natural, dewy makeup effect. You can achieve beautifully pigmented, shiny color (that stays put and never dries out), but also tons of hydration, thanks to ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, vitamin E, and argan oil.
Shades: 12 | Size: .23 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
Best Multi-Tasker: Aquaphor Healing Ointment
Very versatile and multi-tasking
It’s a bit heavy as a highlighter
Technically this isn’t a makeup product, but it is a staple in pro makeup artists’ kits, Scibelli’s included. “Although many may think it’s a skincare product alone, I actually began using it as a lip ointment and an eye base years ago when I first started working New York Fashion Week to help sheer out the look of lipstick,” he explains. The versatility of the ointment is incredible because you can use it on the lips, on dry areas on the face or body, or even dabbed onto the cheekbones to create the dewy finish of highlighter, he adds. Point being, it’s worth keeping a tube in your makeup bag.
Shades: N/A | Size: 7 oz. | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
If you haven’t shopped the makeup aisles of the drugstore recently, you most definitely should. There’s no shortage of awesome products out there, across all categories. Our best overall drugstore makeup product is CoverGirl TruBlend Matte Made Liquid Foundation, a makeup artist staple that delivers a matte finish and blurs pores. When it comes to finding the perfect drugstore lipstick, consider Maybelline New York SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick, which comes in a wide array of colors and is guaranteed to stay put through pretty much anything.And while we’re big fans of drugstore mascaras in general, the Milani Highly Rated 10-in-1 Volume Mascara is our current favorite, a formula that lifts, curls, and defines lashes in one fell swipe.
How We Researched
To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
Meet the Expert
Neil Scibelli is a New York City-based celebrity makeup artist and beauty expert. He focuses largely on fashion, celebrity, and television, as well as sharing his beauty education via contributions to various makeup outlets.
What to Look For in Drugstore Makeup
Because you can't always test drugstore products in the same way you'd be able to swatch a lipstick at Sephora or the prestige section of Ulta, scrolling through a few reviews before selecting a product will give you an idea of how the item performs before you commit. Additionally, many drugstores like CVS, Rite Aid, and Target will accept returns on beauty products (even if you've already opened it) in the case that the formula or color ends up not working in your favor.
Are you the type that runs through a tube of mascara or a matte red lipstick every few weeks? Consider going for a drugstore formula. Many drugstore options perform as well as (and in some cases, even better than) their higher-priced counterparts, so if you find yourself running out of a certain product super-frequently, going for a drugstore option will be a little easier on your wallet.
Want to experiment with bold hues and trendy effects without busting your budget? Head to the drugstore. There are aisles upon aisles of on-trend hues to help you achieve those runway finishes, and thanks to the approachable sticker price, you'll be able to stock up on different options.
Are drugstore beauty products good?
Absolutely. While drugstore cosmetics may get some shade from the brand-obsessed for their lower price point, many of the formulas are just as good as (if not better than, in some instances) their luxe counterparts. Plus, since the sticker price is more accessible, drugstore cosmetics are a perfect way to test drive any of the moment makeup trends.
Can I test or swatch drugstore products while shopping for them?
Not always. While some drugstores have started making tester products available to swatch, this isn't always the case across the board. We recommend looking up the product you're considering online ahead of time and taking a look at the reviews, shade range, and any photos of product swatches that are available to determine the right color and formula for you.
Why Trust Byrdie
Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She doesn’t discriminate when it comes to the price point of her makeup, and uses just as many drugstore products as she does pricier ones (including most of the ones featured on this list).