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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. From undetectable concealers to long-lasting lipsticks to lash-popping mascaras, you can find it all in the aisles of your closest drugstore—and let’s not forget to mention the cost-saving factor, too. To help you find your new go-to drugstore makeup product, we rounded up our favorites, all of which ring in for less than $20.
Read on for the best drugstore makeup on the market now.
Best Foundation: REVLON ColorStay Liquid Foundation
Byrdie Senior Editor Lindsey Metrus is a long-time fan of this base, which also happens to be a go-to for pro makeup artists. This version, for combination to oily skin, is oil-free, boasts a touch of salicylic acid, and has a beautifully matte, shine-free finish. (It also comes in a more hydrating variant for normal to dry skin.) The staying power is also second to none; it lasts up to 24 hours.
Runner-Up, Best Foundation: IMAN Cosmetics Luxury Concealing Foundation
Offering full-on coverage, this foundation can easily be used to spot-treat certain areas, or all-over. It’s chock-full of antioxidants such as grapeseed and pomegranate, as well as skin-loving vitamins A, C, and E. It's also super long-lasting, rendering touch-ups obsolete, and has a nice range of shades, particularly for those with darker complexions.
Best Concealer: NYX Professional Makeup Can't Stop Won't Stop Contour Concealer
As if you weren’t already getting enough bang for your buck with this wallet-friendly concealer, it’s also a great multitasker. With buildable medium-to-full coverage, a matte finish, and a wide array of colors, it both covers up undereye circles and hides blemishes—plus, it works as a contouring product. It's also waterproof and transfer-proof, and we’re big fans of the angled doe-foot brush that makes application a walk in the park.
Best Powder: BLK/OPL True Color Soft Velvet Finishing Powder
No matter whether you like to dust on powder as the final step of your makeup routine or prefer to use it solo for just a hint of coverage, this pick gets the job done. Jet-milled, it’s extremely velvety and silky—and it stays that way long after you apply it, so you never have to stress about a chalky finish or caking. While it only comes in four colors, the formula boasts a Shade ID technology to help perfectly adjust to your skin tone, and it’s also great for absorbing oil should you want to use it as a mid-day touch-up.
Best Primer: COVERGIRL Trublend Base Business Pore Minimizing Skin Primer
All primers are formulated to offer the same universal benefit—ensuring that your makeup goes on better and lasts longer—but the latest versions also do double-duty, delivering all kinds of extra skin benefits. Exhibit A: This primer, which comes in a whopping seven versions that address everything from prominent pores and redness to shine and dullness… you get the picture. You really can’t go wrong with whichever one you pick, plus, they’re all vegan and certified cruelty-free.
Best Blush: Burt's Bees 100% Natural Blush with Vitamin E
You probably already own Burt's Bees lip balm but make sure to nab the blush, too. One hundred percent natural, the mineral formula is infused with ingredients like honey, bamboo, and vitamin E for extra skincare benefits. It applies beautifully, blending seamlessly with minimal effort for a completely believable flush. It comes in three shades, all of which work beautifully on a variety of skin tones.
Best Bronzer: Maybelline New York City Bronzer Powder Makeup
If you haven’t tried a drugstore bronzer since your first foray into makeup back in your middle school days, it’s time to do so. More specifically, grab this one and prepare to be impressed. There are no garish chunks of glitter to be found here; this formula is actually shimmer-free. Instead, the micro-milled powder is formulated with cocoa powder to create a velvety finish that makes your skin appear perfectly radiant and sun-kissed. It's easily one of the most natural-looking bronzers we’ve ever come across.
Best Mascara: Milani Highly Rated 10-in-1 Volume Mascara
Given that you’re supposed to replace your mascara every three months (if you don’t know, now you know), we’re big fans of using inexpensive, drugstore options. Not to mention that this is one category where we often find that the drugstore picks are even better than their pricey counterparts. Take this pick, for instance. Even just one coat delivers majorly noticeable volume and lift—plus, it never clumps or smudges yet washes off completely cleanly.
Best Eyeliner: L'Oréal Paris Lineur Intense Felt Tip Liquid Eyeliner
If you can’t live without liner, do like Byrdie’s Associate Social Media Editor Star Donaldson does and pick up this liquid option. A felt tip applicator delivers an even amount of the free-flowing liquid, making it easier than ever to create crisp, clean lines (both thin and thick ones). Those with sensitive eyes will also appreciate the fact that it’s fragrance-free and ophthalmologist-tested.
Best Eye Shadow Palette: Rimmel London Magnif'eyes Colour Edition Eyeshadow Palette
There’s certainly no shortage of great shadows to be found at the drugstore, but this palette really takes the cake when it comes to both formula and color offerings. It houses a dozen hues, including everyday neutrals, bold brights, and dramatic dark tones in matte, satin, and shimmer finishes. Mix and match to your heart’s content; all of the formulas are smooth, silky, blendable, and crease-proof.
Best Brow Product: Joah Beauty Brow Down To Me: Precision Brow Pencil
Metrus is a big fan of this entire line, and this arch perfector is one of her faves. Credit a micro-tip for perfectly precise application, plus an ever-so-slightly waxy formula that ensures it stays in place all day. It also comes in six shades, impressive for a brow product.
Runner-Up, Best Brow Product: Wet n Wild Ultimate Brow Retractable
True story: I first tried this product when I bought it on a whim after realizing I'd left the house without filling in my brows, and popped into a drugstore to find a cheapie stand-in for my regular, high-end brow pencil. Well, let’s just say that the high-end one has been relegated to the depths of my makeup bag for good. This retractable option has a triangular tip that never snaps and is ideal for creating natural-looking, hair-like strokes—an absolute must in my daily makeup routine.
Best Tinted Lip Balm: Physicians Formula SPF 15 Murumuru Butter Lip Cream
Whoever invented tinted lip balm really deserves a medal. With the perfect combination of hydration and sheer color, it’s the ideal solution when you don’t want lips to be bare but also don’t want to sport full-on lipstick. This is easily our drugstore favorite. Per the balm part of things, the base is formulated with a trio of hydrating butters plus fatty acids (and SPF, too). And per the tinted part of things, it comes in seven stunning shades, which are all easily buildable depending on how much color you want.
Best Lip Gloss: Honest Beauty Gloss-C Lip Gloss
Prefer more of a shiny lip? Try this newbie. It’s not in the least bit sticky or tacky—the quintessential lip gloss drawback—but it is plenty hydrating, thanks to the addition of coconut oil, jojoba oil, and hyaluronic acid. The line-up of eight colors is also great; it includes both the usual red and pink suspects, plus a gorgeous deep purple and opalescent butter yellow, all with a sheer yet buildable texture.
Best Lipstick: Maybelline New York SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick
We know this isn’t a traditional lipstick, but it's one of the best lip colors we’ve ever used, drugstore or not. The staying power is unparalleled. The brand claims 16 hours of wear time, but all we know is that it once stayed on for an entire workday, a dinner party, after-party drinks, late-night pizza, and a makeout sesh. The color is matte but never looks or feels dry, even hours after application. Speaking of, applying it can take a minute—you need to coat each lip separately and not press them together, then let the formula dry for a minute or two—but it’s time well-spent given that you won’t need to touch-up, ever.
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.