Stepping into the cosmetic department of any department store or a specialty beauty store is like stepping into a candy store (for grown women), except sampling is encouraged, and the candy costs a whole lot more. Between the shiny packaging and pretty pigments, it’s easy to get swept up in a cosmetic shopping spree—but it’s going to cost you. Luckily, not all of your makeup bag essentials need to come with a hefty price tag.
Keep reading to find out which products are worth the investment and which ones you can hit the drugstore for!
Face makeup is one area where you want to spend the money—for two reasons: the options and the consultation. Skip all the guesswork and hit the department store cosmetic counter to get color-matched by a professional. Plus, the shade, coverage, and finish options of luxury lines ensure you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for. In the market for a new foundation? We recommend Giorgio Armani’s Luminous Silk Foundation ($62) and Make Up For Ever’s HD Invisible Cover Foundation ($42).
For stopping shine and setting face makeup, your basic pressed or loose translucent powder from the drugstore will do. No need to shell out tons of cash on a product you can’t even see—try CoverGirl’s Professional Loose Powder ($6) or Rimmel’s Stay Matte Shine Control Pressed Powder ($6).
Splurge on a more expensive bronzer that blends well and comes in natural-looking shades. The pigments in pricier powders are more finely milled, which means a smoother application. Luxury brand bronzers also have a wider range of natural-looking colors for all skin tones—plus, you can find options with and without shimmer (even “matte” drugstore powders often have some sheen to them). Some of our favorite bronzers include Bobbi Brown’s Bronzing Powder ($40), Guerlain’s Terracotta Bronzing Powder ($52), and Jouer’s Mineral Powder Bronzer ($28).
While inexpensive bronzer can easily end up making you look ruddy or dirty, blush doesn’t present the same risks. Drugstores offer a wide variety of blush shades and formulas that are simply fantastic. We happen to be fans of several drugstore cream blushes. If you prefer powder, try Revlon’s Powder Blush ($10) or e.l.f.’s Studio Blush ($3).
Choose department store eye shadow over drugstore options if you want the color you see in the pan to be what shows up on your lid. Less expensive shadows are often too hard to deposit the desired color. The pricier shadows are made from higher quality pigments, which makes them last longer and blend better. NARS Eyeshadow ($19) and Urban Decay Eyeshadow ($18) are always good buys.
Unless you’re looking for a very specific color, you should be able to find smooth-applying, long-wearing eyeliner at the drugstore. The differences in liquid formulas are negligible, so stock up on the cheapies. Pencils just need to be soft enough where they won’t tug on the skin. We like Maybelline’s Eye Studio Master Drama Cream Pencil Eyeliner ($8) and L’Oréal’s Colour Riche Eyeliner ($9).
The color selection at the drugstore rivals that of any department store, but you might choose to spend a few more bucks on a high-quality lipstick for the ingredients and pigments. Luxury brand lipsticks have a high-pigment concentration ensuring a better color payoff, and they’re often loaded with lip-conditioning ingredients that you won’t find in less expensive products. Tom Ford Lip Color ($50) and Estée Lauder Pure Color Envy Sculpting Lipstick ($30) will always be worth the investment.
We don’t require the same color intensity from lip gloss as we do from lipstick. Less expensive glosses are just as glossy. We love the color selections from L'Oreal Colour Caresse Wet Shine Stain ($10).