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Growing up I didn’t have much money to spend on things like makeup or skincare. I bought my shampoo, white eyeshadow stick, and Clean and Clear face wash from Walmart. If I had any nice makeup at all, it was a gift from my mother for my birthday. I had no idea just how much a full beauty routine could cost until after college.
I remember the first purchase I made from Sephora like it was yesterday. I walked in on a whim while shopping at the mall. A lovely sales associate helped me with finding a foundation. She then recommended a primer, highlighter, and setting spray. However, the $39 foundation was all that I could afford at the time.
Leaving Sephora with only one product in my bag, I didn’t have the full face of makeup I was hoping I could buy. I was going to need to round out my makeup collection with some drugstore purchases.
I was able to find some really great drugstore options. Of course, I also tried a lot of duds. Through trial and error, I learned which products I could save on and which products were worth the splurge.
To help you get the most out of your beauty budget, I put together this guide. I share if you should splurge or save on specific products. Plus, I’ve included my top product recommendations to make your shopping even easier.
Makeup Splurge or Save
A good makeup look starts at the base. Right now, the most popular primers are illuminating bases. These primers are great at giving a glow to the skin. With the right one, you will look radiant but not greasy. The trick is finding the right product that will give just the right amount of glow without being over the top. You also don’t want one that looks like a glitter explosion.
For the perfect illuminating base, you are going to need to splurge. By spending a bit more, you can get an illuminating primer that matches your skin tone while giving a believable glow to the skin.
Illuminating Primer: Splurge and purchase the Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Filter or the Auric Glow Lust.
While drugstore makeup has come a long way, the options are still lacking when it comes to foundation. A lot of drugstore brands, don’t carry enough shades for everyone. Those with extremely pale skin and people of color may have a hard time finding a shade match.
By splurging on your foundation, you will be able to find the right shade match with the correct undertone in the finish you want.
Foundation: Splurge. For dewy light coverage, check out MAC Face and Body. For a matte full coverage, Lancome or Estee Lauder are your best bets. Looking for something in the middle? Shiseido offers a medium coverage foundation with a natural finish.
For the same reasons you should splurge on foundation, you should also splurge on concealer.
Concealer: Splurge on a great formula and color match. For a medium coverage under-eye concealer, check out Kosas.
Setting powder is not a must-have product, but it is nice to have just in case. However, you don’t want to ruin a beautiful face of makeup with cakey powder. To get a great powder, you are going to need to splurge. Look for a finely milled powder that is translucent or in a shade that closely matches your skin tone.
Setting powder: Splurge on the Kosas or Charlotte Tilbury.
With great base products, you can save on a couple of your cheek products.
One product, I always recommend saving on is blush. There are so many great drugstore options. You can find great powder and cream blushes in beautiful shades without having to spend a fortune.
Blush: Save with drugstore options from LA Girl and Milani.
Most people are opting for an illuminating base and skipping the highlighter. If you decide you want to purchase a highlighter, go for an affordable option.
Highlighter: Save and purchase a drugstore option. Wet N Wild has a great one for $6!
If you want to add a bronzer to your collection, you need one that is the right shade for skin tone. You don’t want to look like a Cheeto by picking a bronzer that is too orange. If you have a darker complexion, you’ll need to look for a shade that will actually show up. Since the shade and undertone of your bronzer need to be just right, you’ll have to splurge.
Bronzer: Splurge on the perfect shade of bronzer. For the best color options, check out Fenty. If you want to bronze and contour, Patrick Ta has you covered.
A simple eye look isn’t so simple when it requires four different products. Thankfully, you don’t need to splurge on all of them.
When eyebrow pencils peaked in popularity a few years ago, everyone raved about the Anastasia Brow Wiz. While it. is a great product, it is a pricey one. If you use your eyebrow pencil every day, you’d end up spending hundreds of dollars a year on just one product. Instead of splurging, pick up a drugstore eyebrow pencil.
Brow Pencil: Save and buy one from NYX or Maybelline.
Even though there are a growing number of drugstore eyeshadows available, you will be able to find every color, formula, and finish under the sun if you splurge on eyeshadow. Not only will you have a ton of color options, but higher-end formulas also tend to perform better.
Eyeshadow: Splurge on great formulas and well-edited color stories. Get both with the purchase of the Soft Glam palette.
When it comes to eyeliner, this is a great opportunity to save. You can find everything from liquid liner, felt tip pens, and old-school pencil eyeliners at the drugstore.
If you are wanting to jump on the colorful eyeliner trend, I highly recommend that you save by buying drugstore eyeliner. You don’t want to invest $22 per eyeliner for a trend that will only be around for a few months.
Eyeliner: Save and pick up any liner you need from NYX.
There are so many really great mascara formulas on the market. You can find mascara for $7 at the drugstore or splash out on a luxury formula from Gucci. But if asked to splurge or save on mascara, I have to go with saving.
Mascara: Save on mascara. Consider the Bambi Eye mascara from Loreal.
Lip products have gone down in popularity over the last couple of years. While some of your lip products are not getting as much wear as they used to, that doesn’t mean you can skimp on all of your lip products.
One product that is gaining in popularity is the tinted lip balm. While there are tons of great options from YSL to Gucci, you should save when purchasing tinted balm.
Tinted lip balm: Save on tinted lip balm. Elf makes one that is amazing.
When it comes to gloss, formulas can range from super sticky to smooth as butter. When shopping at the drugstore, you are going to find most lip glosses leaving you with super sticky and stringy lips. Nobody has time for cheap sticky gloss anymore, so you will want to splurge on lip gloss.
Lip gloss: Splurge on a really great formula. Pat McGrath Labs makes one that is perfection.
For lip liner, you want to make sure to have liners that go with your most worn lip products. It’s also a good idea to have a nude liner that matches your lip color. Unfortunately, drugstore makeup brands don’t offer a wide range of lip liner colors. You’ll find the best color choices if you splurge on lip liner.
Lip Liner: Splurge and pickup lip liners from Urban Decay or MAC.
Lipstick formulas have come a long way over the years. You can find mattes, satins, ultra shines, liquid lipsticks, and more. The best part is that you can find all of these great lipstick formulas at the drugstore.
Lipstick: Save with great drugstore options from Maybelline and Loreal.
Shop Splurge or Save Product Picks
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