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How to buy cosmetics from the drugstore

Let’s face it- department store cosmetics and skincare can be really expensive… and sometimes we just don’t see the results we want. The good news is that drugstore brands are often just as good (if not better!). Here is your guide to buying beauty on a budget.

Drugstore makeup

Let me just start by saying that for the most part, cosmetic companies often make pretty lofty claims about what their products can do. So many of them promise the sun, moon and stars, but those results often are just not possible like “re-training” the skin to act differently, making pores physically smaller, and magically erasing wrinkles, just to name a few). We all want to look our best, so we get sucked in and start to believe that a miracle cream or potion might really exist — but it doesn’t.

Having said that, there are plenty of good quality skin care and makeup choices at the drugstore that are just as effective (just ignore the hype) as department store brands for a lot less money. Here are a few of my favorites:


Foundation can be a little tricky if there are no testers to try the colors on your skin, but there are still some great products to be found at the drugstore. If there are no testers, try to shop somewhere that will let you exchange your purchase for another color if necessary.


You can also bring a favorite foundation you currently use from another brand to the drugstore and compare colors. I’ve done this several times and find it can really help narrow the choices down. Of all the drugstore foundations available, here are some of my favorites: For a light-weight buildable and portable formula: Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Powder Foundation ($14, and for skincare combined with makeup, CoverGirl Simply Ageless Anti-aging Foundation ($14, For those who love airbrush makeup, Sally Hansen Natural Beauty Airbrush Spray Makeup is a great choice ($14,

>> How to pick the perfect foundation for your skin

Mascara is one of my favorite products to get at the drugstore. It’s so reasonably priced, I can afford to replace it every three months (good for preventing eye problems caused by bacteria) and not feel like I’m throwing my money away.

Here are a few drugstore mascaras that I recommend:  L’Oreal Voluminous False Fiber Lashes Mascara ($9, Try Black Laquer which is a rich, dramatic black and will give you vavoom lashes! Another amazing mascara is Maybelline Volum’ Express Turbo Boost Mascara, Very Black ($7,

>> Top 10 best mascaras of all time

Lipstick and Lipgloss are also easy winners at the drugstore – the prices are so much lower than dept. store brands that you can afford to try new colors and textures. Of the brands I’ve tried, I love CoverGirl Blast Flipstick ($8, since it comes with two colors and you can mix the colors to create new ones. For lipgloss, Revlon Super Lustrous lipgloss leaves your lips shiny and moisturized ($7, Changing your lipstick is one of the easiest ways to update your makeup, and these drugstore finds make it affordable, too.

>> Why doesn’t this lipstick color look good on me?

Skin care

With the prices of fancy treatment creams at the department store counters skyrocketing, it’s no wonder we want to find something comparable at the drugstore. Many of the products are even practically identical to department store brands; for instance, Lancome and L’Oreal are owned by the same company and have many similar skin care products. If you have a Lancome favorite but hate spending so much money, L’Oreal just might have a similar product for less.

>> Allergic to makeup? How to handle allergies to cosmetics

Of all the drugstore products I’ve tried, here are a few of my favorites that I think perform as well or better than those at the expensive cosmetic counters:

  • Biore: I particularly like the non-foaming cleanser, the self-heating mask, the daily scrub, and, yes, even the pore strips.
  • Lumene: I really like their Vitamin C+ Pure Radiance Day Cream and Time Freeze Firming Night Cream. The products look and smell expensive and truly work.
  • Neutrogena: Their Extra Gentle Facial Cleanser, Fresh Foaming Cleanser, Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream (compares to Estee Lauder Diminish Retinol Treatment), and Norwegian Formula Hand Cream are among my favorites of this brand.
  • Olay: You can’t go wrong with the original beauty fluid, and I also love the sensitive skin cream. The Regenerist line and Professional line have even tested better than expensive brands.

The basic rule

Remember a basic cosmetic rule: You don’t always get what you pay for! With a little comparison shopping, you’ll find some great, inexpensive products at the drugstore that work just as well or better than high-priced department store lines.

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