Drugstore Makeup That’s Just as Good as the Pricier Brands

A person applies concealer, another puts on lipstick, and a woman holds a brow gel in front of her face.

If you’re a makeup lover, relaxing strolls down the aisles at Sephora are sure to make you happy. The price tag for all the makeup you place in your basket, however, probably doesn’t make you so happy. If you’re on a budget, these affordable brands are just as good as the pricier stuff.

While some might associate a higher price with higher quality, that isn’t a guarantee, especially when it comes to cosmetics. The truth is, from foundations to lipsticks, there are plenty of budget-friendly options if you’re looking to save some cash without sacrificing your look.

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A woman applies concealer, tubes of foundation are in a pile, and a woman wears foundation.

To say there’s a wide variety of cosmetics out there for your complexion is an understatement. When it comes to foundation, most people choose one based on the level of coverage it provides. Generally, the following holds true when it comes to finding the right base:

  • Light to sheer coverage: Provides a hint of color to even out skin tone.
  • Medium coverage: Ideal for concealing blemishes and/or discoloration
  • Full coverage: Better for covering imperfections, like dark circles or hyperpigmentation.

If necessary, you can also throw on a concealer for that extra touch. When it comes to affordable options of all of the above, here are our recommendations:

Tubes of foundation are lined up by color, and a group of them are in a pile.

Sheer coverage: For those who prefer a simple complexion product that can be easily and quickly applied with their hands, ColourPop’s Hyaluronic Tinted Moisturizer is a great option. You can leave it sheer or build it up to a more light coverage.

It’s also infused with hyaluronic acid to add moisture to your skin while you wear it, and it’s good for all skin types.

Swatches of makeup are displayed on four arms with different skin tones, and a woman wears foundation.

Medium coverage: For those who want to conceal things like minor blemishes or a bit of redness, a medium-coverage foundation, like L’Oreal Paris’ Infallible Fresh Wear, is an excellent and affordable option.

It can be used as a true medium-coverage foundation, but you can also build it up with a second layer in areas that need some extra TLC, or convert it into a full-coverage foundation. The ultra-thin, breathable formula, it won’t feel heavy on your skin, and it also leaves a natural finish that isn’t too glowy or matte.

A woman applies concealer under her eyes.

Concealer: Those who deal with dark circles will love Maybelline’s Age Rewind Concealer. At this writing, this cult classic has over 136,000 reviews and a 4.4 out of five-star rating. Not only will it conceal those dark under-eye circles, but it can also hide any redness and generally brighten the skin. The container is also compact with a built-in applicator that’s perfect for quick touch-ups.


Arms are swatched with blush shades and a bronzer sits on palm fronds.

When it comes to your cheeks, natural finishes and cream blushes are on-trend. A hint of color is a perfect way to add a glowing, more youthful look. For those who love to feel like it’s summer year-round, a great bronzer is another must-have product for those cheeks.

Here are some of the best bronzers, blushes, and rouges for those on a budget:

A bronzer sits on palm fronds.

Bronzer: Add some faux glow to your overall look. While there are tons of famed and beloved high-end bronzers (we’re looking at you, Benefit Hoola), Physician’s Formula’s Butter Bronzer is one of the most lauded affordable options.

This powder bronzer is available in eight different shades to suit a variety of complexions and features a subtle, pearly finish to add a slight glow. Its soft-blur capability can also help you conceal minor imperfections on your cheeks. Although it’s a powder, this product also doesn’t go on chalky—it glides on smoothly with a brush.

A cream blush stick and swatches of blush.

Cream blush: Those looking for ease should pick up Wet n Wild’s MegaGlo blush. This easy-to-use product can easily be swiped on your cheeks, and then blended out with your fingers.

You can also build it up for a bolder look or add a single sweep for just a touch of color. Thanks to the cream formula, it also adds some glow, along with its cheery color.

Four different skin tones are swatched with shades of blush.

Powder blush: For those who prefer a traditional powder formula, Milani’s Baked Blush is the perfect choice. Available in 12 shades, this product combines a mix of matte pigment and shimmer in a baked formula.

It provides both a touch of color and a bit of highlighting. Apply it to the apples of your cheeks with a blush brush, and then you can easily build it up by layering.


Two women apply brow products and another holds a product up to her face.

When it comes to impact, your brows are, arguably, the most important part of your makeup routine—especially for those of us who haven’t been blessed with perfect arches. Like your hairstyle, your eyebrows frame your entire face.

From pencils and gels to pomades, though, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to get perfect arches. Here are some of our favorite brow products:

A woman uses a brow pencil on her eyebrows.

Pencil: For those who have just a few sparse areas that need to be filled in, something like NYX’s Micro Brow Pencil is perfect. It features an ultrafine tip, so you can really get into those bare areas and fill them using hair-like strokes for a natural finish.

While it’s pigmented, this pencil won’t appear too harsh, but can be built up for a more defined look.

A woman fills in her brow with a pomade.

Pomade: Not everyone can have perfect, full brows; for some of us, they’re barely there at all. If you fall into the latter camp, a pomade, like CoverGirl’s Brow Sculpt and Set, is the perfect, affordable option.

It delivers a more heavily pigmented color, so you can sketch out your brow, and then fill it in for a look that’s a bit bolder. It also allows those who have particularly sparse, or even nonexistent, brows to craft some. Plus, it comes with a built-in applicator, so you won’t need to find the perfect brush.

A woman holds up a brow gel in front of her face.

Gel: If you’re looking for an easy product, e.l.f. Cosmetics Wow Brow Gel is for you. This tinted gel formula also contains hair-like fibers that adhere to your natural brows and makes them look thicker.

You can also build up this product until you achieve the look you want. You can also use the Wow Brow Gel in conjunction with a pencil or pomade to keep your natural brows in place.


A four pan eyeshadow palette, a container or liquid eyeliner, and a person wearing mascara.

The amount of makeup products on the market for your eyes is simply staggering. From mascara and liners to primers and shadows, the eyes take up a lot of the focus when it comes to makeup.

Of course, it’s easy to see (pun intended) why—our eyes are often the first feature others notice about us. Thankfully, this is one cosmetic category where affordability and quality go hand in hand. You can save some serious cash on these eye products:

A person wears black mascara.

Mascara: If you’re looking for a duplicate of a popular high-end mascara, look no further than L’Oreal’s Lash Paradise. Commonly referred to as the alternative for Too Faced’s Better Than Sex, in our opinion, Lash Paradise is even better.

This mascara not only helps build volume, it also adds length. The fiber-bristle brush is also soft, making application comfortable. Plus, it adheres to each individual lash for a more even coat.

A liquid eyeliner is swatched.

Eyeliner: A classic black liner is a must for many, and e.l.f. Cosmetics’ liquid liner is easily one of the best affordable options. With its jet-black color and precise applicator, you can achieve any look you’re going for, whether subtle or sultry.

While the brush-tip applicator does take a bit of practice, once you master it, you’ll be able to create the perfect retro cat eye.

Two eyeshadow palettes feature four different shades of brown.

Eyeshadow: The sky’s the limit when it comes to this category. From powders to cream stick options, you can get any kind of eyeshadow for an affordable price. If you’re looking for the perfect palette, though, definitely check out ColourPop’s Feeling Coconutty Pressed Powder Shadows.

This simple, four-pan palette is easy to throw in your makeup bag or purse. It’s also ideal for creating quick looks, thanks to the everyday shades of brown. You can do a soft swipe of color over your lid for daytime wear, and then build up to a deeper brown for a night on the town.


A woman smiles, lip balms are lined up according to color, and a woman applies lipstick.

Even more than eyeshadow, the world of affordable lip products is vast, which is very good news for your wallet. However, it does mean you have to navigate the plethora of options, which can be overwhelming.

That’s why we did it for you and found the most affordable, high-quality options out there when it comes to lipstick, gloss, and balm. No matter which you prefer, none of these products will break the bank:

A woman applies red lipstick.

Lipstick: You can never go wrong with a classic, and Maybelline’s Color Sensational is one of the best. These highly pigmented lipsticks add enough color with just a single swipe. They also moisturize to prevent drying during long-wear.

Plus, they won’t bleed over your lip line, nor feather around the edges. With 24 shades to choose from, there’s one (or 10) for everyone.

Lip balms are lined up based on shade and swatched on different arms.

Balm: Yes, Bert’s Bees is known for chapstick, but don’t write off its tinted lip balms. You’ll get all the hydrating benefits (up to eight hours) of the brand’s original product, but with a subtle wash of color. With shades ranging from deep burgundy to light peach, try them all until you find your favorite.

A woman smiles while wearing lip gloss.

Gloss: When it comes to cult classic affordable products, NYX’s Butter Gloss is one of the most well-known. These pigmented glosses give your kisser a glow without making them too sticky.

The creamy formula also nourishes your lips, and it comes in tons of colors, so you’re sure to find your perfect shade.

Have expensive cosmetics been busting your budget? If so, it’s time to hit the drugstore and try out these far more affordable makeup brands. Not only will you love saving all that cash, you’ll probably find that you adore some of these options more than the pricier stuff!

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