When friends ask me for product recommendations, the requests almost always come with the caveat that they don’t want to spend a lot of money. Sometimes they’ve run out of or forgotten a product while traveling and need a quick, cheap fix, or they want to try a new style without making a hefty investment. No matter the reason, I’m reminded of a well-put-together woman in Thrifty Drugs who offered the teenage me some blunt advice: Don’t go bargain shopping for your face.
At the time, this was a revelation, a glowing-orb-of-light-all-the-mysteries-of-the-world-were-solved moment of clarity. I took my saved-up babysitting money, plopped it on the Clinique counter, and never looked back.
Well, kind of. I take a more nuanced approach to that long-ago unsolicited advice. It’s now: Put quality products on your face. And quality comes at all price points — even drugstore price points. But I do find that it takes research to find where that drugstore quality lies. Which is why I am here for you.
L’Oréal is more than “Because I’m Worth It.” It’s a conglomerate that dominates the beauty industry, from budget to luxury lines. I’ve mentioned before, and it’s worth repeating, that the breakthroughs that debut in the prestige lines eventually trickle their way to drugstore products. If the weightless glow of Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk ($64) foundation appeals to you (but not the price), try L’Oréal Infallible Pro-Glow ($12.99). I’m hard-pressed to find much difference between these products.
Maybelline Instant Age Rewind ($8.99) concealer does precisely what it is supposed to do. I don’t require bells and whistles from concealer; I want it to cover circles and spots, blend where needed, and wear all day. This product nails it.
Wet n Wild Color Icon ($4.99) in Comfort Zone is a cult-favorite eye-shadow palette that’s lost nothing in a recent reformulation. The shadows are pigmented aplenty and easy to apply. There are more of them now, too, as the palette expanded from eight pans to 10. I like that Wet n Wild hasn’t bothered to include sponge-tip applicators or a mirror with this palette — those would only drive up the cost.
NYX Epic Ink Liner ($7.99) is a felt-tip liquid liner pen. I can’t overstate how easy this makes the application of winged liner. It dries down matte and stays black. Use over primer to keep the lines crisp, and you won’t be disappointed.
When L’Oréal debuted Voluminous Lash Paradise ($9.99) mascara shortly after acquiring Too Faced Cosmetics, beauty junkies questioned if it was a drugstore-priced version of Too Faced’s best-selling Better Than Sex ($23) mascara. Both come in brushed pink metal tubes and feature hourglass-shape wands. As it turns out, I like the drugstore version better because, unlike the higher-priced item, it doesn’t smudge under my eyes.
Finally, my favorite drugstore product: Milani Baked Powder Blush ($7.99) in Luminoso. A universally flattering peach with subtle flecks of gold, it’s the makeup I’d take to a deserted island. I’ve counted this blush as a staple in my collection for years, and I recommend it to everyone.