If you’re searching for the best makeup brand, you know you get what you pay for. And sometimes you’re paying for pretty packaging and media hype. Such can be the case with high-end makeup brands, which don’t always deliver on quality. Some of the best-kept secrets in the beauty industry revolve around so-called budget products that perform just as well as higher-end cosmetics.
Click through to discover some inexpensive beauty hacks — and which products you don’t need to spend top dollar on.
Blush — e.l.f. Contouring Blush and Bronzing Powder in St. Lucia
- Drugstore brand retail price: $4
- Comparable luxury brand: NARS Blush/Bronzer Duo in Orgasm/Laguna, $42
- Where to buy: Walmart, CVS or Target
Low-cost brand favorite e.l.f. reportedly makes a good duplicate of NARS’ cult classic blush duo Orgasm/Laguna, for one-tenth of the price — putting it among the best deals at Walmart. Although beauty junkies report that NARS’ version is more pigmented, e.l.f.’s duo is softer and lighter, allowing users to build color intensity to their liking, according to Makeup and Beauty Blog.
Both options deliver the popular peach-pink shimmer the NARS blush made famous. The major difference is you can buy 10 e.l.f. blushes for the same price as one NARS.
Brow Pencil — NYX Micro Brow Pencil
- Drugstore brand retail price: $9.99
- Comparable luxury brand: Anastasia Beverly Hills Perfect Brow Pencil, $23
- Where to buy: ULTA, Target and CVS
NYX’s Micro Brow Pencil is something every woman should own, said Los Angeles-based freelance makeup artist Natasha Maldonado. It’s also an affordable alternative to the Anastasia Beverly Hills Perfect Brow Pencil.
“The pencil is life-changing,” she said. “It’s so defined and user-friendly that it’s nearly impossible to mess up. Everyone is hyped up on Anastasia, but I think NYX is similar.”
Fun fact: NYX was initially only available to beauty professionals at trade shows, and grew in popularity by word of mouth, Joyce Kim, NYX’s global director of product development, told beauty website Into the Gloss. L’Oreal bought the brand in 2014, and now it’s available in drugstores and online.
Brow Kit — e.l.f. Eyebrow Kit
- Drugstore brand retail price: $3
- Comparable luxury brand: Benefit Cosmetics Brow Zings Tame & Shape Kit, $32
- Where to buy: Target, Walgreens and CVS
While on the subject of brows, Maldonado said e.l.f.’s much lower-priced brow kit is very similar to the Benefit Cosmetics version. So why not take advantage of shopping drugstore deals? Both include a powder and wax palette to fill in and arch eyebrows, and both kits also come with a double-sided brush for precision grooming.
Makeup aficionados at popular beauty product review site MakeupAlley give e.l.f.’s kit an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 “lipsticks,” with feedback like, “Why spend big bucks for brow products when [e.l.f.’s kit] is $3.00 and works just as well?”
Bronzer — Rimmel London Natural Bronzer
- Drugstore brand retail price: $5.79 and under
- Comparable luxury brand: Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess Powder Bronzer, $42
- Where to buy: Walmart, Target and Rite Aid
The “Today” show rated Rimmel London Natural Bronzer as one of the best bronzers, citing reviewer feedback that noted its natural-looking glow and all-day staying power. Users also shared that Rimmel’s bronzer doubles as a contouring powder because it’s matte and blends easily. With this much positive feedback, it’s a gift worth giving to your beauty-loving friend.
Rimmel London’s bronzer is a good, affordable alternative to Estée Lauder Bronze Goddess Powder Bronzer, according to beauty website Total Beauty. Like Estée Lauder, the main selling points of Rimmel London’s product is that it looks natural, according to “Today.”
Lip Plumper — Blistex Lip Medex
- Drugstore brand retail price: $1.69
- Comparable luxury brand: Kylie Lip Kit by Kylie Jenner, $29
- Where to buy: Most drugstores in America
Kylie Jenner’s Lip Kit sold out in less than 20 minutes, according to the Huffington Post. This led desperate fans to bid up to $10,000 for the kit on eBay, reported style website StyleCaster.
Beauty expert Mariana Leung suggested buying Blistex instead. “My longtime makeup trick was to use a basic lip brush and my trusty Blistex Lip Medex,” she said. “Blistex moisturizes your lips and plumps them with ingredients like castor oil.”
“I use a lip brush to blend a bit of Blistex with my lipstick,” she said. “Blend and outline your lips with a darker shade before filling in with your main lip color to really push that Kylie Jenner look. The moisturizing effect of the Blistex mixed with your lipstick allows the blending and application to be precise.”
Pressed Powder — Essence All About Matt! Fixing Compact Powder
- Drugstore brand retail price: $3.99
- Comparable luxury brand: MAC Blot Powder, $28
- Where to buy: ULTA
Just like MAC’s high-performing pressed powder, Essence All About Matt! sets makeup, reduces shine and doesn’t add a lot of color. ULTA reviewers rated Essence’s pressed powder 4.3 stars out of 5, and raved about its good coverage and oil control.
Reddit users also recently recommended All About Matt!, as one contributor said, “It’s translucent, mattifying/blurring, super cheap.” Another Reddit user said, “I love Essence, they are dirt cheap but great quality. Nothing has broken me out or broken the bank.”
Face Shimmer — Physicians Formula Shimmer Strip
- Drugstore brand retail price: $15.49 and under
- Comparable luxury brand: Bobbi Brown Shimmer Brick, $48
- Where to buy: Target, CVS, Rite Aid, Walgreens, Walmart and ULTA
For a subtle highlight without an overly bronze look, makeup fans turn to face shimmers. To get that glow similar to the one imparted by Bobbi Brown’s pricier Shimmer Brick, some beauty product aficionados recommend Physicians Formula Shimmer Strip instead. The latter also rated higher (4.3) than Bobbi Brown’s (4.1) on beauty product review site MakeupAlley.
According to a MakeupAlley reviewer, Shimmer Strip is her go-to highlighter. “Each strip by its own is very wearable and is lasting,” she said.
Mascara — L’Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Mascara
- Drugstore brand retail price: $8.99
- Comparable luxury brand: Dior Diorshow Mascara, $29.50
- Where to buy: CVS, Walgreens and Target
Those with skimpy lashes know that not all mascaras deliver on the promise to give volume without clumping. Both Voluminous and Diorshow do the job, which is why some makeup fans say it’s not necessary to shell out the extra cash for Dior. A reviewer on Total Beauty reported that Voluminous gave her the same “long, fluttery and full” lashes as Diorshow — and did exactly what it promised for under $15.
Lipstick — NYX Liquid Suede
- Drugstore brand retail price: $6.99
- Comparable luxury brand: Kylie Lip Kit by Kylie Jenner, $29
- Where to buy: ULTA, Target and CVS
If you keep missing the 20-minute window to purchase the Kylie Lip Kit, here’s another substitute: NYX’s Liquid Suede collection. “NYX’s lipstick could definitely be compared to the Kylie Lip Kit,” said Maldonado. “The line includes the same cool taupe/neutral tones that are featured in the Kylie Lip Kit collection. Both formulas are extremely lightweight and last quite some time. NYX’s newest color Brooklyn Thorn is also very similar to the Kylie Lip Kit in Dolce K.”
Maldonado recommended using NYX’s Liquid Suede, letting it dry, then applying NYX’s Butter Gloss in the center of the lips to give them an ombre effect.
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Concealer — L.A. Girl HD PRO Conceal
- Drugstore brand retail price: $4.94 and under
- Comparable luxury brand: MAC Pro Longwear Concealer, $23
- Where to buy: Walgreens and Walmart
“I’m obsessed with the L.A. Girl concealers,” Maldonado said. “They have a very user-friendly applicator that’s a twist-off brush. I use it every day.”
MakeupAlley reviewers praised L.A. Girl’s coverage. Beauty vloggers also raved about L.A. Girl’s contouring abilities, a feature made easier by the fact that the concealer comes in 21 shades from very light to very dark. “I am a Mac Pro Longwear fanatic but … this stuff is right up there for a fraction of the cost,” wrote YouTube beauty reviewer Bree The Beauty Geek.
Eye Shadow — NYX Eye Shadow
- Drugstore brand retail price: $4.50
- Comparable luxury brand: MAC Eye Shadow, $16
- Where to buy: Target, CVS and ULTA
NYX eye shadow is a superb deal, with a vast array of colors — there are more than 88 shades in the collection — and a pigment depth and quality comparable to MAC’s popular eye shadows, reported Makeup Geek. As for the color selection, many are close duplicates to MAC’s super-pigmented single shadows, according to the website.
Read on to find out the other best and worst deals at Target beyond makeup.
Foundation — L’Oreal Infallible Pro-Matte Foundation
- Drugstore brand retail price: $12.99 and under
- Comparable luxury brand: Lancome Teint Idole Ultra 24H Long Wear, $47
- Where to buy: All major drugstores, including CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid
L’Oreal owns Lancome, and, according to San Diego-based makeup artist Twila Shakespeare, the two brands are very similar in terms of ingredients and formulation, which might explain why their foundations are so comparable.
Perhaps this MakeupAlley reviewer said it best about L’Oreal: “I can’t believe this is a drugstore foundation…”
Eyelid Primer — Wet ‘n Wild Fergie Take on the Day
- Drugstore brand retail price: $12.99
- Comparable luxury brand: Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion, $22
- Where to buy: Amazon
Wet ‘n Wild’s Fergie eyelid primer reached cult status in the years it was available, according to Reddit users. Fergie’s Take on the Day reportedly worked very well on oily eyelids, kept eye shadow and eyeliner on all day and was comparable to Urban Decay’s Eyeshadow Primer Potion, according to MakeupAlley reviews.
The bad news: Wet ‘n Wild discontinued the line, leaving fans everywhere bereft. Fortunately, you can still buy it on Amazon for $12.99.
Save More: 21 Items That Are Cheaper on Amazon
Eyeliner — Maybelline Eye Studio Lasting Drama Gel Liner
- Drugstore brand retail price: $9.99 and under
- Comparable luxury brand: MAC Fluidline Eyeliner, $17.50
- Where to buy: Rite Aid, Walmart, Walgreens, ULTA and Target
Gel liners impress makeup wearers with their fluid consistency, rich pigments and oil-free formulas. A beauty reviewer on MakeupAlley considers Maybelline’s liner comparable to MAC’s Fluidline Eyeliner, especially for those on a budget. The most common favorite features cited by reviewers include Maybelline’s jet black color, smudge-proof consistency and its stays-wet-in-the-jar formula.
Highlighting Concealer — Maybelline Dream Lumi Touch Highlighting Concealer
- Drugstore brand retail price: $7.99 and under
- Comparable luxury brand: Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat Radiant Touch, $38
- Where to buy: Target, Walmart and ULTA
A highlighting concealer helps conceal your undereye area and brightens to make you look awake. You could buy Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche Eclat for $42 or you could save money — like 80 percent — with the comparable Maybelline Lumi Touch. ULTA users said they love the more affordable Lumi because it blends well and is natural looking.
Liquid Highlighter — e.l.f. Shimmering Facial Whip
- Drugstore brand retail price: $1
- Comparable luxury brand: Benefit High Beam Liquid Face Highlighter, $26
- Where to buy: At drugstores, including Walgreens and CVS
Fans love that e.l.f.’s Shimmering Facial Whip gives the same rosy-pink shimmer and dewy glow as Benefit’s more expensive High Beam. For the closest results, get the e.l.f. highlighter in lilac petal, and blend above the cheekbones and along the browbones, suggested beauty blog Love, Lipstick, and Pearls.
Click through if you’re planning to buy drugstore makeup and want to know secret ways to save more money at Target.