Friday, October 8th, 2010


Lipstick Comparisons: Under $12

The first part of the Lipstick Comparisons series features lipstick formulas available for less than $12.  (These are all actually less than $8, I believe!)

One of the easily detectable and distinguishing ways that more affordable lipsticks vary from higher end lipsticks is in the scent.  I have yet to find a lipstick in this price range that doesn’t tend to have a synthetic scent, and if not syrupy sweet or floral, often a nauseating mix of plastic and play-doh.  Sometimes they can also have an off-taste, too.  Both scent/taste are highly personal, though, and both dependent on your sensitivity.

Wear time can sometimes differ (noted below), but while I rarely find lipsticks that wear well for six or more hours, there are some that do wear for the average time for me (four hours is my average).

Maybelline Color Sensational Lipstick (~$8.00)

  • PROS: Decent shade range, wearable shades that tend to be more universally flattering (mass appeal), smooth, opaque, wears for 3-4 hours, color-coded packaging
  • NEUTRAL: Mostly “wearable” colors — nothing really out of the box, synthetic/generic sweet scent on some while others have a more plastic scent
  • CONS: Some shades tend to cling, which make them less suitable for those with drier lips
  • MY REC: The scent can be pretty bothersome for some, but it’ll depend on how adverse you are to certain smells. For a drugstore lipstick, they might feel a little pricey, so it may be prudent to wait for a sale. It doesn’t dry my lips out, but it’s not at all moisturizing, so those with dry lips should take note.

Milani Color Perfect Lipstick ($4.99)

  • PROS: Wide range of shades, creamy, moisturizing, opaque
  • NEUTRAL: Both neutral and brighter shades, synthetic/waxy scent
  • CONS: Frost finish shades are drier and less opaque, dated packaging
  • MY REC: The creamier shades are the best of the line; they’re incredibly pigmented and apply really well. The frostier shades tend to emphasize any dryness on lips.

NYX Round Lipstick ($4.00)

  • PROS: Ridiculous amount of shades, variety in finishes, opaque, creamy, affordable
  • NEUTRAL: Scent-free but strong plastic scent on some
  • CONS: Wears off after 2-3 hours, darker shades bleed
  • MY REC: When it comes to trying out shades, NYX is definitely a go-to brand. The creamy, smooth texture and the huge shade range helps it stand out amongst other budget-friendly options. NYX also occasionally has crazy bundled packages–I remember buying 30 or 40 lipsticks for around $50 one time.

Rimmel Lasting Finish Lipstick (~$5.00)

  • PROS: Good shade range, creamy, doesn’t dry lips out, affordable
  • NEUTRAL: Synthetic fruity scent
  • CONS: Wears off within 1-2 hours requiring frequent reapplication
  • MY REC: It’s a decent option if you’re on a tight budget and don’t mind reapplication.

The Lipstick Comparisons series is designed to provide a quick reference summary sheet for some of the many available lipstick formulas. It seems like most brands have at least a couple of formulas, if not half a dozen, and it can be difficult to find the formulas that will work best for your budget, coloring, style, or taste.

This is not necessarily a best of list, and it’s not exhaustive–it is based on actual lipsticks that I’ve tried; they are all, however, decent to excellent lipsticks. (And perhaps, some day, it will be an exhaustive list.)  I have summarized my experience based on pros and cons, but also some “neutral” factors that may be pros or cons, depending on your preferences.  I will update this series as I try new lipstick formulas.

(And yes, I recognize that the series photo does not include any of these brands! The image represents the series, not individual posts.)

Discussion and debate are highly encouraged, and we expect community members to participate respectfully. When asking a question, please check the FAQ section (above) for information about purchasing, price, dupes, and the like. If you have general feedback or need technical support, please contact us.

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61 thoughts on “Lipstick Comparisons: Under $12

  1. The image doesnt match the post! These are all luxe lipsticks :X

  2. i think you put the wrong picture on top of this artikle… i only see lipsticks over 12$ ;-) (like Chanel and so)

    xx Ilja

    • Hi Ilja,

      I mentioned at the bottom of the post that this is the *series* header – which means it will be the same image for all of the lipstick comparison series and that yes, I was full aware that it did not include any of the lipsticks mentioned here.

  3. Skybluesky

    Thank you so much for starting this! I’m starting to get into lipsticks, so this will help. I have a Tom Ford lipstick and two Nars ones and a covergirl one that’s surprisingly good for drugstore (I can’t remember what kind it is). I guiltily admit that I can’t resist higher end beauty products!

  4. Tam

    I think I’ll just stick with my chanel lipsticks. even other expensive ones like lancome or estee lauder I don’t like, I tried rimmel, the colour aren’t as nice anyway

    • Lorna

      for the longest time I was on a MAC lipstick kick. I have a few each of NARS, YSL, and Illamasqua. I tried going back to drug store just for more shade range but I noticed with drug store brands there seems to be less pigment in the product and funky product smells. for example, i got a rimmel lipstick and the scent was so disgusting i had to throw it away and I hate wasting money like that. i got a maybelline lipstick too and there just wasn’t enough pigment. in order for me to get the color to show up on my lips i would have to apply a ton of product and that isn’t exactly cost effective either.

  5. Jeneille

    Thanks for this! I’m about to get some NYX today :)

  6. mementomori

    What a great idea! Thank you, this might prove to be very helpful.

  7. I actually really like NYC lipsticks. And personally I think they smell great, very much a fruit punch smell. :D

  8. While I like to buy some drug store cosmetics (like pressed powder), I prefer to buy my foundations and lipsticks on the high end. I’ve just found that I get more bang for my buck when I opt for the better brand lipstick. So maybe it’s more expensive, but it’s made of better quality and consistency (meaning I won’t have to reapply a 1,000 times over!) and I’m overall very happy with it. Most of my lipsticks are actually MAC and I think their prices offer a happy medium. It’s high end, but still more affordable than the luxury brands and not much more than the Maybelline one you featured! :)

  9. Ashley

    I’m actually hoping to try out Revlon’s super lustrous Haute Berry pretty soon :) It looks like an awesome color!

  10. Jennifer S

    I have not bought a drugstore lipstick since high school but I was curious about Revlon’s “Just Bitten” lipstain and balms so while I was at Walgreens I decided to poke around a little bit. I find this post to be so appropriate. I settled on all four of the Just bitten lip products, I am a real sucker for lip sticks and I had a half off coupon. The colors are really nice but I believe without the coupon they were approaching over $12.00 which I would have never paid.
    I also bought L’oreal Colour Riche lipstick in Tender Pink, it is that perfect nudey, pink color that everyone searches for but can never seem to find! Love it and I had a coupon as well. The smell is strong but I like the color and it wears really well with lipglass over it.

  11. Thank you so much for this list! I like trying drug store brands for colors, to see if I like enough to buy a dept. store brand.

  12. Laura

    I adore the Maybellines! I probably have about a dozen of them. I like Rimmel’s lipstick too, I just wish they had a broader range of shades. And the NYXs are nice too, but it’s so hard to order online since the shade “dots” are usually way off.

  13. Mayra

    What about Revlon lipsticks? theyre the best!! No scent and no taste fromall the ones ive tried! You should try them Christine, if you havent.

    • I’ve tried a few, but nothing has impressed me yet… Are there particular shades or formula you recommend?

      • Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Etaoin baby in a corner

        Yeah I have a revlon lipstick I really like. Its the super lustrous formula and the colour is wild orchid, which is a lovely fuschia with a blue tinge to it. I also find the lipstick very wearable.

      • daphne

        Christine, I highly recommend trying the Revlon Color Burst lipsticks. They’re the ones with the cases that sort of remind me of Dior (quilted look). I’ve bought most of the colors during various sales and they’re quite impressive: very pigmented, very smooth and saturated colors. They are a little one-note in color like most drugstore lipsticks but the quality is on par with MAC to me.

        • Thanks for the suggestion!

        • I love the colorburst lipsticks- they have so much pigment and feel really light on my lips!

        • Hannah

          I agree – all of the Color Burst lipsticks I’ve tried are wonderful (I have Soft Nude, Rosy Nude, and Soft Rose)! I almost like the formula better than MAC! In my opinion, Revlon Color Bursts are the best lipsticks in the drug store!

        • Ashley D

          Yes, Revlon Color Burst (or is it Colorburst?) are the best. I can’t tell the difference between them and high end lipsticks (they don’t have a scent, lovely texture, nice color payoff). though I have only tried 2 colors, I can’t wait to get more. and I’d love to see swatches of the color range :)

  14. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Azabeth Amy P

    This is SO useful, thank you and please keep doing these! :D

  15. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Catherine Catherine

    I tried the maybelline ones and I hate them. I don’t know if it is because they were expired and the drug store when i went didnt remove them but they stinked, they were sooooo dry (even more then ruby woo). That was disgusting. I returned them and ill never buy this again. And at 8$, come on, MAC is not that far away!

    • Definitely sounds like you got some bad ones, because they’re definitely not anywhere as dry as Ruby Woo, LOL! Ruby Woo is like my benchmark for driest lipstick of all time.

  16. Lulee

    i find NYC lipsticks have virtually no taste and smell. for anyone that likes a statement lip blue rose is not to be missed. and for 2 bucks you cant go wrong. now im not saying that they will replace my chanel babies but i had a very agreeable experience with the NYC ones for anyone on a budget. also the revlon colorburst have a very very faint scent and no taste and they wear very well. i also love rimmel moisture renew lipsticks, they are creamy and have a great color selection! there’s a lot of great drugstore options for lipstick that i dont think should be overlooked.

    • Lulee

      btw im talking about nyc ultra last lipsticks, i saw someone said NYC lipsticks smell like fruit punch but i just double checked and none of mine have any scent whatsoever. btw christine you should definitely try revlon colorburst in peach. its so flattering!

      • Thanks for the heads up, Lulee! :)

        It may also be that the scent fades pretty quickly, too. I’ve also noticed that sometimes my drugstore lipsticks have a scent, but then others in the same formula don’t!

  17. Michelle

    Thanks for this. I really enjoy seeing posts on drugstore items. I love higher end products, but I live in the mountains, and all we have around are drugstores! Agh!

  18. Svetlana

    haha I can’t believe a NYX lipstick IS only $4 in the USA , here in Denmark they are around 10 euros which is around $14 .

    • Huong

      OMG it’s too insane, I pay $3-4 for resellers here in Vietnam and I already think it’s expensive, in the US it’s only $1-2!

  19. Kelly C.

    I found all of these formulas to be way too drying on my lips. Actually, I find Chanel Rouge Coco to be too dry, too, a damn shame since the colors are so nice. The only thing I can currently wear in MAC Lustres. Does anyone here know of any other brands or formulas that are the same consistency? I wouldn’t mind branching out haha.

  20. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Alisha Alisha in WI

    Have you tried the Rimmel in the purple tube? Hoping they last longer than lasting finish…? Anyone know?

  21. Nanni

    Also for me another important factor is ingredients, like parabens and preservatives I don’t want on my lips because they are easy to ingest that way. NYX is a low end brand that uses BHT and parabens in their lip products…but then Make UP Forever uses parabens in their lipsticks too..so it doesn’t matter if it’s high or low end for me personally. I avoid it.

  22. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Mandy bxboricua

    Yay! Very excited about this series, thanks Christine!

  23. This is great and really helpful! Thanks for putting this together. I look forward to seeing more of the series.

  24. For the nyx and milani which colors would you rec. for a nw-20 nw-25.

  25. BethM

    I have only ever used one drugstore brand lipstick that didn’t make my lips peel. (They never felt dry, but after an hour or so of wear, my lips would just start peeling. Pretty gross.) I am also very sensitive to smells, and most ds lipsticks I’ve tried had a terrible chemical smell to me (even ones that were supposed to have no scent). I still have my one lipstick (from 2004, LOL!)….I don’t use it anymore, but I really want to find a dupe for it, as the color is PERFECT for me. (L’Oreal Shine Delice lipstick in Violet Delight.)

  26. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Victoria Victoria

    Love, love love love loveee NYX, though i think you definitely should have included revlon super lustrous and colorbursts!

  27. Maybelline Color Sensational Lipsticks are good, but they can dry out- I bought some maybe four months ago, and they went on smooth then but a couple tend to drag a bit when I put them on now.
    Milani Color Perfect Lipstick has a couple of really nice cream fuchsia/ bright pinks, they really are a good formula. The packages are old-ladyish, LOL.

    I agree that you should try some of Revlon’s lipsticks, even L’Oreal.

    • I haven’t met a L’Oreal lipstick I’ve liked :( In fact, some of the worst!

      • Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of aradhana aradhana

        speaking of l’oreal…i just reached for the only one i have after reading this post since i haven’t worn it in a while…and i’m going to have to throw it away! it doesn’t smell bad, but it has a funny taste and feels kind of oily. i wonder if sometimes the heavy scent helps brands hide the ‘real’ smell…

  28. Kat

    Thanks! This is really useful :)
    But I have to agree with the people who are telling you to try the Revlon Colorburst. The packaging is really classy, and the two I’ve tried last pretty well and are super creamy.

  29. Huong

    thank you so much for the post! <3

  30. Mary Beth

    New York Color makes really good $1 and $2 lipsticks. I’d like to see a post on them with swatches.

  31. Eileen

    Doing this series is a great idea. It’ll serve as a wonderful reference to all of us when we’re shopping for new lipsticks. The variety is overwhelming out there and every sales person claims that theirs is the best. Thanks so much Christine!

    • Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of aradhana aradhana

      I am in total agreement. I had a sales person tell me the other day a particular makeup remover was ‘best in the world’…and I was like: According to who? What were their criteria? What were they comparing to?

      Christine: I think if you end up reviewing some of the other brands people have been suggesting, it would be really helpful if you update these posts….It’s nice to have them all in one place for easy reference ;)
      (I know you probably already have that planned anyway.)

  32. Profile wp-user-avatar wp-user-avatar-60 alignnone photo of Courtney Courtney

    I love the NYX lipsticks. I have one in Electra (which is my perfect red lip!) and one application can last through a five hour work shift. Considering the fact that I’m usually a reapplication ho because I eat my lipstick or something, 5 hours is crazy good.

    And I have a love/hate relationship with the ColorSensational lipsticks. I love the shades and color payoff, and they last fairly well, but they tend to have such a funky texture.

  33. NYX is the brand that got me into lipsticks at $1.25 a pop. I didn’t think I’d get into wearing lipstick, but I ended up buying a few high-end ones after as well. Did you really buy 30-40 NYX lipsticks??? I’d love to see swatches, since I’m always Googling for them before I buy.

    • They had several specials running where you could buy a lot of products for pretty cheap, so I got a lipstick set. I’d love to swatch them all, but I have a ton of lipsticks (including the NYX ones) all queued up, so it won’t be any time soon :(

  34. THANK YOU for all your lipstick comparisons!