Do you notice a difference between high-end and budget brands?

There are gems and misses from both, so it’s not something I’d make a blanket statement over. I think that high-end products tend to have finer, more consistent powder products (like eyeshadows), but I think the influx of smaller, competitive brands (like ColourPop) that aren’t your traditional drugstore brands (like L’Oreal, Maybelline, etc.) have really gone a long way in making the distinction less and less.

— Christine


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Mariella Avatar

Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. And when a high priced brand fails badly and is “bested” by a similar, lower priced dupe, I get a bit annoyed that the luxury company has the gall to offer something so low quality at such a steep price. In all honesty, as much as I love luxury brands, I don’t find they can be relied on to deliver just because of their luxury cachet. And it’s just one of the reasons that I appreciate your reviews, Christine. If I’m going to spend $60 or $80 on a product, I really want to know if it’s worth it and how it performs, and Temptalia gives me that information!

Mariella Avatar

….and those recent Tom Ford releases that were so embarrassingly bad and at such steep prices! It’s an effort to get to a store that carries Tom Ford here and the prices in Canada border on obscene but there is no way I’d purchase anything of his without either seeing and trying it in person or seeing what Christine has to say about it. Mind you, even with lower priced products, I still wait to see how they rate with Christine’s reliable rating system.

Seraphine Avatar

Interesting question. First, there’s definitely a difference in packaging between HE and budget makeup. As far as the product inside the packaging goes, it depends on a lot of different factors. I haven’t found a budget eyeshadow that is as finely milled as some of the HE eyeshadows I own, such as Natasha Denona. But that said, I have some HE eyeshadows that are pretty indistinguishable from their budget counterparts, and then brands like Colourpop far exceed budget expectations. Same goes for lipstick. While there are certain HE lipsticks that are worth every penny, some aren’t much better than budget products, and there are some budget products that are just as good as—or better than—some HE. Foundation is one of the products that budget brands cannot rival.

I just read this over and it’s pretty much a rambling stream-of-consciousness, but I’m feeling a bit lazy this morning so I’m going to post it anyway. (These were thoughts based on my personal experience with makeup, and I realize that not everyone will agree, and that there are products I’ve not yet tried that might challenge these views.)

Z Avatar

Yes and no. I find “typical drugstore” fare like Maybelline. L’oreal, and NYX (etc) eyeshadows and lipsticks to be garbage, even in comparison to similar price ranges like Colourpop and Juvia’s Place. And certainly there is a difference between those guys and say Anastasia and Melt. But I don’t find a difference, beyond packaging (ND excluded as their packaging is pretty basic), between that mid-range and Pat McGrath/Tom Ford/Charlotte Tilbury – as far as formula and performance.

I think if you’re looking for an all around well-performing shadow that doesn’t break the bank, colourpop is a much better choice over the usual drugstore brands. But I find mid-range to be just a hair better than CP, and miles better than Maybelline.

Whitney Avatar

Honestly, my favorite products usually come from the drugstore. I haven’t had much of an interest in higher-end since I started shopping at the drugstore more. I still buy higher-end, I just don’t think there’s that much of a difference between them anymore.

Ana Maria Avatar

With ingredients it depends… for example you can do a good simple silicone primer at a low price, since it’s a cheap and well performing ingredient. But once you try to add skincare ingredients, and suncreen, there’s more money involved in the ingredients and the research needed to make a stable formula.

But the line is kind of blurry because high end brands are in some cases parent companies of drugstore brands. And they re-use formulas (so no need to invest in research); maybe they will use cheaper version of ingredients, but (again) with some ingredients you can’t tell the difference if it’s a $0.1/ounce low quality version or the $100/ounce top notch good quality version (sourced from the mines of heaven or manually processed by fairies 😆 ).

Cil Avatar

I am more a “I see, I like, I buy… or I find a dupe” kind of person. However, no matter what, I will never buy a 130US$ eyeshadow palette unless it came with a personal makeup artist attached to it. And no… it is not a money thing, but more like a value thing.

I think it all boils down to use too. LE brands aren’t always the winner. CP Matte X lippie stix are the best lippies in my book, while I hated Pat Mcgrath matte lipstick (crusty mess). I always look in the Matte X CP formula for dupes of lippies I like elsewhere. Beyond CP, nothing compares with KVD crème and UD vice lipstick.

Fenty’s foundation is hyped and hyped, but I didn’t have a match in it as I am a tan olive (used 330). The foundation goes oily on me just like MUFE Ultra HD in 3h. Nothing beats ELDW, either other LE brands or budget.

The fun part for me are eye products as I depend on ingredients due to allergies. My eyeshadows are either Devinah or Sydney Grace, but my mascara is from Guerlain, while my eyeliner is MJ Highliner crayons. WnW was the best eye primer ever (PhotoFocus) among the ones I tried, although I have yet to find a primer that doesn’t irritate my lid, except TF glitter glue.

And so on. Nonetheless, I will always prefer budget over LE products. A lot of these brands have the money to make better quality products regarding their ingredients, but still use controversial chemicals like parabens, carmine, bismuth and aluminum to name a few. Why is Nars making their Velvet pencils lippies with parabens, but Nyx abolished these substances?

Ash Avatar

First, there is definitely a distinction between luxury and high end (especially the newer brands, like Natasha Denona and Pat McGrath who may sell at the higher price point but are newer to the game and missing a bit of aged-cachet), and luxury and drug store. Luxury, like Dior, Chanel, and La Mer, will always have a consistency to each palette, foundation or lipstick they bring out, there’s usually added skincare, the packaging is great, and the fragrance adds to the luxury aesthetic experience. The drugstore can often mimic the finishes of luxury but they’re made with less quality ingredients (more talc, cornstarch, alcohol, etc) and usually less finely milled with cheap packaging. The high end is the problem; this range can be Urban Decay to Natasha Denona as far as I’m concerned because while ND and PM may have a luxury price tag, they’re smaller brands that cost more to produce and they’re usually doing it in outsourced labs/ factories that they can’t control quality as well. Even Charlotte Tilbury has had the issue where the brand isn’t big enough and so when they do special launches the packaging suffers, we notice the powders aren’t at the same quality, etc. Moreover, Pat McGrath and Charlotte Tilbury are good examples of fun beautiful packaging that looks amazing but when held in the hand it lacks the heft of finer luxury and you feel a lipstick cap may dent or something if dropped. There’s also a difference in aesthetic output between luxury and all other makeup categories; Dior or Chanel will put out a palette inspired by something, like the Wild Earth with coppers and dessert vibes, and it’s a cohesive little palette that you can get a few great looks out of those few colors. ND, PM and UD will all put out massive palettes, something that a makeup artist might need, and something that people can take from editorial look to editorial look but usually have to reach for another palette for the few neutrals needed for a complete wearable non-editorial look.

Ana Maria Avatar

Definitely one cal tell apart luxury brands by their scent… you can sniff it from miles away. 😆 That’s why brands like Dior or Chanel never vibe with me, I hate added fragrance.

I also agree on the Charlotte Tilbury packaging. It looks great in pictures and videos, but once you hold it it hand… well… it feels like cheap lightweight plastic to me, nothing luxurious; it’s not bad quality packaging… but not high end worthy.

Ana Maria Avatar

I do also agree that both have their gems and misses, from performance to packaging.

Consistency is one aspect that I see as a major difference between high end and budget brands. Usually, with the high end brands I like, I know that I can’t go wrong with a purchase. I know that the quality is consistent so if I make a purchase I will get a good / usable product, even if it won’t be Holy Grail status. The drugstore brands typically have a lot of variability; not only product to product in the same line, but even the same product purchased twice won;t be the same.

Packaging is another thing that’s usually better quality in high end brands, but some high-end brands do have some cheap looking or non-functional packaging. And sometimes packaging doesn’t matter that much (I simply don’t care about how good quality is the plastic of a mascara tube, I only want a good wand).

Performance and ingredient formulation is something I do feel that high end does it better. While I do like many drugstore dupes for high end products, I end up re-purchasing the high end version because it slightly performs better, it slightly lasts longer and I feel my skin reacting better overall. But I’m talking about high end brands that put a lot of money on research… not high end brands for which the price you pay is just for the name.
The perfect example is the Anastasia Brow Wiz and Brow Definer (I’m usually a fan of bigger, tear drop brow pencils). I found good dupes in NYX and Wet’n’Wild products, but the formula is so slightly better for ABH that I end up re-purchasing that product; even if the spoolie is awful… seriously, the ABH spoolies break on me after a month while the Wet’n’Wild won’t budge a single millimeter after months of usage.

Nancy T Avatar

Depends on the brand! Some DS/LE brands like ColourPop, Essence, and Nyx actually DO put out products that apply, last and look high end. However, the packaging on HE or Lux products is usually far better constructed, study, and possibly even beautiful. Sadly, the product within may not exactly live up to the hype or the coinage exacted. On the other hand, whenever they do live up to it all, then they are almost always superior to DS/LE.

Eileen Avatar

Assuming we’re talking about a good budget product and a good high end product and that–most importantly–we’re comparing apples to apples, I can easily tell a difference. In general, the packaging, pigments, formulation, complexity of color, etc. are better in the high end products. Now that’s not to say there aren’t some good drugstore products, it’s just that they are generally not as good as their high end counterparts. Magazines used to be very fond of showing those drugstore versus high end layouts. I could always easily tell which was which.

Rachel R. Avatar

Really, that depends so much on the brand and the product. I think the gaps are closing, as budget/DS brands up their games, and more mid-range brands get sold to bigger companies (L’oreal, Estee Lauder, etc.) who then seem to lower the quality of the acquired brands. Or, brands themselves look for cheaper ingredients/manufacturing to compete, but end up ruining their own products.

Luxury brands are a whole other animal. They usually have the highest-quality packaging, but I think their skincare is overpriced and over-rated. Usually, their eyeshadows suck. There are a few really standout products though, that can’t be really be replicated. Luxury brands also make the best fragrances, for the most part.

In general, I see the most difference in quality of packaging, eyeshadows, eye primers, eyeliners, and foundations. Mid-to-high end wins easily.

I see the least difference in mascara, lip products, setting powders, concealers (I actually tend to like budget brands’ concealers better than high end), blush, highlighters, face primers, and glitter glue primers.

Ariel Riley Avatar

None, zero, zip. I’m 62 and have tried every brand I can think of and have settled on drugstore/low cost online with a handful of mid-end because I can’t dupe the colors. I’m at the point in my life where I COULD spend $$$ on high end/luxury makeup but see absolutely no reason to do so.

Kendrick Avatar

I find that high end products have weightier and heavier packaging but they don’t necessarily carry a higher performing product and that kind of makes me wonder… how much of my money is actually going towards the packaging versus the product itself. Secondly, I find that base products for me are better coming from high end brands but all other products such as mascara, eye liner, lip products from the drugstore are better and if not pretty equal to the higher end brands. That’s why most of the money I spend in Sephora goes towards base products or skin care and not anything else really.

Brian Avatar

You can find quality at any price, I don’t think anyone can really argue otherwise. But there are bonuses to spending more like packaging and ingredients. I generally avoid drug store brands because I don’t like the packaging, has nothing to do with the quality or performance of the product because I know it’s generally there. But I prefer the look/feel/weight of something that costs a little more, I don’t like feeling like I’m going to snap an eye shadow palette in half if I drop it. But I also know that there are plenty of sub par products coming from HE and Luxury brands, especially in the realm of eye shadow. It’s a good thing there’s so much to choose from so we can all get what we want.

Wednesday Avatar

Agree, you can find quality at any price. As someone who used to only look towards HE makeup, I have come around to respect and value DS and midrange offerings. If I am going to go for something a little outside my comfort range, I’m going to try and do it with a less expensive product. Truly, we all can get what we want…apparently Mick Jagger was wrong.

Anne Avatar

I’m not a makeup snob and I cherry pick from the market without discrimination. That said, I don’t own a HG (and never have owned a HG) from a budget brand. I don’t know what that adds to this discussion, but it seems relevant.

Genevieve Avatar

That really depends on the beauty product:
Lipsticks – I don’t buy HE lipsticks as they are far too expensive here in Aus. I find Colour Pop, Milani and Maybelline pretty well cover the shades I like, so I think budget can be just as good.
Mascaras and eye brow pencils – budget is just as good.
Foundations: for my shade, I have both. I find the L’Oreal True Match, now that they have extended the range, to be just as good as any HE that I have bought. So budget can be as good as long as you find the shade that works for you.
Blushes: I do think that more HE blushes (at least here in Aus) are better quality.
Eyeshadows: Definitely more middle end to HE tend to be better – more variety of shades, better quality (especially when reviewed by you Christine and given a B+ or more rating) and a pigmentation.

Kristin Avatar

Colourpop is DEFINITELY an outlier – there is no drugstore brand out there that has both eye and lip products at their price point with the high level of consistency and high Temptalia reviews.

That being said, there is a difference. Higher cost *usually* means higher quality ingredients, meaning better usability, color payoff, etc., but there are many brands *cough*Chanel*cough*Tom Ford*cough* that clearly are cashing in on the name. Remember the $44 eyeliners and lip products from TF recently that earned themselves Cs/Ds/Fs? Unbelievable they passed quality control ?

Valerie Avatar

I’m with everyone here in that it’s a mixed bag because the gap is closing and drugstore-priced indie brands are killing it on color product.

I see a difference in foundation because so many ingredients go to making a good stable formula and it’s very easy to tell when it’s crap.

The difference with luxury overall is not just performance but longevity. My PMG shadows stay put 12-14 hours with TF primer. I’m not at all impressed with CT. More recent ND shadows perform better, though Star palette is my OG favorite because it has good blush and contour tones and a few shadows that I always reach for (Gemma is a kick-ass crease shade with a red undertone that is perfect for my skin). I have 1.. or 2.. backups. Chanel, Dior, Givenchy have let me down in the past – it’s like they are deliberately less pigmented. And TF? It’s not the brand it used to be. Just a hit and miss, probably since it got bought out by EL.

Blushes bronzers and contours are dupable and it’s just a matter of knowing which shades flatter your skin tone and using a setting mist to keep them from budging. I’ve started using a cream/powder combo for these products to lock them in place and the formulas are generally good enough to last – from LE to HE/luxury.

And it seems everyone has figured out how to make a killer highlighter.

Skincare is a con. You literally only need one good face oil to do everything – from locking in moisture to cleaning off makeup. And retin-A. Everything else is gimmick. Retinol doesn’t do diddly squat. Sure, you can use fruit acids on your face but retin-A is so much more effective and cheaper in the long run, when you consider what people spend on skincare. You could get two 30gm tubes of prescription retin-A and pay for a doctor’s visit out of pocket and still come out ahead of what so many people pay for 1-2 years of skin care.

As for sunscreen, ugh. Let’s just say that, with what I do for a living, I’m supposed to tell you to slather your whole body in it. Instead, try a parasol, a hat, giant sunglasses and gloves. Wear jeans and long skirts and long sleeve shirts. And avoid the sun like the plague between 10am-2pm, particularly in the summer. Spending an hour unprotected in the sun will damage you more than any daily skin cream routine could fix in a month. Except for retin-A. That stuff is the ONLY thing that will reverse your sun damage.

Having said all this, I LOVE luxury/high end products. The packaging inspires me to reach for them, as does some of the divine scent (I’m looking at you, Chanel blush and PMG Decadence). I never understood the point of packaging until I shifted through thousands of products – both purchased and PR – and realized that even if a product is great or a bargain, if I don’t reach for it, nothing else matters. Luxury packaging makes the difference for me some days – that long sleek black lacquer box, that gold strip.
But some days, I just want my green cardboard box – probably rebought Dandelion 8 times by now – dip into the pink stuff and run.

So.. idk. There are differences – obviously. And I have a bias towards luxury for presumably better ingredients and performance but when push comes to shove, I go with what performs best in terms of both look and longevity on this mug. And that has taken enormous trial and error over the years. Luckily, I discovered last August and it changed my life. I now buy the best-rated stuff and when on occasion there’s no rating, I buy for the thrill of experiments. Thank you Christine for all your hard and dedicated work!

brendacr1 Avatar

Ha Ha, you should have been there the first time I used an HE Foundation. I fell immediately in love, that’s when I went down the rabbit hole and never looked back. I will still try DS brands if they have high reviews and it is something that I am looking for, but if something appeals to me I’m going to want to use it. I think it comes down to preference and performance.
Smell is very enticing. Amorepacific smells so nice I love using their products just for the aroma. There are other brands I won’t purchase because the smell turns me off and I don’t want to put it on my face, I’ll finish the product but make note not to purchase again.

Nyxx Avatar

I really think Drugstore makeup has stepped up in terms of quality and color payoff in the last few years. Now if they can get their packaging together I would be all in. I like sleek simple packaging and drug store makeup always looks so ugh to me. Put it in some sleek black packaging like Nars or MUFE and I would be totally in.

Eugenie Avatar

I love being able to see the product. Open the cap, see what’s inside, swatch it. I find that drugstores frequently restrict that – either there are no testers available, or they are so gross you don’t want to be near them. So I don’t tend to buy from drugstores. Buying online hasn’t always served me well either (you have to trust the colour representation on your monitor and product photos a LOT!) – but with Christine’s photos and videos of my favourite youtubers using the product, I might be tempted. Still, I love how Sephora, Nordstrom, and other high-end makeup retailers demonstrate the products.

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