Do you notice any differences (on average) between more affordable and more expensive lipsticks?

The packaging seems to be the most noticeable difference to me with more affordable brands having a lighter, almost more fragile-feeling plastic compared to mid-end brands. High-end brands sometimes feel a bit more weightless on average. I don’t think that there are massive quality differences between the two on average, though.

— Christine


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Z Avatar

Unless a company is *really* banking on the price tag alone being a selling point, the colours of higher end lipsticks are better by a mile. Now that I’ve toned down my consumer cosmetics habit I only buy what is unique or a pleasant experience start to finish. Higher end brands generally have better packaging (the merit lip sticks are a nightmare. I’ve had two come completely unstuck and melt inside the tube. Not cool) and manage to make shades that more flattering – or have more depth. For instance, any drug store lipstick with a little too much white or pink in the base will just look horrid on my skin tone, but Charlotte Tilbury makes such depthy pinks that I can take a gamble on hers and usually have them flatter my skin.
Formula is another. Has a drugstore line EVER done a deep blackberry color and have it go on smoothly and wear well?

Nancy T Avatar

^^^ What you said above, Christine. This has been my own experience most of the time, that it’s the difference in packaging mostly. I will say that certain high end of luxury formulas have greater pigment upon first swipe, feel ultra comfortable on and last a bit better. These would have to be: the now DC’d PMG Labs LuxeTrance line (Mother Pat, please bring that back?) and Nars Audacious line. Also, the now defunct MAC Ultimate Lipstick formula (WHY MAC?)

BrandiD Avatar

No contest, the HE lipsticks win this one hands down. Drugstore glosses can be ok, but one of my demands for a lipstick is that it must blend in with my lips. High end lipsticks do that more often than not, where drug store lipsticks are likely to sit on my lips and be patchy or not buildable. The emollient formulas I prefer also have higher staying power in high end lipsticks. I don’t even try drugstore anymore.

Genevieve Avatar

I have found that it really depends on the actual formula – I have purchased high end lippies in the past and they have been so-so. And with DS lipsticks – they can be awful too.
However specific ranges like the Maybelline Made for Me range (which I hope that one day they will extend) is excellent and so too is/has been ColourPop’s Lux lipstick range.
Luckily I purchased the Shiseido Visionary Gel lipsticks (which are also great) on sale, because here in Aus they retail at $43 a pop and they are soooo tiny.
The packaging can be different with more HE lipsticks – as well as embossing – which always looks lovely, but really it depends on the formula and finish.

Nina Avatar

Obviously there is the packaging. Who doesn’t love bringing out a Tom Ford as opposed to Revlon. Other than that I would have to say Revlon Super Lustrous lipstick is a mainstay for me. No scent or taste and has the ‘pearl’ finish that I love. I do miss the MAC Lustre old formula and there use to be more frosts. I’ve given up on MAC lipstick and for now am sticking with Revlon mainly because they rarely discontinue a color.

Nicole D Avatar

I do and the HE lipsticks come as winners in my book when it comes to colour and formula.
Colour: it may not scream different or unique when looking at the bullet or when swatching the lipstick on the arm, but once applied on the lips, the difference is there for me. It is about the pigment selection, “tweaking” the pigment, the right combination and quantities that make that colour stand out and look so well on me.
Formula: the HE lipsticks do not feel like they just sit on the lips. From my personal experience with the more affordable lipsticks, they feel waxy and because the formula is not really emollient, it cannot sink in and leaves the lips dry. It happened too many times to me that after applying a more affordable lipstick which seemed and looked hydrating and luminous, I had to remove it after an hour or so as my lips became very dry.

Maria Avatar

What gets me most about the high end ones is the smell ( Guerlain: looking at you especially) I just can not get passed that smell, I don’t even mind it in a cream, it dissipates quickly, but in the lipstick it seems to stay for ever. Totally wasted money as I had to throw it

Pamela Avatar

I agree with Christine about the packaging. I have an Estee Lauder lipstick that comes in a nice, heavy, solid tube. It makes such a satisfying CLICK when I put the top on (I think there’s a magnet in there). But we all know that’s just gilding the lily. What matters truly is the formulation, quality and color range. And I think there’s little difference between pricey and budget brands.

Kat Avatar

I think mascara and lipstick are the two places where drugstores really shine! I’m a real MAC lipstick girl, but I know I could easily walk into my Duane Reade and get almost any lipstick formula and shade I’d need nowadays. The packaging or “experience” is really what I think I’m paying for with HE lipsticks, which I’m fine with. I just love the shade and finish selection of MAC lipsticks so most of mine are from them!

Maggie Avatar

Bc “affordable” is strictly a pricepoint and will include indie brands, then the main difference is packaging.

I will say mainstream high-end lipsticks are more readily available for swatching/sampling in the USA so it’s easier to discover favored colors and textures.

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