Rant & Rave: Drugstore Brands

Tell us what you love and hate about...

Drugstore Brands

They’ve come a long way since I’ve started using makeup,
but there are still some products that are lacking (I think powder eyeshadow and blush are the two that immediately come to mind–there are some winners but a lot of losers!). I wish there was a better selection online (or was more consistent)
as it can be hard to track down limited edition products in person (at least for me!).

— Christine

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I have a LOT of really good drugstore products, including a few (very few) foundation and BB/CC creams but my rant would be the relative unavailability of testers. Some companies do have them or they’ll have a few but it looks like those get shop-lifted a lot (loss through shop-lifting is a huge problem everywhere but it’s particularly bad in drugstores, I think).

OMG all my sentiments exactly, and they come it with such short lived specialty products ( although so do HE brands ). But it’s way worse with studies brands. But some things like certain mascaras are just as good if not better IMO

Obviously, the price! Every now and then I’ll splurge on a high-end brand of mascara, but I’ve never found one that was that much better than what I get at the drugstore to make it worth the price, so I stick to drugstore brands. And although I’m mostly a MAC/UD/KvD lipstick gal, I am surprised by how good some of the Revlon Super Lustrous lipsticks are. I also like that there are drugstore products that have adequate dupes of high-end brands, such as NYX’s primers (not as good as Smashbox, but good enough to use for work every day).

Most of the time you get what you pay for. I have never found a drugstore eyeshadow or foundation that comes anywhere near a high-end brand. I just don’t bother with them anymore. I don’t like that drugstore brands have no testers. I hate that a lot of the lipsticks that are for sale in drugstores are not sealed and people have gotten into them…that’s just so gross. (Thank you to Revlon for sealing Super Lustrous!) I don’t like drugstore dupes that look exactly like high-end brands but the quality is awful…I will NOT be tricked by you, pretty drugstore eyeshadow palettes!!!

I am still searching for a good loose translucent setting powder that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Extremely disappointed with NYX HD Professional Studio Finishing Powder.

Hi Seraphine. I like Coty Airspun and Loreal also sells a really nice one that I like. Airspun is less than $5 here in the States. The Loreal one is less than $10. Both have their good points, but aren’t dupes for Laura Mercier, but a good drugstore option.

I’ve heard good things about Coty, but the turnoff for me was that people say it has an “old lady” smell. (I really hate that phrase, but couldn’t think of another way to say it.)

I was too and used the Elf setting in loose and pressed. Thought it was good until i got a sample of something, therefore giving me am overlap. What i found was it is actually “gritty”. Unless you are anti talc, the best one for your dollar is Dermablend. It costs around $30 but volume is much more than others. That said, now that i am in a better kob, i have gone back to TF primed & poreless..

Donya, I know what you mean when you say “gritty.” Ugh, I hate that. Today I ordered RCMA No-Color Powder based on its fantastic reviews, so let’s see what that’s like. At only $12 for a whopping 3 ounces, it’s worth a shot.

I currently use either Laura Mercier Translucent Powder or Mac Prep + Prime Transparent Finishing Powder. I love them both, but they’re expensive.

I’m usually very skeptical of any “influencer” endorsed product, but I tried the RCMA powder on a whim and I can honestly say it’s phenomenal. It doesn’t alter my foundation shade at all or emphasize my dry patches, and I can’t see it on top of my skin. It’s like you put it on and it mattifies slightly and sets cream products, but otherwise, it disappears and is invisible. I like it way more than the LM powder, which I found too cakey. I really hope you end up liking it!

I agree with.you completely. Eyeshadows and blush tend to lack the quality found in more expensive cosmetics. They tend to have dense pigmentation and are difficult to blend.


I love that if you just wait a bit after a trendy high-end release, there’s likely to be a good dupe at the drugstore, and then it’s not so bad if you fall off that trend. Lip products and mascaras in particular are just as good or better at the drugstore.

However packaging at the drugstore level can be so cheap that the product itself becomes difficult to use. For example, I’ve had so many of my Nyx lipstick lids crack so that they no longer stay on, and same with some of my favorite Revlon balms as well. Hinges on my Sleek eyeshadow palettes, the list goes on.

Love: Some really good products at a lower price. Good dupes if you can wait for them.

Hate: Some of the prices are hovering near “prestige brand” level. The apparent inability of Revlon to get eyeshadow right.

I stopped using Revlon eye shadows several years ago as they were just too awful. There is no quality control in their organisation at all. In fact, I don’t buy anything from that brand anymore. The only good product from it is their Colour Stay foundation and it is extremely expensive here – eg $37.

Yes I agree they have come a long way but still a lot to go. I don’t feel my skin tone is that hard to match but my biggest gripe is finding a foundation shade with the right undertone. The parler shades are always too pink, and the medium shades are always too peachy and beige to suit me properly. I’m always intrigued at trying out drugstore foundations but after much trial and error, I realized mid to high end bases is the best option for me. I also don’t get why drugstore lipsticks are always scented like soap/ perfume. It makes the whole experience for me unpleasant.

I do love however the plethora of affordable mascaras and color cosmetics for one that likes to experiment without spending too much.

LOVE: The price, obviously! There are so many DS brands to choose from nowadays, although I tend to look further afield and try out some of the Far Eastern brands for comparison, or just for something a little different.
HATE: Some of the lipsticks have a horrible lanolin smell/taste which is offputting. Also, the packaging tends to be less than sturdy, so I’ve had cracked lipstick tubes or flimsy palette covers.

RAVE: I love the pricing, of course. There are a lot of great drug store products out there, and I think DS products are improving all the time. Some of them are as good or better than high end. DS-priced brands such as e.l.f., NYX, Makeup Revolution, Sleek, Wet n Wild, Milani, and BH Cosmetics continue to evolve and improve. DS is my go-to for lip colors, lip liners, lip balms, face powder, mascara, liquid eyeliner, and brushes.

RANT: The quality of certain brands can be really bad. I think DS eyeshadows, for the most part, are terrible (not including the brands listed above). DS foundations and concealers are less likely to have a match for my skintone, and are much more likely to oxidize on me than high end (e.l.f.’s are the exception). I hate that the packaging cracks or breaks so easy. The applicators and brushes that come with DS makeup are usually crap. I agree with Christine that it can be really frustrating trying to get LE items. My local stores usually get three of an LE item, and often the first person to see them buys them all up.

I love my drugstores finds since I mostly buy on impulse I get drawn by new fresh colors mostly (I watch videos to know what doesn’t perform but still will purchase something totally unknown if I find it right me) and although packaging is not so inviting I see nothing wrong with Pixie’s presentation in that light green looking fresh and higenic also Elf is a copy of NARS more or less their simple but nice black packaging. I have found terrific eyeshadows as Comfort Zone, Petal Pusher, blushes, eyeliners and lipsticks from WetnWikd lately the Precious Petals highliter omg! Is gorgeous! I discovered recently Essence in Target and have tried their eyeshadows palette with great results they blend so nicely. Both WetnWild and Essence have less fall out than Colourpop super shock which leaves super glitter all over eyes after washing. Essence product though you have to open and check most have been swiped unfortunately and I will not bring those home no way. Seems since is new lots of people are trying them out as if they were testers. Soap and Glory is another which I find have been frequently opened and swaped. Shame! I guess that’s how drugstore keep their expenses down but it is getting up there also. NYC makes buttery awesome eyeshadows also. Have tried Elf eyeshadows and Cover Girl, L’Oréal but Maybelline or Revlon somehow never entice me the latest palette from Maybelline including eyeshadows and lipgloss has too warm tones for me in fact they are at Big Lots for $5.00 spotted them recently. Almay barely shows is more if a slight sheen. Haven’t tried yet Sonia Kashuk, or Neutrogena. Boots has nice things but their lipstick do not last on much although lovely colors. WetnWild matte lipsticks I love but the casing needs to improve much! To me, blushes are the main culprit lacking softness as high end ones but I do love WetnWild ones over Milani roses and many others. But for the price I have found many great products and am not complaining and I do have tons. WetnWild being my favorite! Dam they are rocking the boat! 🙂

I love drug store brands!
Pros: The quality has improved significantly! I remember that there used to be a stigma about using drug store products. Now, a lot of it is just as good, if not better, than “high end” (Not many can come for Loreal mascara….).
You can’t beat the prices, although the products are not as cheap as they used to be.
Hey, I’m not shy about using coupons and drug store brands are almost always on sale.

Cons: I’m NC-44. It’s crazy difficult to find a suitable match in foundation and powders. I’ve bought dozens but probably less than ten have been a good match. Brands like Almay and Physicians Formula don’t even bother with med/tan/deep skin tones. Neutrogena used to be among this list, but they’ve improved (thanks, Kerry W.).
Non secure packaging.

Love: the prices and the fact that it’s easily available everywhere I go. I love Milani blushes and Wet n Wild photofocus foundation. The Nyx lip glosses and bronzer is also a favorite of mine. I also love many many drugstore mascaras (usually more so than high end). Some nice brushes that won’t break the bank from Real Techniques and Elf.

Hate: no testers/no way to swatch a color usually, limited edition items that are non-existent, packages that have been opened (yuck!) and foundation shades that are sorely lacking. I don’t usually buy any drugstore eyeshadows so I can’t comment on the quality of those. Also I agree with some of the comments that the packages can be super flimsy sometimes, especially for lipsticks.

Loreal infallible shadow in Amber is the best of any I have used It’s the one I have purchased over and over. I also buy high end and always wonder why. Nothing to me is better longer lasting and more beautiful.

Rave: A lot of DS skincare products have definitely improved over the past decade, as have their foundations, lipsticks, setting powders, primers, mascaras and brow pencils.

Rant: The foundation range of many DS brands still requires a lot of improvement, especially as they are wealthy brands that could easily extend their skintone range.
Secondly, their eye shadows are generally still sub par and this is the one makeup item that I no longer skimp on.

I started wearing makeup when I was 15. I used drug store brands for awhile. I noticed a major flaw in drug store makeup was the endless harsh ingredient list while giving average quality performance.

Drug store makeup is becoming more innovative. I do randomly see things I like.

My current fave drug store brand is NYX. Almost everything I’ve tried has been a hit. If anyone is seeking quality drug store shadows and likes singles, the NYX Prismatic shadows are amazing. NYX is the only makeup brand I trust for quality and safe ingredients.

My next drug store line to try is Catrice from Ulta. I also love Burts Bees and Ecotools.

Just because someone does not like using drug store makeup doesn’t mean he or she is stuck up and looking down on the brands. Maybe the drug store stuff doesn’t respond well to the person’s skin chemical compounds.

I just don’t see a comparison between DS brands and HE brands on me. I used to could only afford DS brands and envied women that looked so bright and bright eyed. After my last child finished school I started buying one HE brand in each make up category and there is no touching the soft, Dewey look I’ve always wanted and finally achieved. If you think about how many DS lip colors you go through with their flimsy packaging, you’d buy a great HE brand. Instead of having a foundation that caked up on you or breaks down quickly, but one HE foundation. Once you get a minimum collection you will be replacing about one a month so it kind of budgets itself in. Blushes and eye colors last forever. My opinion and it counts, lol.

I could have written your comment! Once I discovered the performance of HE products, DS products were kicked to the curb. My problem is that I went crazy buying them. That ended awhile ago, and ever since my collection has been so streamlined that I don’t mind paying for HE products now because they perform. It’s money well spent. I still have a handful of DS items that I like (one of them better than any HE product I’ve ever tried), but I’ll never go back to roaming the DS cosmetic isles — the quality just isn’t there.

Rant: Concealer, eyeshadow, & blush are still pretty dodgy in most drugstore brands. I recently tried a bunch of DS concealers and was thoroughly unimpressed- 99% of them sheered out upon blending!!!! Who wants a sheer concealer?!? On DS eyeshadow- I have given up on DS eyeshadow palettes due to their poor quality. Great quality single DS eyeshadows can be found but then you’re paying almost department store prices for them. Blush- I give up. I only buy Milani & Essence Silky/Satins. Most other DS blushes are unusable streaky/patchy messes when applied.

Rave: The price & the quality. Overall DS has really upped their quality! The packaging usually falls apart in a month but I think that’s to be expected at DS’s price point. (If it’s a product in a pan I like I usually pop it out &put it in a MUFE metal palette) Brands like Olay and Cerave have skincare that’s chock full of high end ingredients in elegant & easy to use formulas. After testing several DS foundations over the last 6 months I am really impressed with their quality. Rimmel, Catrice, & Bourjois make some excellent foundations for the price! Catrice & Essence highlighters are amazing. Essence All About Matt Fixing Compact Transparent Pressed Powder rivals many HE products I’ve tried for only $3. DS mascara has caught up with high end to the point I don’t bother with luxury brands any more. Eyeliner pencils from brands like LA Girl, Prestige, & Styli-Style are amazing. Even DS brushes are darned good (Real Techniques, EcoTools).

I have never been able to wear HE foundations, as I have very sensitive skin and these are always so PACKED with stuff I don’t want, such as sunscreens and moisturizers. My skin hates both concepts and they make me break out really bad. My best, most recent foundation find is…. wait for it… Rimmel London Stay Matte foundation in the tube. This stuff wears like iron and has excellent coverage! And its well under $10 US. I mean, really! How can you beat that! Best translucent matte setting powder for me is Boots; I get mine at Target. Increasingly, I am wearing higher-end eyeshadows and lipsticks, but for foundation and setting powder I keep it simple. [But Maybelline lipstick for work is da bomb and for that price, you can own a lot of colors. They’re really branching out.] All Covergirl cosmetics are trash.

Honestly, I only started buying drugstore products after they put in a CVS near my dorm… which was only a year ago so I only have a few of them. I also do my research before I try a drugstore product so as far as the products I’ve used, most are winners. The two concealers from Maybelline, brow pencil from NYX and No. 7, comfort zone from Wet n Wild are all treating me pretty well. But, that’s the extent of western DS products I’ve ever liked. I hated the Milani baked blushes because of the glitter. Hated the NYX Color correcting palette because of its cakey and dry texture.
I do recommend everyone try out some Japanese DS products like Kate, Kiss Me, and Dolly Wink. They have amazing eye products such as mascara, mascara base (love!), eyeshadow, and eyebrow products.

Love: the price – I bought an Elf powder for $4 and if I end up hating it at least I won’t be sad at wasting a lot of money. And I love DS nail polish. HE chips on me too, so why pay more?

Hate: The lightest shade of face product is almost always too dark for me, they discontinue like crazy (I started switching to HE after buying a ton of DS mascara only to have the one that finally worked become discontinued when I ran out), and I can’t swatch the colors in store (in Canada anyway – I don’t know about US stores).

Rave: I like DS for trying eye shadow trends that I’m not sure if I will like (aka WnW LE seasonal releases)

Rant: I hate how the packaging is cheap and not sturdy for US brands. International brands DS equivalents (Korean brands, Kiko, etc) are sturdy and rival mid-range brands for packaging. I know this doesn’t effect product performance, but if the lid cracks/breaks when I’m opening it (without any great force), then that means it’ll also shatter in my makeup bag when I’m traveling, wasting product and making a mess. Ain’t no one got time for that. 🙂

I can certainly appreciate the price point and increase in quality, I think drugstore products still have a long way to go in terms of color range (more range for porcelain/fair and dark/deep complexions). I would love to try more drugstore products if it was made in shades that suited deeper skin tones

Raves: I really think the formulas have come a huge way, even only in the four/five years I’ve been wearing makeup. There are some fantastic foundation and concealer formulas (note I said formulas only), and I actually think most drugstore mascaras are higher quality than high-end mascara. I’ve never tried a high-end mascara that I liked more than my drugstore mascaras.

Rants: Shade ranges. Brands seem to think that all pale-skin toned people have pink undertones, all medium-skin toned people have yellow or orange undertones, and that dark-skin toned people don’t exist at all. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a drugstore problem, but I think drugstore and luxury brands (at either end of the price spectrum!) are lagging behind mid- and high-end brands in fixing this. The L’Oreal True Match line is somewhat of an exception (still far from perfect) but otherwise, it’s hard to find good shade matches. Quality powder eyeshadows are hard to find and sometimes lip products have really weird scents (I’m looking at you, L’Oreal). Oh, also I hate that there are no testers of base products to check the tone.

Looking at my Rants, I’m finding that drugstore and super-high-price luxury products (often “designer” brands) have similar problems when compared to mid- and high-end products. Just food for thought.

I use almost exclusively drugstore products and they work well for me. I might be missing out on foundations, though. I pretty much have to use powders (not DS, either) because of liquids pooling in my large pores. Never found a concealer to work for me, either.

Colored products are pretty good for me, though! I own a ton of lipstick (WnW, Jordana, Essence), eyeshadow (WnW, NYC, MUR, Sleek, BH Cosmetics, Joe Fresh, Elf), eyeliners and brow products (Essence, NYC, ELF) and blush (Sleek, Essence, Joe Fresh, WnW) – I have no complaints on these fronts!

I don’t find a lot of big-name brands work splendidly for me, though (Cover Girl, Revlon, etc.)

Completely agree with you on the blush and eyeshadows! Drugstore brands really need to step it up in these two categories! I always go for high-end products when looking for both of those!

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