Drugstore vs Designer Makeup: When to Save and When to Splurge

US News

When shopping for cosmetics, it’s easy to be swayed by flashy displays and alluring designer-brand advertising. More and more cosmetics are being introduced into drugstores, which are aimed at helping consumers save money and claim to produce results comparable to designer lines.

Despite the variety of options lining drugstore and supermarket makeup aisles, many women are still reluctant to break away from pricey designer cosmetics. According to a 2011 study conducted by market-research firm Mintel, 50 percent of women earning an annual income of $50,000 to $74,000 said they do not intend on abandoning their designer cosmetics routine.

Regardless of which side you teeter on--drugstore or designer--not all items are created equal. Many of the designer brands you know and love are, in fact, made by the same manufacturers in the same factories as their cost-conscious drugstore counterparts.

Photo: Getty Images/Spencer Platt

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Choosing quality makeup products

Identifying what constitutes as a quality makeup product is the first step in getting the most bang for your buck. Take a look past the decorative packaging and start reading the fine print.

The best cosmetics have limited filler ingredients like talc, which can irritate skin and encourage breakouts. A highly regarded alternative to talc-ridden cosmetics is mineral-based makeup, which is available in designer names and drugstores alike.

Aside from potential skin reactions that makeup ingredients may produce, color pigmentation is also a key factor to detecting quality cosmetics products. Greater pigmentation means the product’s raw composition is more finely milled, leading to vivid color with less application.

Drugstore vs. Designer Makeup: When to Splurge and Save

If you’re an avid designer diva, it may be difficult to come to terms with buying drugstore cosmetics, even if you can stand to save money into the hundreds. However, there are specific makeup items sprouting up at drugstores that are identical to those found in major cosmetics retailers like Sephora, except that they priced at five times less in cost.

Concealer: Splurge

Concealer requires premium ingredients in order to provide the best effects on the skin. Poor quality may run the risk of caking, creasing, or lead to difficulty blending the product into skin. Also, the shelf-life of concealer can last up to two years for stick or powder varieties (one year for liquid concealer), so your money is able to stretch for a longer time.

Foundation: Splurge

Since foundation entails full-coverage application, it’s best to seek out those that avoid harsh ingredients that can damage skin. Most designer makeup brands are hyper-aware of the problems that low-grade ingredients present and more drugstore brands are starting to follow in their footsteps.

While drugstores offer a greater variety of raw-ingredient products than in the past, department stores and designer names provide the greatest assortment in foundation hues. This fact alone pushes foundations into the splurge zone.

Eyeshadow: Save

While pigmentation plays a big part in choosing whether to opt for designer or drugstore cosmetics, makeup’s spoiling cycle does as well. Eyeshadows are recommended for a maximum lifespan of only three months, meaning that you’re likely to be wasting money on $28 eyeshadow palettes.

Big drugstore brands like L’Oreal, Maybelline, and Revlon have developed affordable eyeshadows with generous pigmenting to help ease the blow on your bank account.

Eyeliner: Save

Eyeliner is known to have a life of only three months, due to its close proximity to the eye’s mucous membranes, which can easily transfer bacteria. Many drugstore names have developed formulas very similar to that of designer cosmetics, so this is another product that consumers can save money on.

Blush: Splurge

Due to its longer shelf-life (one to two years), blush is one of those makeup marvels that women can freely indulge in. Color pigments and quality are also imperative when selecting blush, as it requires a lot of blending upon application.

Lipstick: Save

With so many formulas on the market, from matte finishes to glossy bases, lipstick at a designer quality can easily be found at your local drugstore. Further, this cosmetics product offers the greatest hue variety so finding a great color for less is more than a possibility.

Mascara: Save

Above all, mascara has the shortest lifespan, of only two to three months. Much of its quality degrades due to frequent exposure to air, which causes its formula to dry and crust. Additionally, it often is a breeding ground for bacteria due to its usage near and--if you’ve ever poked yourself with a mascara wand--in the eye area.

With these factors in mind, determining what type of makeup to buy at a department store versus a drugstore is made much simpler.



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