The drugstore is a goldmine for amazing makeup – you don’t need to spend a fortune at Sephora to get an amazing face of great products. Personally I love drugstore shopping, and I’m hereto give you some awesome tips to make your experience easier.
If you’re looking for a quick list of great items at the drugstore, you can look here for some of my favorites.
Without further ado, let’s get started!
Drugstore Makeup Shopping Guide
So, you’re at the drugstore looking for good makeup and haven’t the faintest idea where to start. Fear not, my friend! I’m here to help.
Tip #1: Buy your closest shade, then try it on outside
Seems weird, I know. But unfortunately, they don’t usually have testers of foundation or concealer you can try on at the drugstore and they don’t give out samples. Don’t be one of those people that opens bottles of foundation that are sealed. They are sealed for a reason, y’all. It’s unsanitary and a little rude to do this, as much as it’s tempting to swatch stuff. Make an educated guess, buy the shade, then try it on in natural lighting. You can literally try it on in your car in the store parking lot if you want. Almost all drugstores will allow you to return makeup, even if it’s used. Natural lighting allows you to see if a shade really matches you. Remember, sometimes you may have to buy two shades and mix them together to find your perfect shade.
Tip #2: Look for coupons
Most drugstores have really great specials on makeup. For example, CVS will often have “Buy One, Get One Free” sales or “Buy One, Get One 50% Off”. Sometimes you need to snoop a little, though. Look in your drugstore’s coupon magazine (you can usually find these right by the door when you walk in) and see if there are any coupons for makeup you have your eye on. Some CVS locations have machines where you can insert your membership card (which you should totally get, by the way! It’s free!) and a list of coupons will print out. These things are so handy and can save you a lot of money. Walgreens has a point program where if you earn a certain amount of points, you can earn money off beauty purchases. Ask your cashier about your store’s loyalty or savings programs and sign up if you can. In my experience, they’ve always been free and are great if you’re a frequent drugstore beauty shopper.
Tip #3: Become familiar with what shades work best for you
It’s easy to walk into a makeup store, see a pretty blush or highlighter, and think ‘Oh, this looks so beautiful! I’m going to get it!’ What looks pretty in the pan may not look great on you. Before you go into the drugstore, do some research. Become familiar with your undertones, your skin tone, and do a simple google search on what items look best on your complexion. For example, as a tan gal, I steer clear of frosty highlighters and bright pink blushes because I know they just don’t suit me. I gravitate more towards bronzy highlighters and deeper blushes like Milani Warm Petals:
Knowing this stuff before you go in will make your experience a whole lot easier since you’re not able to try things on in the store.
To be honest, if you’re a woman of color, I would avoid brands like Almay and Physician’s Formula. Their shade range is obviously catered to solely white women and personally I don’t bother giving them any of my money since they’re non-inclusive of people of color.
Tip #4: If you’re a cruelty-free shopper, do your research!
Unfortunately, there aren’t many drugstore brands that are cruelty-free. And the ones that are can be owned by non- cruelty-free parent companies. For example, Nyx is a cruelty-free brand, but their parent company is L’Oreal, so you may not want to buy from them depending on your views. Wet N’ Wild and E.L.F. are a couple of other CF brands at the drugstore, at least here in the US, but there might be more if you just do a quick search on Google before you head out! Check out Logical Harmony or Crulety-Free Kitty for CF makeup resources.
Tip #5: Don’t stress!
Remember, makeup is just something you can wash off at the end of the day. Sure, it costs money, but if it’s something you end up hating you can always return it. And, if it’s something that you love but it’s a little different than the norm, rock it! Don’t worry about judgement because makeup is an art form that comes in all different colors and styles. Wear what you love with confidence, and feel proud that you found great makeup that didn’t cost you an arm and a leg!
Bonus: Some of my favorite universally flattering drugstore products!
Wet N’ Wild Photofocus foundation – I have dry skin and love this stuff, and I’ve heard from oily-skinned folks that it lasts all day on them without making them super greasy. This foundation is one of the cheapest ones you’ll find at the drugstore and it’s cruelty-free! It’s designed to look good in photos, so there’s that as well! They also have a pretty good shade range although not every store has all the shades on display, so you may have to order it from the website.
Maybelline Colossal Mascara – This mascara has been around for a while and for a good reason. It gives you a ton of volume and lengthens your lashes like crazy. One of my favorite mascaras, for sure.
Wet N’ Wild Liquid Cat Suit Matte Lipsticks – As you can probably tell, I’m a huge fan of Wet N’ Wild, and for a good reason. No, I’m not sponsored or being paid to talk about them (I wish!), but they’re super affordable and make, in my opinion, some of the best products at the drugstore. Their catsuit liquid lipsticks are on par with some high end liquid lippies. They remind me a lot of the Smashbox Always On Liquid Lipsticks – comfortable and long-wearing without being drying.
E.L.F Lip Exfoliator – Not exactly makeup, but this lip exfoliator is so handy. It’s essentially a clear chapstick with lots of little granules inside. A lot of these types of exfoliators I find don’t have enough granules or they’re too soft, but this one is nice and solid so you can really scrub your lips as hard as you need to. It leaves a nice moisturizing balm on your lips afterwards as well.
Maybelline Fit Me Foundation – These foundations come in two forumlas: Matte & Poreless and Dewy & Smooth. The Matte & Poreless is a cult favorite among oily-skinned people, though I’ve personally never tried it. I have dry skin so I opted for the Dewy & Smooth and I love it! It gives a nice amount of coverage, lasts all day and lives up to its claims of being nice and dewy. Also, they’ve recently expanded their shade range, which I’m always happy to hear!
L’Oreal Infallible 24 Hour Eyeshadows – Guys, these are seriously amazing. Screw high-end cream shadows – these are all you need. The pigment is incredible, they really do last all day, and they’re waterproof to boot. Definitely pick one up (I’d recommend Amber Rush) if you love smooth, pigmented, creamy-but-not-a-cream shadows.
Milani Make It Last Setting Spray – The mister on this is amazingly fine, so it won’t feel like you’re showering your freshly-made makeup with huge drops of liquid. It’ll feel more like you’re being kissed by a million tiny making-setting fairies. 🙂 It really does make your face last all day without being drying to the skin. So, even if you have a dry skin, I’d still recommend this!
Nyx Micro Brow Pencils – These are a total dupe for the Anastasia Brow Wiz in my opinion. The formula is just right – not too dry and not too creamy, and lasts all day. If you find the Anastasia Brow Wizzes are too warm or if you’re just looking for an affordable dupe, check these out!
Coty Airspun Loose Setting Powder – This powder is a cult favorite for a reason. It’s smooth and soft so it won’t dry out dry skin, it’s extremely finely-milled (perfect for baking!), and will keep your foundation in place all day. The only downside is the smell – it smells like a grandma’s house. And if you have darker skin, make sure you brush all of it off because it has a bit of a pinky hue to it, but as a tan girl I can use it just fine as long as I brush off the excess.
Nyx Matte Eyeliner – Super black, super long-lasting, and super matte, this liner is perfect if you love to do a nice, matte black winged look. It’s easy to work with and doesn’t dry out after the first couple of uses like a lot of other liquid liners can. This one is definitely on par with some high end liners, like the Kat Von D Tatto Liner in Trooper, another cult favorite.
I hope you find these tips helpful when you next head to the drugstore! What tips do you have for someone new to drugstore makeup shopping? Let me know in the comments!
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