In the beauty world, products come in all colors, shapes, and sizes- and most notably, prices. You hear of department store vs drugstore, high vs low end, name brand or mainstream. But when a product is made well and performs according to its claims, it doesn't matter what the price tag is or what company it's associated with. More times than not I've found that when comparing products in the same category, say foundation, the drugstore product performs just as good or even better than its high end competitor. When asked what side I lean on, I like to think that I have a balanced view of both sides, but at heart, I'm a true drugstore diva. There are hidden gems within each aisle. This list shares some of my favorite products, both drugstore and high end, which have become my tried and true essentials. I have included links to the sites where each product can be purchased. And remember to come back to see what new products make it on the list!
One of my go-to products for the summer. Holds up under heat, sweat and humidity. It claims to be a foundation, primer, and concealer in one. As coverage goes, its medium to full coverage, very build able. Because of its long lasting power the primer ingredient works well, though I always use a primer ( see Primer section) If you don't have any dark circles or problems areas then you may not need any additional coverage from a concealer, but as a stand alone it won't fully cover these types of imperfections. Sets to a velvet almost matte finish, so you may not need a setting powder if you have oily skin.
Another great long lasting foundation, especially for dry skin. Great for summer with a medium coverage, very build able and easy to use.
Thanks to my sis-n-law, this is another favorite hidden gem of mine. Although Matte wear foundations are geared toward those with oily skin to eliminate the need for a setting powder, for my dry skin this product works wonders. Sets to a natural matte finish, medium coverage that can easily be built up to full coverage, and a lengthy time of wear on the face. There's a link to her direct purchasing website (Crystal Ybarra) on the picture to contact her for more info on this great product!
One of my holy grail products for a flawless face. This powder can be used alone or as a setting powder for extra coverage. It's long lasting, leaving the skin with a beautiful sheen yet locking in your makeup for hours of beauty. I use it not only as a setting powder, but to set my under eye concealer using a color 2 shade lighter than my natural skin tone to create a highlight effect. I like to compare it to the coverage and quality of MAC Studio Fix Powder foundation but less drying and much less expensive (NYX $10, MAC $27)
This has become one of my go to, everyday, have to put it on, makeup products for flawless makeup application. I love it best under the eye area to hide darkness from those pesky under eye circles and to even out skin tone. My secret to flawless concealer is using this product with the Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Concealer ( see Concealers) which provides added coverage and highlights the under eye area, making you look bright and more awake, and who doesn't want that?!
I know what you're thinking, um, yeah thats not for your face. But let me explain. This is a product where ingredient knowledge comes in handy, so let me take you through a short science lesson. Face primers are marketed to create an even and soft canvas on your face for your foundation and powder to adhere to. It can fill in lines and make pores less visible. The ingredient that is found in all face primers is dimethicone- a silicone agent that is used for creating a smoothing effect on the skin's surface. This product's number one ingredient is dimethicone, which is pretty much all you need without all the other "bells and whistles" that are included in other primers. This product is marketed to be used on the delicate areas of the skin that are prone to chaffing, such as the underarms and the inner thighs, which are very sensitive areas, as we women all know, so why not the face? When I first heard of it from other beauty mavens I was skeptical at first but it has slowly become a cult favorite.
Another one of my holy grail products that I continually recommend, this product provides great coverage and long lasting power that really does "age rewind" your face. There are 3 sub categories in the line- the Eraser for Dark Circles; Neutralizer, which is a yellow toned concealer to cancel out redness; and a Brightener, which is used on the planes of the face where you want to highlight. With the range of colors and uses in the line, you won't be disappointed.
I found this gem when searching for an alternative for a favorite high end concealer (MAC ProLongwear) Though I consider the high end to be a fantastic product, the drugstore diva in me loves the fact that L.A Girl Pro Concealer works just the same at a fraction of the cost! Very creamy, with an opaque coverage (full coverage) and long lasting. Just set with a translucent powder or for extra coverage try using NYX Stay Matte But Not Flat Powder Foundation. Fun fact: this can be used as a foundation when sheered out with either a brush or beauty sponge for great medium coverage, as well as a highlight and contour cream product when using the light to dark range of colors.
This mascara has been one of the products that I find myself repurchasing over and over again because its just that good! Although it's marketed as volumizing, I've found that it does a great job at lengthening as well. I use it together with the Voluminous Carbon Black Volume Building Mascara(see below) and the combinations leaves a great full look to the lashes.
Great mascara at leaving your lashes looking fuller and darker, great for the light haired beauties out there. The carbon black really leaves your lashes looking the darkest possible and the waterproof formulation is a great long lasting option for use in weddings or any time you feel you might just burst in tears, or those unfortunate times that something flies in our eyes. Used with the Maybelline Volum'Express Colossal Waterproof Mascara, it creates a long lasting beautiful finish on the eyes.
I remember this mascara as being the "entry point" into makeup in my teen years. Nowadays I use this product as a clear brow gel. Like regular black mascara, the clear formula sets solid to give the eyelashes a hold. This works the same way on the brows, brushing it into the hair in the direction you want you brows to set and voila, brow gel.
This can be described as a user friendly palette for its range of soft to deeper toned neutral colts that will work for any skin color and all levels of makeup expertise. My go to palette for bridal makeup.
Wet n Wild Color Icon Eyeshadows-Pigmentation, pigmentation, pigmentation!! These eyeshadows are saturated with amazing color payoff that you'd think their price tag was a joke! The trios and 6 color palettes come in a coordinating color theme where all shades are complimentary to each other. My faves are: Silent Treatment, Walking on Eggshells, and Comfort Zone. And because they are so pigmented you'll find yourself having these palettes around for a very long time!
NYC Liquid Liner
Liquid liner is one of those products that practice-and a lot of it-makes perfect. This liner is very pigmented and is long lasting, which is awesome for a product that doesn't even claim to be waterproof or smudge proof. It has a thin applicator that allows you to create those long flicks in the classic cat eye look easier than before.
In the world of gel eyeliners, this eyeliner really stands out in its staying power, pigmentation, and ease of use. Before I began using this product, I was using another gel liner from a popular high end brand, but once I tried this one, I never went back. Same quality at a third of the price? Yeah, its a keeper!
And yet again another NYX product has found its way into another category! As always, great pigmentation, silky finsh, and great price.
What I love about this blush palette is that I have access to 10 colors in one simple package, which is great for travel and makeup gigs. Great selection of colors with good color payoff and easy buildable coverage.
Next to my love for MAC lipsticks, NYX really hit the beauty mark with their lip products. Across the board, their lip products perform beautifully and provide a great selection of colors and finishes.
One word- AWESOME! High Pigmentation, creamy texture, and long lasting. All the shades come in a matte finish, but can easily be layered with a gloss on top. Many have been dubbed as dupes for MAC lipsticks which speaks wonders about this lipstick- and you know how much I love my MAC lipsticks!
I tend to be a person who can have sensitive skin, especially lips. So when I found this lip moisturizer and didn't create an irritation on my lips, I called it a winner. Lightweight and long lasting, the Baby Lips provide a fun and girly way to replenish your lips with smooth & creamy hydration. Not only does it come in clear, but theres color span to choose from that leaves a pinch of color on the lips.
Bronzer & Highlight
Bronzers can be a tricky thing when not done correctly. They can either be too deep in pigment, too orange, contain glitter, etc. A great bronzer should mimic what the sun does naturally to the skin- warming up the skin with a red undertone, avoiding the "Oompa Loompa" orange glow that many bronzers leave behind. The powder is finely milled with a silky texture, leaving a natural finish on the skin and building up the coverage is easy and does not leave the face with a muddy, dirty look.
I was introduced to this product by my favorite You Tube beauty guru Nicole Guerriero. Using a highlighting powder can really bring dimension to the face and create a halo effect (and who wouldn't benefit from that?!) The only downside to this product is that Revlon has discontinued it and is only found online. However, this product is such a great item that it's worth paying a little extra for. It can also be used as an eyeshadow and to give a little sparkle on top of your lipstick or lipgloss.
Although considered a bronzer, the formulation allows the product to new used for contouring. Intense color payoff provides opaque color for accurate use as contour powder. Women of color can use this as both a contour powder and a bronzer because of its deep undertones.
This product has been continually described as the drugstore version to the high end NARS Orgasm and Laguna blush/bronzer duo, and although there is a slight difference in texture in its high end competitor, the color match is pretty close. and for the price difference its a great product to pick up and try!
Created by the popular YouTube sister duo Pixiwoo. As professional makeup artists, they wanted to provide high quality brushes at affordable prices and ease of use that their everyday viewers could afford. Made with high quality materials and craftsmanship, these brushes seriously changed my makeup world when I purchased them. Their softness was one of the reasons they drew me in- I once described them as "soft bunny butts gliding across my face". Yes, it's quite a visual, but seriously, these brushes are incredibly soft! As each brush indicates their use, I truly feel that they live up to their claims.
The beauty sponge craze has been the biggest buzz in the makeup world with the introduction of the Beauty Blender, a tear drop shaped sponge that when moistened, provides a flawless, almost airbrush finish on the skin. But at $20 a sponge, it can be a bit pricey to afford. Many brands have created their own "knock off" , which I've tried myself, but this one stands apart. It really feels like the original Beauty Blender but the difference that really sold me on it is that one side is flat for use of foundation application and the other pointed side is used to reach tight corners of the face. More options mean more bang for your buck! I can't recommend this product enough!!
One surprise I got from the brand E.l.f (Eye Lips and Face) was the quality of their brushes from their studio line. With their all black professional look, the brushes work well as a starter brush set or to compliment an already establish collection. The stars of the show are the Powder Brush and the Small Stippling Brush. The powder brush is a dense flat top brush with is great for buffing in both liquid and powder products. It's very comparable to the Simga F80 foundation brush at how well it performs at buffing in foundation. The small stippling brush works like a dream with cream products, especially blushes. it small size makes the bristles short and compact, which helps buff in cream blushes, bronzers, and highlighters.
This was also a brand that was introduced to me at IMATS. In search of high quality brushes, I was continually steered in their direction and since then have continually returned to add more brushes to my collection without disappointment. Brushes can be very expensive when purchased from high end brands and retailers, so what this company seeks to do is provide the same quality and selection as their high end counterparts, but sell them at a lower price because of the removal of a "brand name". Another product that I always recommend to my beauty inquirers.
Favorite Budget Friendly Brands
I was introduced to this brand when I attended my first IMATS, a worldwide makeup show that is hosted by different countries each year where makeup from all around the world is showcased to the public. This company provides colorful, high quality products at very affordable prices. What I especially love about this brand is that it offers their products in palette form so you can have a product in many colors all within your reach without having to carry around multiple products at once. Some of my favorites that I keep in my personal makeup kit are the blush palettes and the eyeshadow palettes, especially the 28 neutral color palette, which I always recommend to my beauty inquirers. It's a great palette for beginners and is my go to palette when doing bridal makeup.
High quality products that provide great pigmentation, long lasting finishes and a large product and color selection. NYX is a one stop shop for makeup lovers. Many of my holy grail products come from this line and theres a reason why- they offer the consumer great products at great prices.
This brand has been one of my tried and true for years, going all the way back from the beginning of my makeup journey. With a reputation of over 30 years as being one of the most loved drugstore brands, Wet N Wild has continually over the years sought to improve their products, reformulating them to provide the best formulation possible. For me, their color icon eyeshadows, blushes, and MegaLast Lipsticks are the shining products of this brand. They are seriously great, their pigmentation is very comparable if not better to high end competitors and the color range can provide a color palette for everyone.
Favorite High End Products
Oh man, this has changed the way I look at my face! I have used other products to bronze, contour and highlight my face, but Ms Anastasia knows her stuff! This contour kit has 6 powder shades- 3 for highlighting and 3 for contouring. The colors work for both warm and light skin tones, with the powders being finely milled to provide a smooth and even application. Definitely worth the hype and its price tag!!
I love this powder to set my under eye concealer and any cream highlighting I have done on the face. Because of its yellow undertone, this works well with those with yellow to olive skin tones. Finely milled and easy to use, this powder works great without leaving that powdery residue that some powders can leave.
After all the hard work you've put into getting ready, it's time to lock it into place! This spray really does seal your makeup into place, especially on those hot days when sweat and humidity are working against us! Unlike many sprays I've tried, this does not leave a sticky residue, nor leave your face feeling tight and dry. The only downside to this product is that you can only buy it online or at specialty cosmetic stores such as Naimies (for those in California).
When asked what my favorite makeup product to wear is, I always say lipstick. It can change the look of your face by adding a pop of color or soften a heavy glam look with a neutral colored lip. Matte, lustre, frost, glaze, stain- I love them all! Although I have found some drugstore brands that are comparable to high end lipsticks (see Wet n Wild and NYX Lipsticks, Lipliners, & Lipgloss) I just love the array of colors and the selection of finishes that MAC provides. This is one product I'm willing to fork over the big bucks for!
Great concealer that provides full coverage for under eye circles, discoloration, and other problem areas on the face. Sets to a soft matte finish and is very long wearing, living up to its name.
Urban Decay Naked Palettes
Some of the most sought after and coveted makeup palettes that have ever hit the makeup world. Each palette consists of 12 neutral shades in 3 undertones- Naked 1 has golden undertones; Naked 2 consists of taupe undertones, and the Naked 3 has rose gold undertones. All the shades give great color pay off and are easily complimentary to the other shades within the Naked palette system.
One of the holy grail foundations for weddings, this foundation feels lightweight, gives the skin a beautiful finish, and works great with flash photography.
I like to call this the "needle in a haystack" product I was not looking for nor intended to buy, but found it in the most unexpected place- Costco! This hidden gem was unknown to me because, well, Lancome makeup is not on my radar due to its pricey reputation! But wow, does this product perform! I managed to snag this gem for $12.99, originally retailing at Sephora for $26. It really is waterproof and long lasting, and can make any not so great eyeshadow really pop and give it some longevity throughout the day. When Costco gets items like these, they are only for a limited time, but you can get yours at Sephora or at Lancome.com.