The makeup industry has boomed over the last decade, and the options are many. And even though you’ve seen a lot of high-end makeup looks, we have to acknowledge that the drugstore brands have really stepped up their game lately.
I’ve put together the ultimate guide for the best drugstore makeup of all time. From base to blushes and lipsticks, you can find everything you need for a full makeup look using only drugstore brands. As a bonus, I also included makeup tools and cleansing products, for the full experience.
For more information and a full makeup look using these products, please check out this video:
Best Drugstore Makeup Brushes
Makeup brushes are essential for a flawless application of the many products that go into a complete makeup look. Whether it’s about blending some eyeshadows seamlessly or giving your skin the foundation cover it needs without the makeup looking cakey, brushes and sponges are always there to serve you.
There are many options for makeup brushes on the market, and making that choice can be overwhelming. You may be tempted to think that the more money you pay for these products, the better quality they are. But that is not necessarily true because the drugstore holds some real gems in this department.
For convenience and a better deal, try to look for makeup brushes kits. These are usually targeted towards a certain area of the face (eyes or face makeup), but there are also complete tool kits.
For more details about makeup brushes and how to use them, please access this video:
Real Techniques Everyday Essentials Face + Eye + Cheek Brushes And Beauty Blender
Real Techniques is a very popular brand found at the drugstore, and for a good reason. Their brushes are very high quality, with soft bristles and innovative shapes that give you exactly what you need.
One of their best products is a face makeup brush set. The Everyday Essentials Face+Eye+Cheek Brushes and Beauty Blender is a five-piece set with very versatile tools. Each tool has multiple uses; for example, you can use the RT 400 brush to set your foundation base with face powder and apply and blend blush.
The set also includes their expert face brush created for applying foundation, giving a higher coverage and a good blend. But I also like using it as a contour brush because its tapered shape makes it perfect for that.
You can use the other two small brushes to blend concealer underneath the eyes or cover imperfections, and the fluffier one with setting powder on smaller areas.
The beauty-blender-type sponge is incredibly soft and pliable; this will give your makeup a flawless finish and help you achieve a perfect blend. The flat side gives control over the larger zones where you apply foundation, while the pointy tip helps navigate the narrow sides (like the under-eye area or the sides of your nose).
Real Techniques Everyday Eye Essentials
Everyday Eye Essentials is another great set by Real Techniques. It includes eight different brushes that, combined, can give you a complete eye makeup look. The quality of the brushes stays true to the brand because they all have soft bristles that give excellent results.
First, we have two blending brushes, one in a more classic shape and the other long and more narrow. You can use the latter to define the crease in a graphic style or create layers of depth after already putting a transition color there.
The next brush is a detailer one – it’s short and firm, so you have a lot of control over it. You can use it to deposit color in small areas, for example, to create a darker V-shape in the outer corner with eyeshadow; you could also run some eyeshadow under the lower lash line with this brush to better define the eye.
A flat angled brush is a must in any makeup kit to create a smokey lash line with powder eyeshadow or cream eyeliner. The other small pointed brush is for more precise lines with liquid or cream eyeliners.
The Real Techniques Set also includes two wider brushes. The bigger one is useful for applying products on the whole eyelid, such as primer or a cream shadow. The other one is best for depositing color on the mobile lid if you want to put an all-over color as a base.
Last but not least, the comb-like brush is very useful to separate the lashes after applying mascara, especially if you have some clumps from the product. Overall, this Real Techniques Eye Essentials Kit is a great addition to any makeup lover and very versatile.
Best Drugstore Face Primer
Prepping your skin for makeup is essential for the finished result and how long your look will last. If the base isn’t good, there is no point in building layers of products such as foundation, contour, blushes, and so on.
A good base has many ramifications; we can talk about how you generally take care of your skin, if it is well hydrated, and proper exfoliation (alpha hydroxy acids that remove the dead skin cell layer). So a good base starts with healthy skin that you take care of every day.
When prepping your skin for makeup, start with clean skin, then apply a hydrating serum and cream, or put on sunscreen if it’s daytime. Whatever your routine is, try to put minimal layers and a very small amount of product waiting for each one to be properly absorbed. Too many layers that sit on top of the skin will have your makeup running in a few short hours.
A special face primer is also crucial, especially when you want very long-lasting makeup. With age, I find that my pores are more visible, and I need more holding power for my makeup. So a good primer is a must.
Primers can be in different forms – a hydrating fluid, a silicone-based, very dense one that fills the pores, or a cream that doesn’t feel too greasy. You can choose different textures depending on your needs and skin type.
Covergirl Trueblend Base Business Pore Minimizing Primer
As the best drugstore primer, I chose one that encompasses a lot of benefits in one tiny product. Covergirl brings us lightweight water and silicone-based primer that feels amazing. It doesn’t have that heavy silicone feel that can sometimes leave an oily residue, yet it gives you a smooth base for foundation.
I particularly love this Covergirl primer because it helps minimize the pores. As the years go by, I find that my complexion changes and the pores become more and more visible. So finding a product that can tackle that without feeling very heavy is a must for me.
You can apply this base all over your face (leaving the eyelids for the dedicated eye primer) and even build it up in the areas where pores are bigger. It absorbs beautifully, at the same time creating a smooth, long-lasting canvas for your cream products.
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Best Drugstore Foundation
The offer on foundations, in general, can be very overwhelming. There are many types, brands, colors, and undertones. Luckily, the drugstore has upped its game the last few years because you can find so many amazing foundations, comparable if not better than the high-end ones.
Choosing a specific foundation depends very much on your skin type and your specific needs. For example, if you have oily skin, a matte foundation with a water and silicone base can be great. These usually have more coverage and are also powdery to keep the sebum in check.
This may not be the best idea for dry or mature skin because a matte texture emphasizes wrinkles and dry patches. Instead, choose a hydrating foundation with a dewy finish; this will give you glowing skin and an overall healthier and younger-looking skin.
Another thing to keep in mind is coverage. You can go for a lighter BB-cream or tinted moisturizer type product or choose a full coverage foundation for special occasions. Or, why not get one of each to use for different times.
Milani Conceal And Perfect 2 In 1 Foundation And Concealer
This foundation from Milani is a cult favorite. Milani Conceal and Perfect 2 in 1 Foundation ticks all the boxes for a glam look with incredibly high coverage and staying power. The product is great for a special occasion like an event, a party, or if you prefer a perfected look throughout the day.
Although it is marketed as a matte foundation, I love that it doesn’t settle into fine lines, which is a common problem with mature skin. I find it has a satin-matte finish, making your complexion look glowing and healthy without compromising longevity.
If you’re unsure about the color or, like me, you self-tan, try buying two shades and mixing them together for a custom tone. As the name of the foundation states, you could also use this as a concealer because of the concentrated pigment that offers high coverage.
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Best Drugstore Concealer
Concealer is an essential element in any makeup look. Even if you choose a natural no-makeup makeup look, you can still use concealer to cover your dark circles and imperfections on the rest of the face to perfect the look.
Concealer is very powerful – by using a small quantity in targeted areas, you can make a huge difference. Hydrating products with high coverage are best for the under-eye area, especially for mature women, because a dry product will emphasize wrinkles. Putting too much concealer will also draw the wrong kind of attention by settling into lines.
E.L.F Camo Concealer Hydrating
Camo Concealer Hydrating is another amazing product by E.L.F. It is a super high-coverage concealer, and this is a great thing; the more coverage a product has, the less you need to use. When it comes to the under-eye area, especially for mature skin, that is the best news possible.
The area underneath the eyes is very mobile, so it’s the first to get wrinkles and fine lines. Putting a large amount of concealer there will look unflattering because creamy products tend to migrate and settle into lines. When you have a high-coverage product, you only need a small amount of concealer to do the job, so the overall result will be perfect.
You can use a small dot in the inner corner of the eye and another one in the outer corner, then buff the product with a fluffy brush or the tip of a damp beauty blender. Use the same concealer to cover blemishes or spots or highlight the center of the face if you have a lighter color.
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Best Drugstore Face Powder
When talking about a great face powder, the first thing to consider is how fine-milled it is. A very fine powder will be invisible on the skin instead of making it look cakey and overdone. Whether you want a powder with more mattifying power is up to you, but keep in mind this can look weird on dry, mature skin.
The drugstore comes through again in this department and offers many wonderful options. You can find loose powders that are generally finer or compact ones – easier to carry in your purse for touch-ups throughout the day.
Maybelline Fit Me Loose Finishing Powder
The best drugstore loose powder is hands down Maybelline Fit Me. It is very finely milled, and it has been compared to my all-time favorite Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Powder.
This Maybelline powder has a color to it, so it’s not translucent. This gives you a bit of extra coverage without looking heavy. Also, it is not an overly matte powder, as it does cut the shine and sets the foundation base without drying out the complexion.
Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Powder
Another great powder from Maybelline, Fit Me Matte + Poreless, comes in a compact form, perfect for carrying around in your bag for touch-ups. It’s finely milled and translucent, so it’s suited to all skin tones, making it a great choice.
I prefer using this under my eyes, so I don’t add color there, keeping the area highlighted from the concealer. The Maybelline Fit Me powder beautifully sets creamy products, such as concealer or foundation, without drying or making everything cakey.
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Best Drugstore Face Contour and Highlight
After creating a flawless full cover base, it’s time to add some color and dimension back to the complexion. The first step to achieving this is choosing a face contour that can be in powder or cream form.
Be careful when choosing the color – you will get natural-looking results with cool shades, such as grayish-brown. The intensity of the color depends on your skin. Go for a light-medium shape if your complexion is fair and a deeper one for darker skin tones.
E.L.f. Contour Palette
E.L.F. Contour Palette is a compact kit that includes four different shades. You get medium and darker contour shades, so you could use either of them or combine the two for a custom color.
The palette also includes two highlight shades – a whiter one and a cream. These are not the usual glowing powder that you can see from a distance but rather subtle, very fine shiny particles powders. The effect is a beautiful glow-from-within look.
The shades from this palette are pigmented yet blend seamlessly, with no streaks in sight.
Best Drugstore Blush
Although you can find incredible high-end blushes, the drugstore also offers some amazing options. There are many shapes and forms to choose from creams to liquids and powders.
It all depends on preference and how you want to combine textures (always put liquids and creams directly on top of your foundation before setting it, and powder blush on top of face powder).
Milani Blush in Romantic Rose
The blushes from Milani are a cult favorite from the drugstore, and for a good reason! The blushes have a beautiful sheen to them and feel almost cream-like. This ensures a flawless application because the product blends seamlessly, making it look like you have an almost natural flush.
Best Drugstore Eyelid Primer
Eyelids tend to get very oily throughout the day, which affects the makeup’s integrity, causing it to slip. A silicone-based primer is your best bet – it creates a smooth base for applying the eyeshadow and makes a barrier against the sebum.
E.L.F. Sheer Eyelid Primer
E.L.F. Sheer Eyelid Primer is an incredible drugstore base that covers everything you need from this type of product. It is silicone-based, so it keeps the sebum in check for many hours, preventing your eye makeup from melting.
The Sheer Eyelid Primer also has a peachy-pink tint, helping to neutralize the hyperpigmentation on the eyelids that we all tend to get, whether it’s genetic or comes with age. This creates sort of a white canvas, ensuring that the eyeshadow colors stay true to life.
As the name suggests, this primer is not opaque, and I appreciate that because some primers on the market look overdone and unnatural.
Best Drugstore Eyeshadow Palette
Speaking of too many choices, the offer on eyeshadow palettes is truly endless. You can find smaller palettes for creating a specific look or bigger ones with many possible uses. The textures also differ – some include only matte eyeshadow, while others have shimmery ones, with large glitter particles or foiled ones.
You can pick a medium palette with both math and shimmery eyeshadows for more versatility. As a woman in her prime, I try to stay away from harsh colors like black and slate gray; large glitter particles are also a bad idea because they emphasize creases on the eyelids. For best results, go for medium brown tones in matte eyeshadows and fine shimmer ones for a touch of highlight.
E.L.F. Mad For Matte – Nude Mood
This is a beautiful everyday natural palette, but the darker tones can also help you create a sultry night outlook. The Mad for Matte E.L.F. palette in Nude Mood is an all-matte eyeshadow kit with very light to dark shades.
The eyeshadow palette is surprisingly pigmented, and the colors blend very well. The shade range is great, making this product very versatile. You get warmer tones but also neutral and cool ones, so there’s something for everyone.
Best Drugstore Eyeliner
A more elaborate makeup look is best finished off with an eyeliner; for a more dramatic result, you can use either a pencil, a liquid liner, or a cream liner that comes in a jar.
The best ones are very easy to apply, pigmented, and last for many hours once applied; some remain shiny, almost wet looking, while others become matte when dry. Once again, the drugstore has upped its game and delivers some amazing options that last forever and a day, with a great color payoff.
Covergirl Exhibitionist 24-Hour Kohl Eyeliner
Covergirl Exhibitionist 24-Hour Kohl Eyeliner is the best pencil-type eyeliner you will find at the drugstore. The mine is very soft, and it just glides onto the skin without tugging or pulling the skin. At the same time, it stays true to its name – this pencil lasts forever and a day! It doesn’t move at all throughout the day until you use makeup remover to take it off.
It comes in different colors, like brown or black, depending on the effect you want to achieve, more suited for a casual daytime look or a more dramatic one. You can use this pencil to tight line or place it on top of the lash line; you can create a smokey smudged look with it, taking advantage of the pencil’s soft texture.
L’Oréal Voluminous Liner Noir Liquid Eyeliner
If you want a more dramatic crisp line, go for a liquid eyeliner. I really love the Voluminous Liner Noir by L’oreal, a pen-type eyeliner. It has a very fine felt tip that allows you to make the most subtle and precise lines.
The product is also very long-lasting and pigmented. If you have mature skin like me, it’s best to stay away from very thick lines because the eyelids tend to get heavier as the skin sags. So there is not a lot of space left on the mobile lid, and it’s a shame to cover it with black eyeliner; this will also cover the work you did with the eyeshadow blend, so it’s best to let that space more open.
Best Drugstore Mascara
Mascara is very much a personal preference – some need more length, while others prefer volume and curling. If your usual complaints are” panda eyes” and mascara that always ends up under the eyes, try using a waterproof version.
You can find some amazing affordable mascaras at the drugstore, whether your preferences lean more towards a wet or dry formula, a very resistant one, or one that washes off with plain water.
L’Oreal Lash Paradise
Compared to a lot of top high-end mascaras, the L’oreal Lash Paradise is definitely a cult favorite from the drugstore. It is so affordable for the amazing quality you get, and it does wonders.
It has a bristle-type brush that separates the lashes while at the same time giving volume and length. Although the one I have is not waterproof, the Lash Paradise mascara is very long-lasting, and it doesn’t crumble in the under-eye area, something many of us struggle with. Overall this is a fantastic product and another great hit that you can find at your local drugstore.
Best Drugstore False Lashes
Any makeup look will be elevated if you add a finishing touch – false lashes. While they are a little much for everyday running around town, a special occasion is a perfect excuse to add some glam to your look.
You can use a full set of lashes, half lashes that only enhance your outer corner or individual lashes.
Ardell Professional Eco Lashes number 451
Out of all the false lashes brands that you can find at the drugstore, Ardell is the most famous one, and for a good reason. This brand makes some of the most natural-looking lashes with great quality. They are very soft and pliable, and the effects range from just a little enhancement to full glam.
Ardell Duo brush-on adhesive with vitamins
To pair with the false lashes, use a latex-free lash glue, such as Ardel Duo brush-on adhesive. This white one turns transparent after it dries, and it ensures your lashes will stay on throughout the day.
Best Drugstore Lip Liner
The finishing touch to any makeup is defining your lips. You can go anywhere from a very natural lip with just a tinted lip balm to a lip gloss, or go full glam by adding a pencil and lipstick.
Our lips start to lose their precise contour as we age, so using a lip pencil to better define them is a clever idea. Just try not to overdraw too much, as they can look overdone and strange. I always like to pat the lipliner with my ring finger because this gives a softer effect that will blend better with the next products you put on.
NYX Slim Lip Pencil in Nude Truffle
My absolute favorite lip pencil from the drugstore is Slim Lip Pencil in Nude Truffle by NYX. The shade is a perfect nude that doesn’t lean too much into pink or brown but instead sits beautifully right in between.
The pencil glides perfectly on the skin, yet it’s not too creamy as this would cause it to bleed into fine lines. Having such a neutral color, this color hardly influences any color you put on top. Instead, it creates almost like a shadow or a border that helps redefine the contour of the lips.
Best Drugstore Lipstick
If you want a little extra kick to your makeup, adding lipstick is just the thing to do. The different textures and color ranges may be overwhelming – from sheer to matte and very pigmented, there is something for everyone.
Think about the intensity you want to give to your makeup, the texture of your lips (matte lipstick is not the best idea for very dry, choppy, wrinkled lips), and your skin tone. And have fun with different looks and vibes!
Maybelline SuperStay Matte Ink Liquid Lipstick in Poet
Liquid lipsticks are usually matte and very long-lasting once they dry. This may be too drying and uncomfortable for some people, but I chose SuperStay Matte Ink from Maybelline as a clear winner in this category.
It feels better than most matte lipsticks I’ve tried, and the color payoff and staying power make it all worth it. The lipstick comes with a domed applicator with a pointed tip which is very useful for a precise application. You have to wait for a minute or so for it to properly dry before putting your lips together.
Once you put it, one SuperStay Matte Ink won’t move, and it will not transfer for the entire day, making this product the best choice for an event or special occasion. And, why not, for every day too, if you want your lipstick color to always be on point.
Milani Matte Lipstick in I Am Awesome
Another great lip product at the drugstore comes from Milani. The brand’s Matte Lipstick is a more creamy matte formula that is great if you want a matte finish that is more comfortable to wear.
The shade I chose is peachy pink, a very bright color that will bring some playfulness to any makeup look. This is very similar to the Maybelline Matte INk shade in Poet, so you can change the formulas anyway you choose.
Best Drugstore Lip Gloss
Sometimes you feel the need for extra hydration on your lips, especially if they are very dry and cracked in general. Many find that a very matte lip product can show lines or dry flakes, making the whole look very unflattering.
A lip gloss can be the perfect finishing touch to add that extra kick to your lip look. You can choose a sheer one that gives hydration and a wet look to the lips, or you can go for a pigmented one that will enhance the overall color. Either way, the drugstore has a lot to offer for versatile makeup looks.
Milani Ludicrous Lip Gloss
If you feel your lips only need a bit of sparkle, you can use this beautiful lip gloss by Milani. My favorite shade is called Ludicrous, and it’s a sheer nude with fine gold shimmery particles. It doesn’t add a lot of color but rather some sheen and hydration to your lips.
You can also put this gloss on top of a pencil that you filled your entire lips with or over a matte lipstick, so make it more emollient and wearable. Overall, this product is very versatile and can go on top of anything.
Best Drugstore Setting Spray
After creating your foundation base, concealer included, and other cream products, you need to set it in place for a long-lasting effect. Usually, this would mean face powder, but a setting spray is all you need for a little extra.
This type of product has another hidden benefit – if you use too much powder or your complexion looks a little lifeless, using a setting spray will make everything look dewy and fresh.
E.L.F. Cosmetics Stay All Night Micro-Fine Setting Mist
E.L.F. Stay All Night Micro-Fine Setting Mist is another good quality from this brand at such an affordable price. Putting it all over your face as a finishing touch ensures your makeup for the entire day and gives you a healthy glow.
Best Drugstore Makeup Removing Wipes
Makeup removing wipes can be a little harsh on the skin. Just make sure you don’t tug or rub the skin when using them, and it’s perfectly alright to use them.
When you are on the go, maybe on a business trip, and don’t have all of your skincare routine items, makeup wipes are very practical. Just remember that removing your makeup properly every single night is essential!
Almay Makeup Wipes
When choosing makeup-removing wipes, go for very sensitive ones that have fewer chances to irritate the skin. Almay Makeup Wipes are the best cleansing towelettes from the drugstore because they include all these benefits. As an added bonus, they are also biodegradable, so they are safer for the environment.
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Best Drugstore Makeup Remover
Removing all of your makeup at the end of a long day is crucial for your skin health, and it is so satisfying. Having a perfectly cleansed face also means that the products that are part of your nighttime skincare routine will absorb better.
I usually like to do a two-step cleansing ritual, especially when wearing long-lasting makeup that grips better to the skin. But in fact, the sunscreen that we wear every day is also resistant and needs to be properly removed.
Depending on your needs and preferences, you could choose a cleansing balm, a wax-based cleanser that turns to oil, or a cream makeup remover. For the eye makeup and that stubborn eyeliner and mascara, go for a special eye makeup remover that is very gentle yet effective.
Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover
Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover by Neutrogena is a great product that dissolves eye makeup in a flash. You only need to put some product onto cotton pads and hold one on each eye for a few seconds. This will start breaking down the makeup without tugging the skin.
This product is very gentle and does not irritate the very sensitive skin around the eye area. It also doesn’t leave an oily residue that can be unpleasant.
Best Drugstore Face Wash
The last step in a cleansing routine is to wash the face using a face wash. Although it may seem very simple, it is actually crucial to pick the right one. A very harsh gel cleanser with a high pH can easily disrupt your skin barrier and make your skin dry, itchy, and irritated.
It’s hard to manage and rebalance the skin once it’s in this stage, so always try to choose very gentle options. Whether these are creams or gels depends on preference and skin type (you may find creams don’t remove sebum enough on oily skin).
La Roche-Posay Lipikar Wash AP+ Gentle Foaming Moisturizing Wash
La Roche-Posay comes with a very gentle and hydrating cleansing product – Lipikar Wash AP+ Gentle Foaming Moisturizing Wash. It’s a creamy white milk-like texture that turns into a gentle foam when combined with water.
The product is very mild on even the most sensitive skin, and it’s fragrance-free. It removes all the dirt and grind of the day without drying out your skin.
Beauty on A Budget
This article is the perfect proof that you don’t need to break the bank in order to look amazing. The drugstore is a great source for quality beauty products, so use my list of recommendations to start or enhance your makeup kit.