Sometimes drugstore cosmetics are just as good as pricier versions in fancier packaging, and the savings can be significant. For example, if you adore your $27 mascara but find an $8 version that works just as well, you can save up to $76 a year (if you restock every three months).
We asked makeup artists who work with a wide range of cosmetics to share their favorite affordable makeup brands. Work a few of them into your beauty routine and your savings account will look even more gorgeous.
“For years, as an artist and a customer, I have been obsessed with Bobbi Brown’s liquid foundation because of its perfect yellow undertones,” says makeup artist Bailey Sessoms. “But at $48 a pop it can start to add up. So my quest for a less expensive foundation led me to Maybelline’s Fit Me! for $8.”
Makeup artist Liz Fuller loves the popular (and pricey!) Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($64), but she’s also a huge fan of Sonia Kashuk’s Perfecting Luminous Foundation, which retails for $13. “The finish for both foundations is very similar, imparting a from-within glow. I use it on all my clients.”
Jennifer Trotter of Lip Service Makeup likes water-based primers like Laura Mercier Foundation Primer (about $35), which hydrates and keeps makeup fresh looking for hours “without a sticky feel that some silicone-based primers can yield.”
Then she discovered Maybelline Face Studio Master Prime Blur and Smooth (less than $10) after running out of her Mercier primer on the way to meet a client. “It works every bit as well! It’s a very similar formula at less than a third of the price, and a larger tube as well.”
“I love to use Chanel — they do some amazing baked blushes,” says celebrity makeup artist Troy Jensen. While Chanel sells its baked blushes, which tend to have a velvety finish, exclusively in Europe (the brand’s softer-milled powder versions sell in the U.S. for $45), Jensen finds baked blushes sold in the U.S. by Milani “remarkably similar” for only $8.
Ecofriendly makeup artist Kaylin Johnson, like many professionals, appreciates the neutral, sheer quality of Make Up For Ever HD Microfinish Powder ($36), but she recommends e.l.f. Studio High Definition Powder ($6) for its lower price tag. “With very similar performance, e.l.f.’s high definition powder is a makeup artist’s best friend,” she says. “This universal powder works with all skin tones; just use a light touch and build coverage for a natural look.”
“One dupe that I love for Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara ($24) is Rimmel’s Scandaleyes Retroglam ($5),” says Liz Fuller. “They seem to be identical: same bushy brush and consistency. The end result is also the same: really full, black lashes with a false lash effect.”
“NYX Cosmetics eye shadow ($5) gives beauty enthusiasts who have a thing for high-end brands like MAC ($17) and Urban Decay ($20) something to think about,” says Bailey Sessoms. “Although NYX doesn’t have 100-plus shades to choose from, they do offer both a classic and playful variety of colors to enhance any style.”
Troy Jensen finds Maybelline The Nudes eye shadow palette (around $11) to be an affordable dupe for the popular Urban Decay Naked palette ($54). “The Maybelline palette is very similar, with rich browns and beautiful highlight colors,” he says.
Jennifer Trotter finds that the lip stain/bam Clinique Chubby Stick in Fuller Fig ($18.50) is a perfect nude/pink that works on “literally everyone.” But you’ll get the same results with Revlon Colorburst Balm Stain in Honey ($5). “It’s a gorgeous nude/pink shade, moisturizing, imparts just enough color, easy to apply, and (less than) half the price.”
When shopping for affordable nail color, nail color aficionado Lizzy Klein says “my first choice is likely to be Essie ($9), because they’re always turning out on-trend colors and the quality is as good as any out there,” she says. “My other fave is the new Wet N Wild formula (A+ quality for $2,) but the colors aren’t always as extensive as Essie.”