a collage of makeup products from the drugstore

Best Inexpensive Makeup to Replace M.A.C. Favorites

My frugal philosophy is pretty simple: Scrimp on things that don’t matter to have the money for things that do. Makeup is important to me. I’ll forego other things that aren’t that important to afford quality makeup (that means avoiding cheap makeup) at all costs!

A variety of M.A.C. makeup products on white background

For years, my makeup of choice was M.A.C., sold online; at cosmetics counters in high-end department stores and in exclusive M.A.C. stores, worldwide. No cheap makeup for me.

It’s been some time since M.A.C. and I parted company and for one reason only—the ever-increasing cost of the M.A.C. line of cosmetics is enough to give me a heart attack.

It took a while, but with considerable research and many trials (and errors), I have replaced each of my M.A.C. items with one of these best drugstore makeup products. My criterion was that the replacement had to be cheaper, but of an equal or better quality.

While my new choices are available in drug and discount stores like Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid, Target, Ulta, and Walmart, I order online. I can get everything on this list at Amazon, in a single order. I routinely check and continue to find that Amazon’s prices are very competitive, and routinely cheaper.

Purchasing my best inexpensive makeup online works for me because not every drug or discount store carries the full line of every brand. 

Best Drugstore Makeup to Replace M.A.C.


makeup collage


1. Primer

I got hooked on M.A.C. Prep+Prime Skin primer ($36) because it improves the application of foundation and powder. I’ve learned that starting with a good primer makes everything that follows go on so much better.

My drugstore primer is not actually sold as a makeup product, but it is an amazing powder gel that doubles as a fabulous face primer. Surprisingly, I find it to be better than M.A.C. You have to trust me on this—I would not lead you astray. 

Monistat Soothing Care Powder Gel, is outstanding when used as a makeup primer and outperforms any primer I know of anywhere. In the $6 range in drugstores. 

2. Foundation

For many years I used M.A.C. Studio Fix Fluid ($42) in color C3.5. Good news—I’ve found an alternative I like even better.

Revlon Colorstay Makeup for Normal/Dry Skin (also available for Combination/Oily Skin) offers full coverage, it’s lightweight, buildable, and gives an “airbrushed” finish. SPF 20 and SPF 15, respectively. For me, color 240 (Medium Beige) is a perfect match. Available in a wide range of colors. 

3. Pressed Powder

I replaced M.A.C. Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation in color C3 ($42) with this drugstore alternative. 

Revlon Colorstay Pressed Powder, Light/Medium 830. It is weightless, glides on, and doesn’t get that clumpy, cakey look. Oil-free, fragrance-free. Love it. Under $10 in drugstores.

4. Eye Shadow

I’ve replaced the tiny single color container of M.A.C. Eye Shadow in Print ($23 each—ouch!) with …

Revlon Colorstay 16 Hour Eye Shadow Quad, color Addictive. Truly amazing as the quality is so similar, I cannot tell the difference. About $12 average in drugstores.

5. Eyeliner

I’ve replaced M.A.C. eyeliner pencil ($23) with Prestige Waterproof Eyeliner, color Expresso

This Prestige eyeliner is smooth, glides on better and, unlike my previous choice, is waterproof and therefore, lasts longer. And no pencil sharpener required. Around $8 depending on the drugstore and even if you can find it. Variety of colors.

NOTE: The color Expresso can be difficult to find, but it seems to be always available to purchase directly from Prestige, and in a variety of colors.

    PRESTIGE $8.00

6. Mascara

M.A.C. Extended Play Perfect Lash Mascara is excellent but at $28, not THAT excellent!

     WALMART $8.98


I’ve switched to Loreal Paris Voluminous Mascara, Black/Brown, which is an excellent alternative with at least equal results. About $9 in drugstores. 

7. Lipstick

For years I’d worn M.A.C. lipstick in the color Sequin ($26) and flinched at even the idea of making a switch. But I did and I’ve had to do that more than a few times over the years.

My current lipstick of choice is Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick, in Raisin Rage (dozens of color choices). Under $8 average in most drugstores that carry makeup. 

8. Blush

My current M.A.C. Powder Blush ($25) replacement is Flower Beauty Flower Pots Powder Blush (Sweet Pea.)

I love this product because I prefer matte blush—not that I have anything against shimmery, glitter-spiked makeup or anything 😉. This drugstore blush is among the best I’ve ever tried, thanks to the super-silky finish. Love it. Around  $12 in drugstores.

9. Eyebrows

This is the first eyebrow product I have ever used, so I cannot compare it to anything at M.A.C.

All I know is that NYX Eyebrow Gel color: Blonde, is quite amazing. It stays put (for hours… and hours!), does not smear at all. I use an angled brush* to apply this gel, and can do that with hair-like strokes. Fabulous! I cannot imagine any product out there—at any price—to outdo NYX Eyebrow Gel.

*I really love this Duo Eyebrow Brush Set, which I found at Amazon (you may find something similar in your drugstore). It’s the perfect angle and has the round brush on the opposite end, which is super useful as well.


.Overall, I figure that I’ve cut the cost of makeup by more than 60%—without sacrifice—by switching to drugstore makeup brands, and products. And in almost every case, I’ve enjoyed a big improvement. I could not be happier.


Updated 1-11-24

MAC makeup


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Last update on 2024-04-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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4 replies
  1. Patti T says:

    Hi Mary, do you have a recommendation for concealer? I have horrible dark circles under my eyes and I have tried so many brands but nothing completely works. Thank you.


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