makeup collage

Best Drugstore Makeup Brands

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.

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.

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 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 drugstore brands makeup online works for me because not every drug or discount store carries the full line of every brand. 

Best Drugstore Makeup Brands, Products


1. Primer

I got hooked on M.A.C. Prep+Prime Skin ($33) primer because it improves the application of foundation and powder. I’ve learned that starting with a good primer makes everything that follows that go on so much better.

     WALMART $5.98


2. Foundation

For many years I used M.A.C. Studio Fix Fluid ($33) in color C3.5. Good news—I’ve found an alternative I like even better.  

     WALMART $9.72


3. Pressed Powder

I replaced M.A.C. Studio Fix Powder Plus Foundation in color C3 ($33) with this drugstore alternative. 

     WALMART $9.35

4. Eye Shadow

I’ve replaced the tiny single color containers of M.A.C. Eye Shadow in Slate ($18 each—ouch!) with …

     WALMART $7.09

5. Eyeliner

I’ve replaced M.A.C. eyeliner pencil ($19) with Prestige Waterproof Eyeliner, color Expresso

     WALMART $13.50

NOTE: The color Expresso can be difficult to find, but seems to be always available to purchase in all the other colors as well, directly from Prestige, $8. 


6. Mascara

M.A.C. Extended Play Perfect Lash Mascara is excellent but at $24, not THAT excellent!

     WALMART $6.00

7. Lipstick

For years I’d worn M.A.C. lipstick in the color Sequin ($23) and flinched at even the idea of making a switch. 

     WALMART $13,94

8. Blush

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

     WALMART $10.29

9. Eyebrows

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

     WALMART $6.99

*I really love this Duo Eyebrow Brush, 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 sticking to my best drugstore makeup brands, products. And in almost every case, I’ve enjoyed a big improvement. I could not be happier.


We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon, at no cost to you.

More from Everyday Cheapskate

Filling up a glass with clean drinking water from kitchen faucet
A person smiling for the camera
Healthcare cost concept using US Dollars with white medicine pills spilling from medicine bottle.
A cat sitting on a chair
grocery shopping online from Walmart picking up groceries all loaded into the back of a car
closeup of female hands pouring hydrogen peroxide into a clean cloth
pickles in a jar and a bowl

Please keep your comments positive, encouraging, helpful, brief,

and on-topic in keeping with EC Posting Guidelines

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
16 replies
  1. Jane says:

    Hi Mary. I just ordered a few of your recommendations on Amazon, including the
    eyebrow product. Do you have a recommendation for the angled eyebrow brush? Thank you,

  2. Kim says:

    Love the suggestions, some I already use. Do you have a recommendation for an eye shadow primer? I’ve used L’Oreal Magic De-Crease Eye shadow Primer for years but they’ve discontinued it and I need a replacement.

  3. Jo says:

    Thanks Mary for these recommendations and especially testing them. My make-up behavior has altered drastically during this pandemic season and I’ll bet I’m not alone in that. Having used mostly Almay over the years I’m game for something new. Your timing is perfect. Thanks again!

  4. Julie Ellen Hinz says:

    Another product I have just found is Ulta’s Brow Tint. It goes on like Mascara so you are actually enhancing what you have without creating the illusion of color on the skin. $10. I have plenty of brow, but the grey starts to come in and they look strange so a little tint fixes the problem quickly an easily!

  5. Katy says:

    IMHO, there are some cosmetic products that are worth the money. For example, if there’s a lipstick you love from a prestige line, I’d buy it and use it, simply because it’s really hard to use up a lipstick (esp. if you put it on with a lip brush!) You’ll definitely get your money’s worth out of it. Now when it comes to mascara, you’d be silly to pay dept. store prices for it when drugstore mascara is as good or better. If there’s something you love, weigh how much use you’ll get out of it and how long it will last against the price. Sometimes you’ll save money and delight yourself by getting what you really want.

  6. Katy says:

    I’m not at the age where I have a problem with lip lines, but as someone who loves lipstick, I absolutely hate lip liners. IMHO, they’re just sloppy. I’ve used a lip brush since I first started wearing lipstick, and when you’re good with a brush, you don’t need a lip liner. You can use your lipstick and brush to line your lips.

    And one other thing: the lipstick in the tube will last FOREVER if you put it on with a lip brush. You’ll be sick of the color before it runs out.

  7. Pat A Weiser says:

    I seem to have become allergic to everything. Now, any makeup I wear must be vegan. Any suggestions? I found some ELF that is vegan, but hard to find anything that affordable.

  8. Katy says:

    If you want to make your lipstick bulletproof, just do this: apply it, then take a tissue between your lips and blot the excess off. Take a cotton pad dipped in translucent powder and very lightly powder over your lips. Brush off the excess, then repply your lipstick (I use a lip brush to get a perfect, precise line.) Blot once again lightly. Do this, and it’ll be Easter before your lipstick comes off!

  9. DD says:

    Eyebrows!! I have almost no eyebrows and need HELP finding the best product and technique to apply natural looking brows. Currently using, and keep going back to, a powder applied with a brow brush. I have almost no brow to use a spooly on and the powder is very tricky to get to stick on skin (little to no brow hairs). Gel looks fake and is hard to remove excess or outside the brow border. Please add brows to your best make up suggestion list! Love your blog.

  10. Kathleen says:

    I’ve been using Monistat as a primer for awhile now…it’s terrific. I used to use Smashbox….way too expensive. Thanks so much for all these suggestions!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *