Best Drugstore Makeup Products I Truly Love

My frugality 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 a drugstore product. 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 online works for me because not every drug or discount store carries the full line of every brand. 

Drugstore products I truly love

 

1 Primer

I got hooked on M.A.C. Pre+Prime Skin ($33) primer because it improves the application of foundation and powder. I’ve learned that starting with a good primer makes everything after that 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 used as a makeup primer and outperforms any primer I know of anywhere. About $5 in drugstores. Check Amazon

2 Foundation

For many years I used M.A.C. Studio Fix Fluid ($31) in color C3. Good news—I’ve found an alternative I like even better—Revlon Colorstay Makeup for Normal/Dry Skin, also for Combination/Oily Skin. For me, color 240 (Medium Beige) is a perfect match. It has full coverage, it’s lightweight, buildable and gives an “airbrushed” finish. SPF 20 and SPF 15, respectively. Available in a wide range of colors. About $10, depending on the drug or discount store. Check Amazon.

3 Pressed Powder

I replaced M.A.C. Studio Fix Perfecting Powder color C3 ($33) with Revlon Colorstay Pressed Powder, Light/Medium. It is weightless, glides on, and doesn’t get that clumpy, cakey look. It’ oil-free, fragrance-free. Love it. Under $10 in drugstores. Check Amazon.

4 Eye Shadow

I’ve replaced the tiny single color containers of M.A.C. Eye Shadow in Slate ($19 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 $8 average in drugstores. Check Amazon.

5 Eyeliner

I’ve replaced M.A.C. eyeliner pencil ($19) with Prestige Waterproof Eyeliner. It is smooth, glides on better and unlike my previous choice, it is waterproof and therefore, lasts longer. About $6 depending on the drugstore. Check Amazon.

6 Mascara

M.A.C. Extended Play Perfect Lash Mascara is excellent but at $24, not THAT excellent! I’ve switched to Loreal Paris Voluminous Mascara, Black, which is an excellent alternative with at least equal results. About $6 in drugstores. Check Amazon.

7 Lipstick

For years I’d worn M.A.C. lipstick in color Sequin ($23) and hesitated 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, #619 Rose & Shine (dozens of color choices). Under $10 average in stores. Check Amazon

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. About $10 in drugstores. Check Amazon.

Overall, I figure that I’ve cut the cost of makeup by more than 60%—without sacrifice. In some cases, it’s been a big improvement. I could not be happier.


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20 replies
  1. Emily Booth says:

    I use to use department store skin care and make up. I switched to drugstore for several reasons. One of them was Paula Begoun’s “Blue Eye Shadow Should Be Illegal”. Paula went on to great success w/ her own company. I watch make up tutorials on youtube.com. There are now many very good older woman on youtube.com who test make up and skin care. Revlon makes terrific lipsticks!

    Reply
  2. Sheryl Jensen says:

    Just checked Amazon for the Prestige eyeliner and they show it as not available. Our drugstore doesn’t carry that line either. Any other suppliers you can recommend?

    Reply
  3. susan d yoder says:

    I have been using Monistat Soothing Care Powder Gel for years for my primer, but they’ve jacked the price up on that too in my area. It started at $3 now it can be as high as nearly $10! I started using one I really like it is CoverGirl Trublend Face Primer. I found it at a discount store that sold items for $4. They do not sell it now, it runs nearly $8 in local stores here. I found it on Amazon for $5. Thanks for checking out items for us. I am always looking for makeup when they discontinue my favorites!

    Reply
  4. Gina Stevens says:

    Thanks for the tips, Mary! I, too, have wasted money on makeup that I hate. Glitter can be invisible under fluorescent lighting in stores. Once purchased and applied, you’re ready for Mardi Gras!

    Reply
  5. Alvah says:

    As one ages the use of lip liner to keep lipstick from bleeding into the fine lines is essential. Some lipliners are easier to apply then others and stay on the lips longer. I am still experimenting with different brands. But I would love to hear what brands have worked well for others.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      Store prices vary wildly, agreed! These prices are a rough average of the stores (Walgreen, Target, Walmart,) in my area, Denver-Boulder, Colorado the last time I checked.

      Reply
      • Peggy says:

        Mary, i am looking for a new look. some of these cosmetics my b the trick. i cannot order this product from amazon, as i must see the colors, once i get what I need I will use the link on your page. how do i print this? thanx, Peggy

  6. Judy says:

    Hey Mary you forgot to mention eyebrows??? Maybe yours are naturally beautiful but I use brush on brow gel to color and define mine. Tricky not to get them too dark, especially with my light gray hair. Usually use a light blond color as charcoal gets too dark. Have tried Ulta Brand Brow Tint “light” or Maybelline Tattoo Studio 249 “light blonde”, both reasonably priced.
    For best results, I usually wipe the brush with a tissue to remove excess tint and then use a spiral brow brush without color to blend it to a lighter look. It is tricky but gives my whole face a more finished look with defined brows.
    One big problem is that OTC Drugstore make up companies notoriously discontinue products and introduce newer trendier ones once you find the product or color you absolutely love! Then you have to start from scratch to find a comparable product. That is a pain and can get expensive trying several before finding the best replacement.
    Also, I noticed you do not use makeup with SPF factor. I use a moisturizer, foundation and blush which all have SPF of 15-30. It is a must to keep age spots (and worse) at bay. My derm doc recommends Cereve moisturizers (all have SPF), are drugstore available and affordably priced compared to others.

    Reply
    • Mary Hunt says:

      The foundations in this post are SPF 15 and 20 respectively. You can see that in the images.

      You’re right things change, but stores are simply distribution points. Manufacturers discountinue, revamp, and reintroduced regularly. I agree it is so disappointing (maddening) to find a favorite item is no longer available. This is another reason I depend on Amazon because if it’s still available, it’s most likely we can find it there.

      Take the Colorstay foundation for example. In 2014 I was using and highly recommending the Whipped creamy Revlon Colorstay foundation. I know that many of you began using that, too. Then Revlon discontinued it. Argh! Searching on Amazon, I can still find it. But not from Revlon, but from distributors who still have product sitting in their warehouses. The problem? They’ve jacked the price to $35 or higher! And who knows how old it is by now.

      This is the reason I am constantly updating, testing, trying, reviewing. Even M.A.C. changes, updates, adds sparkles (ha!). It’s an ever-changing field not unlike fashion and hairstyles.

      I promise to add eyebrows to my routine of testing and recommending!

      Reply

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