September 1, 2010

High End Cosmetics vs. Drugstore Cosmetics: Beauty Battle

Lord knows I’m a high end cosmetic junkie. I live by the rule, “you get what you pay for”. Dishing out $20 for an eyeshadow that easily blends, has plenty of pigment, and simply looks stunning is way better than dishing out $5 for one that blends awful, has a chalky formula, and just looks awful on my eyes.

You get what you pay for.

However, some drugstore cosmetics have convinced me that they deserve a special spot among my elite high end cosmetic brands.

Here’s a post that checks out the best of both worlds and includes the best High End Cosmetics vs. the best Drugstore Cosmetics.


  • Foundation

Choosing the best base for your makeup is key to creating a good, working canvas for the rest of your makeup. I rarely suggest going the cheap path when it comes to foundation and feel it’s a must splurge item however here is my best of High End Foundation versus best of Drugstore Foundation.

  • Best High End Foundation

At the moment the best high end I’ve come across is Shiseido The Makeup Lift Foundation. I’ve been combining two of the shades which are light ochre and light ivory for amazingly flawless, gorgeous skin.

  • Best Drugstore Foundation

My pick for best drugstore falls in the realms of Asian BB Creams. They are incredibly affordable even when purchased stateside, offer amazing coverage, and perfect, flawless skin. However, I do realize BB Creams aren’t for everyone so my best pick for drugstore foundation falls in the realms of Physicians Formula Powder Palette Multi-Colored Face Powder in Creamy Natural. I don’t normally recommend powder foundations since they wear away so quickly but Physicians Formula gets major aces for this gorgeous powder which makes me look utterly perfect.

  • Blush

I always suggest splurging on great blush but honestly, on occasion, you can get away with stealing a few great ones at your local drugstore and being wow’ed by the results.

  • Best High End Blush

Best high end blush without any doubt would fall to NARS. NARS not only has a superior formula which blends easily and is extremely pigmented but also has some very unique, interesting shades to attest to its greatness such as Orgasm and Super Orgasm.

  • Best Drugstore Blush

Milani Minerals Blush is just shy of being incredible due to its lack of color selection but without a doubt it’s one of my favorite blushes at my local drugstore. Not only does it run you under $6 bucks but it has a beautiful formula that wears naturally and pretty. Unique and pretty shades makeup for the lack of color variety available!

  • Eyeshadow

In my experience drugstore eyeshadow comes across terribly within the US. Asia has the market covered when it comes to superior eyeshadow releases at local drugstores (within Asia of course not the US) but sadly the US falls harshly short. But in recent years our market is slowly evolving to include some great steal items at the drugstore!

  • Best High End Eyeshadow

I’d love to award Urban Decay with the best high end however MAC does steal the show here simply due to variety of colors, finish, and formula. MAC is an endless parade of wonderful colors that are constantly rotating with new stock monthly plus affordable priced at under $15.

  • Best Drugstore Eyeshadow

I actually have two picks for the best drugstore eyeshadow the first of which goes to Milani Runaway Eye Shadows. These gorgeous shimmering shades come in a variety of colors with a silky formula, plenty of pigmented, and a touch of shimmery goodness! Maybelline Eye Studio Color Plush Silk Eyeshadow gets my best of simply because they are probably some of the better shadows I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing at my local drugstore. The palettes are friendly enough to use and create a look thanks to contrasting shades plus a liner and the price tag isn’t too hard on the beauty budget either plus they are available in an array of pretty jewel shades!

  • Lipgloss

Lipgloss is a tricky little product that I’d love to say is a great steal item however in some cases formulas are crummy at the local drugstore but occasionally a diamond of a gloss pops up!

  • Best High End Lipgloss

This goes too Too Faced Mirror Mirror Lipgloss for me. The formula is the glossiest and shiniest I’ve ever tried, EVER, and I’ve tried plenty. However, lack of shade selection and a mostly opaque formula does limit it so that’s where MAC comes in with a variety of formulas and finishes for me!

  • Best Drugstore Lipgloss

I’d love to say there are any number of great drugstore picks around but in my experience they are all rather crummy however Rimmel Royal Gloss Delicious Lipgloss gets my vote as they are a close second to Mirror Mirror in terms of glossy finish. Both Milani Buzz Worthy Lipgloss and Milani Glitzy Glamour Gloss get my pick for best drugstore lipgloss as well!

  • Beauty Tools and Brushes

Picking the best brushes for application is key to successful makeup. You need good solid tools to blend properly. Honestly, I’d call beauty tools a splurge but you can find at least one drugstore brand that successfully creates a range of brushes that deserve a purchase!

  • Best High End Beauty Brushes and Tools

I’ve always been a MAC Brush girl as they are sturdy, well made, and get the job done however selecting and choosing the best brushes for application in the high end will vary from user to user but I personally like MAC and recommend it highly.

  • Best Drugstore Beauty Brushes and Tools

The CVS Essence of Beauty Brush Collection are some of the best drugstore brushes I’ve come across and well worth a pick up. Prices are as little as $2 to $10 and you’re getting quite great quality for the price sans shedding or harshness!

These are my personal picks for high end cosmetics vs. drugstore cosmetics. Hopefully you’ve discovered one or two new products you haven’t yet tried and are excited to do so.

Do add in your steal vs splurge picks for Face, Cheeks, Lips, and Eyes….I’d love to hear them as would everyone else I’m sure!

About the Muse

Isabella MuseIsabella is just an average everyday geeky girl who doesn’t blend her eyeshadow correctly, wears too much blush, and hopes she never finds her holy grail products because she likes the thrill of the chase so much. Her mission is to bring you super honest reviews on makeup, skincare, fragrance and all things beauty. She’s in no way an expert on the topic and she sure as hell isn’t a super model. But she’s passionate about makeup and is seeking like-minded individuals that like pina coladas, getting caught in the rain, and ones that enjoy spending hundreds of dollars at Sephora without feeling buyer’s remorse. If you’re that person feel free to reach out and leave a comment or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Bloglovin‘.

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  • Vanewpc

    Fantastic Post! I def do not discriminate on the cheap finds i love them just as much as high end. The drugstore is stepping up its cosmetics game lately! I have a whole series on my Youtube channel dedicated to splurge vs steal for any one interested

    • the Muse

      hi vane I def discriminate terribly 😀 lots of great picks at the drugstore but high end def holds my heart.

  • Sarah

    No Ecotools miss Muse? I like them and Target’s StudioTools.. I don’t venture to CVS much but I might to check the brushes out now 🙂

    • the Muse

      i really like ecotools sarah but essence of beauty def gets my TOP pick 😀 Target Studio Tools hmm haven’t seen or heard of those girl, must go check ’em!

      • Wendy

        Yes, Studio Tools are really decent! I bought a few for a gf who was getting into makeup @XMas and she loves them. I accidentally got two “small eyeshadow brushes” (they’re kinda flat paddle ones), so I kept one for myself and it’s really lovely for packing on an inner eyelid color!

  • Wendy

    Thanks for this! I may look at the Physician’s Formula powder when my Studio Fix runs out. I’m putting myself on a budget (and even selling some of my loved items…). I also love Milani blushes! So hard to find here though — I have Luminous and think I misplaced it 🙁
    On the lipgloss — do the Milani Glitz glosses smell odd to you? I have the blue one (which looks really cool over Creme d’Nude, btw) and it just smells… not bad… but like oatmeal raisin cookies? o_0”’

    • the Muse

      Good on you Wendy! I wish I could put myself on one 😀 no not really an odd smell…? lol I don’t get oatmeal raisin from them but that sounds pretty yummy to me 😀

  • SJG

    I was also going to say EcoTools.

    I also LOVE Bonne Bell’s glosses and eyeshadows. Their distribution is getting spotty and weird though.

    • the Muse

      sjg I gotta say that bb has always had a special kinda place in my heart but it does seem to have slowed down considerably in terms of release. I remember when they used to have such a wide variety of cute items, not much anymore!

  • Eli

    It seems that there’s a difference between what is high/low end in the US, and where I live… Here we consider a low end brand Essence, and high end are Guerlain and the like. And there’s a middle ground for brands like l’oreal and maybelline. Unfortunately I don’t have the opportunity to try the high end ones, but I find that those ‘middle’ brands are great and stick to them

    • the Muse

      hi eli nope not at all. I think I listed a bit of mid range here as well such as mac and the likes. Guerlain would def be peek high end 😀 middle brand though isn’t loreal and maybelline for the US, that’s def budget 🙂

  • maribel

    Hey girl!! I love your splurge vs steal posts and video’s!! They help me decide what I should buy next! Thanks Chica

  • Jessica Allison

    I know they’re not widely available in the US, but since you can order them online, I have to mention Sleek Makeup- the eyeshadow palettes are unlike any mass beauty brand I’ve ever run into here- and at $10 for 12 shades, they’re super reasonable.

    I also adore their Pout Polish- nicely tinted, ultra moisturizing lip balms with SPF- I own every single one! My only gripe is that they charge more for some products on the US website than they do in the UK, so if you have a buddy overseas, it’s probably gonna be cheaper to have them send it to you!

    • the Muse

      Jessica great pick! I’ve heard so much about sleek but didn’t indulge as of yet…but this is pretty much me saying a big yay 😀 I think i needs after hearing your rave! 😀

  • Deb

    It’s interesting to see Milani has so many good products. For some strange reason I thought they were drugstore junk. I’ve never tried it, I just made a snap judgment. I’ll have to be more open minded.
    I’ve been looking for good drugstore makeup because I’m splurging on good bath and skin care lately. I think it’s going to be a good month for Lush. I’m saving my budget for a huge haul.
    Thanks for all your hard work the blog. I know it’s a labor of love. 🙂

    • the Muse

      deb it’s the packaging that prob made you think that 😀 but def check it out, GREAT stuff packaging aside. aw thanks deb, thank you! it truly is and thank you for realizing that! xoxo!

      • Ozma

        I completely thought that Milani was junk, too, at CVS. I have one eyeshadow and one lip gloss – I’ll have to check out the blush. One question – Which do you think will come out cheaper – I’m going tomorrow to stock up on some brushes on a budget, CVS or some Sonia Kashuk brush kits? Which do you think will be better/cheaper? Thx – Great post!

        • the Muse

          hi ozma I’m not sure as CVS doesn’t have a ton of brushes to choose from outside of the essence line I guess?

  • Phyrra

    High end Foundation
    MAC Studio Fix was my favorite foundation + powder until I realized it was too dark for me.

    Meow’s Pampered Puss foundation is my favorite now. It matches my skintone, yay.

    High end Blush
    Make Up For Ever or MAC

    Evil Shades blushes – Gossamer and Ravishing <3

    High end Eye Shadow

    So many to choose from! Fyrinnae, Sugarpill, Evil Shades, Shiro, too many good ones to list 🙂

    High End Lipgloss

    Fyrinnae Lip Lustre, though I do love the Milani Glitz Gloss!

    Best High End Brushes
    MAC or Urban Decay (I like my cruelty free vegan UD ones)

    EcoTools! They're fantastic, seriously!

          • Phyrra


            Btw…. DRAGONCON!

            I’m bouncing off the walls, so hyper.

          • the Muse

            ugh don’t make me JEALOUS! 😀 I wish I was going with you! 😀 Say hi to Wil Wheaton for me and slip him a bit of tongue too! LOL

            I looked through the bpal scents but it’s a meh so I guess I can save you the headache of cping for me. Make sure you take mega pics!

  • Anitacska

    I tend to only buy high end cosmetics nowadays, but there are still some great budget brands I like incl. Sleek (eyeshadows), GOSH (brushes, eyeliners and lipglosses) and 17 (eyeshadows). Oh and Avon for lipsticks and lipglosses.

  • JoElla

    For me I can’t miss with anything L’oreal does on a ‘limited addition’ those alway work fantab for me!

    Low end, High end I love them all!

    Great post hon! Sometimes a cheap thrill is happy happy find =)

    • the Muse

      hey Jo! I never pay much attention to the L’Oreal LE’s but more the maybelline I better keep my eyes open if you say it’s a go 😀 aw glad you liked!

  • Angela

    CVS has great deals. Love it.

    My favorite drug-store brand is L’oreal, hands-down. Color Riche is a great gloss, and I love the HIP eyeshadow duos. Also recently started using their Telescopic mascara (similar to Lorac, but I think I prefer this one).

    My fave Sephora brands are Urban Decay, Lorac, and Dior (for mascara).

    • the Muse

      Hey Angela I really am liking the new formulas on the HIP Duos great pic 😀

  • Heather / Eyeconic

    Milani is such a great drugstore brand! I totally agree with you about drugstore shadows though, I never buy any. I literally own 4 drugstore shades out of my easily 250+ shadow collection. For me, indie brands and Urban Decay are where it’s at for shadows. Have you tried the Too Faced sparkler gloss? It’s being d/c’d so it’s on sale on their website for $3! It’s awesome, it has iridescence in it. Also, totally agree with the person who said Sleek for the UK. I have 3 of the palettes and they are amazing… UK drugstore makeup is waaay better than stuff here, IMO.

    • the Muse

      same here heather as they are lethally bad 😛 I was just gonna post about the vintage sale later 😀 I has it scheduled up hehe!

  • Angela

    Great list Muse! I really wanted to try the Essence of Beauty brushes, but when I drove over the border to Washington state, there were no CVS’s to be found, only Rite-Aids o_o
    I’m a def drugstore makeup girl. My favourite foundation is GOSH X-Ceptional Wear (~$15). Best drugstore eyeshadow so far is Wet n Wild surprisingly! I bought the Lust ColorIcon palette and was shocked at the colour payoff.

    • the Muse

      hey angela try out ebay they sometimes have really good deals 😀 I wish we had gosh sigh!!!!!!

      • Liane

        i want to second Wet n’ Wild’s ColorIcon palettes. The quality is really amazing! You’d never think it costs less than $2. “Lust” is my favorite, too.
        I discovered Milani way back when a friend of mine lent me her nail varnish. It was Milani, and it was fabulous! Lasts forever, that stuff.
        Another great drugstore find is Prestige’s eye liner pencils. They’re smooth and creamy and SO blendable. I love them.

  • Misato-san

    no NYX at all? to me their eyeshadows are superb… both in terms of formula and colors, it’s the only brand I knew whose eyeshadows colors can seriously compete with MAC’s tons of colors!

  • Colette

    I love drugstore mascara….its one of those products that needs to be replaced more often so I hate to spend big bucks on it. So far Maybelline and Rimmel are my favs.

  • RonyaLii

    Yes, Milani has many good products. i LOVE MILANI INFINITE Liquid Liner . its so longlasting and strong .
    as for lipgloss- i like Rimmel London Light beam after dark .theyre cute and best for night life . and when you used it, dont toss it, refill with some other lipgloss you like 🙂

    nyx jumbo pencils and concealer jars are good for me

  • kali

    I LOVE Too Faced Mirror Mirror gloss -it’s one of my favorites. Btw, his the Shiseido foundation working for you? I need something that’s for EXTEMELY dry-skinned people like me. =P

    • the Muse

      so far loving shieido foundation kali def hg for me at the moment 😀 Mirror Mirror=AWESOME right?! 😀

  • Tohnia

    some of the Wet N’ Wild blushes are CRAZY pigmented. Like go light or you look like a clown. Just toss the shitty brush and use a good one. I have one favorite (can’t remember the name atm), but I have to go REALLY lightly or I look like an 80’s throwback…but not in a good way! Give their blushes a chance, they’re about $4-$5 CAD, and most likely cheaper in the US!

  • Ally

    Thanks for the post! Muse, have you tried any of the Wet N Wild Color Icon eyeshadow palettes(not just the singles)? In my opinion, they are the most amazing drugstore eyeshadows! They are super soft, highly pigmented, and super blendable- not chalky or anything. You should check them out sometime if you haven’t already! I absolutely love the trio “Walking on Eggshells”! The 6 color palettes are very nice too (3 mattes, 3 shimmers).

    • the Muse

      haven’t tried ally but swatched a little bit 😀 they seem awesome 😀 thanks for the rec hun!

  • Marilyn @ Lipgloss and Spandex

    NYX and Wet ‘n’ Wild both have some great products for eyeshadows and blush.

  • Janet

    Hi Muse!! Lovely post, drugstore makeup is handy – only partly because I can’t afford anything else! 😀

    Quick question though, sorry for getting off-topic :S
    Would you have any recommendations for a cheapish foundation for light everyday coverage that would be available in Korea? I have oily skin and I was wondering if I should go for a loose powder or cream or liquid foundation.. I’m pretty noob at this! 😀 Thank you!

    • the Muse

      hi janet glad you enjoyed it 😀

      loose powder def not cream or liquid with oily skin or pressed powder. Skin79 has some nice mattifying ones that aren’t too expensive.

  • Charlene J.

    Muse, which is your favourite high-end and drugstore mascaras?

    For blushers, I love theBalm! That’s like… Mid-range?

    • the Muse

      hey charlene I like the Rimmel Volume Flash but that’s kinda ’bout it for low end. mid range yes 😀 I just call it all high end in this post 🙂

  • ming

    hi! >.> this is kind of completely unrelated to your post.. but do you happen to have any reviews/products from coastal scents? thanks XD

  • Cass

    For a great drugstore shadow – look at the Physician’s Formula Shimmer Strips. Great color and lots of pigment.
    Love the comparison’s – very fun!

  • Ozma

    Just ordered a MAC lipglass and it is sooo good. Also – got 2 Mirror Mirror glosses from the Vintage sale and the shine does last forever, but doesn’t make my lips feel as moisturized? Good shine, tho.

    • the Muse

      hi ozma ahh mirror mirror is a fav of mine 🙂

      glad to hear about the mac lipglass being so fab 🙂

  • Bonnie

    I am loving everything I buy from NYX and am now preferring my NYX lippie over my UD lippie – sacrilige, I tell you!

    I noticed you didn’t mention Revlon at all, but they do have some good lipsticks that go on sale occasionally for ridiculously low prices.

    For nail polish I always go low end – Sally Hanson can’t be beat IMHO!

    • the Muse

      lol bonnie awesome ;-D

      Mmm dunno why I don’t do much Revlon will have to check it out!

  • Gina

    Those milani glosses look really pretty..god knowns I’m such a snob when it comes to cosmetics but those colors look pretty fab!

    • the Muse

      can totally relate gina but Milani, packaging aside as it’s gross, makes some damn good stuff ;D

      • Gina

        yeah i’m def thinking I’d like to get familiar with the brand..i’ve looked up some of your other reviews and taken a peek at their web site. There’s some things that totally caught my eye, and you gotta love those prices too! 😀

  • Mel

    I’ve been a die hard devotee of Revlon’s Colorstay. I’ve tried every high-end & drugstore brand of foundation and I have to say, Revlon is the best….for my oily, acne prone 30+ skin!