May 6, 2015

Are Department Store Makeup Brands Worth Your Time and Money?

department store makeup brands

Forever 21, H&M, Topshop, hell even high end stores like Nordstrom and Saks have their very own “makeup brands” but the question are those department store makeup brands worth your time? I mean, let’s be honest, Sephora has their own house brand and you can experience absolutely orgasmic nirvana when they get it right but other times it can be a complete and utter miss to the point you just want to trash the item and never see or hear from it again!

Are department store makeup brands worth your time (and money)?

I think the best experience I’ve had with department store makeup would be Topshop. The Topshop Makeup Collection is really, really well made and has excellent quality to back it up. The lipstick are as good as any high end makeup brand out there and pigment? Crazy pigmented to say the least. I think what ruins and kills some of the buzz behind Topshop makeup would be stores like H&M and Forever 21 who put out really juvenile and poor quality beauty and makeup products. If you’ve had experiences with both those stores some of your prejudices may surface when presented with makeup from other department stores, such as, say, Topshop.

You might have a moment where you mentally roll your eyes and think, “Oh no not another department store brand!” and skip over it. I know I’ve had those moments because hey, sometimes you get burnt and you’re wary to try again!

I’ve had hit and miss moments with Forever 21 but I’ll readily admit while cute the offerings from the Forever 21 makeup and beauty range are in no way quality pieces. Ulta is another hit or miss experience as is Sephora.

Consistency, I think my best record is with Topshop and Sephora though as I’ve had more hits than misses with both.

How do you feel about department store makeup brands?

Are they worth your time?

Your money?

Do share!

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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  • Lisa

    I have had more success with Sephora’s brand than with Ulta brands; BUT I did buy an awesome angled eye liner brush from Ulta and it still shocks me that I like it so much! Having said that, it’s a gamble! Even with high end brands you don’t always get what you bargained/paid for. I would most likely avoid buying any make up products from a fast fashion clothing store but that’s just me.

    Good post!

    • Isabella Muse

      Lisa, that is too true! Even with high/mid range you never know, it’s a total gamble!

  • The Asian Pear

    To be fair to Forever21, I bought a couple of nail polishes from them a few years ago and it had the MOST amazing consistency ever. It didn’t chip and the colours were beautiful. Even the brush was one of the good rounded ones. I was more impressed by their nail polish than I have for Cover Girl, Revlon, Sally Hanson, etc. Sadly, they’ve since then changed their packaging and formula. πŸ™

    • Isabella Muse

      I’ve had hit or miss with Forever 21. I never had an amazing experience with them but def had good ones πŸ˜€ Happy to hear the nail polish was awesome!

    • Michou

      I couldn’t agree more! Their nail polishes are FANTASTIC (at least they were when I last purchased them), and I got some of my most favorite colors for SUCH a low price! I think it’s fair to say there are gems and throwaways in ALL price ranges when it comes to cosmetics.

  • Justin

    Only time I bought “house brand” like sephora was when I needed a particular shadow color for an event or shoot and I couldn’t see spending the money on a higher end one. Can I count CK one as an Ulta brand since it’s kinda theirs? If so I find it not bad for what I’ve used. It’s little pricy for what it is

    • Isabella Muse

      hmmmmmmmmmmmmm! I never really thought of CK one as a house brand but really it kinda is! I agree! I like the stuff a lot but it is a bit pricey! It’s the name!

  • devon

    the newly reformulated sephora glosses (like the one in the picture above) are awesome!!! one of the girls at the store introduced me to them and i just had to get ‘coral confession’. they feel high-end on the lips :]

  • Melanie

    I feel it is a hit or miss across the board. I love Dior & Burberry my all time fav lines …. but within those line they have products I don’t care for. Same for drugstore lines they have awesome quality products and then some that are crap. I have never come across one high or low end brand that each product they put out is a quality product. I do find that staple products within a line are good quality across the board.

    With companies like MAC that put out more releases than any other line the quality is just not there ….it is not consistent.

    • Isabella Muse

      I mean department stores like H&M,forever21, etc…not so much drugstore/counter makeup πŸ™‚

  • Iris

    I thought department stores were Macy’s, Kohl’s, JC Penney’s…not Ulta or Forever 21?? They don’t really have “departments” of different things which is where the name comes from.

    I’d also kind of assume that Topshop makeup would be much better than F21 or H&M makeup, as the clothes are much better as well. You can’t really compare any of these stores (or Ulta or Sephora) to Saks or Macy’s putting out those 100 color sets at Christmas that are the same shoddy 100 color Markwins sets from Walmart, just with a different name on them.

    • Isabella Muse

      sorry Iris, clothing stores, department stores πŸ™‚ whichever you’d like to call it! Saks actually has a line of cosmetics, lipglosses, lip pencils as seen in my pic above, that go beyond those larger palettes. That’s what I was referencing. Hope this helps!

  • kim

    I have had a lot of luck with Sephora brand products. If you are really unsure, just wait for the reviews to come out. They are usually pretty spot on. Their microsmooth foundation powder, blush, and highlighter are all amazing. Their new eyeliner formula rocks, and I have been using their gloss for years.

    • Isabella Muse

      I don’t have many issues with Sephora, many of their products are great πŸ™‚ Sometimes I do get misses though!

  • Victoria

    Sephora’s okay, they don’t knock my socks off but I’d rather pay $5 for one of their glitter eyeliners on sale than shell out $20 for UD’s. For F21 I’ve only tried their makeup remover wipes, which again were okay. But I’m not interested in their makeup.

  • Robin

    You turned me onto Top Shop and I love the cream blushes and lipsticks! Ulta has been a miss for me. Love Sephora. Do you remember they used to do a blush/highlighter compact the size of a CD??? Oh they were so nice.

    • Isabella Muse

      YES! They actually have a new bronzer like that Robin! So hopefully we see something like that for Summer Robin! So glad you enjoy Topshop πŸ˜€

  • dia

    I’ve never had luck with Ulta-branded cosmetics. Their liquid liner lasts a couple of hours tops and their lipsticks are dry.

    Kohls used to make this dermabrasion scrub that I loved. It was part of their Good Skin line. They’ve since revamped that line to look like Strivectin, and no longer make that scrub, though πŸ˜›

  • reen

    I tried the ULTA eye shadows, some were great, very nicely pigmented and smooth, others were TERRIBLE!

    also tried forever 21 blushes (as an impulse while buying other things…)….it was not good…but it was only $3 I think? so I tossed it.

    so I think, mostly miss….with some hits! πŸ™‚

  • Jenna

    I love sephora brand!! They have great powders. I love their Microsmooth face powder, 8 hour mattifying compact, and their discontinued mineral powder. They also have great lipsticks! Pigmented and lasts long! I tried their eyebrow pencil, it was a nice dupe for anastasia brow wiz but didn’t match me that well. Thats really all I have tried but I’m sure there are more gems in their collection. I feel very hesitant to try forever 21 brand, I just feel like they would use low quality ingredients that are bad for my skin and preform poorly.

  • Sam

    I bought a 21 palette at F21 a couple years ago. I went back and forth before I bought it and I am very happy I did. It is a great palette and I can’t believe how much I use it.

  • Cindy

    That scoop you posted about the founders and origins of Too Faced. They were talking about women who had a breakdown after they found out a hg wasn’t sold anymore. I am her.

    To avoid public breakdowns I avoid anything that is not in a regular line. I will favor a MAC viva glam over a limited collection any day. And with H&M, Topshop, Sephora every colour could possibly be limited.

    On top of that, those products will not give me the same feel as a luxury brand does. I am willing to pay for packaging and that feeling. In case of Guerlain I am willing to pay for the smell of it too.

  • Veronica

    Sephora, yes. They’ve improved a lot over the past few years, particularly where lip products are concerned. The eyeshadows are the thing I still find hit or miss. Ulta’s in house brand is just bad to me – I’ve yet to find something I liked from the brand.

    I rarely go for department store brands, but I will say that I picked up a F21 lipgloss on a whim and found it pretty decent. I might try the lipstick next time, though I find those formulas can be trickier.

  • Renu

    I like whatever I’ve tried from Sephora and Topshop well enough (except for Sephora’s foundations). Haven’t tried the rest except for H&M lip balms as a student – LOVED them.

  • cgfau

    Just for grins I bought some SallyGirl eyeshadow singles at Sally’s. I bought some of the shimmer and some matte shades, mostly in natural/nude shades. Some nice pigmentation on them, especially for $0.94 each. They also slide together, so I sorted them by shade family.

  • Caroline

    I like ulta and sephiira brushes but that’s it. Haven’t tried much of their products.

  • Kim

    I equate store brands as noted with sub par drugstore brands – right or wrong sadly. I feel they don’t put much into product development just choosing any factory that churns out premade cosmetics anyone can lay to slap their own label on- similar to how SOME you tubers are doing by putting out their own “brand” which is just a relabeled premade lipstick or shadow or gloss (the Internet is full of ads for these premade cosmetics from factories where you pay to put your name on their label and pass them off as your idea). Ulta pricing turns me off as I its so gimmicky so I don’t think of it even as highly as major drugstore well known brands. And makeup from HM, Foreber 21 I feel are sub par as their clothes are trendy one season items that fit into that tend and u don’t feel bad discarding the clothing after a couple of wears because not much money is invested – f21 way more than HM- so I equate their makeup as just a side show of low low quality trend items or Regular colors as a means to just sell to anyone wanting something for a low price without regard to quality or composition. Almost as an after thought really. So I never ever buy makeup cosmetics from such places. Sephora has enticed me to buy only lip products and brushes and polish as I don’t feel they promote their brand strongly so it’s not relevant compared to their confidence in the other brands they sell. I want quality over quantity and I’m more than willing to pay for something good that I will love to use, enjoy looking at it as well because asthetics is important whether it’s right or wrong. Just the way people feel. And it all comes down to just that. We all have different likes and dislikes hence opinions. It’s interesting to read what others thing. And I applaud you Ms Muse for bringing up this topic. It’s nice not to have bland topics regurgitated as your blog always provides us with uniqueness, topics that appeal to a variety of people and that are always relevant. Kinda like what I look for in my cosmetics – that little some thing that calls out to me above all the rest and makes me come back to visit even after being away busy. I dive in and find something good to read that illicits an excitment over a new product color formulation or just an interesting idea. Great post!

  • Maggie

    Sephora brand certainly is. It’s one of the things I look forward to when I go in-store. They always have something new, trendy, and fun that can be good quality. I really like the pencils, the glitter liners, eye shadows, brushes & tools.

  • Ashley

    I believe you get what you pay for 90% of the time. They are usually cheap for a reason, they aren’t quality, and are made with cheaper ingredients. Not all, there will always be certain drugstore products that far exceed some higher end brands. Its all about formulation. I’m rarely disappointed by a Chanel or Estee product, and I’ve experimented with buying cheap stuff that I see mentioned in magazines that you can buy at Walmart, and would have been better off saving my $ and buying one high end item instead. Just saying.

  • Leslie

    I’m pretty loyal to certain brands and I don’t give store brands a second look when it comes to makeup. I gave Sephora’s brand a chance but I didn’t like any of it. I must say this though…New York & Co’s nail polish is surprisingly long-lasting and they have pretty shades. There are SO MANY makeup choices out there that it’s hard to keep up with (thank goodness for makeup bloggers!!). I pretty much stay in the mainstream where my brands are easily accessible…Chanel, Dior, Guerlain….LancΓ΄me for skincare and foundation…and lately I’m in love with all of Clinique’s Chubby Sticks!! I think it depends on your budget. I used to use nothing but drugstore brands because I couldn’t afford the higher end makeup, but over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to start buying the better brands. Well, actually I use Loreal’s Carbon Black Voluminous mascara and Coty Airspun loose powder, which is getting harder to find so I may have to find a new one. πŸ™‚

  • MythKitty

    Sephora’s line really surprises me sometimes… in a good way! Their eye pencils and eye liners are far superior to some of the high-end brands. (Dolce & Gabbana, I’m pointing at YOU!)

    During the holiday season, I picked up one of Macy’s palettes because it had beautiful colors and because I’m terminally curious. I’m glad they have a good return policy because it went right back to the store in January. The eye shadows and blushes were terrible. I can’t even believe Macy’s would put their name on something so pathetic. Not all was lost though. I used the refund towards picking up a backup of Lancome’s Hypnose Dazzling in Rouge Cabaret. It’s stunning! =)

  • sophie

    I love both high end, drugstore and department store makeup. I think with every brands there’s duds and stars. Forever 21 has a particular eye-shadow formula that’s amazing on some sets. Super pigmented, metallics and affordable but it’s all about finding it because no real labels.

  • Chrissy

    I have never heard of Topshop. I was excited when I heard about the quality but paying $12 for lipstick there when I can get clinique or another higher end brand for $16 seems a bit high. Personally I would pay $6-$8 for a non name brand but maybe I’m cheap :p I love the article though. I am all about finding good makeup in obscure places.

  • Bonnie S.

    When I’m shopping at Sephora, the sales assistants will helpfully swatch a Sephora product vs a branded product, and each time I can’t help noticing the inferior quality of the Sephora thing, whether its foundation, lippie, eyeshadow, setting powder. So I usually turn to the SA and ask, “Is it just me or does the Sephora product pale in comparison?” and whoever is helping me always answers that I’m right in thinking the Sephora item doesn’t compare. I think the only comparison is price. So I spend more, but I don’t have to end up returning items.

  • Lisa

    Although I am not often tempted by store brands I could not help but notice how over the past few years how Sphoras brands line has stepped up there game. There eyeshadows are soft and fine milled, the lipsticks are well pigmented and stay on witha wide range and eye pencils apply easily and stay put. The line is a far cry from the cheap stuff they initially launched in the very beginning.

  • Pamela

    Answer is NO. I buy very few now. Ever since I discovered better face cream (I will leave the brand out since this is your expertise) and Asian products I am hooked on pretty much everything but Macy’s and Nordstoms now.

  • Genevieve

    You are so, so lucky to have so many makeup brands to choose from. Only one department store has its own makeup line here in Melbourne and I don’t really like it. As for the rest, we just rely on the makeup brands either high end or “drugstore”.
    I would really love to see and try Sephora’s makeup range – hopefully they will come to Melbourne one day.