Long before I was a Cosmo beauty editor with access to the world’s most insanely priced makeup products (flex?), I was a very poor, very frugal beauty fanatic who could only afford drugstore makeup. And, TBH, that was perfectly fine. Because regardless of what anyone says, drugstore makeup is freaking excellent, and I still use it on the daily (seriously—right now, I’m wearing almost exclusively drugstore products on my face). Still, I’m not going to pretend that all drugstore makeup is created equal, just like not all expensive, high-end makeup is automatically “good”—every formula is different, and good vs. bad can change drastically even within a single brand.
But because nobody has time (or money) to play a game of Risk, I went ahead and broke down my absolute favorite—really, truly, no bullsh*t—drugstore makeup products of all time, from the best drugstore liquid lipstick to the best drugstore concealer, below.
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Best Drugstore Contour/Highlighter
Uoma Beauty Double Take Contour Stick
Please repeat after me: Contouring. Isn’t. Hard. Can you make it hard, with 12 steps and a billion products? Sure. But do you need to? Absolutely not, and this dual-ended contour stick (that comes in six shade combos) is proof. On one end is a sheer contour with a matte finish, and on the other is a shimmery (but not glittery!) highlighter. Swipe the contour around the edges of your face and under your cheekbones, draw the highlighter down your cheekbones and over your eyelids, and blend, blend, blend. Easy, right?
Best Drugstore Shadow Palette
Juvia’s Place The Masquerade Mini Eyeshadow Palette
Eyeshadow palettes can be tricky—they either contain way too many similar-looking shadows (like, truly how many taupes do you need?!) or way too many ~*out there*~ shades that you’ll never use. But this drugstore bb has the perfect mix of browns, purples, reds, and blues in matte and shimmery finishes that you’ll actually find yourself swiping on the regular.
Best Drugstore Baking Powder
Beauty Bakerie Face Flour Baking Powder
K, so unlike real flour that would leave your face chalky and dry, this “flour” face powder uses finely milled zinc and talc to either lightly set your makeup (if you sweep it over your T-zone with a fluffy powder brush) or hardcore bake it—if you really layer it on—for a matte, long-lasting finish. Bonus: It also comes in six shades.
Best Drugstore Foundation Stick
Black Opal True Color Skin Perfecting Stick Foundation
If you want a full-coverage foundation stick with a matte finish and absolutely zero room for shine, you need to try this drugstore formula. It’s spiked with a bit of vitamin C & E to soothe and brighten skin, along with silicones to make your pores look itty-bitty small once you blend it on.
Best Drugstore Matte Liquid Lipstick
Maybelline SuperStay Matte Liquid Lipstick Makeup
True to its name, this “SuperStay” liquid lipstick is in it for the long haul—and by that, I mean through two teas, a full bacon breakfast, and a day of talking in meetings, all without flaking. Plus, it feels comfy on your lips all day and comes in 10 ridiculously pretty and vampy shades.
Best Hydrating Drugstore Concealer
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Concealer
This creamy, lightweight drugstore concealer is a miracle worker for dark circles and dry skin. The hydrating center is filled with hyaluronic acid, which helps to plump and hydrate the fine lines around your eyes, so your concealer won’t settle in and leave you lookin’ like a hungover, dehydrated mess (hi).
Best Drugstore Bronzer
Physicians Formula Murumuru Butter Bronzer
Do you love the beach? Do you love a summertime glow? Do you love the smell of body butter, vacation, and happiness? If you answered “yes” to any of these very obvious questions, you need to pick up this drugstore bronzer that’s available in four warm shades. It’s perfectly iridescent and highly tropical-smelling, making you feel like you just chilled on the beach in the middle of winter.
Best Drugstore Concealer
E.l.f. Cosmetics 16HR Camo Concealer
Raise your hand if 99 percent of all drugstore concealers you’ve used end up creasing, sliding, or sinking into the little fine lines you never even freakin’ knew existed. Yeah, same. And then I met this little bb from E.l.f. The longwear formula truly lasts all day without fading, yet doesn’t feel cakey or drying, thanks to the hint of avocado oil in it. And it comes in 25 full-coverage shades. Ugh. Love.
Best Drugstore Stick Concealer
Revlon PhotoReady Concealer
If you know me, you know I don’t shut up about this drugstore concealer. I’ve used it every single day since college, and for good reason: It’s basically the ultimate no-makeup makeup concealer that looks just like skin when you blend it down. It’s lightweight, totally matte, and completely safe for sensitive, acne-prone skin like mine. If they ever discontinue it, I’m going into hiding.
Best Drugstore Eyeshadow
Maybelline The City Mini Palette Rooftop Bronzes
I wish you could see my vanity so you’d know I’m not lying when I say I use this tiny eyeshadow palette every single day. And when I’m not using this one, I’m using one of the other 15 color combos (I personally own five), because they’re seriously that good. Super pigmented, silky to blend, and shockingly long-lasting, these drugstore eyeshadows are truly the best I’ve ever tried.
Best Drugstore Foundation
Almay Skin Perfecting Comfort Matte Foundation
Most matte foundations tend to suck the moisture out of your skin, leaving your face weirdly dry, creasy, and cake-like. Yum. But this gentle (and clean and oil free and fragrance free and cruelty free, and all the things free) formula uses coconut juice and a touch of palm oil to keep your face shine-free, yet totally comfortable and skin-like all day.
Best Drugstore Blush
Flower Beauty Flower Pots Powder Blush
I’m all about a matte blush. Nothing against the shimmery, glitter-spiked variety, but a matte finish tends to look more realistic and subtle, IMO—a big bonus for anyone new to the blush game. Seeing as I have worn blush every single day for the better part of my adult life, you can trust me when I say this drugstore blush is among the top, thanks to its super-silky finish that works well on every skin type.
Best Drugstore Liquid Eyeliner
Milani Eye Tech Extreme Liquid Eye Liner in Blackest Black
Hi, I’m wearing this drugstore liquid eyeliner right now. Thanks to this liquid liner’s rubber grip and smooth felt tip, the application of this eyeliner pen is a dream for beginners—or for anyone really. It doesn’t stick, jump, or tug on your skin, which is all you can really hope for in a liner, especially when trying to create a smooth, steady line. It dries quickly too, so you don’t have to wait around with your eyes shut to prevent smudging.
Best Drugstore Pencil Eyeliner
Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal Liner
This drugstore pencil eyeliner has a kohl (read: soft and blendable) formula that allows just enough time for smudging before it sets in place for a waterproof finish. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to “easy” smokey eyes as a non-professional.
Best Drugstore Mascara
L’Oréal Voluminous X Fiber Mascara
Not only am I wearing this mascara right now (really), but so is Cosmo beauty editor Ruby Buddemeyer…and probably a dozen of our friends too. The dual-ended formula has a mascara-like primer on one end (step one), and a fiber-filled mascara on the other end (step two), which work together to create major length and volume without looking clumpy or fake.
Best Drugstore BB Cream
Black Radiance True Complexion Bb Cream SPF 15
In an ideal world, all drugstore BB creams would come in a huge range of shades that look good on every single skin tone. But, alas, we are not living in that ideal world, and most BB creams are too light for deep skin tones. Enter: this oil-free MVP, which comes in five ultra-rich, creamy shades that lightly hydrate and fully cover, without feeling or looking heavy.
Best Drugstore Setting Spray
Essence You Better Work! Fixing Spray
I’ve never been a huge setting spray fan. Most of the formulas I’ve tried contain either skin-wrecking alcohol or insane fragrances, all of which just irritate my face on contact. But this drugstore setting spray is legit awesome: It’s formulated with a bit of moisturizing castor oil (it won’t leave you shiny, promise) and soothing pine bark extract to lock in makeup without messing with your face.
Best Drugstore Cream Eyeshadow
CoverGirl Exhibitionist Liquid Glitter Shadow
Two of my least favorite makeup products: glitter anything (SO. MESSY.) and cream eyeshadow (crease, crease, and more crease). But some geniuses at CoverGirl apparently figured out the key, because this silky, gel-like drugstore eyeshadow not only sticks to your lids without creasing or flaking, but it actually glides on fully opaque and shimmery. Gold not your thing? No worries—it also comes in copper and silver.
Best Drugstore Powder Highlighter
Wet n Wild MegaGlo Highlighting Palette
If you’re not in on the ~hot~ facts, here’s one for you: Wet n Wild is known for their highlighters. Like, ask the average drugstore makeup fanatic, and they’ll probably show you a drawer full of them. I, however, don’t need a billion—I just use this palette, which has four iridescent shades that look good on a ton of skin tones, thanks to their cool and warm undertones.
Best Drugstore Colored Mascara
L.A. Girl Volumatic Mascara
I’ve tried virtually every single colored drugstore mascara, and this one from L.A. Girl is by far my favorite (especially the blue hue). The colors—which include navy blue, turquoise, and purple—are opaque and bright, and the formula itself is thick and volumizing, so your lashes actually look naturally fuller after you wriggle it on.
Best Drugstore Liquid Highlighter
NYX Professional Makeup Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator
Part bronzer, part illuminating lotion, this hybrid formula is skin goals in a tube. It contains light-reflecting mica, a subtle tint, and smoothing dimethicone that all work together to give you that lit-from-within look (even if you didn’t slept eight hours last night). Bonus: It comes in a pearly pink shade and two deeper bronze shades, so you can cocktail your colors and use as a highlighter, bronzer, shimmery contour, whatever.
Chloe Metzger Deputy Beauty Director Chloe Metzger is the deputy beauty director at Cosmopolitan, obsessively writing about new makeup launches, the best hair products (curly girl here; whattup), and the skincare formulas that really work for every skin type (follow her on Instagram to see behind-the-scenes pics of that magazine life).
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