The Ultimate Drugstore Makeup Must-Haves

Seven Products I Swear By
Best Drugstore Makeup

Drugstore Makeup vs High-End Makeup

Over the past year, I’ve been looking for ways to be more fiscally conservative. Thankfully, we’ve curbed spending in countless aspects of our life. We’re not traveling, we’re cooking almost all our meals, and I’m rarely shopping. Well, kind of. 🙂 One easy transition to save money has been incorporating more drugstore makeup products into my routine. After doing this beauty experiment, I wanted to share some of the most surprising and best drugstore makeup must-haves that have completely floored me.

Moreover, my top drugstore makeup has slightly changed over the past year – especially with new product releases from various brands. The formulas have gotten better, the products are more innovative, and I truly feel we’re seeing the best of the best. Therefore, I wanted to refresh this blog post to share my go-to drugstore makeup items. In addition to not breaking the bank, these items truly outperform some of the premium makeup products.

Jennifer Lake Voluminous Lash Paradise

My Makeup Journey

Even though I’ve been in a hybrid work environment for quite some time, I still enjoy putting on makeup every morning. Foundation, blush, bronzer and mascara just make me feel better. Plus, I truly enjoy my morning and nightly skincare regimens and my daily makeup application routine. Makeup is a simple springboard to feel ready for the day, you know?

At the same time, I have very sensitive and oily skin. I breakout at the drop of the hat. Furthermore, I suffer from adult acne and acne scarring. Therefore, new products make me very wary since my skin tends to freak out whenever I use a different product from the norm. If you fall in the same boat, I get it! And it’s even more why I take these blog post recommendations seriously. We can’t afford to have major breakouts!

Charlotte Tilbury Magic Complexion Event

Best Drugstore Makeup

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE a high-end brand options. In fact, the photo above was taken at the most amazing Charlotte Tilbury event. I still use a ton of her products and other high end products and brands like Westman Atelier, Makeup by Mario, Hourglass, Natasha Denona, Patrick Ta, Pat McGrath, Dior, Tom Ford – the list goes on and on.

However, with inflation and so much fiscal uncertainty taking place the past few years, I’ve tried to become more conscious of the price tag of things. Therefore, I’ve spent the past years doing a ton of research to find affordable alternates to some categories of makeup. Generally, I wanted to find best-in-class items that could compete (or beat) their luxury counterparts.

To be honest, I don’t trust “best of beauty” awards. After working in PR for nearly two decades, I know the awards tend to be 99.9% advertisers of magazines and media groups. In other words, huge beauty companies pay for ads in the magazine or outlets, and it’s an unwritten (and sometimes written) rule they get top billing in the awards. Furthermore, it’s hard to trust beauty reviews on websites since many companies fake their pages and reviews altogether. Check out this NY Mag article for more on the topic.

So, how do I vet my drugstore product selections? Well…

Charlotte Tilbury Nordstrom Makeup

Beauty YouTubers

Yes! My starting point was beauty YouTubers. I love learning from these professional makeup artists and gaining insights on their fave products and techniques. Specifically, there are two drugstore beauty vloggers I fully trust when it comes to affordable finds. My current favorites are Allie Glines and Lisa J Makeup, and Makeup by Nikki La Rose. All three women are so educational and informative. Plus, they all offer different tips and tricks to make your makeup even better. Nikki LaRose is a relatively new follow, and WOW. She is a professional makeup artist and incredibly helpful with advice. I also adore Michele Wang, but she specializes in luxury beauty brands (still worth a follow, though!).

Allie, Lisa, and Nikki also speak their minds. They don’t give perfect ratings of brands or products, they are transparent about PR gifting, and they stick with certain items because they work (Tati Westbrook also does a great job of this fact and supporting indie makeup brands too).

In particular, Allie has been doing a lot of posts about playing with makeup she already owns and loves. One of her recent videos, Makeup I Always Get Compliments On, is a personal favorite. Another, Full Face of NOTHING New, is another great example of items that she just adores.

In terms of Nikki, I adore her ultimate guides to bronzer, blush, highlighter, etc. She buys literally every single product in each category at Sephora, and does an in-depth test. She’s influenced me to buy several products, including the LYS Bronzer Stick and Tom Ford Shade & Illuminate product. Moreover, Nikki just launched a Nikki La Rose Pro Artist Makeup Brush Set with BK Beauty, a seven-piece set of the ultimate multitasking and multipurpose brushes for professional artists and makeup enthusiasts. I truly hope to try these!

Last but not least, Lisa is a former MAC Cosmetics Trainer, and she’s a professional makeup artist and the founder of BK Beauty. Practical makeup tips.

Jennifer Lake Elf Primer

Best Drugstore Beauty Products

Without further ado, here are my current drugstore makeup must-haves! Keep in mind, I’ve been using these items now for many months, and in many cases – years. As such, I can truly attest to the quality and caliber of each item.

As always, it’s important to evaluate your skin type. I have combination skin that airs more on the oily side. In some cases, theses products won’t work as well on you. Therefore, I hope this feedback gives you some great background on what to use.

E.l.f Poreless Putty Primer

The best dupe I’ve found for Tatcha’s Silk Canvas Primer? Elf’s Poreless Putty Primer. For $8, the primer smoothes out the skin and creates the perfect canvas for foundation and other makeup products. Keep in mind, Elf has three different primers, so be sure to purchase the right one.

e.l.f. Poreless Putty Primer



L’Oreal Paris Infallible 24 Hr Fresh Wear Foundation

Friends, if you buy one thing from this list, start with this foundation. It’s full coverage, long-wearing, long-lasting, completely buildable, and it melts into the skin. Since I have oily skin, I love the matte finish.

It doesn’t oxidize or crease easily, and the product really looks like your skin, but better. Additionally, this foundation is transfer-resistant (talk about helpful when it comes to wearing face masks!). Furthermore, it’s a buildable formula so you can start with a small amount for a no makeup “makeup” look, or layer product to cover tricky areas.

In fact, I am still using this foundation today. The formula is so fabulous, and I consistently incorporate it into my makeup routine. I’ve found it especially pairs nicely when I use the E.l.f. Poreless Putty Primer beforehand – especially in my t-zone and the center of my face.

Jennifer Lake Drugstore Makeup

After applying the foundation over primer, it feels breathable and lightweight. Best of all, for me, it covers my acne scars and blemishes. Pro tip: apply the foundation with a brush (I use this one). Again, the product buildable, so you can add more as needed. After it’s applied, I use a beautyblender to pat everything in and to make sure there aren’t any brush stroke marks. Last, I apply a translucent power to set the foundation in place.

I wear the shade 420 True Beige, and the foundation retails for $11.99 for 1 fluid ounce (which is standard for most liquid foundations). Compared with my other favorite foundation, this is a steal! Highly, highly recommended.

Lastly, the brand just released the L’Oreal Paris Infallible Fresh Wear Foundation in a powder format. Based on reviews, customers are loving this drugstore foundation, as well. Plus, the point point is fantastic (only $11.99).

L’oreal Infallible 24 Hour Fresh Wear Foundation



Maybelline Super Stay 24H Skin Tint + Vitamin C

New to this list is the Maybelline Super Say 24H Skin Tint with Vitamin C. Friends, this product is without question the best I’ve tried this year from the drugstore. Period. I’m flabbergasted by the formula, and how it’s buildable to light-to-medium coverage. Moreover, the result leaves your skin looking (and feeling) like you, but better. Plus, there’s a slight luminosity and radiancy to the formula, but nothing overly shiny or greasy-looking whatsoever.

This is the perfect work meets weekday foundation, as it feels weightless on the skin and lasts for me from morning, noon, to even midnight. In short, this drugstore foundation has become a holy grail for me, and has replaced several of my high-end foundations. In fact, I’ve packed it alone for several big work and blog trips recently. That’s how much I trust its performance and wearability.

e.l.f. Camo Concealer

Concealer is one of my favorite (and most important) steps. First, it helps me with my under eye circles. Plus, I have a bit of hyperpigmentation and also acne scars. Therefore, concealer is one of my big essentials. Lately, I’ve been reaching for the e.l.f. Camo Concealer. Thankfully, it’s only $6 compared to my more luxe option.

e.l.f. Camo Concealer



Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer

“Like butter.” That’s what came to mind to describe this bronzer, haha! During the year, bronzer is an easy way to add a soft glow to your skin. Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer has nearly impeccable customer ratings – and for good reason! Thankfully, it’s only $14, and a little goes a long way!

Furthermore, the moment you open the Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer, the fragrance transports you immediately. The scent is AMAZING! It has this tropical coconut-like scent that makes you feel like you’re sitting on a beach with a pina colada. Lastly, I use the “bronzer” color (yes, the name is actually bronzer). The shade is perfect on my skin tone – not too orange, not too dark… just right!

Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer



L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise

Mascara makes me happy! 🙂 And this one is positively perfect! Meet L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise. Overall, the mascara doesn’t flake and creates great volume. Unlike other mascaras, you can also use it on both your top and bottom lashes. Additionally, it does a great job of lengthening individual lashes in a wonderful way.

Like all mascaras, please wait a few days before judging the final result! Upon the first two applications, the mascara is “good.” However, after a few days of the bottle being open, the formula dries out only slightly, which makes it the perfect consistency! This happens to all mascaras, and it’s truly the test of whether it’s great or not.

Honorable Mention: L’oreal Bambi Mascara ($10.99). This mascara is FANTASTIC. Similar to Lash Paradise, I purchase the “blackest black” option to elongate my lashes. Additionally, the formula is washable, and the velvety black formula makes me eyes look bigger.

L’oreal Lash Paradise Mascara



Milani Baked Highlighter

This year is all about the highlighter! In fact, it’s like my ultimate secret weapon to look presentable on Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings. When I’m not using this highlighter in champagne pop, I love the Milani Baked Highlighter. First, it retails for only $9.99, and the formula is buttery smooth. A little goes a long way, and I love it can be used on cheeks, eyes, below the brow bone, etc. Personally, I love the Dolce Perla hue which has a slight pink tint. Furthermore, the highlighter comes in four total universally flattering hues.

Milani Baked Highlighter



E.L.F. Blush Palette

In the past, I’ve struggled to find a blush that works with my skin tone. Plus, blush is the first thing to go in terms of staying on my face throughout the day. This blush palette has been incredibly versatile for all seasons. I truly believe the blush shades work for all year, and the price is perfect!

e.l.f. Blush Palette



ColourPop Eyeshadow Palettes

For many years, I’ve continually repurchased ColourPop eyeshadow palette thanks to their incredible formulas for both mattes and shimmers. My #1 go-to eyeshadow palette from them is the Going Coconuts palette (only $14) – although That’s Taupe is a close second (also only $14). These two palettes include ultimate neutrals for every day to special occasion looks. Nine times out of ten, you’ll find me with one of these palettes packed in my travel makeup case in my luggage.

Where do I even start when it comes to the Going Coconuts palette? The color story just speaks to me. Plus, the brand’s Pressed Powder Shadow formulas are highly pigmented shadow and apply in an ultra-velvety and silky manner. The long wearing formulas blend like a dream.

At the same time, I’m very critical about eyeshadow palettes, and there are two formulas in Going Coconuts that are great, but could be SO much better. First, Palm Reader, a white glittery hue with a gold flip, is hard to use for every day looks. Plus, every single time I’ve purchased this palette, the Palm Reader shade has crumbled and fallen out of it. Moreover, Shredded, which is more a creamy light tan meets vanilla shade with silver pinpoints, is a bit too light to use completely as a base shade.

You may be thinking – wait, you just said this is your favorite palette. It still it! Frankly, I’ve just used SO many ColourPop palettes that there are certain shades in other palettes that would pair perfectly with hues in Going Coconuts.

The Taupe Pressed Palette is pretty great and full of cool, neutral taupe shadows in both matte and metallic finishes. When using it, I can make wearable everyday styles to smokey glam looks for date nights. It’s extremely versatile.

If the ColourPop team is listening, I’d LOVE to create a palette with them (as would every Creator, haha!). Think Going Coconuts 2.0 – a new and improved palette. I’d immediately switch out Shredded for the Attraction shade from the Smoke ‘n Roses Palette (another personal fave), switch Palm Reader to Dreamful from the Stone Cold Fox Palette, change Coco Crush to the Love Hurts hue from Smoke ‘n Roses Palette (one of my faves), and Get Crackin’ to the shade, Speechless. But I digress. 🙂

ecoTools BioBlender Makeup Sponge

Beyond being a fabulous functional makeup tool, this makeup sponge is the world’s first certified biodegradable sponge. It’s even compostable! No surprise from this eco-conscious makeup brand. Moreover, the sponge is only $4.99. GUYS, that price is SO much better than a beautyblender, which retails for $20 each. Save $15 and invest in the ecoTools BioBlender Makeup Sponge. Trust! Above all, the sponge blends my foundation and concealer perfectly.

ecoTools Bioblender Makeup Sponge



Maybelline Unstoppable Eyeliner

Eyeliner is incredibly underrated. When I’m looking to make my eyes pop, I reach for Maybelline’s Unstoppable Eyeliner in Onyx (black) and Espresso (dark brown). For daytime, I opt for Espresso for a lighter look. For night, I love the dark black hue of the Onyx. Plus, this one can create a fantastic cat eye!

Maybelline Unstoppable Eyeliner


Olay Retinol 24 Review

NYX Butter Lip Gloss

Listen, I’ve never been a lipstick gal. I have tried alternatives like a liquid lipstick and a tinted lip balm, Most days, I strongly prefer a lip gloss that adds a small touch of color to my lips. Enter NYX Butter Lip Gloss. First, it’s only $4.99, and their range of shades are fantastic. Above all, the formula goes on smoothly (i.e. it’s not sticky). Don’t you hate sticky lip glosses? My go-to shade is Vanilla Cream Pie – the perfect pink.

NYX Butter Gloss


Best Drugstore Makeup

Honorable Mentions

Maybelline Lifter Gloss in Moon

Overall, this gloss almost made my top list but it’s a newer product in the market. I’ve heard amazing things about all of the shades, but my all-time fave is Moon (the perfect pink). It reminds me so much of Fenty’s Fussy Gloss in Fussy but has a bit more metallic sheen to it (plus hyaluronic acid). Best of all, it retails under $7. Fenty retails for $19, so it’s a big cost savings. So good! Formula-wise, it’s not too sticky and it stays on for a decent period of time.

Maybelline Lift Glosser



Rimmel Stay Matte Stay Matte Loose Setting Powder

For years, I’ve loved this drugstore gem for setting my face and touch-ups throughout the day. My face can get slightly oily, so this product locks everything in place while also blurring my pores and texture. It’s a great dupe for the Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Setting Power, which gives a similar effect (but retails for $48 vs. Rimmel’s price tag of $5). Big difference. Huge! 🙂

Olay Retinol 24

In addition to beauty items, I wanted to share one of my top drugstore skincare finds – the Olay Retinol 24 collection. More than a year ago, I did a detailed review and four-week test of the serum and moisturizer, and eye cream . To my surprise, I genuinely love these products, and I still incorporate them into my nighttime routine.

Are Drugstore Makeup Good?

Hopefully, this post has convinced you the answer is, “yes!” What are your go-to drugstore beauty brands? I’d love to hear more about what you’ve been loving these days! Drop them in the comments below! Also, let me know if you end up trying any of these products out. I’m confident that you’ll love them as much as me!

Leave a comment

View All 7 Comments

  1. A
    Annaliese wrote:

    I’m planning to head to Ulta soon so this post came at the perfect time! 🙂 That L’Oreal mascara is great, I also really like their Voluminous Superstar mascara that comes with primer! I typically use that one as my base mascara and then finish with a volumizing one like the one you shared!

    xoxo A

    Published 10.13.20 · Leave a Reply
  2. E

    The lash paradise is my absolute favorite mascara! It’s seriously transforming.
    And that foundation has been on my list to try.

    -Em @

    Published 10.14.20 · Leave a Reply
  3. N

    Great picks!

    Published 10.19.20 · Leave a Reply
  4. C
    Cynthia wrote:

    There are so many good drug store brands out there. I especially love the ELF is cruelty free.

    Published 10.24.20 · Leave a Reply
  5. B
    Bernadette wrote:

    I freaking love that L’Oreal Paris foundation. It out ranks a lot of high end foundations out there!

    Published 12.20.20 · Leave a Reply
  6. E
    Em wrote:

    The L’Oréal Lash paradise is my favorite mascara too! It’s soo good! And I’m also a long-time fan of Olay.
    I’m definitely intrigued by the Infallible foundation, especially about the non-transfer part, so I’ll have to try it once I start wearing foundation again.
    Thanks for sharing Jenn! ❤️

    Em @

    Published 5.1.21 · Leave a Reply


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