Makeup is fun, but it can also be irrationally expensive. Last week, I dragged my boyfriend to Ulta to grab a new tinted moisturizer and concealer, and it totaled $85 for the two. We both mumbled “what the f*ck”, I paid, he cringed, and life went on.
While I was playing myself by getting products recommended by my favorite MUA on Instagram, it dawned on me that I should do some research and find the best drugstore dupes for my favorite products. Why pay $45 for foundation when I can pay $13.99? Am I paying more for better ingredients? No, turns out most luxury brand ingredients have the same sh*t in them as the drugstore stuff, you’re just paying for the name. Cringe.
So if your New Year’s Resolution is to save money, here are the best drugstore dupes for your favorite luxury products.
It’s been said more times than once that primer is pointless, yet we still continue to use it. There’s heavy buzz around Tatcha’s Silk Canvas Protecting Primer, which retails for a whopping $52. I’m not knocking you if you’ve purchased this in the past, but I am here to introduce you to e.l.f.’s Poreless Putty Primer, which retails for a whopping… $8! At one-sixth of the price, with great reviews, and the seal of approval from Allure, I’m gonna go ahead and deem this the dream dupe.
When it comes to foundation options, the limit does not exist. We’ve got matte finish, silky, luminous, full-coverage, tinted moisturizer, you name it. Following the “glowy” trend, made popular by Instagram-famous MUAs such as @nikki_makeup, I decided to find a dupe for the ever popular ARMANI BEAUTY Luminous Silk Foundation ($64). My choice drugstore dupe is L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Healthy Luminous Makeup ($12.99), which still gives the hydrating, luminous glow effect at an affordable price.
Liquid foundation needs to be set with a powder (don’t ask me why, I don’t make the rules here) and any makeup lover will tell you that Charlotte Tilbury Airbrush Flawless Finish Setting Powder is THE holy grail. It’s $45 of pure greatness, but, it’s $45. So, who can match up to this flawless powder? None other than Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Powder Makeup ($7.79). This has been praised by beauty YouTubers and regular people alike, at a price I am deeming unbeatable.
When it comes to concealer, there are a few staples in the beauty world, one being NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer. My friends have RAVED about this product for some time now, and I was always a Tarte Shape Tape cult user, but I finally tried NARS and have not been the same since. It has a more natural finish, but still covers my “I haven’t slept in years” under-eye dark circles. This bad boy retails for $30, and its dupe, NYX Professional Makeup HD Concealer retails for $3.99. Yes, you read that correctly, $3.99. The reviews are as good as the price, so this may be the most valuable dupe yet.
My first non-drugstore blush purchase was none other than NARS Orgasm, much to my parents’ dismay. It is the perfect blend of peach and pink, and gives your cheeks a flawless glow. The blush retails for $30 and has become a staple in the beauty world. So much so that there are multiple dupes in the drugstore world for this iconic shade. After some personal investigating and using my own skin as a test subject, I can say with confidence that Milani Baked Powder Blush in shade Luminoso 05 is the closest to the real (expensive) thing. It retails for $9.49 and is praised by all those who use it.
If you’re like me, meaning you’re so pale it scares people, it can often be difficult to find the perfect bronzer without looking Oopma Loompa orange (this should be a crayon name). The Marc Jacobs Beauty O!Mega Bronzer Coconut Perfect Tan is kind of amazing because they somehow managed to make only two shades that work with a wide range of skin tones. The bronzer retails for $49, which is a bit of a splurge in my book, so I often go with my favorite drugstore dupe, NYX Professional Makeup Matte Body Bronzer. This one retails for $9.59, has three shades, and gives a natural/healthy bronze. Given that you can buy five of these for the price of one Marc Jacobs, I would say this is a steal.
If you’re extra like me, you know that no two highlighters are the same, and you must always proceed with caution prior to purchasing one. I think I have over 100 highlighters (literally, why?) and use maybe two of them religiously, one being BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector® Pressed Highlighter. It retails for $38 and makes my skin look like glass. Worth it? Yes. Is there a dupe for it? Yes. Wet N Wild MegaGlo™ Highlighting Powder made waves this year and was on the radar of major beauty influencers, including Jeffree Star. At only $5.29 (!!!!!) this highlighter is everything and more.
Brows were arguably one of the biggest/most important trends of 2019, and I hope they remain so in 2020. Thin brows are dead and gone (please never return) and fluffy, healthy brows are in. Due to the fact that I have five blonde hairs sticking out of my face claiming to be my “eyebrows”, I’m always in search of the perfect brow products to give the illusion that I have them. My Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz pencil has always been a go-to, and at $23 it’s definitely worth the price. Still, in the words of… me, there’s a dupe for that! At less than half the price ($10.49) I give you L’Oreal Paris Brow Stylist Definer. It looks and operates the same way as Brow Wiz and has over 800 five-star reviews, confirming I am not the only one who thinks it’s great.
Eyeshadow trends have come and gone, but the classic nudes and browns have always stayed in style. One of the most sought-after palettes in the industry is Natasha Denona’s Biba All Neutral Eyeshadow Palette, but it retails for… $129. Yikes. TBH, I don’t think any eyeshadow palette on this earth that could possibly be worth spending so much. Who buys this? World’s youngest billionaire, Kylie Jenner? Idk. Anyway, there are a million and one dupes that are at a much better value, but I specifically enjoy Milani Most Loved Mattes Eye Shadow. This retails for $19.99, a mere $109 less than ND, and is just as pretty IMO.
I have fake lashes because I happened to find the most amazing lash extension place in New York (Iconic Lash Lounge if you live in Westchester), BUT, I am still all too familiar with the quest to find the perfect mascara. Prior to my lash extensions, I was hooked on YSL Beauty’s Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils – The Curler, but $29 for mascara adds up quickly. If you are a living, breathing human, you’ve seen over one million Maybelline mascara commercials, and for good reason. Maybelline Lash Sensational Washable Mascara is an amazing dupe for almost any luxury mascara, and it seriously is volumizing. Again, as a pale blonde, I looked like a naked mole rat prior to mascara application, but this one always held me down.
Last but not least, lipstick. Lipstick can make or break your look, and I am all too familiar with a bad lipstick ruining my night (dramatic, but relatable). My favorite lipstick at the moment is none other than Pat McGrath Labs MatteTrance™. It comes in over thirty shades, my personal favorite being ‘Christy’. The formula is hard to explain because it feels a bit dry when going on, but it looks SO GOOD on the lips and literally does not budge. I’m talking multiple-vodka-sodas-in-drunk-still-looking-flawless level good. So, if you have $40 to spare on a lip, this is your moment. However, its dupe is $6.99 with the same matte no-budge finish. I present you with yet another Milani product, Milani Bold Color Statement Matte Lipstick (Milani, sponsor me?). The 16 shades are all matches for Pat McGrath, and are also vodka soda proof.
If you’ve made it to this point, congratulations, and thank you for listening to my TED talk. Enjoy your beauty on a budget, and feel free to drop all dupe recommendations in the comments below!
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Careless Morgan is a beauty influencer who shot to fame with her viral ‘bullshit makeup tutorial.’ Her content embraces carefree expression, a love for all things makeup, and the exploration of inner beauty and confidence. Follow her on Instagram at @carelessmorgan.
Makeup is f*cking expensive. There, I said it. Not all of us have $130 to spend on a single highlighter this month…or this year. Looking at you, La Mer. So, for all of you baddies on a budget, here are my beauty guru-approved makeup items that won’t break the bank. I know that when money is tight, every little bit counts. I’ve been there, and I make sure my money does not go to waste. With your makeup, you always want to make it last as long as possible, so here are a couple of my favorite tips for using highlighter.
One of my all-time favorite beauty hacks require one simple thing, and you can get it right from your sink. WATER! Normally, when we are finished with empty spray bottles, we throw them away. NO MA’AM! Not I. Save those bottles, clean them well, and fill them up with good old H2O. Whether I’m dealing with a name brand beauty blender, a favorite highlighter brush, or en e.l.f. beauty sponge, what I love to do is spray water on my brush/sponge, dip it into my highlighter, and immediately start applying product on the parts of my face that I want to enhance with that banging glow. The water makes the product brighter, and gives it more of a glimmering, metallic appearance.
If you’re looking to make your highlighting products last longer, do what I do! STRRRRRETCH those products out. Here’s another hack I do to make my highlighter last that much longer: I use my beauty sponge to take some of the product, and pat it into my skin, rather than rubbing or brushing it on. By doing that, you’re pushing it in there and blending it out to make it look as glowy as possible! By applying it with the patting method, it evenly buffs it into my skin, basically forcing it to collide with my foundation. Often times, a highlighting brush sheds off most of your product just by moving it back and forth. I tried this beauty hack about three years ago, and trust me, IT WAS A MIRACLE. I not only noticed I was saving product, but I also noticed how beautifully my skin soaked up the highlighter, leaving it with a smooth finish.
Now that you’ve got the best secrets on using highlighter, here are some of my favorite inexpensive options to make your face glowy AF. Take notes.
e.l.f. Cosmetics Baked Highlighter
For $4, this Champagne Pop dupe is a highlighter must-have! I enjoy this highlighter the most when I’m going for a really deep makeup look. I’m talking intense contour paired with a huge pop of shine, all thanks to this less than $5 highlighter. Its golden undertone makes it a lot easier to blend with my bronzer, making everything seem flawless, even if I’m in a rush.
I also love using this highlighter as an eyeshadow—two-in-one! Applying a little bit to my inner corner leaves me looking like I got a full 8 hours of sleep, which literally never happens. That simple pop of brightness can bring together your entire look, and take things to the next level.
Physicians Formula Butter Highlighter
I cannot stand patchy makeup products. You can spend forever on a look, and then it’s ruined instantly. Highlighter is normally meant to make your strongest points stand out from the rest of your face, but this highlighter also blends so nicely with the rest of my makeup. It really is like butter. It applies on my cheekbones in the smoothest and creamiest way. The price is a little bit higher than the rest on the list, but it’s definitely worth every cent. Prepare to have a new favorite, so you can thank me later.
Maybelline Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter
3 words: PIG-MEN-TATION! (Okay, so those are not exactly distinct words, but you get what I mean.) This metallic highlighter gives a glow like none other. The formula of this product is amazing and the pigmentation is phenomenal—especially for something under $10. You no longer have to dip back into the product 100 times to get the look you want. If you’ve ever had to do that with a crappy highlighter, not anymore!
NYX Land Of Lollies Highlighter
I absolutely LOVE NYX! When I found about this product, I was in love. It’s inexpensive and irreplaceable! This highlighter is not only beautiful in the package, but gorgeous on your actual skin. I love putting this specific highlight color on my nose. I draw an exclamation point, starting from the top of my bridge to the tip at the bottom, and it makes my nose appear Kardashian-level snatched. It leaves my face looking more structured and put together with whatever makeup look I’m going for.
Wet n Wild MegaGlo Highlighter
This $5 Wet ‘n Wild beauty is so amazing that it fits right in with the high-end highlighters. I love this highlighter for a natural, dewy look! It gives me a nice glow without making me look like a complete ball of grease. For an everyday highlighter, this bad boy is the one. Believe me when I say that you would never be able to tell that it was less than $5. Out of all 5 of these beauties, this is my all-time favorite drugstore highlighter.