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Makeup Prices Explored: When To Splurge And When To Save

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often wondered if expensive beauty products are worth it. On the one hand, I’ve seen success with a lot of drugstore products. But on the other hand, (or so I rationalize), if they’re charging that much, there must be a reason, right? How could all their customers be getting ripped off and not notice? And whatever happened to “you get what you pay for”?

But since I love a good bargain as much as the next person, I wanted to investigate just how necessary expensive products really are.

Unlike clothing, accessories, or cars, no one is really going to know how much your beauty products cost. If you have long curly eyelashes, and your friend has short, tiny, stubby ones, your lashes are still going to look better than hers even if you use $3 ELF mascara and she uses $34 mascara from Lancome. That being said, it really depends on two things: the product in question, and you.

Foundation

Woman applying foundation.

Foundation: splurge!

In general, it’s advised to spend a little extra on your foundation. I don’t have very sensitive skin, but I can’t wear my drugstore foundations for too long, or else I break out. I’ve also never found a drugstore foundation that matches my skin tone as perfectly as my Lancome foundation does. That being said, if I’m only going out for a half hour or so, I’ll swipe on my cheap foundation and remove it when I get home.

If you have sensitive skin, or a skin condition, you might want to use a high-end product over a drugstore foundation. This is because there is often more help available in a department store to ensure that you choose the right product for your needs. Plus, high-end foundation is generally more pigmented and lasts longer, so if you’re trying to cover up a skin issue, it’s probably worth the splurge.

Bronzer

It could very well just be that I haven’t tried the right drugstore bronzer. But personally, while I think Oompa Loompas are cute, I don’t especially want to look like one. The first time I tried a drugstore bronzer as a teenager, my mom asked me straight-out, “Why are you orange?”

It might seem like $30 (or more) is a bit steep to pay for a bronzer. But in general, the high-end ones last longer on your skin and don’t make you look dirty or off-coloured. If you don’t wear bronzer every day, then it’s really not that big a deal to buy that Bobbi Brown one – it’s a one-time splurge, and it’ll last you a while.

Mascara

Woman applying mascara.

Mascara. Generally, you can save and just buy a drugstore mascara.

This honestly depends on your lashes. While mascara is something I absolutely would never leave the house without, I’ve only ever used drugstore mascaras.

Think about what you pay more for when you choose a high-end product: the brand name, the fragrance, the packaging and the pigmentation. None of these are relevant to mascara, so save your cash for your other beauty needs and buy a cheaper mascara.

Keep in mind though, applicators completely affect how the mascara goes on. A high-end brand mascara will have an excellent applicator. However, with a little research and testing, you should be able to find a drugstore mascara with a wand and formula that suits you.

Lipstick

Applying lipstick.

Lipstick: splurge or save? Depends how often you use it.

If you’re the type who wears lipstick like you wear shoes – that is to say, every day without fail – you will need to invest in a good lipstick. This is because high-end lipsticks have added nourishing ingredients that are treating your lips and keeping them hydrated. Drugstore equivalents, however, tend to be more drying. This is especially important to note if you already have dry lips.

Also, the pigment in expensive lipsticks is generally better, and will have a longer wear time than a cheaper lipstick would.

However, if you’re not a “lipstick person” and wear lipstick about twice a year, an expensive lipstick is probably a waste of money, and you can stick with your drugstore buy. And if you’re eyeing that trendy shade at your drugstore – go ahead and buy it. You’re not going to be wearing it all that often, so it isn’t worth spending the money on a high-end formula.

Eyeliner

Close up of eye with eyeliner on.

Eyeliner.

Even if you wear eyeliner every day, you most likely do not need an expensive eyeliner.

There are loads of drugstore eyeliners out there that last all day and go on super-easily. The reason for the extra cash is generally the brand name and cuter packaging, but usually, a cheap eyeliner does the job just as well as an expensive one.

Moisturizer and Face Cream

I was surprised to learn that, despite the importance of skincare, a drugstore moisturizer can work just as well as an expensive one, if you are simply looking to keep your skin hydrated and healthy.

Again, it’s not something that you pull out of your handbag, so the packaging doesn’t really matter, and obviously there’s no pigmentation to consider, so a drugstore option will do just fine.

However, if you are looking to target specific skin issues, such as ageing symptoms like wrinkles or fine lines, a more expensive moisturizer may have a formula that works better for your needs.

Eyeshadow

Applying eyeshadow.

A more expensive eyeshadow will usually work a lot better than a cheaper one.

If your eyes look great, you look great – even if you skimped on your face and lip makeup. But your eyeshadow makes the biggest difference, in my opinion. If you ask a group of people what the first facial feature that they notice is, most of them are likely to say the eyes.

Cheap eyeshadow can be hard to apply, chalky, and just plain not last as long, especially in your crease. Expensive eyeshadow generally has superior pigmentation and longer wear, and is easier to apply. A little will go a long way, so it’s not something you’ll need to be buying more of every day. I would definitely recommend that you splurge on that expensive eyeshadow palette rather than go cheap, especially if you wear eyeshadow every day.

Conclusion

So to answer the original question: there are certain products that you really don’t need to be forking out that much cash for, and others that just won’t look the same if you don’t. Of course, it’s also very personal – if you absolutely swear by your MAC eyeliner, I’m not going to arrest you for buying it.

But if you’re looking to save without compromising on quality, think about all the products you buy, how often you use them, and how important they are to you. Then you’ll be able to see if that high-end product you have your eye on is worth the money, or if you’re better off heading to the drugstore.