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Buy This, Not That: Top 5 High-End Makeup Substitutes


Let’s be real — as college students on budgets, it’s hard to justify paying for high-end makeup when we should be saving our money for essentials like school, food, and rent. But if you’re a beauty junkie like me, then you know how to stretch the meaning of “essential” to include cosmetics.

As a beauty addict, I’ve tried products on both ends of the spectrum, from low-end to high-end, and have finally figured out which drugstore products are the best alternatives to similar expensive products.

If you’ve been searching for an inexpensive alternative for one of your favorite, but pricey beauty products, read on for my top 5 high-end makeup substitutes.

1. L’Oreal Voluminous Mascara


This is one product I can’t rave enough about! After years of spending over $20 for the cult-favorite Diorshow Mascara, I tried L’Oreal Voluminous Mascara and saw absolutely no difference between this drugstore gem and its high-priced counterpart.

This mascara is simply amazing – it will give you a dramatic false lash effect without any clumping or flaking. I also love the brush, which isn’t awkwardly oversized like the ones you see with other volume-building mascaras.

For daytime, I love to apply this mascara to the tips of my lashes after curling – this gives a nice, natural hint of color. But for night, I can pack on this mascara to my heart’s content because it really doesn’t clump!

2. Revlon ColorStay Foundation


If you’re looking for a medium-high coverage drugstore foundation (or a dupe for Make Up Forever Mat Velvet + Matifying Foundation), look no further than Revlon’s Colorstay Foundation! I first tried this foundation after seeing so many positive reviews on YouTube and after trying it myself, I was definitely not disappointed.

Let me count the ways I love Colorstay. This product covers most imperfections easily, so I find myself using less concealer when I wear it. I also find that, if I’m short on time, I don’t even need to set this foundation because it has amazing wear time. After a long day of work and school, it still looks good without any touch-ups!

Oh, and just a quick word of advice: Less is more with this foundation; just a little bit will give you flawless, full-face coverage.

3. e.l.f Studio Contouring Blush and Bronzing Powder


I had been obsessed with NARS Highlighting/Bronzing Duo in Orgasm/Laguna until I hit pan and realized that I did not want to spend another $40 on a product I could probably get for less.

Around that time, I starting seeing lots of reviews for e.l.f. Studio Contouring Blush and Bronzing Powder as being comparable to NARS. After checking it out myself, I can definitely say that the e.l.f duo is much more wearable (and budget friendly) than the NARS version.

While the e.l.f blush and bronzer colors aren’t exactly the same as NARS Orgasm and Laguna, I find that they look more natural and effortless on me, and have much less shimmer. (One caveat: Although e.l.f. uses the word “contouring” in the name of the product, I wouldn’t recommend it be used as such since there is a hint of shimmer in both the blush and bronzer.)

4. Maybelline EyeStudio Shadow Quad


I absolutely love that so many drugstore brands have been upping their product quality over the past couple years, and Maybelline is no exception! My favorite product of theirs is the EyeStudio Color Tattoo 24 Hr Eyeshadow, which is the best cream eyeshadow I’ve ever tried, beating out my old favorite Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Cream Shadow.

The Color Tattoo eyeshadows come in an awesome range of colors, from pretty shimmers to matte shades perfect for using as bases for other shadows. Unlike many other cream eyeshadows, these do not crease and really do last 24 hours! I highly recommend these, so definitely check them out next time you go shopping.

5. Ben Nye Media Pro Cover-All Concealer Wheel


Even though this product can only be found in makeup specialty stores or online, I still had to mention it because it is so good.

Coming in at around $10, the Ben Nye Concealer Wheel is hands-down the best undereye concealer I’ve ever used. The shades are all perfectly creamy, making them super easy to blend and layer without looking cakey. Since each wheel comes with four shades, it’s also easy to mix colors to create the perfect shade for your skin tone.

After spending way too much money on products like Bobbi Brown’s Creamy Concealer Kit and Laura Mercier’s Secret Camouflage, I find the Ben Nye concealer lasts much longer and truly covers my dark circles like no other product.

What do you think?

Do you buy your makeup from the drugstore or from stores like Sephora? What’s your favorite drugstore beauty product? Have you tried any of the products I mentioned? Let us know in the comments below!

Posted on on October 30, 2012 / Filed Under: Beauty & Hair / Tags: , , , ,

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31 Responses to “Buy This, Not That: Top 5 High-End Makeup Substitutes”

  1. 1
    October 30th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Very helpful!!! Thank you for this article.

  2. 2
    October 30th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Great article, those high end products have been on my list for ages, I’ll try the substitutes :)!

  3. 3
    October 30th, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    The link for the concealer wheel doesn´t work. I couldn´t find the product by searching the site either. But anyways, great article!

  4. 4
    October 30th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    Great article–that Revlon foundation is the best!!

  5. 5
    October 30th, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    I love these! I’ve used all of these products except the Ben Nye Concealer Wheel and I completely agree with everything you said! I was obsessed with the Revlon Colorstay for Normal/Dry Skin for the longest time, but they must have changed something in the ingredients because after a couple months I noticed it started to dry out and irritate my skin :( It’s still an amazing foundation, but be careful!

  6. 6
    October 30th, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    Such a great article!! Please do a follow-up including eyeliners and lip glosses/lipsticks!

  7. 7
    October 30th, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Hi all!

    The link for the Ben Nye concealer is no longer working because the product sold out on the website (just after I ordered a new one!) Here’s another link from a reputable Ben Nye retailer. I use the Cover-All wheel in SK-1:

  8. 8
    October 30th, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    I use the Maybelline Color Tattoos (i have four of them!) and the Revlon ColorStay foundation. Great products. I also recommend CoverGirl Natureluxe foundation.

    Good post :) Can’t wait for the next posts!

  9. 9
    October 30th, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    I love Glamoflauge from Wal-Mart. For $6, I can hide my dark circles better than my old Bobbi Brown concealer :)

  10. 10
    October 30th, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Hi Marissa,

    How do high-end and “budgetary” make-up products compare in terms of toxic ingredients? I’ve heard parabens and other harmful ingredients are common in almost all products.. Could you do a “buy this, not that” post on products that are harmful vs harmless? I think it’d be great to know what coveted beauty bag essentials ought to stay off shelves.. thanks!

  11. 11
    October 30th, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    another tip for finding Ben Nye: check out costume and magic shops in your area! there’s a magic shop near me that had a whole case of BN. it’s a great thing to look into if you want to check colors before buying :)

  12. 12
    October 30th, 2012 at 5:46 pm

    Be careful about using Ben Nye products–it’s stage make up, so the coverage is great because it’s full of chemicals. If you have sensitive skin, you may break out.

  13. 13
    October 30th, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Looks like I’m going shopping tomorrow :)

  14. 14
    October 30th, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Seconding the Ben Nye notice: it’s technically stage makeup (so I have lots of it lying around)!

  15. 15
    October 30th, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Great post! I’d love to see some substitutions for the Benetint and Posietint lip and cheek stains…I’ve wanted to try them for a while, but am not too excited about shelling out $28 for them!

  16. 16
    October 30th, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    This was great! Can’t wait to go buy that concealer wheel!!

  17. 17
    October 30th, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    I will have to try the substitute for cover up. I like the article. I will have to look and see if the mascara is water proof, because if I use any mascara and need to use eye drops for my contacts. It gives me the racoon look. haha

  18. 18
    October 30th, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    What is the best lip stick and lip gloss to use. Every lip stick I tried goes away after 20 min and the lip gloss drys up way too fast.

  19. 19
    October 31st, 2012 at 12:20 am

    A girl after my own heart! This is what my whole blog is about :) I really think it’s a great topic and you suggested some great products. Way to go!

  20. 20
    October 31st, 2012 at 12:59 am

    I second cg’s comment, a post on toxicity and harmful ingredients in high-end vs budget friendly makeup would be great!

  21. 21
    October 31st, 2012 at 5:45 am

    You guys should also mention Maybelline dream matte powder as a good substitute for high end mattifying powders!!! So good and inexpensive!

  22. 22
    October 31st, 2012 at 7:37 am

    I am giving you an A+. I loved this and find it very usefull for low budget alternatives. I hope you do more of these. Regards

  23. 23
    October 31st, 2012 at 11:49 am

    I LOVE this article but my question is what do you recommend for eye liner?

  24. 24
    October 31st, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    To add to the list: CoverGirl LiquiLine eyeliner pencil is one of the best eyeliners i’ve ever used, and i’m an eyeliner addict :) for liquid eyeliner, Prestige tops my list (you can find it at Ulta). Also the Coastal Scents eyeshadow palettes are amazing, absolutely love the pigmentation. And all the NYX lip products – I have their matte lip cream, and i’m in love with it! The Revlon Colorburst lipsticks and lipglosses are also terrific. :)

  25. 25
    October 31st, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I am a theater person and so of course I love Ben Nye products. I just want to caution anyone who looks into their consealers or foundation products. They are meant and formulated for stage lighting. Be really careful in your blending so you don’t end up with a huge spot on your face! Also, I wouldn’t get too comfortable with their consealers for zits or their foundations for a daily foundation. These formulas are thick and are not exactly acne eliminating. More like acne causing! After three days or even just a night of a show (so wearing the consealer and a foundation) I ALWAYS find new acne of my face so watch out!!!

  26. 26
    October 31st, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Omg! The Eyestudio color tattoo eye shadow is thee bomb! I wear it everyday (well except today lol). I got Promagante Punk (which looks great on my copper skin! Purples and dark pinks, in my opinion, are the best colors for women of color lol—besides bronze and brown of course!)

  27. 27
    November 1st, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    @cg, great idea! I think more people should know about harmful chemicals too.

    Sooo many budget brands use lead and other toxic things like parabens in their makeup. Sadly though, high-end ones do too though :( Help us, CF!

  28. 28
    November 2nd, 2012 at 11:28 pm

    I love Ben Nye it is a great brand although I mostly use it on actors because it is a Stage Makeup brand. I have noticed that the make up does tend to make the actors break out. So I would not recommend using it as a foundation, and to be careful using it as a concealer!

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