I saw a post this morning on the Reddit app in the “makeup addiction” sub that featured a makeup look that was created with drugstore products under $5. The girl that posted it looked beautiful, but it wasn’t the makeup- she’s naturally gorgeous in my opinion.

That being said…I guess she wanted to show everyone that you can create a beautiful makeup look that’s inexpensive. The fact that she’s a natural beauty is irrelevant in relation to the comparisons I’m going to make in this post between professional makeup and drugstore brands.

Here’s the post:

Everyday look with all drugstore make up~ every product was about $5 or less from r/MakeupAddiction

I also want to mention that I haven’t always used professional makeup brands. I started wearing makeup on and off in high school and got around to dabbling in professional brands sometime in college. I would “treat myself” at the cosmetics outlet and buy a Clinique gift bundle full of minis…that was it until I started working at Ulta as a salon manager…then my whole perception of makeup changed.

Luckily, I got a lot of free makeup while I worked at Ulta as well as a pretty good discount. If I hadn’t, then I probably wouldn’t have discovered all of the professional makeup products that have become my favorites(like must-have/can’t live without it). The only downside is that I’m now hooked on a $50 moisturizer that I can’t always afford, and yes- I can see the difference in my skin without it.

So, I understand that not everyone can afford to buy pro makeup brands and drugstore makeup will have to suffice. Personally, when I run out of a more expensive favorite, I just use another pro brand that is on sale/not as expensive because I know I’ll be happier with that than a drugstore makeup brand.

Professional Makeup


Drugstore Brands


1. Professional makeup brands are better for your skin.

This isn’t my opinion, it’s just a fact. Of course, if you have sensitive skin or allergies, then you may not believe this but it’s all about finding a makeup line with the right ingredients for you.

I only wear It Cosmetics when it comes to foundation/tinted moisturizer. They claim that their products won’t make you break out and they aren’t lying!

I experienced this personally when I ran out of It Cosmetics CC Cream and started using Amazonian Clay BB Tinted Moisturizer by Tarte(even though I didn’t really like how it felt on my skin compared to what I was used to…I already had it in the cabinet). In less than 2 weeks I started to notice imperfections in my skin that weren’t there before, and it was because of the makeup.

I also have the same issue with NARS Pure Radiant Tinted Moisturizer…even though I love how it looks! I don’t even want to think about what would happen to my skin if I went with a lower quality brand. So…I’m not saying that every professional brand is going to be magical for everyone…you should still wear what works for you(professional or not).

If you can splurge on one really great product- I would spend the money on face makeup rather than eye or lip products. I’ve been using this CC+ Cream by It Cosmetics for 5 years, and I’m probably going to use it for life! There isn’t another product that I feel so strongly about, so if you’re not happy with what you’re using then give it a try.


2. Drugstore makeup brands are cheaper, but what’s the REAL cost?

Let’s say, for example, that you’re happy with your drugstore makeup. Yes, it’s cheaper, but what about later…when you start to notice the effects that makeup has had on your skin. That’s when it’s going to really cost you- not just money, but also your looks.

I can’t say how many times I’ve heard older women say that makeup is bad for your skin, and they’re probably right(that’s why I try my best to wear brands with better ingredients at least). There’s one obvious similarity between the women that swear by a no makeup look- their skin is beautiful and they have aged far less than most women their age(that have been wearing makeup all their life).

That’s when it’s really going to cost you-

not just money, but also your looks.


3. Professional makeup looks better, and it even smells better too!

Eyeshadows go on smoother and blend better. Foundations are easier to match and aren’t near as heavy or thick as drugstore brands. Mascaras add length and volume without drying out or hardening your lashes.

I can keep going, but you get the idea.

One huge difference in professional makeup vs. drugstore brands is the way it looks on your face. If you do it right it doesn’t look like makeup at all. You don’t want to look like your makeup is “on top” of your face, and that’s harder to achieve with cheap products.


4. Drugstore makeup has a lower quality of consistency.

For example:

Tinted moisturizers/BB creams have a more watery consistency and don’t cover as well. The whole point of wearing this type of product instead of foundation is to wear less makeup. Cheaper options tend to have too much pigment or not enough and won’t give you the results you’re looking for- a natural look that enhances your skin tone without having to apply a full face of makeup.

For example:

Eyeshadows aren’t as smooth and they often break apart easily. This makes a huge difference when it comes to results and application.


5. Drugstore makeup doesn’t apply as well as professional makeup.

If you haven’t tried professional makeup then you probably don’t agree with me. You think that the products you’re using are working just fine, and they might be…but professional brands are better. They just are.


6. Drugstore makeup isn’t as cheap as it used to be.

I often check out the beauty isles at the drugstore if I have extra time- just out of curiosity. It’s CRAZY how much prices have risen over the years! I know, that applies to the consumers’ market as a whole, but the price gap between professional and drugstore brands is far more narrow than it used to be.

For example:

A really good drugstore lipstick is priced around $12-$20 depending on the brand(yes, I know that there are cheaper options but we’re not talking about those because they aren’t nearly comparable).

I just checked the Ulta app and found several pro lipstick brands on sale like Clinique, Urban Decay, and MAC for $15 or less! I don’t know about you, but I’d rather buy the good stuff if it’s the same price(even if it’s only a few dollars more…still rather have the pro brand).


7. Professional makeup is expensive.

Yes, professional makeup is more expensive than drugstore makeup. You get what you pay for…there’s no arguing that.

I could come up with hundreds of examples just like the one I mentioned above comparing lipstick prices at Target vs. Ulta Beauty. You can always find a better option- you just have to do your homework and be smart about it. Use coupons, take advantage of sales/reward points programs, etc.!


8. Age matters when it comes to professional makeup vs. drugstore brands.

You won’t hear me say something like this very often, but it’s definitely true when it comes to most hair, makeup, and skin care products.

I’ll be 33 in October(some of you will be like dang, I thought she was younger…and some of you will be thinking that I’m still so young), and I just can’t wear cheap makeup like I used to. Maybe that’s because when I was in my late teens/early to mid twenties I looked great without makeup on. Either way…I definitely need it now and the cheap stuff isn’t going to do it for me.

It’s no secret that youth reflects natural beauty and as we age we want to look like we did yesterday. I guess what I’m trying to say is that you can wear cheap shitty makeup when you’re young and it probably won’t look bad at all, but that changes and there’s no simpler way to put it!

I recommend splurging on a few professional items if you can. After using a superior product for even a short time-span you will undoubtedly see the difference in quality and why it is important!

If you’re going to use drugstore makeup brands…here are a few product suggestions that I’ve tried and/or used to wear religiously:

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About The Author


Professional Hairstylist | American Board Certified Haircolorist | Makeup Artist | Beauty Blogger

5 Responses to Professional Makeup vs. Drugstore Brands

  1. Cort says:

    I don’t like drugstore makeup either, except ELF instant lift brow pencils.

    Zuzu and Gabriel Cosmetics are sisters. They are/were sold in Whole Foods and other health food stores. I’ve never seen them in Target. I like their lip colors, they don’t have lead, talc, formaldehyde etc in their makeup. I don’t want those bad ingredients in my lip color, you ingest them. I don’t like Clinique and the other high end lip colors after using ‘clean’ lipstick/gloss. I find them drying and I hate the smell of them. It’s very artificial and overwhelming.

    • Erika says:

      I’m very particular about my lip products as well, and not all pro lip products are for everyone. For example, a long-wear or matte lip product tends to have a drying effect even with expensive brands! I don’t need that look, so I don’t wear them except for on special occasions when I’m really going all out with my makeup.

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