You don't have to spend a fortune to look good. "There's not a huge difference between drugstore and prestige these days," says Gabriel Almodovar, celebrity makeup artist for Maybelline. "Often times, technology from prestige products makes its way down to the mass market level, so the ingredients are very similar," he adds. What's more? Heavy competition in those packed aisles make for even more innovation. "It's forcing all of the brands to step up their game -- from the packaging to the formula to the finish." Save big bucks with these top drugstore finds.
You don't have to spend double digits for a good plumping, lash-lengthening mascara, Almodovar says. Large cosmetic companies often own both drugstore and prestige brands. What does that mean for you? The formulas are made in the same laboratories. Plus, mascara dries out pretty quickly -- and those dark tubes can be a breeding ground for bacteria. You should replace yours every couple of months, which can be tough on your wallet if you're shelling out big bucks. Our current favorite: L'Oreal Voluminous Butterfly Mascara ($8.99).
This used to be one area where it was better to splurge, but that's not necessarily the case anymore. Cosmetic brands are now launching foundations that come in a wider shade range, making it easier to find your perfect color. One caveat: not always being able to try before you buy. The solution: "Find out the return policy of the store," Almodovar says. "Most stores allow you to return cosmetics if you buy the wrong shade -- they want you to be happy," he says. Try: Maybelline Fit Me Foundation ($8.99; ulta.com), a lightweight gel-liquid formula that comes in 18 different shades.
Nail polish has become a fashion accessory, which means you probably change it often. Why splurge on a shade you're only going to take off in a few days? Plus, now you can find quality, three-free formulas (free of harmful formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate) for a fraction of the price of salon brands. A new one to try: Color Secrets Pro Nail Polish, shown in Freaky Friday ($4; colorsecretspro.com), which is three-free, vegan, and part of a 144-shade collection.
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Almodovar says the majority of the pencils in his pro kit can be purchased at the drugstore. They're so similar to pricey department store sticks -- minus the hefty price tag. Our favorite: Rimmel London ScandalEyes Waterproof Kohl Eyeliner in Black ($4.50, ulta.com), which goes on creamy but stays put until you take it off.
Most lip balms -- regardless of price -- contain similar ingredients: beeswax, natural oils, and moisturizing butters like shea butter. We're currently loving Burt's Bees 100% Natural Tinted Lip Balm in Hibiscus ($6.49).
To get the most bang for your buck, pick a palette. You'll get multiple shades that you can either wear alone or combine together for a whole new look. We like Revlon Photoready Primer, Shadow + Sparkle in Metropolitan ($9.99).
A high-end lipstick usually looks and feels like a million bucks on your lips -- creamy, luxurious, and full coverage color. But you don't have to splurge to get a similar effect. Look for drugstore formulas that combine rich color with hydrating ingredients. We love CoverGirl LipPerfection Lipcolor, shown in Hot ($5.99), which has a silk moisturizing complex.
Dropping a lot of cash on a product that you swipe over skin for just a minute or two and then toss in the garbage is kind of like throwing money away. Fortunately, the drugstore is ripe with good cleansing towelettes at wallet-friendly prices. Our favorite: Simple Cleansing Facial Wipes ($5.29), which leave skin soft, not stripped.
Most drugstore brands cover the gamut from skincare to color cosmetics, so it's not uncommon to see makeup that borrows ingredients and technology typically found in skincare treatments. Case in point: Neutrogena Healthy Skin Brightening Eye Perfector Broad Spectrum SPF25 ($13.99). The liquid, brush-on cover-up includes antioxidants, skin-soothers, and pigment-fading ingredients to tackle puffy undereyes and dark circles over time.
Finding the right blush shade can be tricky, but innovative formulas like Almay Smart Shade Powder Blush ($9.77) make it foolproof. The compact contains a mix of three different hues that you swirl together, creating a shade that suits your skin tone.
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