Drugstore vs. Designer Beauty: What’s Worth the Investment

Knowing when to splurge and when to save on beauty products can make a big difference in your budget — and your look!

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1. Save: Mascara

Since even the priciest options tend to dry out after just a couple of months, mascara generally needs to be replaced more often than anything else in your makeup bag. So why spend a fortune on it -- especially when makeup artists keep drugstore brands in their kits? “I’ve tried everything, and nothing works like L’Oreal Voluminous mascara,” says Bryan Lynde, a makeup artist in New York City.
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2. Splurge: Foundation

Finding your perfect match can be difficult at the drugstore. After all, you can’t open up a bottle to test out the color. Feeling confident you’re walking away with something that will make your skin look flawless is a good case for spending a little more time (and money) at the department-store makeup counter.
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3. Save: Lipstick

Drugstore formulas have come a long way over the past few years, now offering ultra-rich textures and a wide range of colors in packaging so sleek you’d swear it was from a designer brand. Case in point: Revlon ColorBurst Lip Butter.
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4. Splurge: Eyeliner

Most of the drugstore brands come in sharpened pencil form, which requires pulling and tugging of the delicate eye area to apply, says Galit Strugano, a makeup artist in Los Angeles and founder of Girlactik Beauty. You’ll have better luck finding mechanical pencil eyeliners at a department store.
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5. Save: Nail Polish

Recent innovations in the nail care industry, from DIY gel manicures to polishes that create special effects, mean women are experimenting with nail color now more than ever. (Seriously, when was the last time you used up a bottle?). Going the budget route makes sense for something you’re just taking for a test drive. Plus, many drugstore brands, including Maybelline New York and Wet n Wild, are finally eliminating controversial chemicals (DBP, toluene and formaldehyde) from their formulas. So you’re not sacrificing safety for savings.
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6. Splurge: Blush

The color result you get from a drugstore powder blush isn’t dramatic, which means you need to use a lot of it to see a difference, says Lynde. On the other hand, you’ll get beautiful, long-lasting color with just one swipe of brands like MAC and Make Up For Ever, he adds.
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7. Save: Hair Color

If you’re coloring your hair just to hide a few grays or to give your natural shade a little more oomph, there’s no need to pay salon prices. “I’ll recommend my clients use an at-home touch-up product to hide their grays until they have time to come see me,” says Mike Petrizzi, a stylist at De Berardinis Salon in New York City. See a pro for highlights or if you’re thinking of making a dramatic color change.

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