Three Unbelievably Great Drugstore Brands

Over the last decade, drugstore cosmetics have made some major strides in competing with prestige performance. Some think this is due to the ownership structure in the beauty industry and the fact that many drugstore AND prestige brands share parent companies; others think it is due to the natural effects of trying to maintain a competitive edge. I know that it is both – but I’m not here to debate the why. I just want to talk about some great drugstore brands!

Maybelline & L’Oreal

…are owned by the same parent company, so I’m lumping them together especially since I’m talking about the same types of products. I’ve reviewed and REALLY liked both of their gel liners before (I do prefer Maybelline’s gel a bit more). Their cream and pressed-pigment shadows are jaw-droppingly good, especially if you can snag them with a coupon.

Although there are other concealers that undoubtedly outperform Maybelline’s Instant Age Rewind concealer., , they all take more work to apply and blend. I use it at least three days a week. The intersection of price, performance, and convenience is just right for me.

They haven’t made me a cult fan of other products yet, but I’ve been an adherent to L’Oreal Telescopic Carbon black for years now – and I’ve enjoyed other formulas from them too (like Million Lashes Excess).

Wet n Wild

Photo definitely not mine! It is from from, go show her some love.

My first memory of painting my nails as a kid isn’t accompanied by a color, but a brand. I remember clutching a Wet n Wild polish bottle not unlike the one pictured above by Nichole from Bedlam Beauty. Lacking dexterity, I tried and repeatedly failed to neatly paint my digits perched precariously over an old, tattered towel freckled with drops of dried polish. Better that than the floor, right?

Over the years, I owned countless Wet n Wild polishes – Eggplant Frost, a rich, deep violet and Sage in the City a bright, shimmery green come to mind as high school favorites. Although I didn’t really give a damn about makeup in a serious sense until my early twenties, I definitely owned a bizarre (a frosty light amethyst one and a fun lipstick or two from them. I was tickled to learn that the MegaSlicks gloss line lives on and includes my favorite shade, Red Sensation. My love of Kat von D’s Adora comes at no surprise; I’ve loved fantastic, metallic-ish reds forever.

Great Drugstore Brands - Wet n Wild Megaslicks Red Sensation

Today, the inexpensive line is as accessible as ever. I can find their products at Walgreens, Wal-Mart, and Five Below locally. Shockingly, I can’t find a single product more than $5. A few years ago, I tried some of their Megalast matte lipsticks and found myself impressed by the performance (although the shades available at the time ultimately weren’t for me).

Late last year, I picked up their commonly-praised Walking on Eggshells shadow trio (<$3). I’m blown away by how good their shadows are. The trio is all shimmer and dear heavens are they smooth and blendable. Even though I tend to prefer prestige shadow, they put every single Too Faced shadow I’ve used to shame. I’m dying to know how their mattes perform; if their other trios and palettes are as good, I’m tempted to expand my collection that I said would not be expanding.

e.l.f. Cosmetics

e.l.f. is another low-cost drugstore brand that has some superstars. The line as a whole has been somewhat hit-or-miss for me, but the hits have hit hard. For instance, their $3 e.l.f. Studio blush has been a favorite of mine more than once. Although I’ve consumed the delicious NARS kool-aid, I still regularly find myself reaching for my e.l.f. Tickled Pink blush.

Their eyelid primer arguably isn’t the best product on the market, but for just a couple bucks it is damn good – and for the price, I’d take it over more expensive options when I can find it.

Brush-wise, their Small Stipple was the first brush I ever used, ever, to apply foundation. I graduated to other brushes for that purpose, but I still really like it for applying liquid or cream highlighter or cream blush. Remaining on the brush train, their $6 Beautifully Bare Blending Brush is what I use to slap Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder onto my face

Brands that Have Not Yet Convinced Me

I’m still waiting for Covergirl to wow me. I haven’t tried Clump Crusher, so maybe that’s what I’m missing – but nothing I’ve tried so far from them has gotten me excited.

Rimmel’s Stay Matte powder is decent, but that’s the only thing I’ve tried so far that has been worth my time. They have some fantastic lipstick colors, but the formula falls flat and I hate how they smell! To be charitable, the ApocaLips/ShowOffs liquid lipstick line was pretty good, but I just don’t care for liquid lipsticks.

Almay once had a mascara I adored, but they discontinued it. Jerks!

I chuckled, realizing that I have never tried a Neutrogena cosmetic product. I’ve used their skincare but not their makeup!

The Bottom Line

There are some products I definitely prefer prestige formulations of – foundation immediately comes to mind. Likewise, although there are some hidden drugstore gems, I think eyeshadow is worth a splurge. Unless you have skin/sensitivity issues, though, I see no point in having exclusively a prestige- or luxury-only makeup collection when there are so many great drugstore options. What are some great drugstore brands in your experience?