As much as we'd like to say we love affordable beauty products more than spendier finds from fancy brands and stores, ehhhh that would definitely be a lie. Unfortunately (for our wallets, at least), my fellow WWW beauty editor Courtney Higgs and I have rather expensive taste in beauty products. (Remember that time I realised my makeup routine totaled a whopping £345?!)
But, there is a but. Since it's part of the job, we've definitely tried our fair share of drugstore beauty products. Over the years, we've amassed a collection of budget-friendly finds we're actually more obsessed with than their luxe, investment-worthy counterparts. Sure, I might have a drawer of lovely mascaras from Chanel, Dior, Too Faced, Lancôme and more, but running short on my beloved neon-orange tube from Covergirl is what sends me into a cataclysmic panic (so I'm sorry that you can't get hold of this easily in the UK). And there's more where that came from!
Below, Courtney and I are sharing the best drugstore beauty products we use on a regular basis and mix with or sub for even the most spendy of beauty formulas. They're not necessarily new or particularly exciting, but they're the ones we truly can't live without and haven't felt the need to replace with higher-end options—even years later. Keep scrolling!
Let me just start by saying this ointment was originally formulated to soothe chapped cow udders. It's not at all glamorous, but it's seriously the best ointment. I see instant relief from severe dryness, peeling, irritation and any other skin woe with just a dab of this miracle product. I have at least four tins at home and one on my desk at work so I'm never without it.
This is one of those black-girl staples we all swear by. It's the best gel in the world, and you can quote me on that. It's the only one I've ever used that helps me achieve slick styles without turning my hair into a gross hard hat. The best part is that it's so inexpensive that I can use it quite liberally without any guilt.
Foundation is one of those products I vividly remember watching my mom apply as a child, so as soon as I was old enough to experiment, I was all over it. That said, I've tried a lot of foundations. This one by L'Oréal holds its own against some of the most beloved, expensive formulas out there. It was actually recommended to me by a makeup artist friend who always keeps it in her kit. It's soft and dewy and leaves my face utterly flawless but still looking like skin. The only drawback is that my perfect shade doesn't exist; I have to mix two together.
This cleanser from French drugstore brand La Roche-Posay recently saved my life while travelling. That's dramatic, but after accidentally packing a pint-sized cleanser that had some comedogenic junk in it (which my skin immediately rejected in the form of whiteheads and zits galore), I found this at a nearby drugstore. After just a couple of uses, this exfoliating, salicylic acid–spiked cleanser almost completely cleared and settled my skin. It's amazing, and I've been committed to it even since coming back home to my old favourites.
I don't even remember when I started using this concealer stick from Revlon, but I basically never leave the house without it. I put it on top of pimples, on top of under-eye circles, as a primer for my lips and eyelids—everything. I once lent it to a former co-worker who said she "hated all drugstore products" when she was desperately seeking concealer post-work, pre-date and she couldn't believe how great it was. I honestly prefer it over Clé de Peau Beauté's cult favourite stick concealer.
If I didn't know any better, I would think this foundation was about five times the price. The coverage is medium to full but super buildable, dries to a flattering sating finish (not too matte and not too dewy) and is infused with a healthy dose of SPF, vitamins and other glow-inducing ingredients your skin will love. I have countless foundations that are way more "iconic" and way more expensive, and I usually reach for this one.
Face masks are an expensive bracket of beauty product. And, to be honest, most of my favourites are upward of £50. Whoops. However, I discovered this one back when I was in college (when I just couldn't swing expensive skincare) and, remarkably, it's STILL in my arsenal of acne-fighting formulas. Unlike a lot of clay and charcoal mask formulas, it's not irritating or harsh on the skin, and it really does alleviate my congested skin almost instantaneously. Sorry for the gross visual, but it basically sucks the gunk right out. (Which is exactly what I want from a detoxifying mask, TBH.)
Not only do these blushes from Milani look expensive packaging-wise, but they also give the prettiest punch of colour. Every shade is lovely, and I use my collection just as much as I use my favourite powder blushes from Nars, Hourglass and other more expensive brands. Plus, it's like a two for one, because the finish is glowy enough to pass for a subtle fleck of radiance. Essentially, you're getting a blush and highlighter for just £10. It should be illegal.
I'm not sure if I'd normally categorize Essie as a drugstore brand, but I'm including this epic top coat in this roundup because it's available at affordable pit stops like Superdrug and at just £10 gives me a long-lasting gel finish that's way more budget-friendly than an actual gel manicure. I pretty much refuse to use any other topcoat at this point and rarely go to the salon.