At my internship with a beauty magazine, over a hundred newly launched products cross my desk each month. Beauty trends come and go in the same way that fashion trends do—every season brings with it new brands, colors, and solutions to problems you didn’t even know you had. Products that have stood the test of time are the little black dresses of the beauty industry—some women even call them their “holy grail” products. But with the search for the “holy grail” also comes with the search for the equally hard-to-find drugstore substitute—products that mimic the high-end version in shade, texture, and wear for a fraction of the cost.
After battling it out between high-end vs. low-end, I’ve found that you can spend less without sacrificing quality. Here are 10 of my favorite beauty products—try them out! Will you be able to tell the difference?
Philosophy Hope in a Jar ($39)
CeraVe Facial Moisturizing Lotion PM ($12.99)
The first step to looking beautiful is always skincare. I tend to have dry skin, so I moisturize religiously—but Hope in a Jar works for everyone. Hope in a Jar’s reputation precedes it, but it actually manages to exceed its stellar reputation. Its gentle formula contains loads of antioxidants and natural ingredients to hydrate, protect, and nourish your skin.
CeraVe is a dermatologist created, tested, and recommended brand that actually has a cult following of its own. It’s quite similar to the brand Cetaphil in its gentle formulas and impressive results, but I’ve found that CeraVe performs just a bit better. And for less than the price of Hope in a Jar, this is an exceptional drugstore substitute.
Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer ($42)
Jane Nearly Foundation Tinted Moisturizer ($4.99)
For a long time, I didn’t wear anything on my face. I had tried foundation and concealer, but found that they actually made my skin look worse, rather than better. I’m lucky enough to have skin that usually behaves, so for a long time my face went naked. If you’re like me, and want a natural look, but better—give Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer a try! It’s light, with the same consistency of your everyday moisturizer, so it feels as if you’re wearing nothing at all. Even better, this tinted moisturizer has SPF 20 to eliminate another step of your morning routine.
Unfortunately, my first tube of Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer is almost out, and $42 is going to be tough to part with for another one. Jane Nearly Foundation Tinted Moisturizer is a great substitute, and you won’t miss the $5 from your wallet—especially when you see how closely it matches Laura Mercier’s moisturizer in coverage. The only problem? The Jane brand is notoriously hard to find in stores. Check their website for locations near you.
Nars blush in Orgasm ($27)
NYX blush in Pinched ($6)
Nars blush in “Orgasm” is famous for both its racy name and its peachy-pink color with a dash of shimmer. Beauty editors and makeup artists love “Orgasm” for its universally flattering shade that gives women a “lit from within” glow.
Our look-for-less blush comes from NYX, a relatively young brand founded in 1999 in L.A. For their drugstore price points, NYX products consistently deliver professional quality products in a huge variety of shades. “Pinched” is no exception, offering the same peachy-pink with gold-shimmer that “Orgasm” is famous for.
Diorshow Mascara in Blackout ($25)
CoverGirl Lash Blast Volume in Very Black ($8)
I’ve only ever tried my friend’s Diorshow, and I can definitely see what the hype is all about. Its large brush is designed primarily to pump up the volume of your lashes, though it adds some length as well. Some say it’s like wearing falsies, and while I wouldn’t go that far, I did notice a lot more volume and a hyper-pigmented blacker-than-black color.
Luckily, as many makeup artists will tell you, the difference between department store and drugstore mascaras is negligible. All mascaras have very similar formulas, and the biggest difference between mascaras is the brush. For a Diorshow-esque brush, look no further than Cover Girl Lash Blast Volume. The brush coats every last lash with a deep black color for a bold, dramatic eye—one coat is perfect for everyday wear, while two is great for going out.
Urban Decay 24/7 glide-on eye pencil ($16)
L’Oreal HIP Color Chrome eyeliner ($9)
Urban Decay eyeliners are a staple for most collegiettes™ I know. With wide selection of 23 colors—ranging from neutrals to electric blue and yellow—you’re sure to find one you love as well. The color payoff is vivid, pigmented, and often has a bit of shimmer to make your eyes pop. What’s not to love about these eyeliners? Their 15th anniversary is this year, and I even went and bought myself their anniversary set of 15 eyeliners. Personally, I wear Zero (black) and Bourbon (brown with gold glitter) for everyday wear, and more adventurous colors for night or weekend.
A great drugstore substitute is the L’Oreal HIP Color Chrome eyeliner. Granted, they only come in four shades—black, gold, silver, and violet—but each one does its job well. Like Urban Decay, the HIP eyeliners glide on smoothly and provide high-intensity pigment with a bit of a metallic sheen. Also, I’ve noticed that the HIP line has gone on sale at many drugstores and I’ve seen these eyeliners priced for as low as $4, so be on the lookout!
Regardless of whether it’s a “holy grail” or a drugstore substitute, all of the products perform exceptionally. Do you have any favorite drugstore products? Share them with us!
P.S. If you can't break away from the brand name originals, we've found you some Sephora Coupons!