Six Makeup Brands That Won't Break Your College Budget

Fulfilling a love for makeup on a college budget is difficult, but these six makeup brands are sure to deliver the quality of many high-end products at a fraction of the price.


1. E.L.F. Cosmetics

Price Range: Individual products and brushes range from $1 to $12 each

Where it Can Be Found:, Target, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens,,

Description: E.L.F. Cosmetics can be found in most drugstores across the country. Characterized by its sleek and simple modern packaging, E.L.F. cosmetics never fails to deliver quality products for a bargain price. Out of all the brands on this list, E.L.F. Cosmetics has the best deals for its variety and quality of products. In addition to selling eye, lips and face products, E.L.F. has expanded to include a line of skin care products that range from a foaming bubble facial mask to a daily moisturizer.

Product to Try: The E.L.F. Mad for Matte Eyeshadow Palette is a great basic eyeshadow palette that should be found in every college girl’s makeup collection. At only $10, the palette delivers 10 smooth and pigmented neutral matte shades that blend well and stay all day. For the quality of their products, it’s a wonder why E.L.F. doesn’t raise their prices.

2. Milani Cosmetics

Price Range: Individual products and brushes range from $4 to $13 each

Where it Can Be Found:, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Target,

Description: Milani Cosmetics is a hidden gem in the large amount of drugstore makeup brands. Most of its products fall into the middle of the range of drugstore prices. While Milani has developed lighter shades over the years, many of their face products are targeted toward darker skin tones. However, no matter the shade of your skin, these high-quality products are sure to impress you and leave you looking flawless.   

Product to Try: The Baked Blush in the shade Luminoso is not only a drugstore favorite due to its high color payoff, but is also a cheap dupe for the NARS Orgasm Blush. Like the NARS blush, there is a slight shimmer to the blush that serves as a blush and a highlight all in one. For only $8, this blush is worth it and is sure to give you a healthy glow all day.   

3. Physician’s Formula

Price Range: Individual products range from $5 to $17

Where it Can Be Found:, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Target,, Ulta

Description: Physician’s Formula began as a cheaper alternative for consumers that had sensitive skin but did not want to drop hundreds of dollars on makeup that wouldn’t irritate their skin. Still on the higher end of the drugstore price range, with many of their products costing $11 to $13 each, all their products are sure to be compatible with even the most sensitive skin types. The top products from Physician’s Formula are mostly facial or skin care products, so if you’re looking for a killer new lip color, you may want to look elsewhere.

Product to Try: The Butter Bronzer Murumuru Butter Bronzer is another drugstore favorite for many reasons. The creamy formula feels like butter to the touch and applies flawlessly to the skin for a bronzy glow that looks like you just stepped off the beach in Mexico. This bronzer comes in two shades: Light and Bronzer. The bronzer is known to be too light for many skin tones, but in the dead of winter, it adds a much-needed healthy glow.

4. Wet n Wild

Price Range: Individual products and brushes range from $1 to $8

Where it Can Be Found:, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Target,

Description: Wet n Wild is on the lower price point of drugstore brands, but much like E.L.F. Cosmetics, their price does not match the quality. Wet n Wild is a cruelty-free brand that creates great basics for all skin types. While some products are more effective than others, it’s hard to beat the price of $1 eyeliner pencils.

Product to Try: The Photo Focus Foundation is one of Wet n Wild’s newer products and already has gained notoriety in the beauty community. Designed with photography in mind, the $6 foundation promises no flashbacks and was tested extensively under several lighting situations. The coverage is medium, but it’s hard to beat a $6 foundation that has a wide array of shades and easily accessible.

5. Nyx Cosmetics

Price Range: Individual products and brushes range from $2 to $25

Where it Can Be Found:, Target,, Ulta,,

Description: Out of all the brands on this list, Nyx Cosmetics is the closest to high-end makeup brands. Like Physician’s Formula and Sonia Kashuk, the price range is higher, but so is the quality. Many makeup artists and celebrities will use Nyx Cosmetics instead of some higher end brands. Nyx Cosmetics is a great brand for those budding beauty gurus in transition to some pricier products. Be careful when shopping, because it can add up fast!

Product to Try: The Nyx Cosmetics line of Soft Matte Lip Creams offers 34 shades that are sure to fit every personality. These lip creams are soft and moisturizing to the touch and apply very smoothly. Once on, they dry to a matte finish but are not drying like many matte liquid lipsticks. The wide range of shades includes several dupes of high-end brands, such as Kylie Cosmetic’s lip kits.

6. Sonia Kashuk

Price Range: Individual Products range from $5.99 to $19.99 each; Brush sets can be anywhere from $11.99 to $39.99.

Where it Can Be Found:, Target,,

Description: With funky cosmetic bag designs and brush handles, Sonia Kashuk will give you the high-end makeup feel without the steep price. Makeup artist Sonia Kashuk teamed up with Target about 18 years ago to create an affordable but stylish makeup brand exclusive to the retailer. Many of her products are cult favorites on YouTube and her brand continues to surprise beauty gurus and newbies alike with high-quality products at a fraction of the price. Due to their higher quality, Sonia Kashuk products can add up fast and are at the higher end of some college budgets, so save those Target coupons and gift cards that will help lessen the blow to the bank.  

Product to Try: The Eye Couture Eye Palette in the shade “Eye on Neutral” is considered to be a cheap dupe for the Viseart Neutral Matte Eyeshadow Palette that retails for $80. At only $20, the Sonia Kashuk eye palette has almost identical shades and blends easily. It gives the same effect without breaking the bank.