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Even though it still feels like summer ended two days ago, my (increasingly heavy) under-eye bags remind me every day that we’re already halfway through the semester, cramming to finish those unnecessarily prolific papers, and spending countless hours glued to our laptop screens. Even if most days the fanciest destination to hit might be a remote, tiny cubicle on the seventh floor of a university library, looking our best and putting some makeup on might take our minds off the hollowing adversities of student life for just a minute. 

Contrary to what I used to believe, you can wear nice, good-quality makeup every day and not go broke; the minute you ditch the Sephora rabbit hole and enter the wonderland that is the drugstore, you’ll very likely fall in love with makeup and actually crave the feeling of wearing it on a daily basis.

As much as Kim Kardashian saying she cannot live without her KKW contour stick is an exaggeration, I too am a makeup addict who used to spend eighty dollars on a foundation; despite those days being far gone (phew, my bank account is not the deepest shade of red anymore), my makeup routine is now filled with nice-quality, budget friendly drugstore makeup. Among the tons of different skincare and makeup products you can find at your local Shoppers or London Drugs, here are my all-time favorites to achieve an easy and every-day polished look.

SkinCare

You’ll probably have read this everywhere, but it doesn’t hurt to stress that prepping your skin is one of the best ways for your makeup to look natural, glowy and avoid the universally dreaded cake effect. 

o   I use N7 Purifying Foaming Cleanser (great for sensitive skin!), and then moisturize with any light-wear cream for combination skin from La Roche Posay, Avene or Bioderma (depending on what’s on sale that month ). 

o   SPF! The absolute holy grail of skincare is sunscreen, not just according to TikTok influencers but also to actual dermatology experts. I use the ultra-fluid mineral formula from La Roche Posay, which doesn’t leave a white cast so it’s perfect to wear under your foundation or BB cream (its tinted version is perfect to use in the summer!). 

Makeup

o   Foundation

Ohhh, makeup is an art, and even though the only artistic masterpiece I ever produced was probably a collage in kindergarten, the one thing I do know is that you need a flawless base layer for your canvas. There are lots of great inexpensive foundations, but you might want to choose one that is light coverage and lasts for more than a few hours. Also, choosing the right foundation shade for your skin is not always easy; that’s when knowing what kind of skin undertone you have becomes essential. There are three possible undertones: cold, warm and neutral; the fool-proof way to know yours is by holding a white piece of paper against your wrist or neck. If you think the contrast makes your skin appear yellow/orange, it means you have a warm undertone. If it appears blue, your undertone is probably cold and if you can’t really tell or the color tends towards green, then you very likely have a neutral undertone. Any foundation shade (from any brand) should indicate with a C, W or N what kind of undertone the shade compliments. The last thing to decide is how dark you want to go; for instance, when it’s summer and my skin is more tan than during the winter months, I choose a slightly darker foundation. My favorite is True Match from L’Oreal; long-lasting, hydrating, natural-looking and – lo and behold- it’s under twenty dollars! 

o   Concealer

My two favorites are Maybelline Fit Me and Covergirl Trublend Undercover Concealer. Whatever shade you decide to go for, make sure it’s a little fairer than your foundation. 

o   Setting Powder

You can stick with Maybelline’s Fit Me Loose Finishing Powder or even find some at your local Winners. I used to think that products there would be discounted because of the imminent expiration dates but after doing some research, I actually found out that liquid products are the ones that we should steer clear from, while powdered products are actually pretty safe. This applies to setting powders, eyeshadow palettes and blush. 

o   Bronzing Powder and Contour

Even though I don’t usually contour my face, this contour stick from Nyx is really good for when you want to quickly sculpt your cheekbones or highlight your nose tip. Perhaps I use too much bronzer but I’m a sucker for a tanned, sun-kissed complexion; my favorite is Physician’s Formula’s Butter Bronzer.  

o   Blush

I sometimes forget to apply blush and for some reason, my face looks extremely serious! My favorite (and super subtle) blush is Milani’s Baked Powder Blush

o   Eyeshadow

Here is a money-saving hack… you can use your bronzer (and sometimes your blush) as an eyeshadow!! Super neat, right?? If you really want a daytime smokey effect, you just need a couple of shades of brown and you’re good to go. Any micro palette like Maybelline’s The City Mini Eyeshadow Palette will do the trick! 

o   Mascara

My eyes are extremely watery so waterproof mascara is a must in my makeup routine. I really like long and voluminous lashes, which is why my all-time favorite is Better Than Sex from Too Faced; nevertheless, this very popular mascara can be quite expensive to use on a daily basis, especially if (like me) you apply it Twiggy-style (so tons of it). After sitting through countless “Hi guys and welcome back to my channel” (aka beauty-product reviews) on YouTube I discovered that L’Oreal’s Voluminous Lash Paradise is the perfect (Beyonce-approved) dupe! 

o   Brows

I don’t draw on my eyebrows but I do add some pigmented gel to keep them in place throughout the day. Essence’s Make Me Brow Eyebrow Gel is great – I could spend all day in a bouncy castle and my eyebrows would still look pretty decent.

o   Lips

I casually draw my lip contour using Essence’s Soft and Precise Lip Pencil and then usually apply Soap & Glory’s Sexy Mother Pucker Pillow Plump XXL Lip Gloss (I love the tingly feeling that adds volume to the lips, but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea!). 

o   I would like to seem cool and say that I use a setting spray but I’m going to be honest and admit that I forget to set my makeup nine times out of ten. When I do remember, I just grab a big ol’ brush, dip it in setting powder and casually go over my whole face (lol). 

I know this seems like a lengthy and somewhat time-consuming makeup routine, but the beauty of makeup is that you can change it around and customize how you wear it day by day. You don’t have to follow a routine step by step, but it’s good to have a nice variety of products to keep your options open. I found that drugstore products perfectly fit my needs and my budget, so I don’t have to choose between looking or feeling my best and saving money.

Ally is majoring in Linguistics and minoring in International Studies. She loves to do yoga, pilates and take long walks down the beach. When she’s not studying, she’s probably baking a chocolate cake!
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