Alright beauty babes: as a broke college student with an unshakeable addiction to makeup, I know it can be hard to fight the inner demon telling you to spend $60 on a palette you’ll look at more than you’ll use. But good news! Drugstore brands are on the rise — and they’re no longer marketing patchy shadows or gluey messes.
In spite of expensive cosmetic companies patenting their formulas, patents in the makeup industry don’t protect product like they do in other industries. While exact formulas are not listed, companies do release “example formulas”. These are extremely easy to replicate and are often used as a type of blueprint for other cosmetic companies interested in manufacturing ‘dupes’, or cheaper duplicates of expensive cosmetics. Inevitable sharing of formulas causes many brands to refrain from patents all together, making cosmetics much easier for drugstore brands to duplicate.
As a result of this loose patent policy, drugstore makeup is able to recreate high-end products and sell them at a more student-friendly price. And while to some the brand name is worth the extra cash, most of us broke babes are ballin’ on a budget.
So in my own quest for high-end makeup dupes (aka watching endless YouTube reviews and swatching every drugstore product I get my hands on), I’ve managed to come up with a pretty solid list of surprisingly amazing makeup!
1. Modern Renaissance $42
A staple in any makeup lovers collection and an occult favorite, all you need is warm colors and blendable pigmentation. There are several alternatives for this dupe, and there is always the option of hand-picking individual shadows with similar shades from brands like Makeup Geek. But for those with neither the time, patience or eye for color, there is the Irresistible Palette from Beauty Creations.
Dupe: Beauty Creations Irresistible Palette $11
These pink hued tones and shimmery shades are sure to create a look that would fool Anastasia herself!
2. Becca Cosmetics Highlighter in Smoky Quartz $38
If you are anything like me, you can’t leave the house without looking like a sparkling goddess dipped in gold…as in I want to be seen from space from the sheer radiance of my highlighter. Well, my high-lit angels, I am here to tell you there are drugstore highlighters that actually get the job done!
Dupe: Elf Baked Highlighter in Moonlight Pearls $4
These elf highlighters are cute, convenient and only FOUR DOLLARS. While these babies definitely make you look like you just stepped off the red carpet from high-lit heaven, I have found that once the top layer is broken in, I get the best pigmentation and sparkle out of the product.
3. MAC Lipstick in Ruby Woo, $17.50
Every makeup lover needs a staple red lipstick in their collection, and for many MAC is their go-to brand. MAC’s Ruby Woo is a cult favorite–but at $18 is it really worth it?
Dupe: Colourpop Cosmetics Lippie Stix in “Trust Me”
If you haven’t heard of Colourpop Cosmetics you need to hop on their website ASAP! With an array of eyeshadows, liquid lippies, highlighters, and even concealers they combine amazing formula with affordable prices. Their lippie sticks are my fave, the shade “Trust Me” being a well known dupe for “Ruby Woo” — both in consistency and shade value!
4. Kat Von D Tattoo Liner $20
While I admit I still struggle to accomplish the perfect cat eye every damn day, the 20 minute period spent holding my breath and meticulously correcting my wings is made just a bit easier by a reliable matte eyeliner. Almost everyone in the beauty community has used Kat Von D’s Tattoo Liner at one point or another, and most agree it’s a pigmented product that is easy to use. But I have found that drugstore liners work just as well (if not better) and last much MUCH longer.
Dupe: NYX Vinyl Liquid Liner $7.99
After what seemed like years of searching for an affordable eyeliner that I liked, I stumbled upon this miracle. A liquid liner with a brush tip applicator and a matte finish, this liner can be applied so easily with one swipe and the tip is perfect for making small corrections! Side note: I purchased both the NYX and the KVD liner at the same times and my NYX lasted SO MUCH LONGER.
5. Urban Decay Naked 2 $54
Yet another staple in the beauty community, the Naked palettes have been around since the dawn of time. I personally bought this palette when I first got into makeup, thinking it would be a good starter palette with all the browns and neutral colors. Fast forward 5 years: the palette is barely touched, and I still think of all the four-for-fours at Wendy’s I could have consumed with that $50.
Dupe: Morphe 35T Palette
If you haven’t heard of Morphe you are probably living under a rock and shouldn’t be reading this article anyway–kidding! This palette has all the wonderful browns and warm colors of an Urban Decay palette, but get this- YOU GET 35 OF THEM. If you’re skeptical (like I first was) just go watch ANY YouTube tutorial and see how many Morphe references they make.
6. Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Kit; Original $40
Contouring has taken over the cosmetic world, with our girl Kim K starting a trend that will last several millenia. The ABH contour kit has become a cult classic –the biggest beauty moguls use it to create their cut looks.
Dupe: NYX Highlight & Contour Pro Palette $17.49 at Ulta
I don’t ever remember seeing contour kits anywhere other than Sephora or Ulta until a few years ago. But when the contour trend came up, drugstore brands took notice and jumped on the wagon. Now there are beautiful contour palettes that stand up to the creamy and consistent formula ABH is known for.
7. Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops $42
If you are like me (extra AF) then sometimes a powder highlighter just doesn’t cut it. Liquid highlighters have blown up over the past couple of years and I am so here for it. Either building to create a blinding sheen or used sparingly for a natural glow, Cover FX drop lighters have taken the beauty world by storm.
Dupe: L’Oreal Paris True Match LUMI Liquid Highlighter $12.99
Playing around with a few drugstore liquid highlighters, I’ve found most you need to build for that extra AF glow but when you do it is blinding! This L’Oreal Lumi is affordable, cute and comes with .10 more fluid ounces than the Cover FX version.
So now that you know all my drugstore secrets: get out there and save some money, look fabulous and fool some Sephora workers with your amazing lewk.