One of the biggest perks of being a beauty editor is that part of my literal job is to test makeup products, which means, as you can probably imagine, I’ve racked up quite the personal collection. Whether it’s a pricey foundation that will make your skin glow like a baby angel’s or a splurge-worthy waterproof mascara that refuses to budge (no matter how many teary therapy sessions I put it through), my face and I have been pretty spoiled thanks to the job.
But as any beauty pro will tell you, you don’t have to be shelling out big-time bucks on makeup in order to create a look you love. In fact, there are plenty of products on drugstore shelves that will help you get the look for a whole lot less. To prove it, I swapped my pricey routine for one that costs only $83, and frankly, I can’t tell a difference. Scroll through for the products that officially have a permanent place on my beauty shelf.
I’ve used the Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer ($36) for years, so when the internet told me that this version could serve as a $5 dupe, I admittedly had my doubts. But, this stuff is good, and seriously lives up to the hype. I have very dry skin, and the vitamin A, C, and E in this primer gives it an added layer of hydration before I apply my foundation so that it doesn’t cake or pill. It leaves behind a smooth, velvety finish, creating the perfect canvas.
This foundation feels like a moisturizer when you put it on (which, as a member of the dry skin club, I greatly appreciate), and gives a naturally dewy finish that makes my skin look downright radiant. It’s also got antioxidants that protect from blue light and pollution, so in addition to evening out my skin, it’s also doing some really good stuff for it, too.
It’s hard to find a product that works double duty as an under-eye and blemish concealer, but this one fits the bill on both fronts. It instantly brightens under my eyes, and I use it around my nose and lips for an added dose of highlighter that makes my skin look instantly more fresh due to its light-reflecting pigments.
I hate when bronzer leaves behind a sparkly finish, but that’s not the case with this powder, which is illuminating without verging on glitter. I brush it on my forehead to fake a sun-kissed glow, and as a stand-in for contour (with a smaller and more targeted brush) in the hollows of my cheeks and sides of my nose.
One swipe of cream blush is all you need to look instantly more awake, according to makeup artists, and this stick is able to do exactly that. It has buildable coverage so you can put on as much or as little as you like. Personally, I like to apply three dots up each cheek bone and blend with my fingers, and am completely in love with this shade because I can also tap it onto my lips.
This option from Burt’s Bees became my go-to highlighter. It’s slightly shimmery, but it blends into my skin and looks natural, instead of making me look like I’m on my way to a space-themed rave.
It may cost only $10, but this palette has everything I’ve ever wanted from an eyeshadow collection. It’s got the perfect combo of gold, nude, grey, and pink, which allows me to play around with creating different looks ranging from super natural to shimmery to smoky.
As a lifelong black eyeliner devotee, I never thought I’d find a brown shade that would convert me. This one is the perfect hue of deep bronze. The only thing I love more than the hue, though, is the formula, which goes on perfectly creamy and lasts all day. While you can’t technically get it at the drugstore, it only costs $10, so for the sake of this experiment, I’m counting it.
I’ve already written a 500-word love letter to this product, and it’s been a part of my permanent routine for the better part of a year. It makes my lashes look oomphed in every possible way—length, volume, curl, and thickness—and is truly one of the best mascara products I’ve ever used, drugstore or otherwise.
Real talk: I have this lip gloss in almost every shade the brand makes, and have yet to find a single one I don’t love. They’re perfectly pigmented and aren’t at all sticky after application. I’m especially partial to the sparkly shades, which leave behind a shimmer finish that doesn’t look too much like what I wore in the early ’00s.
If you want to make your routine slightly more affordable without going totally drugstore, peep the products that makeup artists say are actually worth splurging on (and which you can shop the under-$10 aisle for). Plus, how to find the perfect foundation match every time.