What Happened When I Switched To A Drugstore Beauty Routine

It’s no secret that beauty editors get to try a lot of products — many of them so pricey that, even if they’re amazing, they aren’t things a lot of us would actually buy on the regular. Working in beauty doesn’t necessarily translate to bigger paychecks or less financial responsibilities than anyone else, after all.

So, I decided to spend a week on a beauty budget — treating my once no-holds-barred routine to some much-needed frugality. It didn’t necessarily mean using less (I am a beauty editor, after all), but it did mean spending less. From my hair to my nails, I would only buy drugstore products and see what hidden gems I’d unearth in the process. 

What did I learn? Some discoveries were super exciting (like an amazing matte red lipstick and a face wash that zapped a breakout — both under $7 each). Others were less triumphant (I didn’t find a foundation or shampoo I liked, which is a bummer). Of course, it was only a week, so I couldn’t try everything, but a lot of what I did fall for made the effort worth it.

Ahead, the lessons I learned during my drugstore-only beauty week.

: The perfect red lipstick is just $6 (!)

There are a few top dogs in the drugstore lipstick aisle already — Revlon’s chubby pencils in both bright and neutral shades always impress, and Nyx Matte Lipstick has a great reputation. But I have to admit, I didn’t see this red coming.

In fact, this Milani lipstick is one of my favorite discoveries in this story — maybe even this year — and proof that I haven’t given the drugstore enough credit. It’s a perfect blue-based red that’s incredibly vibrant, richly pigmented, and a comfortable matte texture that stays put without drying out. (For reference, the texture is nearly identical to Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencils and the color is just a touch brighter than my normal go-to red.) 

Further proof: I saw celeb makeup artist Jenn Streicher Friday afternoon and she was equally obsessed with the color when she saw it on me.

Color Statement Moisture Matte Lipstick in 72 Matte Kiss, $5.99, available at Milani.

: Simple acne products can be best

I rarely break out, but when I do, it’s the underground, painful, lasts-for-too-long cystic kind — which are such a pleasure, aren’t they? A week before I started this experiment, I felt a breakout coming, and none of my pricey products were doing shit, so I hit Target and picked up this wash. 

This cleanser could not have impressed me more. It stopped my blemishes from getting as bad as they normally do, helped clear some congestion on the rest of my face, and didn’t dry out my already dry skin — yep, even when I applied my go-to spot treatment for additional exfoliation in the evenings.

Faced with a long flight at the end of the week (anyone else break out when they travel?), I also picked up the wipe formula on my way out of town, which cleanses and treats with the same low level of salicylic acid.

Oil-Free Acne Wash Pink Grapefruit Facial Cleanser, $6.82, available at Target.

: This $10 brow pencil is prestige-level good

Ask any professional makeup artist and they’ll tell you what’s wrong with most eyebrow pencils at the drugstore: the color. Most are too dark in shade and almost all are too warm in tone, a combination that ends in obvious results for the majority of people who use them.

Nyx solved this problem, I discovered this week, with a whopping eight shades of their Micro Brow Pencil. Luckily, this includes the ones often left out of the drugstore ranges, like auburn, ashy blonde, and taupe, which is well-suited for many blondes and brunettes with cool undertones in their hair.

Plus, the pencil is thin, it comes with a spoolie, and the formula is dry, which helps with precision and a longer-lasting result.

Micro Brow Pencil, $10, available at Nyx Cosmetics.

: Splurge on serum, save on moisturizer

I didn’t use this drugstore moisturizer long enough to tell you whether or not I saw an improvement in tone or fine lines, but what I can tell you about it is all positive. It felt lightweight on my skin, never greasy, and soaked in almost as quickly as I smoothed it on. Which means that the broad spectrum SPF 30 didn’t leave a residue, a white cast, or smell at all like sunscreen, for that matter.

Moral of the story: Anything that makes it easy to wear SPF without feeling like you’re wearingSPF is good in my book. I found it just as effective and luxurious-feeling as my favorite $200 cream. If I do splurge on a prestige skin-care product in the future, I’ll make it a serum, not a lotion.

Multi-Correxion 5-in-1 Daily Moisturizer, $23.37, available at Ulta Beauty.

: You do not need to splurge on mascara — ever!

This is a fact I’ve known for years, with some of my favorites being L’Oréal Voluminous (long, defined results perfect for every day) and Maybelline The Falsies (tons of volume, an inky black color, and easily layered for a bit of drama). But, if you want to take it a step further, this Physicians Formula duo is for you.

While reading the instructions, my first question was, “Is this stuff going to get in my eyes?!” but somehow it didn’t. Here’s how it works: You apply a coat of the mascara — which isn’t half bad on its own — then, while it’s still wet, you coat the lashes with these little fiber “extensions” and add another coat of mascara. I also combed through it all with a clean spoolie brush, as it was a touch lot clumpy. (Just be sure to finish before the mascara dries or it’s going to be a big mess.)

The result was a bit intense — hello, lashes — and looked a little like I had just gotten extensions (or was religiously using Latisse). My final reaction: I can get into this for a night out. Okay, like, really get into this.

Tip: The little fibers are black and immediately fall onto your cheeks — which looks weirdly like cheek stubble — so do your eye makeup before any face makeup so you can wipe the area clean.

Physicians Formula Eye Booster Instant Lash Extension Kit, $14.99, available at Physicians Formula.

For the rest of our findings, visit Refinery29.

By: Lexy Lesback

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