Makeup to spend and save on: designer vs drugstore

Posted in Lifestyle
on July 5, 2017

Designer vs. Drugstore Makeup: Which Products to Spend and Save Money on

Makeup is kind of my thing. If I could afford to, I’d buy and more and more. IF being the operative word, there. As it is, I can’t afford it.

Despite my budget consciousness, I have improved and refined my collection over the last year or so. When I first started wearing makeup it was whatever was cheapest in Boots.

I didn’t do any research on it, I didn’t test it, I didn’t ask my friends. It was just like oh concealer, I needs that, and only 99p, perfect.

And I would use it until it ran out and then buy the exact same thing again. Which is all fine if it actually works and you know how to use it properly.


I have since realised that, if I want my makeup to look nice, I can’t just use any old thing. I have to actually try and test and research and find out what works on my face.

Despite my years of effort, I do not have perfect skin. It’s dry, yet oily, or it starts off dry but looks like I’ve had a mishap with FryLite by the end of the day. And all the breakouts.

All of this means that I can’t get away with just buying a foundation off the shelf and hoping for the best. Sometimes I have to find specialist products and brands which usually means mo’ money.


I can’t afford to buy everything high end, nor would I want to. But I have found that some things, for me, are worth spending the extra money on, and some things are absolutely not.

You might want to brew up, because I’ve compiled a little guide here on what I think is worth investing in, and what I think I can get away with scrimping on, and it is long! Let’s do expensive first:


Probably one you could’ve predicted. I’ve just never found a great foundation that actually evens my skin tone, stays on all day, and doesn’t look cakey.

I probably spend about 10 minutes blending in my foundation and have tried 10292387 techniques to stop it caking, which work pretty well when I use my more expensive foundations. I just think that, as it’s my makeup base, or foundation (!) it’s worth investing in.

It’s in the same way that I would spend a lot more on a good pair of jeans that are comfy enough that I can eat a 3 course meal without straining the zip but still have enough elastane to make it look like I have an arse. I’d invest in something that magical, but I probably wouldn’t invest in, say, a novelty t-shirt that I’m not going to get my money’s worth out of.

My favourite foundation at the moment is Estee Lauder Double Wear. Unless my skin and I have proper fallen out, it’s about the coverage I would like and has a lovely finish that isn’t quite matte but isn’t too dewy, either. It costs about £32.50, which I know is on the pricey side, but I know I can rely on it, and I think it’s absolutely worth it.



I’m talking about blemish concealers as opposed to under-eye ones. More on that later. I’d read awesome things about Vichy Dermablend for covering acne, and I’d used some of Vichy’s products before so thought it was worth a shot.

I used it as a foundation first and it was way too heavy for me, even using the smallest amount. My sister has the same kind of skin as me, so when her makeup artist on her wedding day used Dermablend as a concealer to cover blemishes and redness, I gave that a try and oh my god life changing.

It’s £15 ish which is pretty reasonable if you’re using it as a foundation, but as a concealer it’s not exactly comparable in price to high street ones you can get for a couple of quid, which is why I’ve included it in the ‘investment’ section.

I think if you have concerns like acne and rosacea but don’t want a full coverage foundation that could be too heavy on areas of your face that don’t need as much, it’s worth investing in a specialist product like Dermablend, which was formulated with that in mind.



Ok, so, truth be told, I have some pretty perfect blushers from the high street, so arguably this could go in both sections. However, the ones I’ve been really really impressed with, that I would re-buy, have been a bit more pricey. I was bought the Clinique chubby stick in amp’d up apple as part of a gift for Christmas and it isn’t something I would have bought for myself but oooh heck, I would now!

It’s the perfect colour for me because I’m so pale and the stick form makes it easy to put it exactly where you want it. I know you can get dupes for this on the high street, but I’ve just come to trust the formula, because it is so very blendable and stops me looking like some kind of weird China doll with circular blush.

I also bought Daniel Sandler’s watercolour blush because it was in a few of Pixiwoo’s earlier videos and I will never look back. This is awesome and definitely worth the money because it lasts forever.


Finishing Powder

For years I used a really cheap brand of loose powder to set my makeup, but I don’t think I really understood what I needed powder for. And that is for mattifying as well as setting, taking that delightful greasy shine off my forehead and making sure my meticulously applied concealer doesn’t slide off.

When I learned this, I realised the cheaper one wasn’t really bringing much to the table. I had a gift voucher for Selfridge’s and intended to buy Laura Mercier’s translucent powder because I’ve heard amazing things about it, but they didn’t have it in stock when I went.

So I bought the Amazing Cosmetics one instead on a whim because it has amazing in the name. And it so is!

You can see from one of the pictures I’ve got through to the pan at the bottom, I use it every day. It’s also brilliant for touch ups and doesn’t make my makeup look cakey when I re-apply to blot out the shine. I’ve found it really hard to find good translucent, or pale people powder on the high street.


Liquid Eyeliner

I am shockingly bad at applying eyeliner. Doesn’t matter how many tutorials I watch, I cannot do it. BUT when I was in London a while ago, I went to Space.NK because I wanted the Eyeko brow gel.

I spotted the eyeliner pen and got that as well. It’s literally like a felt tip and it is so easy to use. I wouldn’t say my application is perfect because tools can only do so much, but it’s the formulation I’m impressed with.

I’ve bought cheaper liquid eyeliners before and they just cracked and fell during the day. This stays put until I take it off at the end of the day. Couldn’t recommend enough and probably won’t buy another liquid eyeliner ever.


Designer vs. Drugstore Makeup: Which Products to Spend and Save Money on // The North Left

So, those are my ‘investment’ buys – things I think are worth the money. I’m absolutely not against cheaper high street/drugstore brands, quite the opposite, it’s just that these are the products that are quite important to me when I’m doing makeup.

The other products, like eyeshadows and lipsticks, are important to the overall look of my makeup, because it’s generally where I add colour, but I’ve found that the cheaper brands are just as good, if not better, than the high end stuff. Read on.


I have some expensive lipsticks that I love – Tom Ford, YSL and the crew. I do love the formulation and the colour, the pay off, and the staying power of these, BUT I’ve received them as gifts from friends and family.

I’d be really hesitant to spend that amount of money on a lipstick for myself. I’d go back to the shop every week to look at them and maybe test them, but I probably wouldn’t buy. Love them as I do, just not on my budget.

I change the colours I use all the time, so I can’t justify spending as much on a lipstick as I would a foundation when I’m not going to get the use out of it.

Also, I’ve not really found the need to. It’s nice to have those higher end ones in my choice, but I’m just as likely to pick up one of my Topshop, Revlon or Rimmel ones, too.

I’ve never noticed my cheaper ones not staying on as long as my expensive ones, I touch them up the same amount (which is never, btw, who cba?) and, I find them equally as moisturising on my lips. So I wouldn’t necessarily spend the money on an expensive lipstick because I can find what I need from a lipstick for a fraction of the price.



I love my Sleek palette, and recently bought one for my sister. I think they’re great gifts for people who want to start a makeup collection, or who want a minimal one, because you could buy 1 or 2 of these and have every shade you need.

They pay off, they stay put, and they’re extremely blendable. And they’re £8.99.

I also found this Maybelline colour tattoo when I was looking for a similar product to a new one from Tom Ford. I’ve never tried the Tom one so I couldn’t say how could of a dupe it is, but it looks similar to pictures I’ve seen of it, and it’s the look I was after. Just a wash of metallic colour, but not too much that it looks scary in daylight. This stays on really well but even when it starts to move toward the end of the day, I like how it looks.



Highlighter is probably one of my favourite things ever. We can all look so Instagrammy and youthful and glowy. I have like 6 highlighters that I use regularly.

One is from NARS which I use exclusively for nights out because it looks nice under the lights but terrifying during the day. One is from a high end brand which I wouldn’t buy again because it’s a little too subtle. The rest are high street.

The Topshop glow pot is a bit of a cult thing, so I hear. I love it. It’s got the perfect amount of gold in it that it looks natural on my pale skin – I hate highlighters that are too silvery because we look a bit alien. But this makes it look like you’ve got a nice sun glow or something.

And it’s £10. Win win. It blends extremely well and I don’t see why I would spend more money on a highlighter when I’ve got this gem that’ll last me ages, too.



This time I’m talking about the under eye stuff. I have quite dark skin under my eyes compared to the rest of my face. I’m quite blue under there. So I need something nice and peachy to counteract it.

I tried the Healthy Mix foundation and I really like it but only for days when my skin is better, but the concealer is something else.

It is exactly the right shade for my under eyes and instantly lifts that whole area. It stays on all day, and even though it does crease slightly, it’s nothing a little touch up can’t fix.

I just love what this does to my whole face. I tried a more expensive one which only came in 3 shades and the fairest wasn’t fair enough and made me look weird.

I like something liquidy under my eyes because I think cream products would crease too much. Don’t tell Bourjois but I’d probably spend more on this than the £6.50 it costs.



Oh the seemingly endless search for good mascara. Last year I was at the point where I’d bought about 7 mascaras which I hated to see wasted, so continued to use them even though they didn’t work for me.

Seemingly, makeup stores don’t often do testers anymore (I’ve asked), so I had to buy full size. I had a MAC one which I loved but wanted to try something else because I did find it slightly drying on my eyes.

I tried loads of brands and they were all just OK, I liked the application and the formulas were fine. It’s jus,t because of my aforementioned and newly discovered hooded eyes, they all transferred, so I had this black smudge under my eyebrows by lunchtime.

I don’t know what made me buy it, but I tried the Bourjois Volume Reveal one with the mirror. Mascara perfection. The brush is great, the formula doesn’t clump or dry out, and most importantly for me, it doesn’t transfer!

Sometimes you find with mascara like this, it won’t come off and you get serious panda eyes the next day, but this removes so easily, I will definitely re-purchase and it would take a lot to convince me to buy an expensive brand again.


Eyeliner pencil

I am slightly better with pencil eyeliner than I am with liquid, mainly because I can smudge it. I’ve recently discovered I can actually tightline and it won’t blind me, so that’s my new thing and I wanted a new eyeliner for it.

Again, I’ve tried lots of more expensive brands of eyeliner and they’re all just fine, but I really like Barry M Waterproof pencil. It goes on easily, it smudges easily, it doesn’t move during the day. What more do you want from a pencil?

Yes, expensive ones I’ve tried have done all that, too, but why spend the money on it when this one does the job for £4 The only thing I would say is that it is difficult to get off, because I don’t like to rub my eyes too much to remove makeup but small price to pay for good eyeliner.


Eyebrow pencil

I have problems with eyebrow products, because my hair is so fair and my eyebrows are fairly thick and they don’t have an awful lot of shape unless I’ve just had them threaded. I find a lot of products – high street and high end – have a lot of red in them, which isn’t a look I favour. I need ashy tones.

I had the absolute perfect one from MAC, which I still buy, but I’m afraid to rely on it in case it gets discontinued. So I randomly bought the Maybelline Brow Precise Micro pencil and what a babe it is. Great tone, quite hard and waxy, perfect size for drawing in little hairs. And £7.99!



Please tell me if you have found nice, well performing products for cheaper than the ones I have here because I completely rely on the internet now for makeup recommendations.

And obviously the less money I spend on makeup, the more I have to spend on weekends in Europe (shopping trips to Manchester) and new gastronomical experiences (Domino’s double decadance crust).


This is just what I’ve found to work for me over the years, but I would love to know you guys’ experiences – do you have like the perfect lipstick that never moves and stays all lovely and moisturising but costs a bomb?

Do you use a cheap concealer that tricks you into believing you do have clear skin and get the appropriate amount of sleep? Don’t keep it to yourself 🙂

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1 Comment

  • Bablofil

    Thanks, great article.

    July 10, 2017 at 06:20 Reply
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