So you remember how what’s probably been a year and a half now I decided to upgrade my makeup to the fancy stuff? I was not disappointed, and these are purchases I have continued to make again and again. The thing is, most people aren’t at the same place financially all the time. You go through your ups and downs. And after the move into our first house, an expensive waste of a trip to Toronto, and two dogs all in the same month, we’re not doing as well as we were a few months ago.
So when I volunteered to do the hair and makeup at my company’s annual gala this year, I took it as an opportunity to try out some cheaper brands and see how they compare to the good stuff I use on a regular basis. The results I found were actually pretty surprising.
Let’s start with eyeliner. The expensive stuff I’ve been using is Kat von D’s Autograph Liner, and it costs about 28$. The formula has huge color payoff and lasts all day, and I love the brush. It’s a fantastic liner. When I was in Walmart I tried to find the cheapest eyeliner that took the same form, which is a brush you dip into a little pot. What I found was Wet n Wild Mega Liner, for only four bucks. Even in the world of drug store makeup a 4$ eyeliner is pretty damn rare. For sure what you get in the expensive brand is awesome packaging. I am a huge sucker for that, and I actually don’t mind paying a bit more for something that looks awesome. The surprising thing is though, when you consider the actual product itself, they’re really not all that different. I’ve tried the Mega Liner both with and without primer underneath, and the results are almost the same. It lasts perfectly all day with primer, and has some flaking by the end of the day without. Fading is nil. The only real difference I can tell is the brush. The brush doesn’t have such a fine point on it, so it picks up a lot more of the product. This can result in big messy globs if you’re not careful, and it’s a tiny bit trickier to get those precise little points on the wings, if you do it in that style. But as long as you make sure to wipe off the brush and try to keep a steady hand, I find that the difference is so minimal that until I have enough money to spend on cool packaging alone, I’ll be sticking with the Mega Liner. This also reaffirms that if you’re willing to pay for a good primer, it doesn’t really matter as much what you’re putting on top of it. It really does do a lot to level the playing field between the cheap and expensive brands.
I bought a cheap foundation at the same time. I chose Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse for about 14$ because years ago I actually googled “what is the best foundation” and pretty much everybody said this one. Once again, the packaging sucks next to the big robust purple case with all the the animals and cool font on it from Urban Decay’s Surreal Skin cream to powder foundation, which is about 40$. That much goes without saying. One negative of the Urban Decay though is how little you get. To be sure, it lasts longer than you would expect, it really does. It gives you a much better payoff so you don’t need as much. But come on, it’s 40$. That’s not as gross as what you would pay for, say, Clinique, but it’s still pretty gross and it hurts when you pay for it. I expect a little more for my pain. I also find the brush a bit awkward. But it really is a very good product, with good coverage, a light feel, and a look that is more skin than makeup. I like it a lot. The Dream Matte Mousse is a little bit crumbly, and messy if you don’t use a foundation brush. But overall I find that the quality is very similar. It feels nice going on, you don’t use very much if you use a brush, and I feel like the coverage is also good. Again, it looks like skin more than makeup. The real difference between the two, where I find you really have to make a decision, is the color. Surreal Skin is the color of a person. It’s the color of my face, and that’s really important. Dream Matte Mousse is the color of…someone’s idea of a person maybe. It’s close, but I’m not quite that neon. It’s odd, like skin infused with just a hint of orange fake tan, even though I got the second lightest color they have. This problem has been consistent with virtually every drug store foundation I’ve ever tried. So if you are the color of Dream Matte Mousse, I would say that this is a great buy. You won’t notice much of a difference. I’m not, but the difference isn’t actually so bad that I think anyone would notice, as long as I remember to use it everywhere and not leave patches behind. So I do believe I will keep buying this, at least as long as I still have my summer tan and I’m a little bit broke. But drug store makeup brands – can you PLEASE start making your foundation people-colored? I’m not orange and I don’t want to be!
In both the eyeliner and the foundation I tried, the cheap ones were of surprisingly good, and close enough to the expensive brand. If packaging isn’t all that important to you I highly recommend you try these as an alternative to that guilty feeling you get after leaving Sephora, at least if you’re temporarily broke. You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to try to put the cheap stuff inside the packaging of the fancy stuff. Take that. Cleverness wins.