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How to Shop for Drugstore Makeup

Saturday I was in Lake Tahoe for a wedding.  I was outside enjoying the beautiful mountain views and cooler climate when my sister-in-law texted me and asked if I would do everyone’s makeup. Since I am a wedding makeup artist in AZ, I didn’t have my makeup kit with me.  I also brought the brought minimal makeup for me – a good idea when you are traveling if you do not want your makeup to get damaged during the flight.  Most of the girls in the wedding didn’t have a lot of makeup, so we had to go get some.  Dream come true for me on a Saturday morning!  Seriously!  There was no mall, Sephora, Ulta, or even Target nearby.  The best option was a CVS.  Although it didn’t have my ultimate favorites, it had products that did a great job.  And, the girls wouldn’t have looked any better if we had spent more money!

My experience working with makeup makes it easier for me to shop for makeup regardless of where I am looking – unless we are in the middle of the desert!  However, for the average individual, shopping at a drugstore for makeup can be more challenging because you can’t try the makeup on.  The good news is, it doesn’t have to be impossible.  You can come home with great products.  I bought a basket full of stuff and only ended up not using two products (a brush and a BB cream).  I probably would have used the BB cream, but I decided to use the CC cream I already owned on the mother of the bride.  It’s my favorite and I thought it would look great on her!

basket of makeup

If you want your next shopping trip for drugstore makeup to be as successful as mine, the following tips can help you.

Know Your Needs

Most importantly – know what you need and what you want the product to do for you.  Before I left to shop for makeup, I asked the bride about her skin.  It was oiler and she needed more coverage.  I wanted something similar to Tarte’s Amazonian Clay and found it with Rimmel’s Stay Matte Foundation.  I was drawn to the mouse like formula, which is known to create velvet-matte finishes on the skin – this is ideal if you are young and oily.

wedding makeup artist az

flawless skin when we found the right product for the beautiful bride!

Read the Labels

Since you cannot test products on your skin, you need to read the labels.  This will help you know if you are choosing the right color and product.  Labels help you understand what the product is for and where you use it.  One of the concealers I purchased said “illuminating”.  This means that it is better for under the eyes where you want to brighten rather than all over the face.  Sometimes labels will even tell you if a product is an award winner.  They will even help you understand why you might like the palette.  The NYX “natural” palette that we bought was less than $10 and contained mostly mattes.  It’s an amazing alternative to the Naked Basic palette.

drugstore makeup1


Covergirl BB Cream, NYX Natural Palette, NYX Chubby Eye Pencil, Rimmel Stay Matte Foundation, Covergirl Perfect Point Eyeliner, Loreal True Match Concealer, Burts Bees Tinted Lip Balm

 Get Creative

Drugstore brands have come along way.  However, they do not always have everything that MAC or Makeup Forever will have.  If you don’t have the budget for this, you can get a little creative.  I asked my sister in law to find a lipstick that was orange so I could mix it with concealer.  This is a great way to correct dark circles if you can’t afford Benefit’s Erase Paste or Bobbi Brown’s Peach Concealer.  Since I couldn’t find I matte bronzer, I looked at the dark pressed powders. I lined all of them up and chose the color I liked best!

matte bronzer drugstore


Purchased: Revlon Nearly Naked Pressed Powder

Finding the Right Color

Just because you can’t test on your skin doesn’t mean you can’t come home with something that will work. Since I couldn’t test out the foundation, I chose a lighter foundation and a darker concealer.  I mixed the two together for the perfect shade.  In fact, between the concealers, BB cream, and foundation, I was able create multiple foundations to meet the needs of various skin types.  I realize that you probably don’t get as much delight out of mixing makeup as I do!  So if you want the closest match, try to shop at Ulta.  You can match a prestige brand on your skin.  Then take the bottle to the drugstore section and pick out the closest option.  When in doubt, go a little darker and thin it out with your moisturizer.

bridesmaids makeup

My beautiful sister-in-laws both have different mixture of products on their skin. It’s NOT just one thing. In order to get the right color and texture, I mixed.

Try not to stress when you see the overwhelming amount of products at the drugstore.  I think it’s like shopping for candy!  I can’t get enough, so you can always ask me for help!

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