Beautiful or Bust: 5 Drugstore Substitutes


You don't need a name brand to get top-notch results.“You don’t need a name brand to get top-notch results.iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Ask my parents which brands they prefer and you’ll get a snapshot of the products that were part of my childhood. For decades, my mom and dad have been stocking the same brands on their cupboard shelves.

They’re not alone. For generations, consumers have been loyal to their favorite products. In fact, at least one study reports children as young as 2 years old can easily identify brands. And, by age 3, they’re forming opinions that certain brands can make them seem stronger, smarter or more charismatic. It’s little wonder that wearing your favorite designer lipstick makes it easier to enter a crowded room.

If you’re a loyal fan of name-brand skin care and cosmetics, it may be time to take a second look at some budget-saving imposters. While not every product you love will have a drugstore substitute, we’ve uncovered five that offer the same beauty boost — without the high price.


  1. Eye Shadow
  2. Mascara
  3. Facial Masks
  4. Eyeliner
  5. Lotion
  6. Lot's More Information

5: Eye Shadow

If you like to apply makeup to suit your mood — flirty, sultry, studious — then head to the local drugstore. There, you’ll find rows of eye shadow in nearly every shade, sporting matte and shimmer finishes. For $5 or less, you can buy a fun new color that doesn’t require a serious commitment. Wear it once a week or once a month; for the price, you’ll still feel like you’re getting your money’s worth.

Although you may need to experiment with your off-brand eye shadow selections, look for highly pigmented, filler-free versions. They’ll give you coverage and blend that’s similar (and sometimes better!) than the pricey makeup counter brands — especially if you toss out the free applicator and use a high-quality makeup brush.

4: Mascara

Many professional makeup artists use a drugstore brand mascara.“Many professional makeup artists use a drugstore brand mascara.iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Love long, full lashes, but don’t want to pay a fortune for them? Head to the drugstore and pick up a handful of mascara options. From neon hues just right for hitting the dance floor to career-appropriate shades of brown and black, drugstore mascara is hard to beat — especially on price. While luxury mascaras can cost upwards of $20 a tube, the drugstore versions are usually priced around $5 each.

Better still, you’ll be more likely to toss out a drugstore mascara tube when it expires in 8 to 12 weeks. By doing so, you’ll avoid pesky and potentially dangerous bacteria build-up. And then you can simply move on to the next value-priced tube.

3: Facial Masks

Facials can moisturize, help fight blemishes or simply give your skin a glow. Unfortunately, you’ll pay about $200 for one at a day spa. Or you can opt for the DIY version for about $2. Is nice price, non?

Check drugstore beauty aisles for single-use facial masks, which include clay, avocado and oatmeal concoctions, as well as skin-calming mineral mixes. Not only are these masks ideal for an at-home skin boost, they’re great for taking along when you travel. Simply tear open the no-spill package, apply and let dry. In 20 minutes, you’ll feel like a whole new you (without busting your bank account).

2: Eyeliner

A drugstore will have just about any type and color of eyeliner you're looking for.“A drugstore will have just about any type and color of eyeliner you’re looking for.Hemera/Thinkstock

Think creamy, color-rich eyeliners exist only in the realm of specialty cosmetic stores? While that may once have been true, today you can find a wealth of eyeliner options at nearly any drugstore. From liquid eyeliners that create bold boundaries to pencil eyeliners that feather on natural looking contours, these products are at least half the price of luxury brands — and feature the same staying power, performance and ease of application.

In fact, if you aren’t distracted by vivid packaging and really search the shelves, you may even find an eyeliner bargain amongst the drugstore finds. There are drugstore eyeliners in a range of colors that only cost about $2.

1: Lotion

Even if you had Beyonce’s bank account, would you buy a 6.7-ounce jar of body lotion for more than $400? That’s exactly what high-priced body cream would set you back.

There are a number of drugstore substitutes that will do the trick, though. All are reasonably priced (usually less than $10), but be sure to check the ingredients list for a few key players that make them nearly identical to the big-priced brands. You’ll want active ingredients such as niacinamide, plus vitamins E and C at the top of the list for their hydrating and antioxidant qualities. Find these, and you can smooth your skin and soothe your budget.

Lot's More Information

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  • 10 Fashion Icons for Real Women
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  • Almasi, Mary Rose. "The Top 21 Drugstore Beauty Bargains." (Aug. 21, 2012) Allure.
  • Calonia, Jennifer. "Drugstore vs. Designer Makeup: When to Save and When to Splurge." Jan. 30, 2012. (Aug. 21, 2012) US News and World Report.
  • Comiteau, Jennifer. "When Does Brand Loyalty Start?" March 24, 2003. (Aug. 21, 2012) Ad Week.
  • FutureDerm. "Are Bath and Body Works Lotions Really Better than Drugstore Lotions?" (Aug. 21, 2012)
  • Glow My Way. "Cheap vs. Expensive Eyeshadow: What Do You Get for the Money?" Oct. 24, 2011. (Aug. 21, 2012)

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