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Is It Better to Buy Cheap Makeup or High-End Makeup?

We’ve all been there – staring at the makeup aisles wondering “Should I splurge or save?” When it comes to buying makeup, is it better to go cheap or high-end? Well, let me tell ya, I’ve done lots of research and testing to find out! The answer to whether cheap or expensive makeup is better really comes down to this – it depends on the very product.

Today I’m going to break it all down so you can decide what’s right for you and your makeup needs.

What are the differences?

Ingredients and Formulation

High-end vs Cheap Makeup - Ingredients and Formulation

High-end makeup often contains higher-quality ingredients, which can provide better wear, more pigmentation, and increased comfort. Brands investing in research and development may also offer innovative formulations that last longer and are kinder to the skin.

These premium ingredients often include advanced hydrating elements, natural extracts, and exclusive compounds that enhance the skin’s appearance over time. Additionally, luxury brands sometimes employ rare or patented ingredients that justify their higher pricing.

Meanwhile, many drugstore brands have significantly improved their formulations. They often offer paraben-free, cruelty-free, and vegan options. The gap in quality between luxury and affordable makeup has certainly decreased over the years, with many affordable brands now boasting formulas that are gentle on the skin and environmentally conscious, attracting a wide range of consumers.

Price vs. Performance

Image source: Cosmopolitan

The biggest allure of high-end makeup is the luxury factor. The packaging, the store environment, and the branding all suggest a superior product. But does a higher price tag always guarantee a better product?

Not necessarily. There are countless examples where a cheaper product performs just as well, if not better, than its expensive counterpart. This often leads consumers to question the value added by pricier options, especially when affordable products deliver similar results.

Conversely, certain high-end products are worth their price due to their longevity, color payoff, and blendability. It often comes down to specific products rather than generalizing all makeup by one brand or price range. Sometimes, the investment in high-end makeup pays off with products that offer unique benefits, such as superior UV protection or ingredients that promote skin health.

Brand perception and experience

Holding in the hand YSL beauty for rouge volupté candy glaze

Purchasing high-end makeup often includes a luxury buying experience—think plush stores, personal consultants, and aesthetically pleasing packaging. For some, this experience justifies the higher cost. The feeling of exclusivity and personalized service can enhance the overall satisfaction with the product. It’s not just about the product itself but the joy of the shopping experience.

Drugstore makeup, while lacking the luxury experience, is more accessible and frequently offers promotional deals, making it easier to experiment with new looks without a significant financial commitment. Many consumers appreciate the convenience of purchasing makeup alongside their regular shopping, enjoying the instant gratification of a quick, easy buy.

This accessibility can make beauty more democratic, allowing more people to explore new beauty trends without the intimidation of a high-end boutique.

Comparing product categories


The woman applies foundation to her face

High-end foundations typically offer a wider range of shades and undertones, superior blendability, and long-lasting wear. They might be a better choice for those with specific skin concerns like sensitivity or acne, as they often contain skin-beneficial ingredients. The luxury foundation lines are also more likely to include anti-aging formulas and ingredients that improve skin quality over time.

Drugstore foundations have made great strides in quality and now offer good coverage and durability. However, shade ranges can be limited, and some may find them less refined in terms of formulation.

Despite these drawbacks, the affordability and improving quality make them a viable option for everyday use, especially for those who prefer to change their foundation with the seasons.


Woman applying eyeshadow with a brush

High-end eyeshadows often boast better pigmentation, blendability, and staying power. They come in sophisticated palettes with a wider range of textures and finishes. These products often include luxurious ingredients like silk powders or finely milled minerals that provide a smoother application.

Drugstore eyeshadows can sometimes require more effort to build up and might have less staying power. BUT, improvements in the formulation have made them competitive, with many brands offering vibrant, long-lasting colors. The affordability and innovative packaging designs also attract younger consumers who are looking for trendy but inexpensive options.


Woman putting on lipstick

Lipstick is a category where drugstore brands can rival high-end brands. Many affordable lipsticks offer hydration, rich color, and durability. The difference often lies in the formula’s feel, the packaging, and the scent.

Recent advancements have seen drugstore brands introduce formulas that rival the luxury feel of high-end lipsticks, complete with nourishing oils and rich pigments that last all day. This makes them particularly appealing to budget-conscious consumers who do not want to compromise on quality.

How to make a choice

Opt for high-end products when:

  • You want a luxury experience.
  • Specific ingredients are important (e.g., for skin health).
  • You desire a specific, hard-to-find shade or finish.
  • Longevity and performance are priorities.

Go for drugstore options when:

  • Budget is a concern.
  • You enjoy experimenting with trends.
  • You need a convenient and quick purchase.
  • You are looking for vegan or cruelty-free options (many drugstore brands are leading in this area).

To wrap things up

There are pros and cons to both cheap and high-end makeup, so it really depends on your individual needs. Some things to consider – your skin type, how much you’re willing to spend, and what kinds of looks you like to go for on a daily basis. Figure out what ingredients and formulas work best for your beauty routine.

My biggest piece of advice is to not get hung up on brand names or price tags. Test out different products to see what you actually like best. You might be surprised at what works for your beauty budget.

Kezia Klein

Hey! I'm Kezia, a 27 years old girl who's basically living in a love affair with skincare and makeup. Think of me as that friend who's always down for a makeup haul or the one you text when your skin freaks out at 2 AM. My obsession? Finding that perfect skincare routine that doesn't take an eternity or drain my bank account.