sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Which Looks Better – My Most Expensive or My Least Expensive Drugstore Makeup?

By Elise Marquam-Jahns October 26, 2023 Beauty

I’ve never taken the step of actually doing a head-to-head test by taking photos and directly comparing a makeup look done with high-end products vs. a makeup look done with drugstore products, but today is the day! In today’s accompanying video I’ll apply a full face of my least expensive drugstore makeup, take some photos and then we can compare these photos to the ones I took of the high-end makeup look I did a week ago. And then I’d love to know your thoughts on which you feel looks the best.

I’ve already applied the same skin prep and used the same moisturizers and eye primer as I did when I applied my high-end products. But I did use my least expensive face primer which is Elf’s new Poreless Liquid Putty Face Primer. And because I know many of you want to know whether products are cruelty free, let me share that the only product I’m using today that is not cruelty free is from Revlon.

The Inexpensive Eye Look

For my eye brows, I used Elf’s Instant Lift Brow Pencil and the NYX Micro Brow Pencil. And I used just a touch of my “Maybelline Brow Fast Sculpt Mascara” to cover up some white and grey brow hairs. My eyeshadow will be this amazing $3.00 Bite Size palette from Elf in the shade “I Love You a Latte.” One of the reasons I love this palette so much is because these shades are universally flattering. I also love Elf’s Bite Size “Cream and Sugar” palette and the “Pumpkin Pie” palette.

And in order to match the shimmer in the middle of my eyelid look I did with my high end Natasha Denona “Biba” palette, I’ll use just a touch of Elf’s Liquid Metallic Eye Shadow in the shade “Moon” just on the center of my eyelids. I’ll use the darkest shade in Elf’s “I Love You a Latte” palette as my eyeliner and then apply mascara.

The Inexpensive Face Look

Although I love L’Oreal’s Age Perfect Serum Foundation, it’s definitely not my least expensive drugstore foundation. But this one is: my Wet n Wild Photo Focus Foundation. And I’m going to combine a little of the dewy version of this foundation with some of the matte version, so I’ll end up with a slight glow.

Be sure to check out Elise’s YouTube channel which specifically focuses on makeup tips, techniques, and product reviews for those of us 50+. Don’t forget to subscribe!

To help tone down the look of dark circles under my eyes, I’ll first use Elf’s Putty Color Correcting Eye Brightener and over the top of it I’ll tap on Elf’s Hydrating Camo Concealer in the shade “Fair Rose.” Since Catrice’s True Skin Concealer costs the same as the Elf Hydrating Camo Concealer, I’ll use it to cover my age spots and will put it around the edge of my lips to help prevent my lipstick from migrating into the fine lines around my lips.

The very least expensive drugstore contour option is Wet n Wild’s Contour stick, and I’ll be using the shade “Where’s Walnut.” Since this contour stick isn’t quite as creamy as some of my high-end sticks, I’m going to use a brush to pick it up off the applicator and then apply the contour.

The Inexpensive Blush and Highlighter Look

My least expensive drugstore blush is from Elf. I love both their regular putty blush (especially the beautiful pink shade “Bora, Bora”) and their Luminous Putty Blush which gives a little more glow to the skin.

I’ll go with the Elf Luminous blush version today in the shade “Maui” which I think is closest to the shade of blush I used for the video featuring my most expensive products. And by the way, I do wish Elf would put the blush shade names on the bottom in bigger print. Even with a magnifying glass I find it almost impossible to read the shade names!

Although one of my favorite drugstore highlighters is Wet n Wild’s Liquid Mega Glow highlighter, their stick highlighter is less expensive so that’s what I’m going to go with today. It’s the shade “When the Nude Strikes.”  I’ll pick some of this product up with my finger so I can warm it up a bit which will make it easier to apply.

Inexpensive Powder and Lip Options

Now I’ll finish up with a setting powder, lip products and setting spray. I have Elf’s Halo Glow Setting Powder in the pink shade and that’s what I’ll be using in my T-zone. For my lips, Revlon’s Color Stay lip liner will come first, then Wet n Wild’s Silk Finish Lipstick in “Retro Pink” and “Fuschsia Mixed with Blue Pearl” over it. Wet n Wild’s Color Icon Zodiac Gloss in “Libra” will be the finishing touch for the lips.

And last but not least is a wonderful setting spray from Elf. That is, it’s wonderful if you enjoy a coconut fragrance. It’s Elf’s “Dewy Coconut Setting Spray.” I’ll spray it onto my dampened makeup sponge and then pat it over my skin.

The Final Touch

The most expensive products I used today cost $10 each: Elf’s new Liquid Poreless Putty Face Primer and Elf’s Dewy Coconut Setting spray. The total cost of all the least expensive drugstore products I used today was $132.45. And just as a reminder, in the video where I applied my most expensive makeup just the cost of the eyeshadow palette alone was almost what this entire face of inexpensive drugstore makeup cost!

Which Looks Better?

My makeup is now done so let’s take a look at the photos in the video for the final results. You’ll find the photos at this spot in the video: 18:50. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on which looks better – the makeup look using my most expensive products or today’s look using my least expensive drugstore makeup.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Do you have a favorite drugstore makeup brand? What are some of your favorite drugstore makeup products? Are there some parts of your makeup routine where you prefer to use high end products?

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Susan Lovegren

Thanks Elise. A great video and very helpful.

Elise Marquam Jahns

Hi, Susan–

Thanks so much for your kind comment and I’m delighted to know you found the video helpful.


I can’t tell the difference. At my age there are items I splurge on otherwise I watch my pennies. I do notice using a higher end eyeshadow I use less to get the desired look. Easier to get a more saturated color and easier to blend. Oh mascara is another item I might spend a few more pennies. Watching you use ELF products that I never used before I think I’ll try them. Thanks again Elise for another great video.

Elise Marquam Jahns

Hi, Nina–Thank you for your kind words. I really appreciate it. Elf does make some amazing products at a very reasonable price. And you’re absolutely right about the eyeshadow. Often higher end palettes do have greater pigmentation which means we don’t need to apply as much to get the desired results. I must say that the product I’m probably most willing to splurge on is foundation since it’s much more complicated to make. And usually mid to high end foundations have a greater choice of shade options which means we’re more likely to get a good shade match.


I think the high end looks a bit more luminous. Perhaps a hi lighter could achieve Sam on the thrifty brands or mix.

Elise Marquam Jahns

Hi, Ann–

I think you make a very good point! The high end foundation really helps create the more luminous look and using highlighter strategically could certainly very well create a similar look.

Holly Schmitz

Looks pretty much the same. I’ve been a thrifty person forever (to a fault) and don’t spend much on makeup. In fact, I buy most of mine at the dollar store. My girlfriend is so upset that I do this. My skin is great for 76 years young. I do have wrinkles and darker spots but not much compared to others my age and even younger. One thing I splurge on is Retin A which I buy in Mexico. It really helps. I’ve always been a very outdoorsy person (much windsurfing, skiing, water sports, etc.) which tends to damage skin of course. I’m divorced and dating — maybe it’s all the sex! (Just kidding).

Elise Marquam Jahns

Hi, Holly–

I agree that both looks did turn out to look very similar.I think you’ve been very smart to invest more money in skincare. After all, if our skin isn’t in decent shape–no amount of makeup (whether dollar store, drugstore or high end) will overcome that!


The difference between the looks was so insignificant, they both looked great, but the cost difference was huge! I will stick to my drugstore products! Thanks for proving once again that you can look great on a budget.

Elise Marquam Jahns

Hi, Terri–

You’re welcome. We are very fortunate to have so many drugstore products available to us that are really excellent.

The Author

Elise Marquam-Jahns is a professional makeup artist who is passionate about helping women 50+ get their glow back. She is the founder of Boomer and Beyond Beauty and runs the “Boomer and Beyond Beauty with Elise” YouTube channel. Elise has authored the free guide The Top Four Research-Proven Makeup Techniques That Help Us Look Our Best Now.

You Might Also Like