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Makeup Products That Are Worth – Or Not – Splurging On

By Elise Marquam-Jahns July 27, 2023 Beauty

Have you ever purchased a drugstore product and felt it was even better than some of its more expensive cousins? Or have you ever purchased a high-end product that just blew you away and you’ll always repurchase it?

I personally believe that there are categories of makeup products that you definitely don’t have to splurge on to get great results and there are other categories of makeup products that we’re better off spending a little more money on because the results are noticeably better. And that’s what we’ll be exploring today.

These are the factors I feel are most important to take into account when determining whether a category of makeup is worth splurging on:

  1. Are the products easy to apply?
  2. Do they help us look our very best?
  3. Are they long lasting?
  4. Are there a great many color options?
  5. Are the formulas high quality?

Eyebrow Products and Eyeshadow: Splurge or Drugstore?

Eyebrow Products

Let’s start with makeup products for our eyes – specifically for our eyebrows. Some of us like very fine eyebrow pencils and others will always gravitate to powders. But I feel that, in general, eyebrow products are not worth splurging on.

Now, you may absolutely disagree because you have a high end brow product that is your Holy Grail that you’ll never part with. And I understand that we all have our personal favorite products that we won’t part with even if they’re more expensive.

However, in general, most of us can find and be very happy with an inexpensive eyebrow product. Overall, NYX, Elf and Maybelline probably make the greatest variety of good drugstore eyebrow options. So there is definitely a wide array of really good drugstore priced eyebrow products out there.


Now let’s talk eyeshadow. This category is a bit tricky because I think it really depends on how much you use and like powder eyeshadow. There are certainly lower priced eyeshadow brands that are very good, including eyeshadows from Colourpop, Juvia’s Place, Wet and Wild and many of the eyeshadow palettes from Bh Cosmetics, Elf and Milani.

But, in general, if you’re looking for the eyeshadows that are the easiest to apply, have the greatest pigment and color payoff and are more buttery, smooth and blendable, it may be worth it to splurge on perhaps one or two good quality eyeshadow palettes. And eyeshadow palettes made in Italy often have the highest quality performance.

I think there are other factors to keep in mind as well. Really lower cost eyeshadows may not be made in facilities that are as clean, and lower grade ingredients might be used that are not as safe. So if you love eyeshadow and want to invest in one or two top quality eyeshadow palettes, some of the brands to keep in mind are Huda Beauty, Natasha Denona, Pat McGrath, Sydney Grace, Oden’s Eye and Viseart. Each of these brands has exceptional formulas that glide on and consistently perform well.

Mascara, Eyeliners and Lipliners: Splurge or Drugstore?


Our next category is mascara. Of all the different makeup categories out there, this is the category where drugstore brands really shine. Over the years, I think we’ve all found a drugstore mascara that’s been a real favorite. Maybelline, Cover Girl, L’Oreal and Essence make exceptionally good mascaras that very often outperform their high-end counterparts.

The only caveat with this category, however, would be for those of us with sensitive eyes. If our eyes are easily irritated, we may need to opt for a clean beauty brand over both drugstore and high-end mascaras.

And interestingly, what really makes the biggest difference in how a mascara performs is the brush. If you’re more interested in a lengthening mascara, a mascara that has a longer, thinner wand with plastic bristles will most likely be your best bet. If you’re more interested in creating more lash volume, a larger, fluffier brush will be a better option.

Eye and Lip Liners

Eyeliner pencils and lip liners are categories where we don’t have to splurge. Basically, these products are pretty much made by the same manufacturers. The only advantage that high-end lip liners and eyeliner pencils might give us is a wider choice of colors.

Foundation: Splurge or Drugstore?

Now, let’s move on to face products. First, foundation. There are some great drugstore foundations out there. Wet and Wild’s Photo Focus Foundation, Catrice’s True Skin Hydrating Foundation and L’Oreal’s Age Perfect Serum are some of my favorites. However, of all the makeup products we’re talking about today, this is the one makeup category where it might make the biggest difference to splurge. And I say that because foundations are just a lot more complex to manufacture.

There are more ingredients and there are more formula options such as matte, satin or dewy. And in this makeup category there has to be a wider choice of color options since our skin can be fair, light, medium, tan, or deep and each of these skin tones can have warm, cool or neutral undertones. That’s a lot of different bases to cover!

If we want to have at least one foundation that’s a perfect match for our skin, is lightweight, long-wearing, blends out beautifully and has good coverage, we are most likely to find that foundation at a higher price point. I think for many of us it’s worth it to have at least one of these really top notch, higher priced foundations on hand when we absolutely want to look our best.

Some that come to my mind immediately are Nars’ Light Reflecting Foundation, Charlotte Tilbury’s Beautiful Skin Foundation and Georgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation. And a couple of top notch clean beauty options are the Kosas Revealer Foundation and Doll 10’s Skin Perfecting foundation.

Blush, Contour and Highlight: Splurge or Drugstore?

What About Blush?

I love my higher end Daniel Sandler Liquid Blushes, Rare Beauty Liquid and Cream blushes and my Doll 10 cream blushes, but drugstore brands Elf and Flower Beauty also have some great options. So for me, the category of cream or liquid blushes is a toss-up. And since I don’t use powder blushes, I can’t really comment on them. But if any of you do use powder blushes, I’d love to know your thoughts on whether it’s worth it to splurge on powder blushes.


For cream contour products, I would definitely lean toward a splurge. Usually, cream contours at a higher price point are creamier which makes them easier and faster to apply. And there’s definitely a greater range of color options from which to choose. Em Cosmetics’ cream contour stick in “Terra” is one of the best as are the Rare Beauty contour sticks. And Huda Beauty’s Tantour Contour cream is outstanding.

The one drugstore product I’ve found that would rival these higher priced products is Makeup Revolution’s Cream Contour.


The drugstore brand Elf has really changed the playing field in the highlighter category. If we’re talking liquid or cream highlighters, Wet and Wild’s Highlighter and Elf’s new Halo Glow Liquid Filter are excellent options.

However, I think it’s a different story with powder highlighters. In general, I think it’s worth splurging on a powder highlighter since higher priced powder products can be smoother, softer, easier to apply and create a soft glow without looking glittery. And this softer look can certainly be more flattering on our more mature skin.

Lipstick and Lip Gloss: Splurge or Drugstore?

There are great drugstore options for both lipsticks and lip glosses so I would say that this is a category where we don’t need to splurge. Flower Beauty, Wet and Wild, Revlon, L’Oreal and Maybelline all have a variety of great lipstick formulas and a wide range of colors.

Powders and Makeup Brushes: Splurge or Drugstore?

The last two makeup categories I want to cover today are powders and makeup brushes.

Setting Powder

There are some wonderful drugstore options for setting powder, including Wet and Wild and Maybelline, but it’s definitely worth the splurge to invest in a higher-end finishing powder. Finishing powder makes a noticeable difference in our final makeup look by melding all the products together with a soft, lovely glow.

And a product in this category that is the real stand out is Hourglass’ Ambient Light Finishing Powder that comes in a number of different shades and sizes.

Makeup Brushes

And finally, let’s focus on makeup brushes. The two kinds of brushes that are worth the splurge are a good foundation brush and eyeshadow brushes. Higher quality brushes are especially important to use in these two areas because they create a far more flattering makeup look, and they’ll also make the makeup application process quicker and easier.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What are your favorite drugstore products? What makeup products do you feel are worth splurging on?

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I could never find a drug store Mascara that I liked. I finally got Huda’s dual ended mascara based on a friend’s recommendation –and WORLD of difference. Doesn’t bother my sensitive eyes and looks really nice on.

Elise Marquam Jahns

Hi, Ali–

Thanks so much for sharing your great mascara find! That’s really helpful information for many of us who have sensitive eyes.

Linda Garrett

I like Maybelline DreamFresh BB – it’s like a light tinted moisturizer with an SPF30 sunscreen. I wear minimal make-up – love the Thrive Causemetics mascara and other products and Jones Road blusher and cover-up pencil.

Elise Marquam Jahns

Hi, Linda–

Thanks so much for sharing some of your favorite products. It sounds like you have a great makeup routine that works wonderfully for you.


The only expensive product I buy is YSL Touche Éclait for disguising dark undereye areas, it really is worth it. I also buy good perfumes.

All of my other makeup products are mainly budget friendly brands, any time I have tried expensive products I have been left with tight feeling skin, blocked pores or breakouts. I gave up wearing foundation in daytime a number of years ago and find a tinted moisturiser with SPF and a little pressed powder on top is good.

Elise Marquam Jahns

Hi, Linda–Thanks so much for sharing one of your favorites and your routine. The YSL Touche Eclat certainly is an amazing long time cult favorite and I’d definitely agree with you that it’s worth the splurge!

Deborah Powell

I prefer clean makeup because I’m putting it on my face and some makeup has some pretty harsh ingredients. Just my preference.

Elise Marquam Jahns

Hi, Deborah–We’re fortunate that there are some wonderful clean beauty brands offering some great products. And this beauty niche only keeps growing. I recently did a video titled “Using the Best of the Best Clean Beauty Products in Each Makeup Category” and really love–and regularly use–many of these great products. In case you might want to check out the video, here’s a link:

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.

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