Splurge or Save: Make-up

Splurge or Save: Luxury Makeup

I like to call myself a minimalist makeup junkie. Which is sort of an oxymoron. A minimalist is someone who owns as few “things” as possible, and a junkie is someone who can’t stop with All The Things. So can one be both?

Yes. I love makeup, and I buy quite a bit of it (junkie), but generally when one piece of new makeup comes in, another is respectfully retired (minimalist).

My makeup philosophy:

Have a signature look, and stick with it.

I’d define my look as “polished.” I was channeling the Kate Middleton vibe long before she stepped onto the scene as the Duchess of Cambridge, thank you very much! Think: defined eyes, neutral (but not Kardashian nude!) lips, blush & bronzer (but no crazy contouring), and a “flawless” base, meaning foundation is a must!

But here's the thing; when you're all about the one look, you want to make sure you get it just right. And while my look is relatively simple (no bright lips or crazy eyeliner shades for me), there’s a certain amount of effort that goes into finding the perfect products!

I’m a fan of quality over quantity in all things, and that especiallypertains to makeup.


Quality doesn’t always always mean luxury makeup! Some of my daily go-to items come from the aisles of Target or CVS!

Wondering when to splurge on the department store brand versus saving some money with the drugstore variety? Let’s do this!



I’ve tried more eyeliners than I care to admit, and I can tell you that in all honesty, I haven’t noticed a difference between my $3 drugstore eye pencil and the $30 versions from Bergdorf’s. As far as I can tell, a black eyeliner is a black eyeliner. (I almost always use black pencil liner because my hair is black; I can’t vouch for other colors, nor am I an expert in liquid liner). It's worth noting that I mainly use eyeliner for tight-lining beneath my top lash line, not to truly line my eyes (I use eyeshadow for that). So I'm perhaps not the ultimate authority on eyeliner!


Do I think that DiorShow Black Out Mascara is one of the best on the market? Sure. But it’s 4x the price of many drugstore varieties and it’s absolutely not 4x better. It's not even 2x better.  Lancôme and Chanel also make awesome mascaras, but they’re not worth their high price either. Maybelline is nearly as good at a fraction of the cost. As for which Maybelline mascara I use, I’m always changing it up; when it’s time to replenish, I simply look for the words volumizing and black, and I’ve never been disappointed.

Eyelash curler

These come in all sorts of price points, but they all pretty much look and work the same. I generally look for the cheapest I can find. Or get one from H&M because they have fun colors.

Makeup Brushes

While generally-speaking, I’ve found high-end brushes to be superior to the drugstore variety, there is an exception: Real Techniques makes the best makeup brushes I’ve ever used, and I’ve been able to find them in almost every drugstore if I forget one while traveling.


While there are some really pretty shimmer options at the makeup department of Nordstrom, you can get the general effect with a budget version! e.l.f. makes a great affordable highlihger!


I wavered on this one—I almost put it in the splurge/department-store category, simply because color match is so important with concealer, and that’s easy to do with the help of a sales person, or at least the ability to try a bunch of different versions at Sephora. But quality-wise, I find the formulas in the drugstore variety to work just as well for covering up under eye circles and trouble spots! I’ve had great luck with CoverGirl concealers. 


If you use powder for shine control, or to set your foundation, you’ll be just fine with something from the drugstore. I’ve never noticed a discernible difference between $8 powder and $40 powder. Regardless of which you use, be careful to use it sparingly, and just in the places you need it—powder can sometimes backfire by settling into fine lines and actually accentuate them!

Lip Liner

Don't waste your money on an expensive lip liner. Assuming you can find a color match for your lipstick, lip pencils (much like eye pencils!) are pretty much the same at any price point.




Eyeshadow, more than any other makeup category, fits into the “you get what you pay for” category. If I forget my eyeshadow palette while traveling, and have to choose between using a drugstore replacement and going without, I’ll go without. Generally speaking, I find drugstore eyeshadows to be either chalky, greasy, or way too glittery. The key to a polished eyeshadow look is blend-ability, and I find the higher end versions blow the cheap version out of the water. Favorite luxury brands: Burberry (Smokey Grey), Lancôme (Taupe Craze or Bronze Amour), and Charlotte Tilbury (Uptown Girl). They’re all super fine, easy to blend, and just … pretty. Though you can’t go wrong with one of Urban Decay’s Naked Palettes (I'm partial to Naked2). 


I’m a complete foundation snob. While I’ve certainly made-do with drugstore foundation in a pinch, I find that they tend to “sit on top of the face.” To say nothing of the difficulty of getting a great color match. Drugstore foundations always feel like paint to me, as though I’m literally covering up my skin when I apply. Not a fan. And while you can still run into that with department store brands, with the right amount of research for your skin type, I promise there are some game-changing foundations out there to give you the “perfect complexion,” without the dreaded cake-face. You just have to spend a little. My all-time favorite is Lancome Teint-Idole Ultra (330N), but Bobbi Brown, Burberry, and Fenty Beauty are close seconds. It's worth noting that if you have a hard-to-match complexion, Fenty has an impressive 40 shades.


I almost put this one in the “Save” category, but it’s so easy to go wrong with bronzer (think too orange, or way too glittery), that you’re really better off making an investment in a higher end version that flatters you. If you’re looking for one without shimmer, definitely try Bobbi Brown (I use Golden Light). For a little shimmer, I like Nars (Languna is my default, though Casino is amazing with a tan).

Eyebrow Powder

A good brow is key to any makeup look, but most of us need a little help shaping what God gave us (especially if you over tweezed in the 90s and early 2000s like I did!) I'm a big proponent for eyebrow powder over the standard pencil. Penciled eyebrows tend to look drawn on, whereas powder is much softer for filling in your natural shape. It goes in the splurge category because I haven't found many drugstore brow powders! Pencil yes, powders, not so much. And the ones I have found are very limited colors; the formula's okay, but I've never found a drugstore match that looks natural for my espresso shade of hair. Enter the ultimate brow queen: Anastasia Beverly Hills. I've been using her Brow Duo Powder in Granite for years.

Lip Gloss

I'm not much of a lip gloss girl, but if/when I do wear them, luxury is absolutely the way to go. I've tried nearly every brand of drugstore lip glosses, and I haven't kept any of them for longer than a week. They're generally too sticky (most often), too slippery, too sheer, too sweet, too glittery, too goopy. The list goes on. If you're a lip gloss girl, there are some good ones out there, but you'll have to spend. Chanel Glossimers are absolute top of the line, as are Dior's Addict Ultra Gloss.


I've had better luck with drugstore lipsticks than lip gloss, but ultimately, lipstick is one area where I'll still spend a little bit more. I find drugstore lipsticks generally too chalky or too sheer. The formula of some of the higher-end brand's formulas are just right for creating that "my lips but better" look, which to me, is the entire purpose of lipstick. My all-time favorite is Bobbi Brown's Sandwash Pink, though I also love Charlotte Tilbury lipsticks in Duchess and English Beauty. Mr. Layne also got me this amazing Givenchy lipstick for Christmas, but the name of the color's worn off, so I can't recommend the exact shades. But it's definitely one of the "nudes," and the formula is outstanding. 



I’ve actually never tried a drugstore variety blush. Why? I was relatively late to the blush game, and I’m still using the first blush I ever purchased (Chanel, Orchid Rose).  Not because I’m thatattached (though I do love it!), but because the darn thing has literally lasted me 6+ years. As in, I’m still using the same compact, and haven’t needed to replace it. For the record, I’m not recommending you keep your makeup for that long. 6 years is probably too long, but the darn thing just keeps giving, keeps working, and I can’t think of a single reason to get rid of it or try something new! In all honesty, when I do run out, I'll probably repurchase Chanel, even though I don't see Orchid Rose as a color option any longer. It's held up so well, especially for compact powder makeup which can crack so easily (both the case and the makeup itself!) 


I’m sort of on the fence about primer. So many makeup gurus declare it “a must,” and I’ve just never noticed a huge difference in the way my makeup looks with or without primer, and I’ve tried pretty much all of them, in every price range! If I had to pick a favorite, I like Charlotte Tilbury's Wonderglow, so I guess that puts it in the splurge category. Though I'm still not convinced primer is worth it in any price range.