Drugstore vs Department Store Makeup

Makeup shopping? We can help. Learn if department store makeup really is better than the drugstore version

Is department store makeup really worth the extra cost over drugstore makeup?

We’ve all heard the old adage, “you get what you pay for.” But does this same bit of wisdom apply to cosmetics? After all, how different can two formulas be when the basis for most makeup consists of titanium dioxide, magnesium stearate, and pigments?

Proponents of drugstore makeup contend that high-end cosmetics are little more than glossy advertisements and packaging. Not so, argue naysayers, who claim that while drugstore makeup may appear quite pretty, their quality of ingredients are often lacking.

And there are in fact many low-end replicas – called “dupes”, of high-priced brands that will achieve similar looks, although the overall product quality is inferior to the expensive version.

Whatever side of the cosmetics aisle you find yourself standing on in the great makeup debate, there’s still so much hard, scientific facts we could all stand to learn. And for that very reason, we’ve turned to professionals — namely cosmetic chemists, to help shed some light on cost vs quality as we determine whether department store makeup is truly superior to drugstore products.

Department Store Quality Ingredients

According to Soraya Ali-Hope, cosmetic chemist and president of Octagon Marketing Group, the sourcing of the raw materials, including their county of origin, and whether they’re synthetic or natural, is the basis for the overall quality of a cosmetic product.

In fact, low-end makeup manufacturers tend to source synthetic raw materials from overseas distributors as they can be obtained more cheaply. Alternatively, high-end cosmetic manufacturers source quality, natural materials that offer more technologically advanced features and are usually, if not always, more highly pigmented.

Overall, department store makeup consists of cleaner ingredients, as well as less “filler” products – low-quality chemicals that take the place of higher quality ones which are necessary for a formulation.

And, according to Neal Kitchen, the COO and chief geneticist at HydroPeptide, if a cosmetic contains even a trace amount of a beneficial ingredient, the company can make the marketing claim that it’s part of the formula, without disclosing the actual percentage of the ingredient That means if you’re looking to achieve a specific result, such as diminishing wrinkles, its especially important to purchase high-end over drugstore, as trace amounts of collagen or peptides are not going to have the same anti-aging benefit as a well formulated high-end brand.

Makeup Artist Involvement

Department store cosmetics often involve makeup artists in the formulation of products from start to finish, utilizing their feedback and recommendations to create a cosmetic that adheres to overall demand and solves a specific problem.

Drugstore cosmetics, although they may feature the name of an artist or influencer, are usually not formulated from start to finish with this person’s input but are instead simply tested and promoted by them. So just because the name of your favorite beauty guru appears on the product, doesn’t attest to its overall quality.

Should you Ever Buy Drugstore Makeup?

There are instances when you are in fact better off buying drugstore makeup over high-end. For instance, drugstore brands often have the trendiest colors and styles and often change their looks from season to season. Since high-end cosmetic companies invest more time and resources into creating a quality product, their formulas and colors won’t change nearly as often as drugstore brands.

Low-end cosmetic manufacturers can create a more “disposable” product, so for this reason they’ll often have the trendiest colors and up to the minute looks. So, if there’s a beauty trend you’ve been dying to try, or a color you’re intrigued by but aren’t sure if it’ll work for you, give it a go with a drugstore product.

Splurge vs Save Beauty Products

Here’s a rundown on different types of beauty products and whether you’re better off buying from a high-end makeup counter, or a low-end drugstore shelf.

Skincare: Splurge, due to department store formulations will contain higher concentrations of and superior quality of pricy ingredients such as retinol, collagen, and peptides.

Foundation: Splurge, as department store foundations offer a larger range of colors as well as superior formulations that provide for better coverage and all-day wear.

Powder: Splurge, since department store powders are more finely milled and low-end drugstore powders often contain talc, an irritant and potential carcinogen.

Makeup Brushes: Splurge, as department store brushes are made from natural fibers whereas low-end drugstore brushes use synthetic fibers which are less durable.

Lip gloss and Nail Polish: Save, as drugstore brands offer trendy colors and similar formulations to high-end.

Mascara: Save, as mascara will need to be thrown out after three months, even in high-end formulas, so its short shelf-life won’t justify it’s high cost.

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