Look Like a Million Bucks for Less Than $10  


By: Maya Fleming

Photos by: Serena Pu

Putting together even a basic makeup kit can be a daunting experience. There are so many different products on the market that it’s hard to be sure of what you actually need. Not to mention the often intimidating price tags.

As a college girl, I have kept up my makeup obsession by becoming well-versed in drugstore products. I won’t lie, I was pretty hesitant in the beginning. I wasn’t sure I would be able to find pigmented eyeshadows, or face products with enough coverage. Plus the shade selection found in drugstores is often under-representative of myself and other people with darker skin tones. However, through trial and error I have created a drugstore makeup starter kit that is as fabulous as it is affordable.


To cover up blemishes and keep my oily skin from shining brighter than the sun, a matte, full coverage foundation is key. Fortunately, I have found my skin’s drugstore soulmate in Maybelline’s Fit Me! Matte + Poreless Foundation. Though its coverage is a little less than what I prefer for my total glam looks, the formula’s buildability has made it my go-to for years.


Even after trying high-end concealers such as Mac, my absolute favorite remains Maybelline’s Face Studio Master Conceal. The coverage is great, and the creaminess makes it perfect for both cleaning up brows and highlighting, a quality that is hard to find in drugstore brands. When using a concealer to highlight, be sure to look for a shade lighter than your skin tone. However, when covering blemishes your concealer should blend seamlessly with your foundation.


Though I prefer cream contouring, using powder is much easier for makeup beginners

or the girl without 10 minutes to spare. Just lightly dust a dark shade in the hollows of your cheeks and around the outlines of your face to create some natural-looking shadows. My personal favorite is the Black Radiance Pressed Powder. However, one of the struggles of having dark skin is that many drugstores (cough cough CVS) do not carry this brand, so I have to find a new fave. In the mean time, I’ve been cream contouring with NYX’s Cream Highlight and Contour Palette.



I go through phases with my eyebrows; sometimes I want a messy, natural look, and sometimes I opt for more structure and glam. The only formula versatile enough to keep up with my fluctuating moods is a brow pencil, my current go-to being the NYX Micro Brow Pencil. This thin tool is great for creating natural, hair-like strokes, and the color payoff is amazing. Although the shade I use is a little warmer than I expected, finding a darker (or second) shade may be the solution.

Setting Powder

Whether you need to tame oily skin or simply prevent makeup transfer, setting powder is another makeup kit must. Most people can get away with using just one shade of powder that matches their foundation, but since I highlight and contour nearly every day, I also have a lighter shade to set my concealer. Right now, I am loving the NYX Mineral Set It & Don’t Fret It Matte Finishing Powder

Highlighter and Blush

Though highlighter is a recent trend and blush is a classic product, I would consider neither to be an absolute necessity. However, using them can definitely take your look to the next level. Most drugstore highlighters I’ve tried tend to appear a little chalky, but I eventually discovered a keeper in e.l.f.’s Shimmer Highlighting Powder in the shade Sunset Glow.

For blush, I recommend anything by NYX for great pigmentation without a cakey finish.

Primer & Setting Spray

Primer is a must for oily-skinned folks, but it’s also great for preventing transfer and keeping makeup out of your pores, no matter your skin type. Setting spray is a final defense against transfer, and it helps to blend in all your different powder products to create a seamlessly radiant finish. As a lazy girl, I prefer sprays such as the NYX First Base Primer Spray and Matte Finish Makeup Setting Spray.


In my opinion, high-quality eyeshadows are some of the hardest products to find at a drugstore; most tend to be chalky with horrible pigmentation. However, one exception I’ve discovered is Maybelline’s The Nudes Palette. The colors are perfect for everyday looks, and I am still amazed at the color payoff given the price.

To make my eyes pop, I always follow eyeshadow with a coat of liquid liner. I love the NYX Two Timer Liner because the felt tip is so easy to use, the color is actually black (as opposed to the sad, faded gray of some drugstore liners), and there is a kohl pencil liner on the other end. I then top off my look with my tried-and-true Maybelline The Colossal Mascara


When it comes to my lips, I’m completely hooked on the trendy matte look. My favorite lipsticks are Colourpop’s Ultra-Matte Lipsticks, which are a steal at just $6. The caveat is that they are only available online, so if you are exclusively a drugstore shopper try NYX’s Lip Lingerie Liquid Lipsticks for a decent alternative.

Whether you are experimenting with makeup for the first time or trying to find inexpensive alternatives to your pricey favorites, remember that drugstore brands can be just as effective as luxury varieties. It’s just a matter of finding the products that work best for you.

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Want to see these products in action? Check out the latest video on my YouTube channel and click subscribe to receive more updates.

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