Save Or Splurge? Makeup Edition

Save Or Splurge? Makeup Edition

Whether you’re a beauty guru, a stage makeup artist, or just your average Jane Smith/John Doe, you want the best for your buck when you purchase cosmetics and skincare products. When I was a mere fifth grader, I learned the magic of eyeshadow when I convinced my dad to buy me this colorful full face kit from Claire’s. There are a lot of things wrong with that statement, the main one being that my mom, who swears by bougie skincare and makeup products, didn’t stop her only child from smearing cheaply made makeup from CLAIRE’S all over her youthful skin. There was no going back for little ol’ me. I fell in love with makeup and that was the end of it for my savings account (or piggy bank at the time).

From fifth grade to today, it’s safe to say I’ve blown probably a little over $1,500 on cosmetics and skincare or replacing empties of my cosmetics and skincare products. While it’s been a solid decade and a some years, that’s still a lot of money!! Since we’re speaking truthfully here, I probably regret a solid half of it. While it doesn’t seem like a lot when you look at the time span, it’s a lot when you think about the amount of products purchased and/or wasted.

So instead of aching to purchase ridiculous items online or at Sephora, I made myself a little makeup shopping guide so the beauty guru inside of me could live her best life while the adult in me could relax and stop throwing back wine on a Tuesday when she checks her bank account balances. I’ve shortened everything you need to know in the chart below with my explanations listed underneath.


  • Primer: Splurge
  • Foundation: Save
  • Concealer: Save
  • Powder: Save for setting powder, Splurge for loose powder
  • Contour: Save
  • Highlight: Save
  • Blush: Save
  • Setting Spray: Splurge
  • Primer: Splurge
  • Eyeshadow Primer: Save
  • Eyeshadow: Splurge when justified
  • Eyeliner: Save
  • Mascara: Save
  • Brows: Splurge
  • Lip Liners: Save
  • Lipstick/Lipgloss: Save


  • Toners, Serums, Oils: Splurge
  • Eye Cream: Splurge
  • Moisturizer: Save
  • Face Masks: Save for sheet masks, Splurge for clay
  • Cleanser: Save


For Your Face

PRIMER: Splurge! A good primer will cost you somewhere from $20-$40, but definitely don’t exceed that range without good reason if you’re on a budget. I’ve used both drugstore and higher-end primers in the past and found that when it comes to the first layer of product on your face, you want it to be of high quality and craftsmanship. Cheaper primers didn’t last as long as the ones I tried from Sephora brands. The drugstore primers made it look like my foundation was just sitting on my face whereas my high end primer helped my foundation look like a new layer of skin on my face.

FOUNDATION: Save, but splurge if needed! I have used drugstore foundations (Maybelline Fit Me), Korean beauty brand foundation (Clio), Sephora brands (Tarte, MUFE, Nars), and high-end designer foundations (Chanel). Currently, I am thriving with my Chanel Les Beiges foundation. I cannot rave about this more and how it looks like my skin but better. But at the same time, I thrived with Maybelline Fit Me foundation for two years before I switched to Chanel. While there is a noticeable difference in quality and formula when it comes to how it looks and feels by the end of the day, my Maybelline foundations were still incredible products for their price point. So my best advice is: choose your foundation based on your skin and what works for it, not the price or name brand. 

CONCEALER: Definitely save when it comes to concealers. I found that drugstore concealers work just as well as high-end concealers. For example, Maybelline Fit Me concealers are a dupe for Nars concealers. There are some drugstore brand concealers that settle into your fine lines, but if you test it out or read some reviews before purchasing, I am positive you’ll find a drugstore concealer that works as well as a high-end concealer!

POWDER: If it’s setting powder, save. Rimmel’s Stay Matte powder works just as well as Fenty Beauty’s Invisimatte. The quality is obviously lower, but it does its job and there is no drastic difference between the two from my experience so far. If it’s loose powder for baking, I would say splurge a little bit but not too much. When it comes to baking, you want a product of higher quality to avoid looking like you work in a bakery and just stepped out after beating bread dough with powder. I don’t like to bake, but when I do, I notice that high-end loose powders blend seamlessly into the skin while cheaper powders, like the one I owned from E.L.F., tend to stick to the skin in small clusters by the end of the day.

CONTOUR: Whether it’s powder, cream, or contour stick, save. I’ve purchased plenty of bronzers before at different price points and other than pigmentation, there was no major visible difference. With drugstore bronzers, you just have to build up the product to match a high-end bronzer’s pigmentation. However, be sure to purchase bronzers from a reputable drugstore level brand (Maybelline, Covergirl, L’Oreal, etc.) The last thing you need in your life is a muddy orange contour with a shimmery bronzer that looks like it came from my fifth grade Claire’s kit.

HIGHLIGHT: Save, but I won’t stop you from splurging. Ma chérie, I love a high quality highlighter. I see the difference in the formula and “naturalness” of a high end highlighter. But I have to be honest and say there are tons of drugstore highlighters that can do the job. Put this money towards a single high end highlighter or try different ones from drugstore brands.

BLUSH: Oh my gosh, please don’t ever splurge on blush unless you specifically like a certain product’s color, finish, or formula! I have a L’Oreal blush that works beautifully and effortlessly and a Becca blush that is so pigmented I might as well use it as eyeshadow. Both are great, but I find myself reaching for the drugstore blushes much more often. Because they are not as pigmented, I can build it up to the color that I prefer. This makes them look much more natural on the skin too.

SETTING SPRAY: This one is a tough one, because I have not liked a single drugstore setting spray I’ve tried. If a drugstore spray, like the NYX setting sprays, works for you, by all means save and purchase it! But if you really want an effective setting spray, I would say splurge. I have not regretted those purchases, and they keep my makeup looking smooth and relatively brand new throughout the entire day and entire night.


For Your Eyes

EYESHADOW PRIMER: There are tons of options when it comes to priming your lids. You can use foundation, concealer, white eyeshadow in cream or stick form, moisturizer, or eyeshadow primer. With that being said, don’t splurge on a primer for your lids. Be a little creative and see if you can use anything else in your makeup kit. Sometimes, those products work better than a primer!

EYESHADOW: I confess, I’m an eyeshadow addict. Before I had the capacity to purchase high-end palettes, I used to have tons of drugstore brands or shadows from the Sephora brand. From experience, I learned that while you can save and purchase drugstore eyeshadow, the feel and application and pigmentation of the shadows will never be as great as that of high-end shadows. Now I’m not saying go out and purchase a $239 Natasha Denona palette, but a little of her product goes a long way and lasts a long time. On the other hand, it takes a good amount of product and effort for me to make a drugstore palette look as beautiful on my eyes. You may think the colors of drugstore shadows are the same as high-end shadows, but I assure you the pigmentation and blendability are usually quite different when applied. However, there are some eyeshadows that will perform almost identically to a high-end eyeshadow formula if you have the skills and patience to really build and blend (Google Temptalia blog for swatches on dupes for popular eyeshadows). I love splurging on eyeshadow since it is something I use daily so I see palettes or shadows as a form of investment, but in all honestly save if there is a drugstore dupe for something you like.

EYELINER: I use the Kat Von D Ink Liner and NYX pencil eyeliners for crazy colors. While I swear by my Kat Von D liner, the NYX Skinny Marker is a fabulous alternative. These products tend to run out quickly, so I don’t recommend wasting money on expensive eyeliners.

MASCARA: PLEASE, mes chéries. PLEASE do NOT splurge on mascaras if you don’t need to. I have used the Clinique High Impact mascara, Too Faced Better Than Sex mascara, a Covergirl Lashblast mascara, and three different Maybelline mascaras. I actually repurchased two of the Maybelline mascaras numerous times over the past four years. Mascaras have to be changed every 3-4 months to avoid bacteria build up and gunky texture. With a turnover fast, you don’t want to spend $100 on mascaras each year. It is not a worthy investment. Take that money and put it towards something like an eyeshadow palette you can use for a year or more or save it.

BROWS: I definitely believe that it’s worth splurging on something like the Anastasia BH Dip Brow Promenade over a cheap pencil at a drugstore. Brows really make or break your face, and you want them to look as natural as possible or as artistic and beautifully carved as possible, which is why I recommend using higher quality products. Furthermore, products like the Dip Brow Promenade last so long that the cost of constantly repurchasing a pencil will exceed the cost of the promenade.


For Your Lips

LIP LINERS: Save. Unless you know you tend to disrupt your lip products a lot throughout the day and cause your lip line to blur, there is no need for a higher quality lip liner that doesn’t budge. But if you know you need the liner to be practically tattooed on, I would definitely say opt for a quality lip liners that is not too overpriced, such as MAC or Nars.

LIP STICK/LIP GLOSS: Definitely don’t splurge on these items. I found that Maybelline and Revlon lip products are very similar in color to Bite Beauty or Nars if you choose carefully. The formulas and longevity of it on your lips will inevitably be different, but unless it’s a liquid lipstick (which requires a great and quality formula to not appear dry and gross), drugstore brands will do. 



TONER, SERUM, OILS: Most toners I know of are a little pricier, since skincare products are usually not cheap. I think in this situation, you need to purchase what is best for your skin. Personally, I find that the Kiehl’s toners and Drunk Elephant serums and oils work the best with my skin. That is not to say that they are entirely “worth it” when it comes to price points, but I will pay extra if it truly benefits my skin. You don’t want to skimp on skincare, because you want to take care of your biggest and most fragile organ! 

EYE CREAM: To be very honest, I have never heard of an inexpensive eye cream. However, I do believe that reasonably priced eye creams, such as Clinique All About The Eyes, are great products. You definitely do not need to splurge on say a Lancome eye cream or a Shiseido eye cream unless it is absolutely the best thing for your skin.

MOISTURIZER: I would say you can save on moisturizer if a cheaper alternative works for your skin. For example, I always used to use Clinique Dramatically Different gel and lotion. However, they didn’t to that much for me, whereas my Aveeno Daily Complexion lotion worked really well for me this past summer. As long as your facial lotion is not heavily perfumed, full of chemicals, or clogs your pores, it should get the job done well!

FACE MASKS: When it comes to sheet masks, I do not like paying more than a few dollars. I believe that sheet masks are more for cosmetic purposes whereas face masks (clay, etc.) are for skincare purposes. I noticed a drastic change in my skin’s complexion when I switched from inexpensive Freeman’s face masks to Origins face masks. The different in price and quality was unparalleled, confirming that when it comes to taking care of your skin, you should always treat it well. Go ahead, splurge a little.

CLEANSER: I honestly have not noticed too big of a difference between drugstore facial cleansers and high-end cleansers, so I would definitely recommend saving instead of splurging if possible. While high-end cleansers are gentler on my skin, it is not necessary for me to purchase a $40 facial wash if I know a drugstore brand won’t strip me of moisture or leave makeup residue on my face.


That’s it! I hope you enjoyed my guide to spending money on makeup and skincare products wisely. I am a firm believer in living your best life, but there is no reason to break the bank on YSL and Tom Ford makeup if Maybelline and L’Oreal can do the job just as well. Leave a comment below on what your favorite thing to splurge on is (mine is eyeshadow), and I’ll see you in my next one. In the meantime, I’m going to budget for my next eyeshadow purchase. @Natasha Denona, I may or may not be coming for your palettes 😅

Bisou, bisou…







Erica Huang
Erica Huang

Based in New York City, Erica Huang is the creator and voice behind Bouge & Rouge. This blog is a playground of her thoughts where she invites you to join her on her journey through her 20s. Erica shares her lifestyle, fashion and beauty tips, adventures, and personal thoughts with the goal of inspiring others to always persevere and be unapologetically yourself.

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