Drugstore vs. Department Store Makeup

Drugstore Makeup | WIRL Project

My Friend, Kymm McLean, is a makeup artist who I work alongside with in the wedding industry and she posted a status that I felt cleared up a lot of questions I’ve always had on makeup, the costs of it, and the chemicals in the makeup, so I thought I would share it with you… Enjoy!

Kymm says: I was asked today if you can accomplish a great makeup face with drugstore brands vs. department store brands. So here we go, I have alot to say about this subject so I’ll keep it as brief as possible. When you purchase a drugstore brand, such as Loreal, you are paying for the ingredients, manufacturing, shipping, stocking and advertising. When your purchase department/boutique store brands such as Mac, you are paying for the same, but also for staffing (including hourly rates that average $20-30 an hour, health insurance benefits, training), extensive marketing campaigns, the gratis or “free” makeup that employees are given, testers, returns, etc. The profit margin to provide these additional costs is in the MILLIONS. I used to work for Mac, I saw the product manufacturing invoice once, the eye shadows were $.50 to produce, they retail for $16. So, to answer that question, are the ingredients of a higher quality? No. They are typically the same, if you don’t believe me, compare labels. However, you can purchase a Loreal lipstick and hope for the best. Or you can go to a Mac counter, sit down, have an artist help you chose the colors best for you, try them on and return if it doesn’t work. Is it worth the additional cost? That’s a personal decision you have to make. Both brands are full of carcinogenics, parabens, dyes, preservatives, and other ingredients that contribute to bio body burden. Are there brands that don’t use these ingredients? Absolutely, and you can find many of them at the drugstore or health food grocery store.

So, final word. If you simply love a department store makeup item, by all means purchase it. Just be aware that it’s not BETTER, it just provides an EXPERIENCE you can’t get at a drugstore : )


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  1. As a former Estee Lauder and Clinique emplyee, I disagree with several points in this article. First of all, beauty advisors working in department stores make no where near $30 an hour! After 5 years of employment, I made 10 dollars an hour plus 3 percent commission. Additionally, there are many brands that test on animals including L’Oréal, a drugstore brand and Lancome, a department store brand. If you prefer cruelty free products that are mostly natural ingrediants, Physicians Formula, a drugstore brand and Urban Decay and Tarte, department store brands, are worth investing in. Also, as a 29 year old who gets mistaken for 22, I can testify personally that department store skincare is far superior to drugstore skincare, although I do like a lot of the natural organic skincare available at Target.

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  2. There’s definitely some makeup I will only purchase from a department store. My Estee Lauder DoubleWear foundation, for example, is the absolute best I have ever tried, and I’ve tried almost every drugstore brand of foundation. It covers better than any of them, hands down.

    Estee Lauder mascara is also amazing, but it has more to do with the shape of the brush than the mascara formula. I buy organic mascara for everyday wear, and save my Estee Lauder for special occasions.

    Otherwise, I find that drugstore brands work just fine for me (except E.L.F., which I think is cheap cr*p and refuse to ever purchase again).

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