Best Beauty Bargains: High-End Makeup on the Cheap


Makeup dates back to the days of the ancient Egyptians, and as you may have guessed, we’ve been able to make some improvements on it over the centuries. These days, achieving makeup maven status only takes a quick trip to your local store and perhaps a how-to video from your favorite beauty blogger, but it can still get a little complicated. Why does that one coveted brand cost three times as much as other brands making the same thing? Is there really a difference in the pigments between one nude eyeshadow palette and another? Aren’t all matte lipsticks going to give you the same effect?

If you’ve been asking yourself these questions, we here at CouponSurf have just what you need. Our expert researchers have compiled every helpful tidbit to help you better understand your cosmetic options, all of the steals and deals to help you save money on the products you already love, and a detailed directory of where to find all of the above. Make us your personal shopper, and you can buy all your beauty goodies without putting a dent in your wallet. Being smart is beautiful!

Let’s take it from the top. Whether you spend hours searching the web in an attempt to find the exact shade of lip gloss your fave actress wore on the red carpet, or you’ve always been told that more expensive equals higher quality, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the marked difference between high-end makeup brands and the ones that you can find at every big-box retailer. In addition to the higher price tag, luxe cosmetics are known for being derived from super high quality ingredients, which can sometimes be better for your skin, have more dramatic pigments and higher-intensity colors, and stay on better throughout the day regardless of what you have going on. They also tend to have celebrities as fans, clients, and occasionally spokespeople, so you can feel like you’re living the high life every time you sweep on your eyeliner.

For the budget-conscious fashionista that cannot fathom using anything less than the current trends, never fear. Retailers like Ulta and Sephora have taken over the high-end beauty market to better serve gorgeous gals like you, between their well-stocked websites, conveniently located stores, and the big names they pride themselves on offering. We’re talking everything from Marc Jacobs to Dior, bareMinerals to Urban Decay, and everything in between. Now, about that pesky budget—you’ll notice that some upscale makeup brands don’t participate in a lot of retailer sales, and that their prices are generally the same wherever you buy them.

If you’re hoping there might be a money-saving way around this, hope no more! Both Sephora and Ulta have their own rewards programs. Check out more on that in our buying guides — here and here. These brand rewards programs allow you to earn points every time you shop with them, and those points can be applied to future purchases that can knock down even the highest of high-end purchases. Beyond that, Ulta is well known for their 21 Days of Beauty promotion, which typically runs in September each year. This massive sale offers slashed prices on even their “prestige” brands that aren’t normally discounted, as well as free gifts that can make your purchase even sweeter. It’s the perfect time to restock your makeup bag for less! Ah, the sound of savings on the brands you can’t live without.

Next on the docket: superstores! So, we’ve talked about fancy makeup and the girls that love it, but what about classic brands with mid-range prices? How do they fare when stacked up against the glam goods you can find at upscale retailers? Do you really need to splurge on a high-end mascara or can you grab one on your next Target run for Band-Aids and batteries? We’re so glad you asked! The wonderful thing about makeup is that, although there are literally thousands of formulas, brands, and options, you have the opportunity to shop for your individual face as opposed to being brand-specific. What works best for you may not be what works best for the next girl, and sometimes you can spend a ton of money on a product when the formula you find at your local Walmart is just as good if not better.

Suspicious? Don’t just take our word for it! The internet is rife with reviews of essentially any product you can think of, and since we’re on the topic of mascara already, we decided to find a renowned beauty vlogger to put our hypothesis to the test. RachhLoves, a popular YouTube personality, tried out L’oreal’s Voluminous Lash Paradise mascara alongside Too Faced’s famous Better than Sex mascara and the results were surprising. Spoiler alert: she loved the less expensive L’oreal formula even more! Take a look at her video to see it all unfold in real time, and you could save some big bucks the next time you’re looking to dress up your peepers.

So, what about drugstores? – If you talk to cosmetic connoisseurs about their picks, you’ll find that there is a definite assumption that “drugstore brands” are somehow inferior to luxe names, and although that may be true for some products, it’s not always the case. The truth is, classics are classics for a reason, and a lot of the makeup you find lining the shelves at your local CVS or RiteAid has truly stood the test of time for thousands of women across the globe. Take Maybelline, for example, whose Great Lash mascara in its signature pink-and-green tube has been one of the best-selling cosmetics every year for over forty years. Sally Hansen is another iconic drugstore name, whose nail polishes have evolved to stay on-trend for generations (this color is rumored to sell every 120 seconds!)

Coupling these quintessential brands with the savings you can find at your corner drugstore is a great way to glam up without breaking the bank, as there are often manufacturer coupons, store coupons, and rewards programs in place there to help you rake in the deals. Pro tip: if you’re a devoted drugstore diva who is looking for something other than the same old same old, give NYX a try the next time you pop by CVS! Our researchers have found that this brand offers creamy, dreamy eyeshadows, lip glosses that stay put, and primers that will give you skin to die for, all for a fraction of high-end prices!

Makeup is all about fun, and although you should never take beauty standards too seriously (they are prone to change on a dime), you do want to get the most bang you can for your buck. We hope that we’ve been able to help you sort through what can sometimes be an overwhelming number of options, so that you can take your next shopping trip with confidence. Take our tips with you and run with them, because when it comes to cosmetics you should never accept anything less than what makes you feel your most beautiful.