I Have Access to Free Beauty Products, and I Still Choose These Drugstore Buys

Working as a digital editor definitely has its perks. Even though fashion is my wheelhouse here at Who What Wear, I'm still privy to luxurious beauty brands whether I'm testing out a new product launch for a story or am lucky enough to receive a sample from a brand or co-worker. Trust me—I don't take it for granted that I have access to all these free expensive beauty products. It's a blessing. But I got to thinking about my makeup products, in particular, and how my routine has changed (and stayed the same) since I discovered the world of makeup at the age of 13. 

My foray into makeup began in the aisles of CVS, scooping up brands like Maybelline, Revlon, and L'Oréal. So even though I'm much more well-versed in makeup than I once was, there are still a few O.G. drugstore makeup buys that I just can't stop restocking for myself despite testing out their more expensive counterparts.

I've tried luxury foundations, mascaras, and eyeliners but I still stand by the fact that any of the best drugstore makeup products I'm highlighting below rival pricier options. From my favorite $6 mascara to the lipstick–lip balm hybrid that's always in my purse, keep reading to find out why I prefer these budget buys, and further down, check out the higher-end makeup products I won't skimp on. 

Foundation

My skin skews oily, so I've gone through my fair share of trial-and-error with foundation and BB cream formulas that contributed to some annoying (and unnecessary) breakouts. I love that Clinique's formula is mattifying, won't clog up my pores, and holds my makeup together for the whole day. Even though it doesn't glide on as seamlessly as Chantecaille's breathable foundation, I'll remain loyal to the Clinique BB cream until further notice.

Mascara

YSL's mascara follows through on its promise to give you voluminous, fanlike lashes, but there are a few reasons I still come back to this $6 drugstore mascara. For one, the formula easily washes away in warm water (no harsh rubbing or makeup remover required!), which my lashes have really thanked me for. And for a product that requires restocking every other month, this comes at a price you just can't beat.

Eye Pencil

I loved the easy glide-on application with the Marc Jacobs eyeliner, and even though the color options are unparalleled, I still reach for my Maybelline eyeliner daily. It has a similar formula, albeit at $5 a pop rather than $25. Plus, I enjoy that it twists up so I don't have to dig through my makeup bag for a pencil sharpener.

Eye Shadow

While some people might prefer having a wide range of colors to choose from, I've found that owning a multicolor palette, especially one as varied as the above, is more than I need. It's not every day that I test out a colorful makeup look, so it makes more sense for me to pick up one or two individual shades for the occasion.

Here, I'm wearing Clinique's Chubby Stick Moisturizing Lip Color Balm in Romantic ($18) that's become a mainstay in my makeup routine.

Lip Color

I keep this tinted balm in my purse wherever I go (speaking of which, I should probably stock up on multiples). I struggle to find a middle ground between wearing actual lipstick and dabbing on a bit of balm (one can be too much and the other not enough), so I love that this chubby stick adds just the right amount of natural-looking color and is so, so hydrating—truly the best everyday lip product I've used.

Liquid Eyeliner

Just like with mascara, I find it hard to justify investing in an expensive liquid eyeliner since it runs out pretty quickly. Instead, I always come back to E.l.f.'s $6 liner. The felt tip makes it easy to control when I'm applying it, and the ink stays in place pretty well.

Here's what I won't skimp on:

This iconic concealer has so much going for it. It's got the stamp of approval from celebs like Zoë Kravitz, a lighter-than-air formula, and a reputation for nixing dark under-eyes better than any others.

The bronzer and blush from Nars were actually two of the first makeup products I ever owned, and the bronzer, in particular, is one that I've been keeping in my makeup rotation since day one. 

We've waxed poetic before about Glossier's best-selling brow product because it is, in fact, that good. So good that I feel justified in saying that I wouldn't be the same person I am without it—or at least, I wouldn't look like the "me" I am when my brows are perfectly tinted, fluffed, and shaped.

This year, I made the switch from a powdered highlighter to a cream highlighter, and I've never looked back. The formula is hydrating, which gives me a nice everyday glow. Honestly, it's so natural-looking that it has a lit-from-within effect, aka it helps me fake perfect skin.

But every once in a while I still come back to this O.G. highlighter when I'm going for a more glam makeup look. There's nothing I've found that can top this iconic highlighter's wow factor.

There are red lipsticks, and then there are Chanel's red lipsticks. If you've tried one before, you know that they're in a league of their own. From the velvety formula to the vibrant color, nothing can replace this coveted lipstick for me.

I didn't consider myself to be an eye shadow person until this product came into my life. A simple swipe on the lids and a few dabs to blend are all you need—they're not kidding when they say it takes 10 seconds.

This product is a one-and-done for achieving that dewy, glossy eyelid look that's trending right now.

After years of buying whatever cheap nail polish I could find, I'm finally over it. Instead, I've discovered clean nail polish brands like Smith & Cult, whose formulas rarely chip and whose bottles are just plain beautiful to own.