I know I’m not the only one who’s noticed the steady climb in prices of drugstore makeup over the past few years. While the quality that can be found from budget beauty brands has definitely increased alongside prices, it’s getting harder to stretch a dollar and add something new to your routine.
Luckily, you can still find a handful of classic drugstore makeup must haves for under $5 that have stood the test of time— year after year, these remain at the top of beauty best seller lists and easy on your wallet. Many are personal favorites of mine, and have been for years.
1. e.l.f. Shadow Lock Primer ($3)
This is a no-frills eye primer that just gets the job done, period. It’s on the thinner side and helps reduce creasing from oily lids. It’s sheer, though does help even out tone on the lids as well.
2. Essence Extreme Lasting Eye Pencil ($3.99)
I’ve personally dubbed this the best drugstore pencil eyeliner, and it even outperforms some higher end options. It glides on with a ton of rich pigment, is soft enough to blend and smoke out, but sets and stays in place all day. It’s waterproof and won’t run or smudge, making it perfect for tightlining.
3. Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge (~$4.15)
While individually this sponge just misses our cutoff of $5, buying a two-pack gets the cost down and is so worth it. I love the slanted shape, which makes for blending foundation over large areas easy, and the teardrop point is great for under the eyes or other tighter corners of the face. It’s just the right amount of soft for blending but firm for durability.
4. Ardell Lash Wispies ($4.99)
The #1 lash style at the drugstore, Ardell Wispies give a natural feathery look with a slight flare at the outer corner. It’s a style that’s practically flattering on everyone, and the lash band is thin and flexible— making them comfortable for all day wear.
5. Wet n Wild Color Icon Walking on Eggshells Palette ($3.99)
This is a true makeup icon! Though they’ve gotten several makeovers over the past decade, the wet n wild Color Icon eyeshadow palettes have always been some of the best at the drugstore. Walking On Eggshells is one of the OG palettes the brand has kept around and improved upon, and is perfect for everyday neutral looks.
6. NYX Butter Gloss ($4.97)
NYX got this gloss right on the first try and it’s been a #1 best seller ever since. It delivers sheer to medium color with a creamy cushy feel that’s not sticky. There are 28 shades from neutral to bold and bright, beautiful either on their own or layered on top of lipstick.
7. NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil ($4.50)
While the NYX Jumbo Eye Pencil probably peaked in popularity during the mid 2000s, it’s experiencing a major comeback after going viral on TikTok. While it’s technically an eye pencil that can be used as a shadow, liner, or base, it’s evolved into being used as a highlighter to compliment nose contouring.
8. Essence Lash Princess False Lash Effect Mascara ($4.99)
If you love long, voluminous, falsies-looking lashes, this is the mascara for you! It adds so much drama while separating and fanning out your lashes.
9. L.A. Girl HD Pro Concealer ($4.99)
Not only does this concealer offer full coverage that’s easily bendable and long wearing… but it’s available in 43 shades, including a range of color correctors! It’s creamy, yet lightweight with a natural finish. I’ve had professional makeup artists use this drugstore gem on me for video shoots— it’s that good.
10. Wet n Wild MegaLast Matte Lipstick ($3.29)
Another drugstore staple that’s gotten an upgrade in quality, but remains cheap! You’ll be hard pressed to find another lipstick under $5 that has this much pigment while also remaining super comfortable to wear throughout the day. Read my full MegaLast Matte Lipstick review to see swatches of all 13 shades.
I love the wet n wild walking on eggshells palette, it’s such a classic! My favourite shade in the butter glosses is Creme Brulee.
That’s a great shade!!!
I have made it through an elf eye primer and I totally agree. I am going to have to try the essence eyeliner. It does sound good. I am currently using the elf one and it is pretty good but not tight line friendly on me.
I really want to try those small eyeshadow palettes that elf came out with but I already own 5 eyeshadow palettes. A pair of eyes does not need that many!!!
Nyx butter gloss is great too. I bought fortune cookie since Tati had recommended it ages ago. It does NOT work on my medium skintone but it smells like caramel candy and makes for a great overnight lip treatment 😛
I have yet to try the LA girl conceal! I hear so many good things about it! Sadly they do not sell it in Canada. I had a friend gift me some eyeliners from that brand and I am in love.
After your comment I went in store to look at Fortune Cookie and I definitely think I’d bee too olive for it to look right, I’d end up with concealer lips!
The NYX Round lipsticks are great, they are so creamy and pigmented! x