Shopping Smart

A Semi-Scientific Comparison Of Bougie Beauty Products And Their Drug Store Counterparts

By and | Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Yesterday, we took an in depth look at the $3 treasures of the CVS beauty department. As it turns out, there’s a $3 find for almost every category of beauty product and a few great skin care finds. I’m always a proponent of cutting costs wherever you can, but I wanted to find out which make up and skin care areas I could should be cutting costs in (and perhaps am not) and where a splurge is necessary. Something that’s always kept me coming back to TFD (as a reader) is that there is transparency behind the stories. There aren’t just random recipes, or experiences, or work from home tricks. The tips come from people who have implemented them. In keeping with that, I wanted to experiment with the $3 beauty product finds to guarantee they really work, and learn how best to use them.

I lined up my (expensive) beauty/skin products and the cheaper CVS alternatives. Then I tried to achieve the same look using the under $3 products, then the expensive stuff.  Here’s the side by side comparison:

The Under $3 Haul:


I cleansed with baby oil ($1.99) and applied NIVEA face cream ($1.19).


For full make up I used:

e.l.f. Golden Bronzer ($2.99)

Vaseline Tinted Moisturizer ($2.37)

Wet ‘n’ Wild Silk Finish (Wine Room) Lipstick ($0.99)

e.l.f. Mascara ($1.99)

NYC Liquid Eyeliner ($2.99)

How I Put Together A Look Using The Cheaper Alternatives:

1. Face: After letting the Nivea cream sink in, I used the bronzer as a base. Then I used the Vaseline tinted mini tub and applied it to the top of my cheeks in lieu of blush.

2. Eyes: I applied the NYC liquid eyeliner to the top of my lids, and put a small coat of the Vaseline above that on my eyelids. (Make sure to do the eyeliner first, because if you do the Vaseline first, it makes your eyelid too slippery to work with.) I finished my eyes with the $2 mascara.

3. Lips: I applied the Wet ‘n’ Wild Silk Finish Wine Room ($0.99). The color is summery and pronounced, which I liked. As expected, $1 lipstick is going to be a little dry. I glossed some tinted vaseline over it and the effect was ideal. It went from looking like cheap lipstick to looking like an expensive lip gloss. And it felt lighter.


The full look:


What Worked and What Didn’t:

The bronzer felt just as good on my face as my expensive bronzer. My only complaint was that the cheaper bronzer had more shimmer than I thought it would. The light sparkle really just gives your cheeks an extra shine, so it would’ve worked well as a bronzer, but it needed a base underneath it. I made the mistake of using the bronzer as my base, which didn’t work for this product.

Of all the uses for the Vaseline tinted mini tub, using it on the top of my cheeks was actually my favorite. it really did brighten up my face, the way blush does, but looked completely natural. I rubbed it in a little extra, and it didn’t feel at all weird to be wearing a touch of Vaseline on my face. (In fact, it was moisturizing while serving as make up!) It had the same opening effect on my eyelids.

As for the E.L.F Mascara, the brush wasn’t as big, which I know is what you pay for in $25 mascara, but I honestly liked that the bristles were so far apart because it helped separate my lashes. When comparing it to my Neutrogena mascara, I’d say they work equally well.

The Expensive Haul

For the expensive look, I cleansed with CVS Make up wipes ($6.00) and Neutrogena Grapefruit Cream Cleanser ($9.30). Then I used my Bliss Triple Oxygen Energizing Cream, which is by far the most expensive beauty product I own ($45.00) and L’Oréal Revitalizing Eyecream ($18.00).


I tried to use the products that matched the coloring of my inexpensive products, to prove that the #look could be consistent between the bougie goods and the drugstore haul.

Full list of expensive products:
Body Shop Honey Bronze Bronzer, $20.00

Clinique Cheek Pop Blush, $21.00

Clinique ‘Chubby Stick’ Lip Crayon (Broadest Berry), $17.00

Stilla Eyeliner, $21.00

Neutrogena Healthy Volume Mascara, $6.50 – $8.00


The full look:



How much of a difference can you actually see? I like the lip look better with the drug store products. And while my skin does like more even using The Body Shop bronzer, that’s the only major difference.

How These Compared To The $3 Alternatives:

1. I found no difference in the eye make up. The mascara and eyeliner (cheap and expensive) both came off easily, the liquid was long lasting and my lashes were extended equally. I’m definitely spending too much on eye make up, and you may be too.

2. The downfall of the inexpensive bronzer was that while it was shimmery and fun, it doesn’t serve as a full-face powder the way my Body Shop bronzer can. I found my skin was less even with the cheaper bronzer, but like I said, had it been on top of a foundation, it would’ve been just fine.

3. As for cleansing, I think the baby oil took off my make up just as well as the CVS make up wipes. If you’re splurging for the wipes, it’s for the ease, but in terms of make up removing effectiveness, these products are comparable.

4. Skin creams: Nivea held up better than I thought it would. I wouldn’t part with my expensive eye cream because it really does help with my dark circles, but the Nivea product was nourishing and hydrating in a similar way to a typical face cream, like Simple or Aveeno.

5. Vaseline tinted moisturizer made almost every one of the inexpensive products better. The lip look it created authentically looked like a pricey lipgloss, and it stayed on. While it wasn’t as vibrant as my cheek pop blush, it provided a healthy glow at the top of my cheeks that brightened up the look. It sunk in to my skin quickly, and didn’t feel heavy on my face.

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