Beauty on a Budget: Drugstore Products for a High End Look

If you’re brown-skinned (I’m talking any shade other than, ahem, ‘nude’) you probably already know that makeup shopping is dark and dangerous territory littered with traps, only to be undertaken when armed with copious amounts of patience, time and money.

Finding foundation in shades darker than ‘beige’  is next to impossible; sourcing eyeshadows and blushes pigmented enough to show up is a mission; proper contouring is basically just a fantasy; and don’t even get me started on ‘nude’ (there’s that word again) lipstick. Like, seriously. Don’t. It’s not good for my blood pressure.

And even if your skin tone is catered to by most  companies, it can still be a challenge to find the products for that Instagram-ready, flawless look without breaking the bank. A primer that actually works, the perfect contour palette, great brushes and luxurious lipsticks… If, by some miracle, you find one or more of these mystical items, then chances are it’ll cost you big bucks.

But worry not–it doesn’t have to be that way, because just like Xzibit, I am here to hook you up my friends.


I have compiled a (pretty long, sorry) list of my favourite, reasonably-priced drugstore products, which I use to achieve beautiful looks on a budget.  Each entry comes with basic information along with my own opinion–these are all thingsI’ve been using for a while, and you can trust me, I’m a doctor (in an alternate universe somewhere). So, without further ado, check out my selection of drugstore products for a high end look:

The Pore-Erasing Primer

Maybelline’s Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser
I already have a daily primer (Kiko’s City Filter Sunscreen, which will be featured in another post), but I bought this primer because I wanted my pores erasing, and because it was on offer, and also because the packaging is adorable. Yes. I’m one of those people.This primer comes in an absolutely miniscule tube, but that’s okay because it turns out you really don’t need much of it. I have more open pores in the kind of… inner…cheek…area? Anyway, I whack a tiny bit on there and it works very well. It makes my skin feel velvety, and I genuinely noticed some decent minimising of my pores—though I wouldn’t say it erased them. But when this runs out, which it won’t for a good long while yet, I plan on buying more. Also, it looks really cute in my makeup bag.
Maybelline Baby Skin Instant Pore Eraser: £7.99 for 22ml

The Dreamy Foundations

Maybelline Dream Satin Liquid and Dream Matte Mousse Foundation

Before discovering this product I rarely wore foundation, simply because I could never find the perfect shade. Even more expensive products tended to make me look dead/green/deathly pale, so I kind of gave up on the whole foundation thing.

And then I found Maybelline. Their browner shades actually have natural-looking undertones! Honestly, it’s practically a miracle.

These foundations both have SPF, which I like. The Dream Matte Mousse really does mattify the skin beautifully, and the mousse texture is extremely light and easy to blend, yet provides great coverage with a velvety finish. I like it for everyday use, when I won’t be wearing much else.

The Dream Satin Liquid claims to achieve ‘poreless perfection’, and it comes pretty damn close. It has a smooth finish and medium coverage, perfect for contouring. It also applies and blends easily, and the pump nozzle means less product is wasted.

Unfortunately, the darkest shade in the Dream Satin Liquid is Caramel, a warm medium brown, and the Dream Matte Mousse only goes one shade darker than that. However, a great dupe for the Dream Satin Liquid is Superdrug’s B. Even Oil Control foundation, which has a truly excellent range of shades. I’ll be giving more information on that in an upcoming review of the whole B. range, so look out for it!

Dream Matte Mousse: £7.69 for 18g Dream Satin Liquid: £7.99 for 30ml I wear: ‘Caramel’

The Do-It-All Concealer

L.A. Girl Pro Conceal
Okay, you must have heard of this product. It is a makeup holy grail. LOOK AT ALL THESE SHADES:

Before I discovered Pro Conceal, I was paying £23 a pop for a tiny little tub of Clinique concealer that I was pretty much scared to use, considering the price. Now I have FOUR concealers available at any one time and I just PAINT those babies on.

This concealer comes in a handy little tube, great for traveling with, and has a brush at the tip for easy application. It is the perfect on-the-go makeup, and you could easily wear this without foundation. Frankly, you could wear this AS foundation—it’s that good. It provides amazing coverage, erases my under eye circles and even completely hides my worst area of hyperpigmentation, which the Clinique concealer never could. The wide range of shades also makes it perfect for contouring; just pick one two shades lighter, one two shades darker, and you’re good! Some of their pink and orange shades also work great as colour correctors.

If you don’t have this product yet, get it. Immediately. That is not a request. You can buy them at pretty much any Afro hair and/or beauty store; they’re usually chilling by the till.

L. A. Girl Pro Conceal: £4.99 for 18ml I wear ‘Fawn’ and use ‘Cool Tan’ and ‘Beautiful Bronze’ to contour.

The Magical Powder

Collection 2 Translucent Sheer Loose Powder

This powder gave me the shock of my life when I tested it out in store. I actually tested it as a joke: I looked at the word ‘sheer’, the colour of the powder, its £2.99 (yes, TWO POUNDS AND NINETY-NINE PENCE) price tag and thought, “LOL, this should be hilarious”.
How wrong I was.

This powder is actually, legitimately sheer. As in, I put this white-ass powder on my brown-ass skin and it DISAPPEARS. I don’t even use it to bake, though you certainly could. I apply on top of my foundation and/or concealer to set and mattify, and. It. Works. I also apply it to my bare face sometimes, in the areas where I’m looking a bit shiny (usually under the eyes). I know translucent powder is a thing, but I did not know that it’s a thing for £2.99!

This powder really does the job. It also comes in nice, simple, fit for purpose packaging, and they throw in a cute lil sponge for you, which I appreciate. You never know when you’ll need a cute lil sponge. You can find Collection in Superdrug and Wilkinson’s, plus various other bargain stores.

Collection 2 Translucent Sheer Loose Powder: £2.99 for 20g

The Pro Tools and the Beauty Blender Dupe

Real Techniques Brushes

Up until recently I made do with cheap, basic makeup brushes bought in bulk online; however, when I started spending more money on products, it only made sense to spend more money on the tools to use them. After some research I came across Real Techniques, a company owned by two ‘pro makeup artists and beauty gurus’ who have online tutorials to go with their brushes.

The brushes can be bought individually, but they also come in sets, and are kind of colour-coded, which I love. They’re also really attractive; they have metallic handles and are luxurious and plush. These brushes feel as good as they look, and work well. I have their ‘base/flawless’ Core Collection, their ‘eyes/enhanced’ Starter Kit and their collector’s edition Sculpting Set, as well as their stippling brush and a Beauty Blender dupe that’s better than a Beauty Blender. All of that adds up to fourteen tools, and they were very fairly priced, in my opinion.

My favourites are their Miracle Complexion Sponge (the BB dupe), Contour Brush, Buffing Brush, and Deluxe Crease Brush—which really is deluxe! If I could only have one kit, it’d be the Starter Set, which comes with a 2-in-1 case and stand, and has pretty much revolutionised my eye makeup. You can buy these brushes in Superdrug, where they’re frequently on offer (it’s 3 for 2 across the store right now in my local), or online where they can be purchased more cheaply—though some are knock-offs, so do be careful with that. They also make little travel-sized brushes, which is handy!

Real Techniques Miracle Complexion Sponge: £5.99. Real Techniques Collector’s Edition Sculpting Set: £19.99. Real Techniques Stippling Brush: £10.99. Real Techniques Core Collection: £16.79. Real Techniques Starter Set: £16.99.

The Killer Brow Kit

Sleek Brow Kit
In my search for a great brow kit, I looked at both Sleek’s and Benefit’s. The cute packaging had me taking the Benefit option to the till—at which point I discovered it was like £25 and awkwardly took it back to the shelf, because my Gran would have scalped me if I ever spent that much money on a tiny box of powder and pomade. I ended up with the much cheaper Sleek option, and I’m really, really glad I did.Like the extortionate Benefit kit, the Sleek brow kit is set in a little square compact with a powder, a pomade (pomade? That’s what I’m calling it, I’m calling it a pomade), and some mini tools. Y’know, lil tweezers, tiny, ineffective brushes, that sort of stuff.I absolutely adore this kit. My eyebrows are very important to me, but then, it’s 2015—eyebrows are important to everybody. I have naturally full brows, with little to no sparse areas, so I can’t speak as to how this kit would work when it comes to creating what’s not there. However, I can say with confidence that it enhances my brows amazingly. I use the pomade to line my brows, creating more of an arched shape, and then fill them in with the powder for a denser look. My eyebrows are jet black, but I have the kit in ‘Dark’ (818) which is a very deep brown. Despite being a little lighter than my actual eyebrow colour, the end result is both natural and dramatic. Yeah, I don’t know, it just is, okay? Buy this!

Sleek Brow Kit: £8.49 for 18ml. I wear ‘Dark’

The Flawless Contour Kit

Sleek Face Form Contouring and Blush Palette

This palette is absolutely amazing for powder contouring, especially for brown skin! I wear ‘Medium’ (374) and the contouring shade is absolutely perfect. Despite being powder, it creates an effective contour that I’d be happy to wear on a night out—but because it’s powder, it’s great for beginners, quick makeup, or a more subtle day time look. It’s extremely pigmented and buildable, with a velvety texture.

The highlight is lovely—gold and warm, which is great for brown skin. In case you didn’t know: brown skin cannot do frosted highlights! They look so pretty in the box… aaand so deathly on our skin. This highlight is as far from that as can be, giving a subtle but definite glow. I especially like it for my nose and forehead.

The third shade in the palette is, I suppose, the ‘blush’, but it’s actually more of a bronzer. I use it to emphasise my contour, which it does a great job at.

I actually bought this kit in ‘Dark’ too, frankly because I was suspicious as to how effective it would be on dark skin. My suspicions were unfortunately correct: I swatched it on my darker skinned friend and it didn’t even show up. If you’re brown skin (I’m talking Black Twitter terms here, not general brownness) it would probably work for you. But if you’re actually dark? Nah. Which is frankly infuriating because… IT SAYS DARK. Come on, Sleek. WORK WITH US HERE.

Sleek Face Form Contouring and Blush Palette: £9.99 for 20g. I wear ‘Medium’

The Beautiful Blush Palette

Sleek Blush By 3

This palette is similar to the Face Form palette in that it has three different shades, as the name suggests. Both palettes are slim, rectangular compacts with built-in mirrors that slip into makeup bags and purses easily, making them great for travelling–and each shade is full-sized!

I chose the ‘Lace’ (367) palette which features the shades ‘Chantilly’, ‘Guipure’ and ‘Crochet’. These are, of course, all different types of lace… Sleek: fun for all the family!
‘Chantilly’ is a very warm orange; ‘Guipure’ is my favourite, a gorgeous shimmering pink threaded with rose gold; ‘Crochet’ is a bright, bold pink. All three shades are, typically of Sleek, highly pigmented with a great texture. A little goes a long way, and these particular shades really pop on brown skin. Guipure especially is great as a blush or simply a highlight for the cheekbones—I even use it as eyeshadow! It’s extremely versatile.

Sleek Blush By 3: £9.99 for 20g. I wear ‘Lace’ (367)

The Divine Eyeshadows

Sleek i-Divine Eyeshadow Palette Garden of Eden (447)

Can you tell I love Sleek yet? When they’re not being childish with their ‘dark’ shades, that is.

The i-Divine palettes offer twelve greatly pigmented, expertly-chosen shades to create countless looks with, all for an amazing price. They are without a doubt my favourite, and of the three I have, this is, to me, the best.

I’ll let you check out the shades (and how well-used they are!) below:

Sleek i-Divine Eyeshadow Palette: £7.99. I wear ‘Garden of Eden’
While I’ve absolutely decimated ‘Chill’ and ‘Strike’, I use every single one of these colours regularly. From shimmering copper to indigo to lime green, these shades are both bold and wearable. This is my go-to palette for any look: no matter where you’re going, when, or who with, this palette will see you right.

I’d really recommend any of the i-Divine palettes; like, really. I’ve swatched every single one in Superdrug and I will catch them all. Like Ash Ketchum. Except sparklier. But Garden of Eden is the best of the best!

The Celeb Standard Mascara

Maybelline Great Lash Mascara

All I have to say about this mascara is: go get it.

…Okay, so maybe that’s not all!

I actually have a mutation where I grow multiple rows of eyelashes per lash line, which you might assume means I don’t need mascara, BUT you’d be wrong. My lashes are thicker than my Real Techniques fan brush (almost, maybe. I mean, they’re pretty thick), but what I really go for in a mascara is length, definition, and something with minimal clumping—because with all these lashes, clumping is a serious problem for me.

Great Lash ticks all the boxes. There’s no weird design to the wand: it simply separates the lashes,reaches every single tiny one in each corner of the eye, and NEVER clumps. I mean NEVER. There’s a kind of plastic suction-y thing in the tube, and somehow it results in magical, non-clumping mascara. I mean it. I have Dior mascara, I have YSL mascara, I have Smashbox and Soap & Glory and everything in between, and this beats them all.

It’s also super pretty and well-sized; it looks nice and neat in my makeup bag, and you know by now that that’s important to me. I have the non-waterproof kind because I never cry or get wet (ever. Never ever.) but it comes in waterproof too!

Maybelline Great Lash Mascara: £4.99 for 12.5ml. I wear ‘Blacker Than Black’

The Moisturising Matte Lipstick

L. A. Colours Vitamin and Aloe Vera Lipstick

These lipsticks are the find of the year. They are the find of the century. You know those makeup brands you see in, like, the pound shop and Wilkinson’s and places like that, and they look really tacky and terrible and everything costs 29p? Well I spotted L.A. Colours in my local Boyes and I assumed that the brand was one of those. And maybe it is—but their lipsticks are perfection.

They come in adorable shades, including an absolutely amazing nude named Caramel Cream, which I wear pretty much every day. The lipsticks are all amazingly moisturising, which is especially great given how cold it is right now, and their matte options are actually matte.

So how much do these paragons of cosmetic virtue cost?
One. Pound.

I know. It’s unbelievable. But I now have eight different shades and I’ve repurchased the Caramel Cream and Maroon twice each, so believe it. Honestly, these are my favourite items on the list, because CHEAP.

You can purchase them at Boyes, like I do, or check their website for other stockists. You can also buy them online at, though I believe online their price inflates to an astronomical £1.49. Now go forth, and multi-buy!
L.A. Colours Vitamin and Aloe Vera Lipstick: £1 for 3.2g. Pictured, L-R: Copper Glaze, Maroon, Berry Red and Tropical
So that’s it! You’ve reached the end of my list! If you made it this far, congratulations, because this has been one longggggg post–but hopefully it’s helped you!
*NOTE: This post was originally published on the 25th of October and has since been edited for clarity.*

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