Beauty on a Budget: Why Drugstore Makeup Remains a Timeless Choice

Despite new and more trendy beauty brands, how do drugstore makeup brands remain relevant and even preferred by the new generation of beauty consumers?
Reading Time: 7 minutes

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the beauty market has become oversaturated in recent years. New brands crop up all the time and makeup companies launch something new every season, leaving consumers spoiled for choice. Meanwhile, a number of brands, such as BECCA and Bite Beauty, have had to shut down after suffering losses from the pandemic. But despite this, drugstore brands have proven their longevity and relevance in uncertain times, through changing sensibilities and tastes, and shifting consumers as Gen Z’s buying power grows. But why is that? What is it about drugstore brands that sets them apart from midrange and luxury beauty?

The Cost of Beauty

The most glaring difference between drugstore brands and midrange and luxury brands is the price point. Drugstore products are a lot more affordable than luxury beauty, giving them an immediate appeal to consumers. In an article by Rachel Brown in the BeautyIndependent, interviewee and co-founder of True Beauty Ventures Cristina Nuñez explains, “[B]rands in prestige need to articulate and substantiate their value proposition using content, education, and innovation to promote their higher quality and efficacy over lower priced options.” This means that drugstore beauty brands are able to entice consumers with lower price points as compared to midrange and luxury brands. On the other hand, midrange and luxury brands must essentially prove their worth to consumers by investing in research and development, marketing, and advertising.  

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Luxury beauty brands are able to justify their high pricing through the ingredients they use. Cosmetic formulator Stephen Alain Ko mentioned to Well+Good that while the ingredients of luxury and drugstore makeup may be the same, luxury brands invest in the sourcing and purity of their ingredients. It is also more likely that luxury brands will develop their own formulas in-house instead of white-labeling them from makeup and skincare manufacturers.

Drugstore brands, such as major players like Maybelline, Revlon, and L’Oréal, have already established their brand legacy. These three brands are 108, 91, and 114 years old, respectively.

Packaging also plays a huge role in driving up the prices of luxury beauty products. These brands are more likely to create and order bespoke packaging for their products. Take, for example, YSL’s Rouge Volupte Shine Lipstick. The gold packing includes the brand’s logo as part of the component itself, rather than just being a sticker or label. The component color also depends on the shade inside it, adding another aspect to its packaging customization for the lipstick line.

Meanwhile, drugstore makeup brands are able to keep their prices low by keeping their costs low. Since their makeup products are mass-produced, drugstore brands are able to cut deals with labs, manufacturers, and suppliers by ordering a high volume of ingredients and packaging components. The more they order, the bigger the discounts they receive will be, and by keeping their costs low, they can also keep their profit margins lower than that of midrange and luxury brands. Drugstore makeup also has relatively simple packaging compared to luxury brands, so they don’t spend as much as luxury brands on packaging alone. 

A Rich History

Like luxury brands, drugstore brands, especially major players like Maybelline, Revlon, and L’Oréal, have already established their brand legacy. These three brands are 108, 91, and 114 years old, respectively, and from the time they were founded until now, they have been able to prove themselves to be frontrunners in the makeup industry. In fact, it’s these brands that have created many firsts for the mass market, like how Maybelline created the “first modern eye cosmetic for everyday use”—their cake mascara. Even local drugstore makeup brands like Ever Bilena have established for themselves a brand legacy—starting as a nail polish brand to becoming a conglomerate with nine brands under its belt.

Investing Where It Counts

We mentioned earlier that luxury brands invest in R&D in order to prove the efficacy of their products, giving them more value to consumers. This has also led them to create patented formulas, molecules, and technologies found in their products. For instance, Dr. Max Huber spent twelve years developing Miracle Broth, a healing formulation created by fermenting sea kelp and other ingredients that can be found throughout La Mer’s product lines. Shiseido started its research into the effects of UV rays early on—it launched Uviolin, its first sunscreen, in 1923, and now it has developed the world’s first technology that increases the strength of its UV protection products when exposed to the heat of the sun. 

Similarly, drugstore beauty brands also invest in the research and development of their products. For example, L’Oréal’s Research and Innovation division developed Pro-Xylane, a patented molecule derived from beech and birch trees that helps visibly reduce signs of aging. This molecule can be found in L’Oréal’s Revitalift X3 skincare line. Revlon has also patented its own method for halogenating cosmetic products, giving their surface a satin matte finish while allowing them to provide users with a glossy, wet finish. These are just some instances of drugstore brands investing in their own product lines, proving their efficacy just like luxury brands.

Lastly, it’s important to take into account the accessibility of drugstore and luxury makeup products. In the Philippines, luxury brands are usually found in specialty shops and high-end department stores, like Adora, Rustan’s, Sephora, and Beauty Bar. They could also have their own boutique stores in malls. Meanwhile, drugstore products can be found in pretty much any drugstore or personal care store. And with the pandemic, both drugstore and luxury brands have created a space for themselves online in e-commerce retailers, like Lazada and Shopee.

In fact, between 2019 and 2020, the e-commerce market in the Philippines grew to 1 billion USD and experts say that it can grow from 4 billion USD to 15 billion USD in 2025. It’s no wonder that drugstore brands are focusing a lot of their marketing efforts in the online space. It’s fair to say that you’re already getting a good deal when you buy drugstore makeup, and when you compound that with the countless discounts, coupons, and sales that online shopping has to offer, it’s easy to see why these products easily fly off digital shelves.

Our Ever-Reliable Budget Buys

With the number of beauty brands the drugstore features, it can be overwhelming to navigate the counters and decide on different products. Here, we’ve compiled some of our favorite drugstore finds—some with skin-loving ingredients, others backed by science. 

Canmake Tokyo Cream Cheek

P600, Lazada

This melting gel blush feels soft and silky on our fingers and is easily blended onto the cheeks for a natural look. It also contains emollients like squalene that not only help moisturize your skin but also improve the blush’s adhesion to your face, allowing it to last throughout the day. We love how it doesn’t mess up our foundation and gives our complexions a pretty flush of color.

Revlon Super Lustrous Glass Shine Lipstick

P375, Lazada

Glossy lips are in, but if you don’t like the gloopy, sticky feeling some lip glosses have, then you’ll want this lipstick in your makeup bag. It contains high-shine emollients that reflect light in the most flattering way, making your lips look naturally plump. Revlon boasts its unique blend of low-melting-point waxes that moisturize your lips without compromising color payoff.

Spotlight Cosmetics Scene Stealer 8-in-1 Eye Palette

P645, Lazada

Looking for an everyday eyeshadow palette? We highly recommend this one by Spotlight Cosmetics. It has eight versatile eyeshadows that can take you from day to night, casual to formal, and everything in between. The six matte shades and two shimmer shades are also paraben-free, cruelty-free, and vegan. A big bonus for us is its large mirror, which makes it a lot easier to create fun eye looks.

L’Oréal Paris Voluminous Lash Paradise Mascara

P649, Lazada

Nothing makes a bigger difference in our eyelashes than this cult-favorite mascara by L’Oréal. From its soft, wavy brush that prevents irritation to its floral oil-infused formula that helps condition each lash, everything about this mascara was well thought out. It also has a waterproof formula that doesn’t clump and is easy to remove with a gentle eye makeup remover.

Maybelline Fit Me Flawless Natural Concealer

P279, Lazada

Launched in 2010, Maybelline’s Fit Me Concealer has remained a favorite for both makeup junkies and casual users alike. Its dependable formula is non-comedogenic, oil-free, and infused with chamomile to help calm redness and acne. It delivers medium coverage that’s great for both the under eyes and zits.

Be Free by BYS Collagen Lipgloss

P499 via Lazada

Who said you can’t find clean beauty at the drugstore? BYS Cosmetics has created its Be Free line for the conscious consumer, with its products being free from parabens, fragrance, cruelty, and harsh ingredients. Our personal favorite from the range is the Collagen Lipgloss, which contains jojoba oil and shea butter for a moisturized, full-looking pout. 

Colourette First Base Everyday Skin Tint

P599, Lazada

With the Clean Girl trend comes the rising popularity of skin tints, and this one by Colourette gets the job done for us. The demi-matte, lightweight tint is formulated with azelaic acid, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide to help improve your skin with each use. It has light to medium coverage that doesn’t oxidize or clog pores, and it can help protect your skin thanks to its SPF 30. 

Collage by Dannah Valdezco. Woman holding shopping basket by © danko n. Interior of drugstore by © kwangmooza. Bird illustration by © elizabeth gould. Antique picture frame by © masentai via

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