08 May, 2014

Shopping for Drugstore Makeup in America

Summer is coming, and many of you will be traveling, including abroad to the U.S.
I want to put together a guide on shopping for drugstore makeup and other beauty products in America to maximize the time that you have here, so that your makeup shopping experience would be a great one!

Anyhow, you'd definitely have to hit the American drugstores when you're here, because I've seen a $5 (£2.95) lipstick going for $14 (£8.25) in England. It's insane!

**Important note: We do pay sales tax here, except in the states that specifically do not have sales tax. The percentage that we pay for sales tax is different from city to city.

The guide will be broken down into four parts:
  1. Important things you need to know about shopping for drugstore products in American stores.
  2. How to get the best deals and deepest discounts on drugstore makeup.
  3. Popular stores and what make them differ from one another.
  4. Common drugstore brands and facts about them, availability, etc.

Part 1: Important things you need to know.
  • Drugstores do not provide testers! I know, it boggles my mind as well. However, it's also considered to be in poor taste to open up a makeup item to test it. Unfortunately, many people still do this, so if you must test something, at least do it to an item that's obviously been opened and used for testing.
  • Personally, I would recommend researching the brands and products that you'd like to try out, and find reviews for them online. Our drugstores have excellent return policies (more on this below).
  • Also, annoyingly, not everything comes sealed or packaged. When I need to check on something to ensure that it hasn't been tampered with, before I make a purchase, I'd call a store associate over and explain that I really want to purchase it, but I need to know that it hasn't been opened and tested. I do this because the last thing that I'd want is to get yelled at in front of other people. Talk about embarrassing!
  • However, our stores have excellent return policies. If you bought something, tried it, and decided that you didn't like it, simply bring it back in its original packaging and the receipt, and you can make a return or an exchange! If anybody gives you any trouble, simply ask to speak to a manager, although there really should not be any issues.

Part 2: How to get the best deals and deepest discounts on drugstore makeup.
  • In the months leading up to your visit, be sure to print out manufacturer and store coupons; most are good for two months or so before they expire, but check the expiration dates to make sure. The coupons change weekly, so be sure to check every Sunday!
  • Most stores offer their own coupons, and you can stack the two different coupons together to get the best deals. 
  • For example: let's say that you have a $3-off coupon from L'Oreal, and a $1.50-off coupon for a L'Oreal lipstick at Target. When you combine those two coupons together, you're going to save $4.50 and end up paying only $2.50 for a nice L'Oreal lipstick. 
  • However, only one of each coupon can be applied to each item. If you buy one L'Oreal lipstick, you can use one manufacturer coupon and one store coupon for it. If you buy two L'Oreal lipsticks, then all you'd need to do is print out two manufacturer coupons, and two store coupons if you want discounts on both items. I hope that makes sense! If you run into trouble, just have two different transactions.
  • To save even more money: Stores also have sales every week, and you can combine the coupons with the sale prices. Let's say that that L'Oreal lipstick is now only $5 on sale, and you have $4.50 in combined coupons. Apply that $4.50 discount to the sale price, and now you're paying only $0.50 for that lipstick. 
  • Links to store coupons will be in Part 3 with the store listing. :-)

Part 3: Popular American drugstores, links to coupons, etc.
  • Target: I love Target because it is always clean, with excellent lighting, and just an overall positive atmosphere. Target carries everything, from grocery to furniture, to cosmetics. Their prices are very reasonable, too. It presents itself as a cleaner, more upscale store, yet with very good values. 
  • Wal-Mart: Like Target, Wal-Mart carries everything from grocery, to furniture, to cosmetics. While their prices are slightly less than Target, usually by $0.50 - $2, the price differences aren't worth choosing this chain over Target. I don't shop at Wal-Mart very often simply because I do not enjoy it. 
The store has very garish flourescent lighting, concrete floor, and generally not as well-kept as Target. Of course, this is not their employees' fault because the stores are always understaffed, and the employees are overworked.

However, I do shop at Wal-Mart for brands that are not carried anywhere else, such as Flower (Drew Barrymore's makeup brand) and Hard Candy. If you must shop at Wal-Mart, I recommend going after 10 PM for some peace and quiet; the chain is open 24/7. It's just not the first place that I would recommend to visitors because their time here is brief, and I'd rather they go to stores that provide more pleasant experiences.
  • Walgreens, CVS, and Rite-Aid: These are pharmacies, but with very large beauty sections that will blow you away, especially if you are in a metropolitan area. While their price points are higher at first, with the savings that they offer (buy 1-get-2nd-50% off; buy 2-get-1-free, etc.), the final prices more or less balance out. Also, these stores have a much more extensive nail polish selection, compared to Wal-Mart and Target.
Unlike Target and Wal-Mart, these three pharmacies don't offer product coupons that you clip out. Instead, their savings are for membership card holders, and it is free to become one yourself. Upon entering your store, simply tell an employee that you'd like to sign up for a "savings card." You don't have to fill out the information right away, and it's best that you don't anyway, since the card is for US residents. At most, all that they'd want is an e-mail address. You'll be given a card to use immediately. Just tell them that you'll bring the completed registration form back the next time you shop there, and don't tell them that you're a visitor.

  • Ulta: Imagine UK's Boots with a hair salon built in. Ulta carries both drugstore and higher end makeup products. While it doesn't have as many prestige brands as Sephora does, it does have a good amount. Each store is set up as such: one side is drugstore-only makeup; the other side is high-end makeup; toward the back is the salon.
  • Big Lots, 99 Cents, and Dollar Tree: These are discount stores, with the latter two being $1-only stores. Yes, everything is only $1! Their beauty selection is limited, but you can find a gem or two here. The makeup products they carry tend to be recently discontinued ones (but still fresh and fine to use).
  • Sally Beauty Supply: Don't carry mainstream drugstore brands, but the cosmetics that they carry are comparable to drugstore prices. A lot of salons and professionals get their supplies here. The place to get your Palladio makeup from.
  • Supermarkets in general: Nobody ever buys makeup here, unless they're really in need of something and can't get it anywhere else. The prices are set as high as possible, and the products tend to be outdated, since there aren't enough customers to move the merchandise. I suppose you can shop here if you are looking for a discontinued item. 
Part 4: American Drugstore Makeup and Beauty Brands

These are the most common drugstore brands. I'm sure that there may be a few that I miss, whether due to limited availability or because of regional differences.
  • Almay: Available at all drugstores. Comparable to Neutrogena. Best for base makeup, such as foundation, powder, and concealer. Almay is the only brand that I would buy concealers from, drugstore or not.
  • Burt's Bees: Available at most, if not all, stores. Best known for their tinted lip balms.
  • CoverGirl: Available all all drugstores. Best for the Lash Blast series mascara, and Cheekers blushes.
  • ELF: Available at Target. I haven't really seen this brand anywhere else, but that's because I don't usually look for it. Price point and quality are comparable to Wet 'N' Wild. If you are in New York, there are two stand-alone stores.
  • Flower: Available only at Wal-Mart, Flower makeup is founded by Drew Barrymore. She does not spend on advertisement, so all of that money could go into producing high-quality makeup and beautiful packaging. I like Flower for everything; you can't really go wrong with this brand.
  • Hard Candy: Available only at Wal-Mart. Comparable to Urban Decay, there are more hits than misses. Prices are comparable to CoverGirl.
  • Laneige: Available at most Target stores. Imported from Korea, this brand is best known for their skincare and base makeup, which is all that Target carries for now anyway.
  • L'Oreal: Available at all drugstores. Best for blushes and eyeshadows.
  • Maybelline: Available at all drugstores. Price point and quality are comparable to CoverGirl. Best for mascaras, as this company does not joke around when it comes to mascara technology. With at least over ten different mascara formulations at any given time, there is plenty for you to choose from.
  • Milani: Available at most, if not all drugstores. Best known for color cosmetics, although their base makeup products are decent, too. The price point is in between of CoverGirl and L'Oreal/Revlon.
  • Napoleon Set: Available only at Target.
  • Neutrogena: Available at all drugstores. One could call Neutrogena the Clinique makeup of the drugstore world. Best for skincare, and base makeup such as foundations and powders. I used their Healthy Skin foundation for years and years.
  • NYX: Available at most, if not all, drugstores. Best known for color makeup. Price point is comparable to CoverGirl.
  • Physician's Formula: Available at all drugstores. Best for their bronzers and highlighters.
  • Pixi: Available only at Target. The price point is much higher, but the products are much nicer, too. Best for everything.
  • Revlon: Available at all drugstores. Best for base makeup, such as foundations and powders.
  • Rimmel: Available at all drugstores. From the UK, the price point is in between of CoverGirl and Wet 'N' Wild. Best for everything. There hasn't been anything from this brand that disappointed me.
  • Sonia Kashuk: Available only at Target. Comparable to MAC. Best for makeup brushes.
  • Wet 'N' Wild: Available at all drugstores, except for Target. This is the least expensive drugstore brand (comparable to UK's Natural Collection). Best for eyeshadows and items that are not worth spending a lot of money on (in my opinion), such as lipliners and nail polishes.
Where are you from and what makeup shopping advice do you have?
What brands are unique to your country?
What brands do you wish are available there? Feel free to leave your blog link with your response! :-)


  1. This is such a great guide. Thanks for taking the time to put this together...very informative! The drug stores here don' t provide testers either which I think is a bit ridiculous..how are you supposed to make sure that the foundation that you have chosen actually matches your skin tone?

    Keisha xo

    1. Thanks, Keisha!
      Most of us do it by holding each bottle next to our faces in front of the mirror, and hope for the best. :-P Or, ask other people whose skin tones are similar to ours what shade they wear! It's bad. Lol.

  2. the palette is so pretty :)


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  4. Great information Tammy.Very useful for new into makeup. Loved the Flower eyeshadow quad too :-)

    1. Thank you for stopping by, Belle! :-)
      I hope that it's useful to someone out there.

  5. Wow what an amazing post! I so want to go the the US and go makeup shopping as your prices and choice is so much better than they are here! xxx

    Gemma | Miss Makeup Magpie

    1. I hope that you'll come here and shop one day! Travel with an empty suitcase for your shopping. :-)

  6. The green palette is my favorite, thank you for following us, following you too on g+ and Facebook
    a beautiful maison

  7. I totally found this post really helpful. I wish drugstores had testers for every product.

    1. I agree. I don't understand the lack of testers; having them would totally prevent people from opening and testing brand new products!

  8. Awesome tips! They're super useful for travelers!

    May from La Vie en May

  9. Nice post... I have to order online and many a times there are stores which dont ship to India Grrr.... It's irritating. If I need any US brand product, I either wait to find someone going to US or ask my husband to pick it from Sephora Singapore whenever he is visiting.

    1. Wow! This is the obvious, but have you tried eBay? I use eBay even for readily available products if they cost less. A lot of sellers charge less on shipping than online stores.

    2. Haven't tried yet... but sure will try in future. Thanks !

  10. it is the second time I read the post. it is fully detailed information about drugstore and beauty shopping. I jave to say congratulations. I enjoy to read the post with so muxh effort behind it.

    1. Awww, thank you. Your comment made my day. <3

  11. I'm loving your post!
    Have a great Sunday :)
    xx Tina

    Style Sinners

  12. Stunning guide... Really well written too...


  13. Such beautiful cosmetics here!! I just love the lipstick shades they would be perfect with my skin tone :) xx


    1. Thanks! The Flower-brand lipstick is 'Baby Buttercup," L'Oreal is "Sunset Angora" (it's more coral-pink in real life), and the Revlon is "Fifth Avenue Red"!

  14. This is such a useful guide - my favourite thing about going on holiday to the US is shopping at the drugstores and Sephora :)

    1. Thanks! I love Sephora, too, and I haunt the drugstores every Sunday (that's when the new sales happen!). Lol.

  15. What a great guide! I live in the US, and I didn't even think to print coupons before buying makeup. Thanks for sharing your awesome tips! I don't like Walmart. The stores are definitely garish, and if you go during the day there are always crying and screaming children. *shudder*

  16. Agree, WaMart is a horror show, though after reading this blog, I might venture there to check out Flower. I've been getting most of my makeup via mail order, usually MAC and this one (good mineral makeup, very low prices!) http://www.silknaturals.com/creb/

  17. I am a big makeup lover. One day in the near future I hope to become a makeup artist professionally. Until then I am stuck with drugstore makeup, but sometimes I have no clue what is good and don't have enough money to buy several different things to try. Your guide is so helpful! Thanks! www.herbalparenting.blogspot.com


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