Why I Love Drugstore Lipstick—& 10 to Try

August 14, 2014

Photo: Graeme MontgomeryTrunk Archive

My first lipstick was Wet ‘n’ Wild. I was 12, my mother had no idea, and it cost less than a pack of M&M’s. In fact, it still costs just $0.89.  I both loved and hoarded it, determined to make it last, because I had no idea when anything so pink, shimmery, and wonderful would come my way again. It turns out, there was a lot of lipstick in my future, but that early experience set the tone for my future spendthrift lipstick habits. Despite my access to luxury brands and their newest formulas (yes, I love my job), I have a thing for cheap lipstick.

Don’t get me wrong, a fancy bullet has its charms: it’s heavy, chic, and feels grown-up. But I’ll use one for a few days, and then find myself drifting back to my drugstore comfort zone. This summer I’ve worn a hot pink Revlon Lipstick (Sultry Samba, from Gucci Westman’s latest collection) down to the nub and have been rotating through some gently priced lip crayons.   

It’s a testament to how far lipstick technology has come; even the most affordable brands offer up hydrating formulas and trendy colors. And with the proper application, you can make a $5 lipstick look like a $35 one. The tricks? Exfoliate your lips, use a lip liner (I swear by the colorless “invisible” ones), apply with a lip brush instead of straight out of the tube, and use translucent powder to set the color.

Here are ten formulas under ten bucks I’ve fallen for this summer.

Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick ($8)
With 82 shades and four different finishes, you’re guaranteed to find your lipstick soulmate.  

NYC New York Color City Proof Twistable Instense Lip Color ($3)
Hat tip to Clinique for inventing lipstick in this shape, but so many brands are now doing their own versions and this opaque, moisturizing formula smells like a cherry lollipop. You can apply this one straight from the tube without a mirror.

Rimmel London Lasting Finish Lipstick-Kate Moss Collection ($5)
Yes, you can own a piece of the Kate Moss mystique, thanks to this long-lasting collection featuring colors created by the supermodel.

Sonia Kashuk Satin Luxe Lip Color SPF 16 ($10)
Every single one of the 13 colors in this collection is wearable—and has SPF protection.

NYX Cosmetics Soft Matte Lip Cream ($6)
This product is the perfect example of high tech lipstick in action. It looks like a lip gloss in the container, but dries to a matte finish.

MUA Liquid Lipstick ($9)
MUA, short for “Makeup Academy,” is a UK-based brand that just launched at CVS. There are 115 different lip products from which to choose. This hybrid product swipes on like gloss, but finishes with a lacquer-like, non-sticky sheen.

e.l.f. Essential Lip Stain ($2)
This two-buck beauty is like a magic marker for your lips. You can control how concentrated you want the color, from a stain to opaque coverage.

L’Oreal Paris Colour Riche Balm Pop ($8)
This is fantastic for days you want a bright pop of color without all the work. Four trendy colors and have a lip balm-like texture and provide a soft wash of color.

Maybelline Color Elixir by Color Sensational ($9)
If you hate gloss but like your lipstick shiny, this is the collection for you. A soft brush leaves behind a dense wash of color with a slightly wet look.

CoverGirl Lipperfection Lip Color ($7)
This classic formula comes in 44 shades.