I’ve been burned a lot by drugstore makeup, so I tend to only buy the products that have been hyped up for a year or longer. I know it’s possible for drugstore makeup to be on par with, or even better than, high end products, which is why today’s post is an attempt to see which of these items are beyond just being, “good for the price.”
Milani Cheek Kiss Cream Blush in Nude Kiss
When choosing this shade, I accurately detected that the color in the pan should be a dark enough blush color for me. What I failed to take into account was the sheerness of the formula. If I treat it like other cream blushes and pick up my usual amount to somewhat build it up, it blends away to nearly nothing. No matter how much I attempted to build, it would not go on my skin opaquely. However, if I load a lot onto my brush and apply it to my cheeks all at once and then blend it out, even picking up the excess with my Blendiful (yes, I’m still using that old thing), then I am left with a gorgeously dewy looking cheek.
I didn’t have high hopes for applying this blush with my fingers, but once again, I can get a nice result if I apply a lot of product to my cheeks at a time. This is why I don’t prefer using this blush with a sponge either, since the dampness from the sponge thins the formula and I have to use an excessive amount of product to compensate.
Had I known how sheer these would be, I would have gotten Merlot Moment. I bought Nude Kiss because I wanted something natural, but it’s still a touch too light to look completely natural on me, so I could see myself mixing this shade with some of my more pigmented cream blushes.
This formula does not set in the amount I have to use packed on, but it’s at least not sticky. It remains creamy to the touch and easily transfers. It also absorbs into my dry bare skin very quickly, so I need a barrier between the blush and my skin (like a layer of foundation) to prevent that from happening. When applied on top of foundation, this still begins to fade within a few hours. To get this to last, I use setting powder on top. This step also reduces the amount of product transfer and the balmy feeling to the skin, but it still doesn’t dry down completely.
With a foundation layer, packed on blush, and a setting powder layer, this blush starts to fade at eight hours. Considering the fact that I don’t like blushes that don’t set, I’m still impressed with this formula. It’s like a better version of the Tower 28 Beach Please Cream Blushes that so many people love, but I hate. I certainly recommend the Milani Blush over the one from Tower 28, but it’s possible the Tower 28 blush is longer lasting. I can only guess that because the Tower 28 blush I tried was more pigmented, but I don’t know its full wear time because I couldn’t stand the feeling of it on my skin and could not complete a wear test. I understand why the Milani Blush gets so much hype, and I like it, but I won’t be purchasing the others.
Below is a photo comparing the swatches off all the blushes we’ll discuss today.
J.CAT Beauty Blush-Mallow Soft Blusher in Thank You Berry Much!
This packaging is like an even cheaper version of MAC’s compacts. I feel like I could accidentally break the flimsy lid every time I open it. My fears for this cream blush are warranted considering my first one arrived broken in the mail, so Ulta replaced it.
I bought this on a whim because the look of it in promo shots and its description as, “a marshmallow textured formula,” reminded me of the Armani Neo Nude Color Melting Cream Balm Blushes (at least Warm Coral is that way). The J.Cat blush isn’t as emollient as that one and is a little stiffer, but once I’m able to pick up enough of it, it spreads fairly easily. It’s only $4, so I wouldn’t have asked for a replacement if I didn’t like the formula but I was so impressed!
Thank You Berry Much has a good amount of pigment, but because of the tone, it’s subtle on my cheeks. Despite the “berry” in its name, it’s a terracotta shade. I like the warmth it provides to my cheeks and by the eight hour point, it is significantly faded. It’s at least solid without fading up to six hours, and past eight hours it still clings on for an hour before disappearing. This also depends on whether or not I’ve set it with a powder and how often I’ve touched my face. When first applying, the blush dries enough that it’s not sticky to the touch and I don’t feel the need to set it with a powder. There is a tiny amount of transfer if touched and a low amount if accidentally rubbed.
This is one of the few blushes I like applying with my fingers, though I still end up applying it with a brush more often. The brush just requires a lot more building up. I can really pack on color with a damp sponge, but the sponge picks product back up, leaving splotches on the cheek. It also turned the blush into an odd vibrant coral orange shade. I think it’s a reaction between the water and the dyes. Sometimes eyeshadow formulas with dyes in them have color bleed out when I’m pressing them back in the pan with isopropyl alcohol. I’m guessing the dye in the blush reacted to the small amount of water in the sponge and caused a similar situation of the dye seeping out.
Because of the patchy results, I wouldn’t use this blush with a sponge again anyway. Fingers and brushes are the way to go.
As it stands, I think the one I have is the only shade I’d enjoy out of what’s available on Ulta’s site, but J.Cat has sixteen in total. The consistency is fun, the shade is pretty, and it performs fairly well on my skin, but this might be one of those things that are fantastic for the price as I can think of several cream blush formulas I prefer more.
Covergirl TruBlend So Flushed High Pigment Blush in Sweet Seduction
I like shimmery blushes, but so many that I encounter have too metallic and/or reflective of a finish or the shimmer particle size is large and takes it to the glitter level. I am so pleased to have found a great one at the drugstore, and it’s entirely thanks to Nikki posting about it on her blog. She mentioned that it can be found for as low as $7.99 at retailers like Walmart and Target. I purchased this from Ulta, which is normally $10.99, but between the sale and an additional promo code, I paid $5.30 for it. In my eyes, it’s absolutely worth getting and I’d even be willing to pay somewhere between $15-$18 for it! I have very few blushes in this exact tone, somewhere between a mauve and warm pink that adds life to the cheeks but is still grounded. It looks smooth on the cheeks, especially as it settles into the skin, and gives the right amount of shine.
“High Pigment” in the name could probably sound intimidating for some, but this blush is very blendable and therefore easy to get a subtle look or tone down. It’s also buildable, and I could get it to look even more intensely than my photo demonstrates above, which I used a medium to borderline heavy amount of blush. Nine hours is the longest I’ve worn it for, so far, and it was still going strong with no fading that I could see.
There aren’t any other blush shades in the line that interest me, but this experience makes me want to try the bronzer version and see if the Ebony shade would work for me.*
*Note: Spoiler for my March purchases post… I have tried Ebony and it does work and I do like it a lot!
Essence The Blush in Believing
Ulta bumped up the price to $3.99, but it was $2.99 originally and on sale for $1.79 at the time I bought it. It had been on my wishlist for months because I was curious as to whether or not such an inexpensive blush could actually be good, as well as wanting something I could throw in my cart to meet the free shipping requirement if needed. The only thing holding me back was the uncertainty of whether any of them would be deep enough for me. Thanks to Stef, another blogger who posted swatches of the four blushes available at Ulta, I was able to feel confident that the shade Believing would work for me. This mauve blush takes a little building up, but it does show on me and is actually quite flattering! It also lasts through a full day of wear. This is perhaps the best performing blush I’ve used at this kind of price point besides the ELF Bite Size Face Duos, which the combined weight of both the blush and highlighter (0.16 oz) is nearly the same amount of product as the one from Essence (0.17 oz). I like this, I think it’s good, and I could see myself continuing to use it, but it doesn’t quite cross into the “I love it” category. It’s equal to the quality of Colourpop blushes, which is around the $10 price point. So, for those who like Colourpop blushes and don’t mind having plain packaging, this blush is practically a steal.
Essence Pure Nude Highlighter Palette
Based on Ulta’s photos, I really thought the bottom shades in the Highlighter Palette were deeper than they ended up being. The second version called the Sunlighter Palette looked too deep for me, but I should have searched for photos from other customers and bloggers because I would have discovered it’s so much lighter.
I heard so many people say the Essence Pure Nude single compact highlighter was the perfect dupe to Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powders, but I saw those in person and knew they would be too light for me. When I saw the palettes on Ulta’s site, I thought those would be deeper, but we know how that turned out. It’s possible that because the singles are baked, the formula and performance is totally different from these highlighters in the palette, since these aren’t the most refined and have a creamy slip to them that all baked products I’ve used don’t have. So, I guess I still can’t determine how good those singles are, but I can at least confirm that the highlighters in the palette don’t compare to Hourglass at all. They aren’t even the best options from the drugstore. They are too light for me, so they go on my skin bright and intense,yet they dull down so quickly and fade within hours. Even with a dewy product underneath, these highlighters don’t last on my face. They’re also a bit tough to blend and Pan #1 is flat out powdery and almost chalky. The other three weren’t as bad, but they reminded me of a slightly worse version of the Haus Labs highlighters in the Blush and Highlight Duos I’ve reviewed before. I can get the shades in this palette to work and look super pretty on the cheeks initially, but this formula just doesn’t last, which is the main reason I don’t recommend them.
I didn’t bother taking photos of highlighter #1 or #2 because they looked so terrible on me and are clearly not intended for dark skin anyway.
Maybelline Master Chrome in Molten Topaz and Molten Peach
I don’t have a lot of drugstore highlighters, but there seems to be a pattern of longevity issues with them. With this Maybelline formula, I can at least get 6-8 hours before they begin to fade. Molten Topaz is smooth, creamy feeling, and blends well into my skin. If it wasn’t for the fading, I would have mistaken it for a high end formula. Molten Peach is a stunning color, but there are noticeable large silver glitter specks throughout the pan and I am not a fan of glittery highlighters (especially silver), so this is not something I’d wear again. I wish I knew Molten Peach didn’t have the same milling of the powder as Molten Topaz, so I wouldn’t have wasted my money buying it, but it was only $5 from Amazon. I also bought Molten Topaz from Amazon for $6.
Although Molten Topaz is still not in my top favorite formulas, I think it is quite good and that the hype is well deserved. The biggest difference between this and more expensive formulas is the longevity. As for Molten Peach, that shade doesn’t give me what I want from a highlighter, so I don’t think that one is even good for the price at $10 considering I have Colourpop Super Shock highlighters at the same price that I like more and those last all day.
Revlon Skinlights Prismatic Highlighter in Gilded Dawn
Talk about a glittery cheek! In some lighting, it’s alright, but it’s really glittery up close. I despise how this looks with some brushes that pick up more of the shimmer onto the brush than the rest of the powder, but even at its best it’s still too much for me. I don’t think it looks flattering on me purely because of the visible glitter. I did attempt a full wear test and it didn’t last to the eight hour mark. It has that glassy reflect to the skin like most baked gelée products. The base color blends into my skin so well, and it feels smooth to the touch, so this really could have been a hit for me if it had finer shimmer. At the same time, I know a lot of people don’t mind glitter and some people even love it, so I still get why this is hyped up.
The Results With My Best Brush
I thought it might be interesting to compare some of my least expensive highlighters together in the picture below. I like Colourpop the most, then Maybelline, Revlon, and Essence.
L’Oreal Paris Infallible Fresh Wear Foundation in a Powder in Copper
I go through phases of wanting powder foundations, but I’ve had so much trouble finding the right shade that I’ve mostly given up. When this line came out, I was interested to see so many deeper toned options and at drugstore prices, so I thought it might be worth investigating. I watched plenty of videos to try and find my closest shade, but the overall consensus was that the foundations lean too warm for me past Hazelnut. Hazelnut in the liquid foundation was too light for me and I had to mix it with Copper, so this information made me realize I was highly unlikely to get my perfect match in the powder form and that I should skip getting it. However, in one review, someone said that this powder foundation makes for an excellent bronzer and I decided I needed to try it for that reason alone!
So, I cannot say how this product performs as a foundation. I’ve only worn it around the perimeter of my face to add warmth, but no extra depth, to my skin. It lasts all day, although it’s quite subtle because I didn’t go for a darker color. This also makes for a good balancing shade for times my foundation or concealer is too light or too cool and I need to add some warmth back.
Because I don’t use this for its intended purpose, I don’t think I’m able to judge whether it’s worth the hype or not. I can at least say I have use for it in my collection.
Ironically, just a few days ago L’Oreal actually released this product as bronzers.
For the sake of science, I’m tempted to see how the two products perform similarly, but the ingredient lists are almost identical excluding two ingredients towards the end of the list. So, I think they could be considered the same product in additional shades.
Nyx Gimme Super Stars! Epic Ink Black Eyeliner (LIMITED EDITION)/Vegan Waterproof Liquid Eyeliner in Black
I actually bought this by mistake, as I didn’t realize this was part of Nyx’s Holiday 2021 Collection that released two weeks after the Nyx x Netflix Casa de Papel (Money Heist) Collection. I was entranced by what looked like a gorgeous coppery packaging and I ran out of liquid liners, so I clicked whichever version on the website was available that wasn’t in the standard black packaging. It turns out it didn’t matter. The one I received was a pretty gold pen and apparently the Netflix version is still gold too. Only certain promo pics gave it the coppery outer appearance.
I’ve made it known that the Stila Stay All Day liquid liners are my holy grail. This version from NYX is very comparable, but Stila is still better in a few crucial ways. For one thing, I’ve used up a NYX Epic Ink liner pen already, so I know how it performs when it’s starting to run out of product towards the end. It ends up being less pigmented, like the liquid and pigment are separating. This causes feathering sometimes in the lines of my eye. It also means I have to reline a few times to get the full opacity. With this new pen that I have, the watery aspect has already started. I’m not sure if NYX messed with the formula because I heard someone else say the same thing in a video this year. I have to add that I can sometimes get feathering from the Stila pen as well.
The second way Stila is better is that the NYX pen doesn’t go over multichromes and some of my thicker shimmer eyeshadows as well as Stila. I have to make multiple passes when using those types of shadows as well, which increases the chance of me making the line too thick for my liking. When this NYX liner is good and working right, it’s just as great at the Stila one and really is waterproof, but it admittedly still has weak points.
The NYX liners are only $10 and could be even less with a coupon, so the few issues I have with them seem to be worth dealing with compared to Stila’s $23 liners. However, Ulta has Stila’s liners in their 21 Days of Beauty and other sales for $11 often enough that I would normally encourage others to skip the one from NYX and wait for a sale on Stila instead. In 2021, Ulta actually kept Stila off the sale page and the usual holiday kits with two products for $22 weren’t included that year, which is how I ended up buying another Epic Ink Liner instead. After getting the Stila liners at half price for the last six years or so, I was adamant about not paying full price for it. And sure enough, it has already been on sale for $11 in 2022. So, I recommend the NYX liner in the event that cheaper waterproof liquid pens aren’t available, but for anyone who can hold out, getting Stila on a sale is more worth the wait.
Well, that’s everything for today! To sum it all up, the Covergirl blush is the only one I can fully endorse, but all the other blushes and the Maybelline highlighter (Topaz specifically) are all great for the price and perhaps worth looking into as well.