I am always on the hunt for the best beauty products. At department stores, you can find exclusive brands with hefty price tags, while drugstores offer mainstream products at a more affordable price. How do these two types of makeup really compare? Is it worth giving up your hard earned cash to nab luxury designer products?

Contrary to what you might think, inexpensive beauty products doesn’t always mean less effective, when it comes to skin care and makeup. So why are the prices so high for certain luxury brands?

Brand Name

Think Christian Dior, MAC, and Chanel. In the beauty industry simply adding a designer’s name will make the cost go up significantly. It’s a status symbol and a sign that many customers have come to trust and admire.


Don’t we all get excited when we see a pretty package? Luxury brands put in extra effort to create fancy or unique packages. This really doesn’t add any value to the actual product, but makes us feel like it’s made exclusively for us and therefore will pay a lot extra for it.


How much more would you pay for scented products versus unscented? Women are instantly drawn to scents which can stimulate a particular emotional state. Luxury brands add their own fragrance formula to enhance the user experience.

High Pigmentation

The more pigmented a product is, the less you utilize. Therefore the product will last a long time with just a few swipes or pumps of use. Women have no problem paying more for products with a lengthier shelf life.  


Women want efficient applicators like amazing eyeshadow brushes, foundation sponges, mascara tips, and powder puffs. This can mean an applicator that spreads steadily, easier, and/or evenly.

Do Ingredients Play A Part?

Notice that ingredients aren’t actually a factor at all in the pricing of luxury products. That’s because, are you ready for this?

The vast majority of designer beauty products have the same ingredients as drugstore beauty products. The main differences are the 5 attributes I previously mentioned.

Go figure!

High end beauty brands often create their own recipe for products exclusively with their own labs and technology. Meaning, you won’t find these products in a drugstore. They do their own research and provide more active ingredients that actually work.

On the other hand, drugstore brands contain the same active ingredients, but at a lesser strength. These brands have a tighter budget and can only afford to do a smaller amount of research with a smaller amount of resources. The result is a straight forward product with little to no frills or embellishments, but still works to a certain extent.

How To Shop For Products

Think about your specific skin care or beauty needs, whether it’s dark spots, matte lips, wrinkles, etc. Research what ingredients it takes to repair or satisfy your needs such as retinol, ferulic acid, vitamin E, or whatever it may be.

According to the FDA, cosmetic ingredients or tests for any particular product does not need to be approved. However they do require brands to be clear about the ingredients on their label. Look for the ingredients you need on the labels of products. Remember that the ingredients list always shows them in the order of the amount present in the product. So if a certain ingredient is at the top of the list, there is more of that than any other ingredient in the item.

If you’re interested in designer brands, try and look for those that have done clinical tests. This shows that the company has put in a lot of research and money into a product that really works. But above all else, look at past reviews of both luxury and drugstore brands. Most likely many customers have tried it before and therefore will have a lot to say about it, whether good or bad. Just look for proof that a product actually works. Don’t just buy anything solely based on scents, packaging, or designer names.

That being said there are many drugstore beauty products that work just as well as luxury beauty products and vice versa. For example, I’m in love with Maybelline Great Lash Washable Mascara because it’s less than $10 and gives a great full lash. However, when it comes to foundation, there’s no way I’m going for anything other than NARS for its buildable, flawless coverage that lasts all day. Choosing makeup can just come down to what works best for you.

The Bottom Line

Not everyone has the same priorities. You may be fine with splurging on a signature designer lipstick, while your friend would rather spend more on a luxury anti-wrinkle cream. It’s up to you to decide whether the added cost justifies the advantages you get. The only way to tell what’s worth it and what’s not is to try multiple products and decide for yourself what best fits your needs and budget


Sheereen, mama to a rambunctious 2 year old, expert fashion stylist, and all around creative enthusiast. Founder of Cups of Coco, Sheereen is on a mission to help all women unleash their artistic side with fashion tips, beauty hacks, and home DIY.

You can also find out what she’s up to on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest.