The Drugstore Beauty Side-By-Side That Will Blow Your Mind

We've all seen those high versus low, splurge versus steal spreads in fashion magazines. Nine times out of 10, it's ridiculously easy to understand why one pair of boots costs $595 and the other costs $59. The luxe version is 100% real leather, with sturdy soles and wooden heels and subtle details of craftsmanship; the cheaper pair is synthetic, strangely shiny, with an exposed silver zipper up the back. "Do they think I'm a fool?" you huff.

We do not think you're a fool. But we do think it's possible to put drugstore makeup in the ring, or on the face, with high-end makeup and get a tie for first place. And we set out to prove it to you. We called upon makeup artist Katie Jane Hughes to put together four spring looks — with a catch. One side of the model's face would feature only high-end products; the other side, only drugstore.

As you'll see, it's harder than you'd expect to tell which is which. In fact, Hughes believes that often, it all comes down to technique — not the product's price tag. "In my opinion, it's all about application and how you layer things that make them last [and look good]," she says. You might want to save on a drugstore lipstick, but splurge on a fancy powder — and that's entirely up to you.

Want to test your eye for detail? Click through the slides ahead.

Photographed by Osvaldo Ponton.
Fresh To Death

"This look is about expensive skin," Hughes declared before carefully tapping a sheer layer of luminous foundation onto our model, Yasmin. What Hughes was referring to, though, wasn't the price of the makeup but rather the overall finish of each product. "The story is more about texture than anything else," she said. "There's no bold color; it's about adding shadow and light."

Hughes buffed foundation onto Yasmin's skin just in the places she needed it, like around the nose and on any blemishes. Then Hughes dusted on a heavy dose of bronzer and tapped liquid highlighter onto Yasmin's cheekbones, Cupid's bow, and nose using her fingers. "The benefit of using your fingers to press liquid highlighter in is that it blends faster and allows you to keep the product's texture," said Hughes. "If you use a brush or sponge, it will just soak up the product."

When it comes to liquid highlighters, Hughes tends to reach for high-end products. "Prestige products tend to look more expensive on the face, meaning the texture has less sparkle and more dew," she said. That being said, the drugstore highlighter she used on Yasmin's face is one of Hughe's favorites.

All Blues Hungry Snake Earrings, $2,296, available at All Blues; Sylvio Giardina earrings; M. Martin Polo; Kenzo jacket.
Photographed by Osvaldo Ponton.
Once Yasmin's face was sufficiently dewy, Hughes went in with a soft diffusion of black and brown liner. "I started with a brown pencil on the upper lashline and diffused it with a pointy pencil brush. Then I went in with black liner at the bed of the lash to make the lashes look fluffier," she said. "Both liners went on smoothly, but the drugstore liners actually held up longer."

When it came to lips, Hughes wanted to stick to the less-is-more approach. She tapped Glossier's Cloud Paint in Haze onto the right side of Yasmin's mouth and Maybelline's Loaded Bolds Lipstick in Nude Thrill onto the other. "I pressed in the colors with my fingers so there weren't any hard lines," she added.

Right: NARS Sheer Glow Foundation, $47, available at Sephora; Giorgio Armani Maestro Bronzer, $64, available at Giorgio Armani; Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid in Opal, $41, available at Sephora; Marc Jacobs Highliner Gel Eye Crayon Eyeliner in Blacquer and Earthquake, $25 each, available at Sephora; Glossier Cloud Paint in Dusk, $18, available at Glossier.

Left: L'Oréal Infallible Pro-Glow Foundation, $12.99, available at Ulta Beauty; CoverGirl TruBlend Bronzer in Bronze, $9.99, available at Ulta Beauty; Flower Skin Radiance Face & Body Illuminator, $12.98, available at Walmart; L'Oréal Infallible Eyeliner in Black and Brown, $9.49 each, available at Ulta Beauty; Maybelline Loaded Bolds Lipstick in Nude Thrill, $5.59, available at Target.
Photographed by Osvaldo Ponton.
Pop Art Made Modern

This look, inspired by makeup artist Porsche's creation on model Joan Smalls, has a decidedly '80s vibe, according to Hughes. "The red and blue together reads '80s, but the fresh skin, brushed-up brows, and highlighted skin keeps it modern."

The eyes, which feature a hit of turquoise, are easy-to-achieve yet have a bold impact. Hughes started by applying a layer of MAC's Cyan Chromagraphic Pencil onto one of Chloé's waterlines — "this hi-def mid-blue tone is a rare shade to come across," said Hughes. On the other eye, Hughes used Rimmel's ScandalEyes liner in Turqoise, which gave a similar effect but had a shimmery finish rather than a matte one. "Whenever something is matte, it tends to be a bit more long-lasting," said Hughes. "This Rimmel liner has some mica pearl running through it, [which is pretty] but could make the liner disperse quicker into the wetness of the eye." She topped off the look with a touch of eye gloss.

"Gloss adds an element of intrigue and makes people look twice," said Hughes. "I love contrasting textures and colors. If your lips are bone-matte, try a glossy lid. It's like an accessory for your face."

When it comes to wearability though, Hughes warns that gloss will definitely crease throughout the day. "But it's the easiest thing to fix — just look in a mirror and smooth over the crease with your finger every couple of hours," she said.

Roxanne Assoulin Straight Away Hoopla, $75, available at Roxanne Assoulin; Topshop jacket; M. Martin knit.
Photographed by Osvaldo Ponton.
Hughes finished off the look with a bold red lip. "It's unapologetic and something every woman should wear at least 50,000 times in her life," she said. "I always put down a lip liner first; it keeps the lipstick on longer and creates a foundation and shape."

While the two lipsticks she used (Giorgio Armani Rouge D'Armani in Red Fire and Wet n Wild Liquid Catsuit Matte Lipstick in Missy Fierce) were a perfect color match, the Giorgio Armani lipstick had a slightly shinier finish. "[It wasn't a big deal though,] I blotted it with tissue to make it matte," she said.

Right: MAC Ruby Woo Lip Liner, $17.50, available at MAC; Giorgio Armani Rouge D'Armani Lipstick in 401 Red Fire, $38, available at Giorgio Armani; Milk Face Gloss, $20, available at Milk Makeup; MAC Chromagraphic Pencil in Cyan, $17, available at MAC; Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Wiz, $21, available at Sephora.

Left: Catrice Longlasting Lip Pencil in Prince Cherry, $3.99, available at Ulta Beauty; Wet n Wild MegaLast Liquid Catsuit Matte Lipstick in Missy and Fierce, $4.99, available at Wet n Wild; Maybelline LipStudio Shine Shot Lip Topcoat, $5.99, available at Ulta Beauty; Rimmel ScandalEyes Waterproof Eyeliner in Turqoise, $4.49, available at Walgreens; NYX Cosmetics Micro Brow Pencil, $10, available at NYX Cosmetics.
Photographed by Osvaldo Ponton.
Burgundy Babe

For Yasmin's second look, Hughes started with the same glowy, bronzed base she already had on, but toned it down slightly by buffing away some color with a fluffy brush. Then, she started working on the eye look, which she described as "a glamorous Hollywood smoky eye using browns."

Using a fluffy shading brush, she buffed a mixture of matte taupe shades and warm browns into Yasmin's crease. "This E.L.F. palette [may have a] cheap price tag, but it has a high-end feel," Hughes noted. "[The shadows] blend like a dream and stay put."

Sylvio Giardina earring; All Blues Yolk and Egg White Earring, $1,490, available at All Blues; Lane Bryant Ultra-Light Denim Jacket, $80, available at Lane Bryant; Zara top.
Photographed by Osvaldo Ponton.
For the lips, Hughes reached for a deep burgundy hue, this time using two lip liners to shade over the entire lip. As you can see, the two shades weren't an exact match, but with a little layering, Hughes explained, you can get the color pretty damn close.

Right: MAC Lip Liner in Beet, $17.50, available at MAC; Lancôme Color Design Eyeshadow Palette in French Nude, $50, available at Ulta Beauty; Chantecaille Faux Cils Longest Lash Mascara, $72, available at Nordstrom; Kat Von D Shade & Light Eye Contour Palette, $48, available at Sephora.

Left: Maybelline Color Sensational Lip Liner in Wine, $6.99, available at Ulta Beauty; E.L.F Mad For Matte 2 Eyeshadow Palette, $10, available at E.L.F; Revlon Ultimate All-In-One Mascara, $8.49, available at Ulta Beauty.
Photographed by Osvaldo Ponton.
I Can See Your Halo

"[A halo eye] is a cool play on a smoky eye," said Hughes. "The point of it is to have a streak through the eye where the iris and pupil are, so it almost looks like a reflection on the ocean from the night of the moon."

Hughes enhanced the inner and outer corners of model Chloé's eyes using a metallic warm brown shadow and noted that the drugstore palette she used took a bit more time to layer than the high-end option. "I stretched out the shape because it gives it an almond, feline shape," said Hughes. "It lifts the face and adds a bit of a dramatic, vintage feel."

Then, using her finger, Hughes tapped a pink shimmery pigment onto the center of Véro's lids and right under her bottom lashline. When it comes to high-intensity eyeshadows, Hughes believes high-end brands can't be beat. Although the drugstore palette featured a color that was very similar to the Make Up For Ever's Star Lit Powder in Golden Pink she used on the other side, the latter had a crystallized finish that made it one-of-a-kind.

To add a pop of color to Chloé's eyes, Hughes dusted a touch of matte pink shadow through her crease before finishing off the look with a generous coat of mascara. "Mascara is absolutely necessary for this look," she added. "There's a lot of darkness around the eye; without mascara, the eyes wouldn't look as defined."

Sylvio Giardina earring [model's right ear]; Lana Large Flat Magic Hoops with Diamonds, $655,available at Lana [model's left ear]; Zara Frilly Shirt, $50, available at Zara; Burberry trench coat.
Photographed by Osvaldo Ponton.
Chloe's look was all about the eyes, so Hughes made sure to keep her skin light and fresh while balancing out the bold eyes with a peachy-nude lip. "I pressed on the color to make a stain," she said. "I feel like when I'm working with an eye look that's very 'done,' it's nice to press the color onto the lips [rather than going in straight with the bullet]."

Right: Charlotte Tilbury Mini Miracle Eye Wand, $45, available at Charlotte Tilbury; Tom Ford Lip Color Matte in First Time, $53, available at Nordstorm; Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance Eye Shadow Palette, $42, available at Sephora; Make Up For Ever Star Lit Powder in Golden Pink, $21, available at Make Up For Ever; Lancôme Grandiose Wide-Angle Fan Effect Mascara, $32, available at Lancôme.

Left: Maybelline Fit Me Concealer, $7.49, available at Walgreens; Maybelline Loaded Bolds Lipstick in Nude Thrill, $5.59, available at Target; Flower Beauty Shimmer & Shade Eyeshadow Palette, $16, available at Flower Beauty; Nyx Cosmetics Hot Singles Eyeshadow in Wild Orchid, $4.49, available at Ulta Beauty; Maybelline The Colossal Big Shot Mascara, $8.49, available at Ulta Beauty.
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