We Tested $1,517 Worth Of Makeup — & These Were Our Favorites

A wave of panic washed over us as we calculated the actual cost of all the beauty products tested for this story. Could we really have blown through a month’s rent in pursuit of the best foundation and foundation drops, concealer, mascara, black eyeliner, and setting spray? We added up the totals again. And again. Yikes.

Though no actual bank accounts were harmed in the making of this story (we snagged products straight from the beauty closet), that big-time dollar figure represents just a sliver of the time and money that we’ve unknowingly parted with over the years while trying to find the blackest liquid eyeliner or a foundation that would not only match our skin tone, but would most closely mimic the look of skin itself.

In an effort to help minimize the amount of cash wasted on makeup that isn’t quite right, we’ve tested 49 products across a spectrum of categories and on a range of faces in hopes that you don’t have to. Ahead, see the very best products we’ve tried so far. The big takeaway: Half the time, affordable drugstore finds beat out much pricier options — a revelation that we can take straight to the bank.

How does a $5 concealer stack up against a $70 one? In writer Michaela Rollings' experience, the drugstore option blows a fancier version right out of the water. In fact, this full-coverage formula rated so highly, it surpassed all others that Rollings tested at every price point. “I was shocked by how well it masked my under-eye circles and brightened up my face,” she wrote. “The coverage on this product is AMAZING...it also looked so natural.”

After 12 hours of wear, Rollings reported seeing nearly flawless-looking skin, something she calls “a small miracle for me.” With 19 shades available, and at the price of a frozen yogurt, the rest of us can try covering up with this clear winner, too.
NYX Hi Definition Photo Concealer Wand, $4.99 Buy
The four pillars that construct a hero mascara: definition, volume, length, and curl. It’s a lot to ask, but this drugstore brand rose to the challenge. “I absolutely loved the balance of curl and volume that this mascara gave me,” Rollings raved. What’s more, the tapered brush shape helped fan out lashes for added definition. This lash enhancer was such a standout, it’s since become the only formula that Rollings uses.
Catrice Prêt-à-Volume Smokey Velvet Black Mascara, $6.99 Buy
It’s no wonder why this setting spray is frequently sold out: When testing it against eight others, Rollings found this formula to strike the perfect chord for setting makeup and balancing skin. “It controlled the oil around my T-zone, softened the dry areas on my cheeks, and kept my concealer and highlight glowing all day,” she reported. More impressive still, Rollings swore that a spritz helped extend the wear of her eye makeup.
Morphe Continuous Setting Mist, $15.00 Buy
There are plenty of great foundation formulas out there, but few of them offer a truly shade-inclusive range. This SPF-spiked foundation not only comes in 29 shades; it also gets top marks for delivering a lightweight feel, shine-free finish, and marathon 24-hour wear that required no primer or setting spray to achieve, according to our tester.
Marc Jacobs Beauty Shameless Youthful-Look 24H Foundation SPF 25, $46.00 Buy
Opaque, high-shine pigment that doesn’t fade or budge after 16 hours of wear? Oh, it exists — and it’s stocked at your local drugstore. This liquid liner also ranked for its fast, smudge-free dry-down and for its overall ease of use, according to our tester.
Maybelline Master Precise Ink Metallic Liquid Liner, $8.99 Buy
According to writer Danielle Cohen, these foundation drops racked up points for doing exactly what they say they will: provide smooth application and weightless wear with minimal fading, while covering redness, dark spots, and any other skin concerns like a champ.
Dermablend Professional Flawless Creator Multi-Use Liquid Pigments, $40.00 Buy
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