Last year, Primark sent beauty editors, bloggers and consumers alike into meltdown over its KKW Beauty-inspired PS...Nudes makeup collection, and its PS...Pure range, said to be akin to Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty, followed suit. In so doing, the high street retailer proved two things: there's big business in makeup dupes and 'cheap' may no longer mean second-rate. As well as providing on-trend beauty bargains, Primark has just been awarded Leaping Bunny status by Cruelty Free International. This means the entire PS… range – makeup, skincare and haircare – is not tested on animals, either by the company or its suppliers; over 2,500 products (and 7,000 individual ingredients) have been verified.
Despite the buzz around Primark's products, there's still a stigma attached to low-cost beauty – especially makeup. Sure, it's forgiving on the purse strings, but are the formulas and pigments as good as those available elsewhere? Where do they sit in relation to the prestige beauty buys we return to for their reliability and, of course, shade ranges? Are they as inclusive as the brands we know and love? Intrigued by the buzz, which has only multiplied since launching its Urban Decay-esque eyeshadow palettes, I swapped out all my usual makeup products for Primark alternatives. Here's what I thought.
A natural 'day' look
Just like Meghan Trainor, I’m all about that base. I like to nail my foundation, because if my skin looks good, I feel good. I usually use The Body Shop’s Fresh Nude Foundation SPF15, £16. It lends a beautiful dewy finish and covers my uneven skin tone and acne scars. I swapped it out for the PS...My Perfect Colour Matte Foundation in Nude, £3, which, like all Primark products, is only available to buy in store. The foundation is oil-free and, according to the brand, offers 'medium to full coverage' – but it only comes in 16 shades, which isn't very inclusive compared to brands like NYX, Maybelline, Lancôme and Fenty. The bottle is basic but for the price, it's sufficient. While the foundation itself isn’t bad, I felt I had to use a lot more of it, building up the product in layers, and it didn’t cover my scars as well as my usual. The staying power was good and the colour a good match – I've certainly tried worse! If you're not bothered about concealing acne scars entirely, this is a good shout, but the limited shade range is disappointing and it's unfortunate that it doesn’t include SPF (as their pressed powder does), which is an odd choice in my eyes.
I usually apply foundation with The Body Shop’s Buffing Brush, £14, and I’m yet to find a tool to rival it, but I swapped this for the PS...Pro Blending Brush, £3.50, and got to work stippling in the foundation. Unfortunately, this brush didn’t measure up – the quality just wasn’t there and a lot of the foundation sunk into the bristles. I was, however, a big fan of their concealer. For this look, I used PS…My Perfect Colour Liquid Concealer in Porcelain, £2, and it provided great coverage. The packaging tells me it includes vitamin E and aloe vera. For less than the price of most sandwiches, this is a little gem.
I ordinarily use Max Factor’s 2000 Calorie Mascara, £7.99, because I love the thickening effect (sans spider-leg clumping) and staying power, but find it can require a few coats for maximum impact. I found Primark’s PS...Pro High Impact Waterproof Mascara, £2.50, really pigmented and to my delight the comb worked its magic, separating my lashes to perfection. I’ve already recommended this find to friends, though I needed more makeup remover than usual to take it off, even for a waterproof mascara. I filled in my eyebrows with the PS...Brown Skinny Brow Pencil, £2, which I found slightly too dark. Apart from that, it wasn’t noticeably different from my usual pencil, MAC’s Veluxe Brow Liner, £17.50.
I finished by applying the PS...Cheeky Peachy Peach Blush And Highlight Palette, £3, with their perfectly formed and super soft Tapered Blush Brush, £3. For such an affordable blush (I usually use Benefit’s Dandelion Blusher, £25), this was well pigmented and easily blendable. I still think I prefer a more pink tone to Primark’s peach offering, but that’s personal choice. I'll also be marking the brush down as a bargain beauty hero. In the evening, I touched up my makeup and added PS...Pro’s Lip Fix in Cheerleader, £2, to jazz up my otherwise basic day look, and it surprised me. I got so many compliments from friends. Yes, it felt slightly drying but boy did it stay put.
A beachy look
I changed my base to the PS...My Perfect Colour SPF 25 BB Cream in Nude Beige, £4, because I wanted to go slightly lighter with my foundation, to counteract the lip and eye. After using the medium foundation, I wasn't holding out much hope for this providing enough coverage, but it had a lovely finish and gave me a nice, sheer base. The silver on my lids is actually the PS...Mermaid Glow Highlighter, £3. It's the most pigmented silver I’ve ever come across but looked odd on my cheeks, so I improvised. The orange lip is PS...Lip Liner Pencil, £1. Though I wouldn’t call this Candy Pink, I loved the colour. It had a great matte but totally non-drying feel, which meant I went slightly off-spec and applied it all over my lips. It stayed on as long as any matte lipstick I’ve tried. £1, people!
A bronzed, Charlotte Tilbury-inspired look
Here, I reapplied the PS...Porcelain Matte Foundation, £3, and added PS...PRO SPF 15 Longwear Mattifying Powder, £5. It was okay but I still prefer my usual powder, bareMinerals Perfecting Veil, £23, for staying power. I swiped the powder on with the frankly giant PS...Large Powder Brush, £3.50, but after feeling let down by the foundation brush, I was sceptical. Amazingly, it turned out to be one of my favourite finds. It’s large, fluffy and holds just the right amount of product. I was slightly wary of the PS...Urban Eyeshadow Palette, £4, for its blue and orange offerings (not my usual colours – I go for nudes, golds and browns), but it did present two beautiful brown shades: Dark Matter and Stars.
I received the most compliments with this look and friends and family commented on the rich, sparkly pigment. And yep, there were shockwaves when I revealed the makeup’s origin. They say a bad workman always blames his tools, but I think my inability to master a successful shadow before this week could come down to my below par brushes, and the PS...Eye Crease and Contour Brush, 251, £1.50, is my new BFF – although I’m still nowhere near mastering an Instagram-worthy cut crease. After such success with Primark’s waterproof mascara, I was reluctant to change it but for you, dear reader, I tried the PS...Insta Girl Lash Ink Super Volume Mascara, £4. It was just as thickening and pigmented as the comb. Success.
An ultra glowy look
This morning I went for the PS...My Perfect Colour Tinted Moisturiser in Vanilla, £4. While perfect for the clear-skinned among us, I just don’t think I can get away with anything less than a BB cream. To enhance the dewy-skinned look, I applied the PS...Strobing Highlighter Cream in Rose Gold, £2. This, plus swipes of PS…Insta Girl Iridescent Highlighter in Champagne, £3, meant I looked perfectly pearlescent. It’s official – Primark gives good highlighter. For a mere £1, I thought Primark’s Lip Liner Pencil in It Girl was the perfect dark pink shade.
A soft look
For the last day of my Primark makeup experiment, I used the PS...Porcelain Foundation Stick, £2.50, which boasts a vitamin E-infused base and promises a 'velvet finish'. I liked the fact that it was a stick and super easy to apply, but I found this slipped off my skin more than any of the other foundations I tried. You win some, you lose some. The pink eyeshadow came courtesy of the PS...Angel Eyes Eye Shadow Palette, £5. Like the browns from the previous palette, the pigment lasted until the end of the day.
This is a tale of dizzying highs and sinking lows – perhaps the price we pay in the name of a bargain. They say there’s a nude lip colour for every woman but I’m yet to find mine and unfortunately, Primark didn’t solve my conundrum, as you can see in these outtake shots!
I tried a few nude shades – PS...Pro Kiss Proof Liquid Matte Lipstick in Metal Rose, £2; PS...Insta Girl Max Colour Lip Plump Gloss in Double Tap, £2; and their famed KKW Beauty dupe, PS...Nudes Ultra Matte Lipstick, £2 – but none suited my paler-than-pale skin tone. To quote a friend, I looked "like a sickly child from a Jane Austen novel".
While I bet everyone would find at least one product they love, venture into store with the knowledge that there seems to be no middle ground here – products will either be your new makeup favourites, or not.