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Bargain Bin Lip Glosses

By Amalah

Your intrepid advice columnist has up and had herself a baby, and will be taking a couple weeks off from her bossing-around duties. In the meantime, she’s arranged a cavalcade of her favorite writers from around the Web to come and take a crack at some of your questions, share their personal style secrets and wisdom, and hopefully keep you entertained while Amy is busying getting puked on.

Today’s guest blogger is Isabel of holaisabel and New To Us. Isabel is a long-time friend of the Advice Smackdown, which she reads regularly despite refusing to actually buy anything I ever recommend. Because she thinks she’s BETTER THAN ME, or something. No, I kid. She’s just cheap. No, I kid again! She’s awesome, and no one knows bargains like her (and hell, she’s the reason I ever agreed to put Monistat on my face), so I asked her to write about some of her favorite drugstore brands and review a couple of her latest bargain-bin finds. So for those of you looking to slash your cosmetics budget, read on.

Hola, I’m Isabel and you can usually find me over at holaisabel, where I don’t really speak Spanish. The fact that I can’t speak a lick of Spanish became all too clear recently while spending the month of September traveling around Europe with my husband and toddler son. The majority of our time there was spent in Spain and apparently two years of middle school Spanish taught me nothing. And my husband’s German didn’t help us much in Spain either. Who knew?
So yeah, I just returned from three sun and fun-filled weeks in Europe. We love to vacation at my house. Problem is, we don’t have a trust fund or a rich aunt that pays for these vacations. We live on a tight budget. You may ask how my very-much-on-a-budget family was able to afford this little trip and what this has to do with an advice column.

Well, I’ll tell you how we paid for it, in a round about way, and why this has anything to do with the Advice Smackdown.
BR%20Radiantlipgloss.jpgInstead of buying the Smashbox Primer that Amalah (and the rest of the interweb) loves, I use the Monistat Soothing Care Chafing Relief Powder-Gel as my make-up primer. (I know!) Instead of using Bumble & Bumble’s Surf Spray, I use Sunsilk’s Waves of Envy Sea Mist. Instead of using Big Sexy Hair hairspray, I use the Herbal Essences Body Envy hairspray (which, for the record, is not as good but smells like heaven). Instead of using OPI nail polish exclusively, I supplement my nail care regime with Sally Hansen’s products. (Don’t worry OPI, I will never quit you.)

My goal is to look the best I can without breaking the bank. I do this by staying informed (thanks to Amalah!) on what products I should be using and then, um, buying the cheaper drugstore version of said products.

There I said it; I love drugstore products! They are guilt-free and readily available since my office is situated in the middle of three different drug stores.

It’s hard for me to admit that I do this. Especially to the interweb, on a beauty advice column! Admittedly I wasn’t feeling so horrible about my love of drugstore beauty products while laying on the beach in Spain. Hey, I’m just saying.

I’m not being completely honest here. There are some department store brands that I do use. Namely the Nars and Bare Escentuals lip glosses I’ve been enjoying lately. The thing for me is that I’m never too confident on what color of lip gloss to buy. My skin has a strong orange undertone to it that tends to mess with the color of my make-up, so I have to be extra cautious about what colors I use. It’s hard to be cautious when shelling out $24 for a single lip gloss that may or may not even work with my coloring. I know Sephora offers a great return policy, but still, I hate buying something without knowing it’s going to be perfect for me. I’ve found a few shades that work for me and I’ve been sticking with them. I’m nothing if not loyal towards my lip gloss.

That was before the local drug stores put up a “Store Closing. 20% off” sign in their window. This included their make-up. And that’s how I ended up spending far more time then I should have perusing the make-up aisles. At first I decided I’d take advantage of the store’s misfortune by trying out lip gloss by Revlon, Cover Girl or even Physicians Formula at a discounted price. I quickly changed my mind when I noticed the displays for the ultra super cheap brands. You know the ones I’m talking about. The brands you and your girl friends loved when you were younger. The same brands you carried around with you in your book bags in the 6th grade and kept in your locker to reapply during your lunch break.

The store had been picked over at this point by others desperate to save a few dollars. There were hardly even any Wet & Wild products on the shelves. Thankfully there were plenty of Black Radiance lip glosses still ready for me to snatch up. I’m pretty sure I’m not the typical demographic for the Black Radiance line, but for 20% off their already ridiculous prices, I didn’t care (and I’m pretty sure they don’t care either).

I bought a tube of the Black Radiant Lip Gloss in “Nude”. Since it’s designed for a woman with a darker skin tone, “nude” seemed like the perfect shade for my fair skin type. I bought a few tubes of the N.Y.C Liquid Lip Shine in “Iced Orchid” and “Au Naturel”. All three glosses were regularly priced $1.99. So with the 20% off, they were pretty much free. This was the perfect way to try out some new shades that I probably wouldn’t normally have tried. And a great way to try out some drug store brands I’ve never tried.

I wore a different shade of my new lip glosses everyday over the next three days. I usually wear a gloss from sun up until sun down, so having three new shades to choose from was like Christmas. The N.Y.C brand’s texture was quite comparable to the Nars gloss I’ve tried in the past. Meaning, it’s pretty thick. There is just enough of a glimmer for my liking. You know what I’m talking about. It has just the right amount of glitter without giving the illusion that I’m a 13 year old girl or a lady of the night. (Why is it that too much glitter makes us think of both young girls and loose women?) The color seems to need to be reapplied every few hours, but at $1.99 a tube, I don’t mind.
The texture of the Black Radiance gloss goes on a little lighter then other gloss I’ve tried. It’s a less goopy. That isn’t a bad thing; it just means I can’t feel it on my lips! I have to remind myself to not wipe it off with my napkin during lunch time. The color is light and natural and sort of “nude”. Nude-enough, I guess.

Both brands are packaged to look pretty much like the lip gloss you would buy at a department store. The N.Y.C brand looks almost identical to the Nars packaging and the Black Radiance has a lovely gold lid that seems to class it up. So if you’re afraid of someone seeing your lip gloss and instantly knowing you bought some cheap drug store brand, have no fear. No one will know.

The bottom line is that I’m happy with the inexpensive drug store lip gloss for the mere fact that it allowed me to try some colors I would normally be too cautious to try. I guess it all comes down to how inexpensive it is. I wouldn’t pay $5 for either brand, but for some reason (20% off) $1.99 feels just about the right price. I have been happy with the new color palette, so what I’ll probably do is use the new shades as a jumping off point with some other brands at my local Sephora. Since lip gloss tends to last a while paying a couple dollars more for a good quality gloss probably won’t break the bank too much.

That is unless I can find another drug store offering 20% off their make-up and then I’m buying more of both the Black Radiance and N.Y.C. And maybe even some Wet & Wild if they aren’t sold out.

So tell me, any other drugstore brand that you guys can recommend to the rest of us?


About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Erin

    October 31, 2008 at 10:01 am

    I’ve never bought department store makeup. (Hi, there. Broke 20-something over here!)
    I’m a giant fan of Revlon’s Shiny Sheers, which look like lipstick but go on like sheer gloss. It’s seriously the only lip product I’ve bought in multiple colors. Not as cheap as NYC, I guess, but not $24, either.

  • Sarah

    October 31, 2008 at 10:43 am

    I love L’Oreal Color Juice Sticks. Lipstick, but glossy and kind of sheer, and really flattering colors, like the perfect slightly-warm juicy pink, and a really pretty coral-pink. It’s a little more lipstick-y than the Almost Lipsticks by Clinique (eg Black Honey), so the color lasts a bit longer.

  • jive turkey

    October 31, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Rimmel Glam Eyes mascara is awesome. I cannot stand mascara that’s all gloopy or (despite what the packaging promises) goes on in clumps. This stuff does the trick. Teeny brush, teeny bristles, just the right amount of mascara. Pretty pink & black tube, too.
    Also (and I think Holly from N.B.B. has pimped this before), Cover Girl Lip Slicks are the best. Very sheer, light color, but they go on like a lipstick.

  • Darcey

    October 31, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    I’ve lately fallen absolutely and completely in love with NYX Costmetics. I’ve found them at my local Ulta store, wedged in with the drugstore brands. This line has AMAZING colors – great color payoff, lots of variety and different formulas (creme eyeshadows, powders, loose pigments).
    You can buy directly from their website or from another online retailer that’s having a sale on their (already inexpensive) stuff
    Trust me – I racked up 3 jumbo eyeshadow cremes, a lipstick and 6 eyeshadow trios for about $40!
    Oh, and a good eyeshadow/lid primer (like Urban Decay Primer Potion) will make any drugstore eyeshadow even better – it’s worth the money to help everything stay on.

  • Rachel

    October 31, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks for the tips, Isabel! I’ve been looking for a drugstore-priced Bumble and Bumble alternative for an eternity! I’ll have to try the one you suggested.
    Do you know about Everything is a $1. Seriously. All the time. One dollar. Everything I’ve ordered has been better than drugstore quality. It’s where I go to try out things I’m hesitant about (e.g., dark brown nail polish, false eyelashes, red lipstick). And I feel absolutely no guilt when I find out that while I can rock some gray eyeshadow, purple eyeliner makes me look like a street walker–because that important lesson only cost me $1! : )

  • TasterSpoon

    October 31, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    I recently came across HIP (High Intensity Pigment) eyeshadows at Walgreens, and was very impressed because the colors are very, well, intense. For your more adventuresome faces. Not appropriate for the office at full strength, but a little goes a long way. And they have a wide ranging palette. I only tried them because they were on sale, which made them around $5 for a duo.

  • Erin

    October 31, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    I’ve had a lot of luck with buying Smashbox lipglosses off of EBay. They are are a department store brand, but I just love the consistency of their gloss and they have a TON of colors. It seems like folks are always going listings of glosses that they’ve gotten in some package and don’t want. I recently bought a set of 6 mini glosses for like $4 and a set of 3 regular sized ones for $7 – I love trying new colors, so that’s fun for me. Anyway, worth a shot – I haven’t had a single bad experience with buying makeup that way online.

  • Carrisa

    October 31, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    I have a hard time wearing any lip products because after an hour or so my lips are dry and they start to peel. ALL THE TIME. No matter what I use. So I usually just use nothing. But I always keep a Chap Stick or a Burt’s Bees lip balm nearby in case I feel I need it. Plus I wear so much eye makeup that I feel like adding lipstick or gloss on top of it makes me look like one of those ladies of the night.

  • heels

    October 31, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    I love the HIP shadows, too. I wear just a little bit to work, enough to hint at the color.

  • jomama

    November 1, 2008 at 11:53 am

    Carrisa, I have the same problem with my lips drying out from using anything other than vaseline or plain lip balm. I don’t use anything more than tinted lipgloss when I go out.

  • Lori

    November 1, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    I swear that Revlon’s Super Luscious Lip Glosses are identical to the Chanel ones – they even come in very similar packaging – but are only $7.99 or something equally ridiculous (compared to Chanel’s $22 or whatever). I have four right now in different shades and they all work on me, which is a big deal because I usually have trouble with lip color.

  • Melissa

    November 2, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    I love the Cover Girl LashExact with the funky rubbery brush that Latifa was advertising a couple of months back. It really does keep the lashes from clumping very nicely. I have used expensive Estee Lauder mascaras and they really are superior in a lot of ways, but I’m cheap and I am happy enough with the Cover Girl.
    Funny, when we were in Spain several years ago, the member of our group who is fluent in German saved our bacon a number of times. Our basic Spanish wasn’t cutting it, but we found so many German tourists, that we were able to communicate with them for directions, recommendations and whatnot.

  • bethany actually

    November 2, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    I love Got2B 2 Sexy Got 2B 2 Sexy Mousse Voluptuous Volume Mousse. It’s got an embarrassing name, I admit, but I love it anyway. I found it once on clearance at Walgreens while I was on vacation and ran out of my pricey salon stuff. The Got2B mousse is a bit stickier than the spray foam, but it’s half the price and it works nearly as well!

  • Jenna

    November 3, 2008 at 9:16 am

    I’ve tried all the usual drugstore brands (Revlon, Maybelline, Covergirl) at least a few times and have never found any great success with any of them. They weren’t terrible, just sort of…meh. Then I discovered Almay. Let there be light.
    I LOVE their mascara and their “lightweight” products hit that perfect balance of not TOO lightweight but not too heavy either. I couldn’t recommend them more. Also, their eye makeup remover pads that come in that little round container? AWESOME.

  • Bethiclaus

    November 3, 2008 at 10:28 am

    I go back and forth about whether to actually invest in makeup. I think I’ve decided (until I totally change my mind tomorrow) to invest in skincare and be a Cheapy McCheaperson on makeup. After all, I stay home a lot of the time and refuse to put on makeup for my infant and toddler.

  • steen

    November 4, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    While a lot of my makeup is admittedly MAC, my all-time favorite mascara is CG’s LashBlast. I also don’t really ever buy high-end lip stuff; I have an array of lip balms, glosses and lipsticks that are from CVS or WalGreens. I also use Herbal Essences shampoo and conditioner.
    You can find a lot of drugstore dupes for name brand cosmetics. There ain’t no shame in it!
    Also? For what it’s worth? The Cosmetic Company stores at the outlets stock Estee Lauder brands like MAC, Origins, Lancome, Bobbi Brown, and a few others so you can get some fabulous prices from there!

  • Sara

    November 5, 2008 at 8:10 pm

    I know it isn’t drugstore, but I love Philosophy’s lip gloss. It’s a red, shiny color and isn’t sticky (they do have some stickier flavors, but the one I like isn’t). I think it’s about $9 a tube, and it lasts quite a long time, so it’s worth it!