I occasionally contemplate how I feel about the high-end/low-end question. I find the almost undefinable "I'm worth it/I earned it," ideal alluring, but I'm not a snob and I love the best value for my money. I want a high-end look, not necessarily high-end prices.
In many cases, the primary difference is packaging. High end packaging is nice. I feel a little lift when I open the drawer to my dressing table in the dim morning light and seeing an ivory-gold halo from a Tom Ford lipstick tube shining in the shadows, like a lighthouse beckoning through the fog.
Ultimately, it's what's inside that counts. If any product doesn't deliver, I have no patience for it. I want good value, whatever the cost, and I am not convinced that a lipstick, which is so heavy it could be used as a paperweight, is worth an extra $30. I remember when I swore I would never spend more than $25 on a single lipstick.
Drugstore products have made leaps and bounds the last decade. In fact there are several that I prefer over their costlier countarparts. As my friend says, she could "walk into a metro drugstore anywhere ... and buy a whole 'face', including cleanser/moisturizer, and feel well turned out."
I know what she means. A few months ago, I watched an online video that used Rimmel Glam'Eyes Mono Eye Shadow in Spicy Bronze ($3.22), so I decided to try it, and I was completely unprepared for the outstanding quality. The buttery, silken texture rivaled old-school Stila (before the reformulation) and Dior singles. At just over $3, even the and packaging was unobjectionable.
The next item I tried was L'Oreal Infallible Le Rouge lipstick in Eternal Rose ($8.99). The color in the tube looked flat and extremely matte, but one swipe and I could not believe it. Silky, soft, and non-drying, and a little less than half the price of a MAC lipstick. Is the packaging pretty? Not really, but it's no worse than Shu Uemura packaging, whose lipsticks cost nearly three times as much.
One product I rarely spend more than $10 on (and often much less than that) is mascara. I was lured in by the excellent Lancome Defincils, but I had been perfectly happy with Maybelline Great Lash mascara for years/decades. And since I go through a tube in three months, I don't see the point of spending $25+. Enter CoverGirl LashBlast Length Mascara ($7.79). This is a fantastic mascara for coating lashes and adding length. If you like volume, move along. If you aren't looking for length, move along.
Despite finding such excellent bargains, I still get sucked in to the packaging, which probably says more about my own misguided sense of worth than a true position on the quality of the product. If I truly examined my motives, I'd likely realize that the worth in not frittering away my income on something that delivers nothing but artifice and trickery! All things being equal on the inside, of course.
Perhaps most telling of all is I depot almost everything I can. So inside my Unii palette, you'll find Equal Opportunity Makeup. No one knows where those pans used to live. To be fair, some of us could tell by pan shape and any embossing, but really.
I have read that almost all cosmetics brands are owned by a single giant (Estee Lauder, L'Oreal, Proctor Gamble, etc.) who manufactures both high and lower ends, and that these monoliths use the same patent across all of their lines. MAC = Tom Ford? Maybe. Why not? I like the Tom Ford lipstick I bought recently, but I didn't find its performance or texture better than anything else I own—in fact, it felt rather drying. The color Red Smoke (reviewed here) is lovely against my skin tone, but I would be lying if I said it wasn't the packaging that initially attracted me.
I do like pretty packaging, but when it comes down to it, no one sees this stuff but me. With the exception of the rare and furtive dash of lipstick, I don't apply my makeup in public, and the only person who sits at my dressing table, or even enters my inner sanctum, is yours truly. So why is the package so important to me—especially if I gut the thing? I want to say it's because it's, well, just nicer, that I have a reasonable disposable income and that I have earned the right for nice things. And I could have far, far costlier hobbies.
I cannot come down decidedly in favor of either of the high-end/low-end side, but one thing I know is that when I am retired, I'd rather be sitting on my front porch looking at the ocean waves breaking on the shore instead of looking at a drawer full of makeup I never wear.
In the meantime, wouldn't it be nice if, when shopping for drugstore makeup, we could bypass the overhead fluorescent lights and be transported back to a 1915-style chemist. Talk about a pampered experience. I should also remember that Revlon, Coty, and Max Factor were once sold in department stores before young upstart Estée Lauder entered the market. And how did she do it? She made her brand seem exclusive with limited distribution and higher price points! It's human nature to covet.
My product reviews do tend to highlight department store brands. However here's a list of pharmacy beauty I have repurchased many times:
- St. Ives Apricot Scrub
- Badger Cuticle Care and (lip) Balm
- Buff Puff Gentle
- Revlon Super Lustrous and Matte lipsticks
- NYX Cosmetics Rouge Cream Blush
- Maybelline Full 'N Soft Washable Mascara
- CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser and Moisturizing Lotion
- Simple Micellar Cleansing Water
- Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Soap, Baby-Mild
- Eucerin Smoothing Repair Dry Skin Lotion
- Dove Beauty Bar, Sensitive Skin
- Johnson's Baby Powder, Original
- Maybelline Color Sensational Creamy Matte Lipstick
- Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand cream
- Trader Joe's Nourish All-In-One Facial Cleanser
All photos from stock or Google images
Special thanks to Ten Bells and Pansy.