Drugstore Makeup That Actually Lasts All Day

by Tynan Sinks

People ask me all the time how to get drugstore makeup to last all day, and when they do, I always think of the same story. I'm out with a guy I really like. It's our third date, and I actually spent a little time getting ready to see him, instead of showing up buzzed and flustered, sweating self-sabotage.

During our date, I excuse myself to the restroom. "WOW I am really killing it, I am so charming," I think to myself, as I'm washing my hands, Nicki Minaj's "Feelin' Myself" whistling through my head. And then, I look at my reflection to see that, at some point in the night, I have rubbed the foundation off of my nose and my mascara has left a black ring under my right eye.

In my rage-panic, I realize that I had taken so long applying my makeup, but I'd forgotten to set it. I spent all that time on this flawless face, only to let it melt off and throw me under the bus. Now he'll know that I didn't, in all actuality, wake up like this.

The truth is, getting your makeup to stay all day is less about the price of the products you’re using and more about how you’re applying them. Once you find the products that work for you, there are a few tricks that should help them wear well until you’re ready to remove everything.

1. The Primer

Flower E.E. Erase Everything Ultimate Foundation, $20, Amazon

The key thing to remember here is that priming is essential for long wear. Last week I heard someone talking about how they don’t wear primer and it legitimately gave me a panic attack. Maybe that person's makeup really does wear best when applied to bare skin, but for many of us, priming not only gives your makeup something to cling to, it also preps your skin by minimizing pores and softening fine lines. Primer will not only make your products wear better, it will make them look better.

My skin tends to get a little oily when I’m wearing a full face, so I like to start out with a matte primer to control oil throughout wear. Just my luck, mattifying primers are hard to come by in the drugstore, but there is one that I like, the Flower E.E. Erase Everything Ultimate Foundation.

Yes, I know that says foundation, but there’s a translucent shade that you can use as a primer. It creates a velvety smooth canvas on which to apply my base. It’s soft and hydrating, and starts my routine off with a gorgeous a matte finish.

2. The Foundation

Maybelline Dream Velvet Foundation, $8, Amazon

For a matte base, I use Maybelline’s Dream Velvet Foundation. They refer to it as a “gel-whipped foundation,” but I’ll tell you it’s more of a light, fluffy mousse. Simply put, it’s good.

The foundation is more full coverage than I reach for on the day-to-day, but I believe this is the best foundation in the drugstore. I can sheer it out on places where I don’t need all that much coverage and let my skin breathe, while still covering what I want it to and staying shine-free. It’s light, but has enough body that I’m never worried about it sliding around my face after a few hours of wear. Everyone I’ve recommended this foundation to, whether online or IRL, has come back and told me how much they love it.

3. The Blush

Maybelline Dream Bouncy Blush, $20, Amazon

I don’t do much with blush because my face doesn’t have a whole lot of natural flush to it, but, since my foundation was is so full coverage, I do want to put some color back into my face so I don’t look like a mannequin/corpse. My go-to drugstore blush is Maybelline’s Dream Bouncy Blush.

Have you used this? The consistency makes my skin crawl slightly, and absolutely I love it. It’s a cream blush that behaves like a putty in the compact. It’s more on the opaque side, but blends effortlessly, without moving my foundation around. I use Orchid Hush, a lavender-leaning pink. For some (me,) creams tend to stay better than powders, and work as a great a flush of color on bare skin, if you're not wearing foundation.

4. The Highlight

L'Oreal Lumi Liquid Glow Illuminator, $13, Amazon

I may not use a lot of blush, but I do use a lot of highlight. First, I use L’Oreal’s Lumi Liquid Glow Illuminator. All three shades are gorgeous (a rose gold highlighter in the drugstore, hello) but I mostly use C301 Ice because I like my highlight frosty. It’s a bright, icy pink that’s nothing short of stunning. In terms of shade, I’d say it’s similar to Benefit’s High Beam, though it’s more dense, and for a highlight fiend like me, more satisfying.

Then, for no reason other than greed, I use Maybelline’s Master Strobe Stick, on top of the Lumi Liquid, in shade 100 Light Iridescent, a champagne rose.

Maybelline Master Strobe Stick, $8, Amazon

The formula is insane. It goes from the stick to feeling like a finely milled powder on your face, creating the nicest, most natural glow, buildable to a blinding level. This is honestly so good it redefines the meaning of drugstore makeup.

5. The Setting Powder

Maybelline FaceStudio Master Fix Setting & Perfecting Loose Powder, $8, Amazon

So those are all the cream products I use. Before I move to powders, I set everything in place with Maybelline’s FaceStudio Master Fix Setting & Perfecting Loose Powder. This is essential for locking my foundation and all of the creams into place and controlling shine.

6. The Dimension

Maybelline Master Contour Kit, $10, Amazon

I’m really not about contouring. My beard cuts my cheekbones for me so I never have to worry about that. Shoutout mother nature! But, since I did use such a full coverage base, I like to add just a bit of warmth and dimension back into my face and minimize my beast of a forehead. To do so, I use the contour shade in Maybelline’s Master Contour Kit.

Truthfully, this shade is both too dark and too warm for me, much different than what I usually use. I dusted in on with a light hand and it looks great so I’ll stop complaining.

7. Even More Highlight

L'Oreal Lumi Powder Glow Illuminator in N202 Rose, $24, Amazon

To add even more dimension to my already insane highlight, I’ll use the powder version of the cream highlight I used before, L’Oreal Lumi Powder Glow Illuminator in N202 Rose. I love this. Where the cream highlighter goes hard with it, the powder is a bit more subdued. The pan includes four shades so you can customize your glow, or mix them all together for a multidimensional glow that shifts in the light.

8. The Eyes

Maybelline Master Primer Long Lasting Eyeshadow Base in Prime + Matte, $6, Amazon

Normally I don’t go wild with my eyes. I usually just wear two shades of mauve-toned nudes and call it a day, but, I wanted to do a full beat and prove that drugstore products can last. So, I went with Milani’s Everyday Eyes Powder Eyeshadow Collection in Plum Basics. BUT FIRST, I primed with Maybelline’s Master Primer Long Lasting Eyeshadow Base in Prime + Matte.

If you expect your makeup to stay, you have to prime it, and yes, this even extends to your eyelids. Your eyelids are one of the most oily parts of your face, which will cause shadow to crease, migrate, and fade. My lids did get a bit oily throughout wear, but the shadow didn’t budge, as you’ll see in a minute.

Milani Everyday Shadow In Plum Basics, $9, Amazon

Talking about the best of drugstore mascaras always feels like a never-ending, uphill battle, because everyone has the one that is the one, and there is always a new one to try. The L’Oreal Voluminous Feline Waterproof Mascara is new this season, and has a lot of people talking.

L'Oreal Voluminous Feline Waterproof Mascara, $8, Amazon

And for good reason! The brush has short, spikey, rubber bristles that separate and lengthen lashes, flinging them up and out for gorgeous, flirty eyes. That’s all well and good but the best part? It’s actually waterproof. No flaking, no smudging, no black bottom lids.

9. The Setting Spray

L'Oreal Infallible Pro-Spray & Makeup Extending Spray, $7, Amazon

To lock it all down, I do one more light dusting of translucent powder, and then hit it with a setting spray. A great drugstore setting spray is L'Oreal's Infallible Pro-Spray & Set Makeup Extending Spray.

This works like a charm to seal makeup in, binding all of those powders to each other and keeping them in place.

The Results

This is what my drugstore mug looked like when I had it all set. I knew I'd have to take a selfie at the end of the night with poor lighting, so I took a selfie right then, too, for a true before and after. This is me in my apartment around noon-is:

And this is me in my apartment around 10 hours later.

That was after a day of errands and bar tending, so I had been hustling that entire day. With the exception of the tip of my nose, that I had continually rubbed throughout the day because I am a child, all of the products stayed very well!

You can see that, even with all of the matte products, I did get a bit shiny after hours of wear. That's going to happen — especially after a shift behind the bar or any other version of a long work day. This doesn't bother me a bit because I'll just hit my face again with another dusting of translucent powder and be back to a flawless, matte face. Even my drugstore contour and shadow held up!

Finding the products that really work for you doesn't depend on how much you spend on them. If you're taking a few extra seconds to prime and set everything, you'll be able to get a lot more milage and performance out of everything you're wearing, no matter how much you spent.

Images: Tynan Sinks