August 31, 2012

The 20$ Makeup Challenge

If you've been reading this blog you may have noticed that I tend to feature higher-end brands. That's not because I disdain drugstore makeup, or don't use it. I think there a lot of really fantastic cosmetics available at the drugstore (or via inexpensive online brands), many of which I consider my personal staples or that I use on other people when I do their makeup.

I do tend to focus on the higher-end brands because those are often the items that people want the most information about, and do the most research on. I mean, a foundation fail at 6$ is far easier to swallow than one at 45$. And expensive makeup tends to be prettier makeup, as far as presentation is concerned, which does make it more fun to blog about.

That said, I love my drugstore gems, and I couldn't resist this challenge when I saw it popping up on youtube. It's especially interesting to do in Canada, simply because we have both higher prices (foundation averages 10$ - half the budget!) and fewer options (no ELF, for example, except in some dollar stores).

If you're not familiar with the tag, the idea is to imagine that you're traveling and have somehow lost your luggage, including your makeup, and you have 20$ (not including tax) to spend at your average drugstore to create a full face. Some youtubers have also tailored the tag to "what to get if you only have 20$ to start your makeup collection". (To my mind, the latter idea is not something the original concept overlaps with particularly well. What you get in an emergency to do a full face is not what I would spend my money on if I wanted to start building a collection. I'm debating a video series devoted to that idea however - like if you could only spend a set amount every month, how would you go about getting the best budget basics over a year.)

I did have fun with this challenge, but I'm not sure how well I succeeded in creating a legitimate look. The foundation was definitely the most difficult thing to get right, as I was limited to three options if I wanted to stay on-budget and using regularly-priced items. A setting powder would have been nice, but there was just no way to work another 5-6$ into the budget.

Omitting brushes was the easiest part. Good brushes will make application easier and more polished, certainly, but at the end of the day, your hands are the most versatile tool.

What I ended up using, coming in at 19.86$:

Rimmel Clean Finish Foundation in Soft Beige 5.97$
Wet'n'Wild 8-pan Palette in Comfort Zone 4.64$
Rimmel Extra Super Lash Mascara in Black 4.48$
NYC Ultra Last Lipwear in Mousse 1.77$
Nobel 1/4 Angled Synthetic Brush 3$

I wasn't super impressed with the foundation. The coverage is a little too light (though if I had a concealer it would be ok), and the texture is difficult to work with. Because of the high silicone content, it's a little thick and dries really fast, making blending tricky. Rimmel claims it creates a poreless finish, but I found the opposite to be true once the skin's natural oils started coming through. It's not a bad foundation, and for the price alone worth considering, but I don't think it will play nicely on a lot of skin types.

The mascara was just ok. It was a staple for my years ago, but now I find it lacklustre. Not enough volume for me. It is, however, resistant to smudging, so if you prefer a natural look it's worth looking at.

The clear winners for me were the WnW palette and the NYC lipstick. The palette is just so versatile and a terrific value for the price. The shadows are soft and pigmented. I do wish there was a matte shade or two in there, and that the texture was a little less thin - it can be prone to wiping away easily as you're trying to blend - but those are minor complaints compared to all the pluses.

Wet'n'Wild Comfort Zone.
Left to right: Browbone shade from the neutral side, browbone shade from the greenish side,
eyelid shade, crease shade, definer shade (MAC Club dupe)

The lipstick is a great formula as well. Unlike a lot of cheaper lipsticks, it doesn't feel greasy on the lips, and has no smell or taste. The range of colors is good, and it really does wear for  4-6 hours, while feeling comfortable.

NYC Mousse. 

The palette and the lipstick I would buy again, and recommend as good budget investments for the makeup beginner.

I know there was a fad a while back of using artist brushes to replace MAC ones. The Loew-Cornell mop brush, I believe, was touted as a dupe for the MAC 239. I bought one, but didn't find it lived up to the original. I did come across a treasure trove of synthetic liner brushes of various shapes and sizes, and absolutely love those. If you use cream liner, getting a bunch of those for a couple of bucks a pop and rotating them is far more user-friendly than cleaning the same crusty brush over and over.

So yes, a really interesting challenge for me, and hopefully it's entertaining and useful to others!

(I purchased all the items at Wal-Mart.)


  1. I have that WnW palette, but I haven't used it yet. The colors look great though, so I'll try it out this week.
    I would be very interested in your idea of what to purchase with a monthly budget amt. I would really like to have more high end items, but it's something I have to save for and then I want to be sure to get the most for my money.

    1. Hey Meg,

      It's a great little palette. I'm really glad this challenge prompted me to play with it again!

      Thank you for the feedback regarding the monthly budget idea. I'm going to put some thought into it and see what I can come up with. :)


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