Looking for affordable drugstore make-up finds? Here are some of my favorites that work for me just as well as more expensive versions.

One of my favorite things about the holidays?

Holiday parties.

There’s something amazing about putting on a party dress with sequins and sparkles and giant earrings that look like snowflakes and heels with glitter and bows and celebrating the season.

And when I’m fancy like that?

I want my make-up to sparkle.

But here’s the thing. The world of make-up can be a little overwhelming. You can spend a zillion dollars on something and it doesn’t work like they promised. Or you can spend a little on something that works better than any product is even supposed to. It took me a little while to navigate the world of make-up and along the way, I figured something out.

Most of the time drugstore make-up is just as good (or even better) than expensive make-up from the department store.

So today?

I’m sharing everything I’ve learned (along with a few tips I learned about changing it up a little so the make-up looks a little fresher).

And trendier.

And current.

So to kick off the holiday party season here are 11 make-up finds I wish I would have bought sooner (and most of them are under $10).

1. Essence Lash Princess Mascara

If you only buy one new make-up find this year?

This is the gold standard.

This mascara lengthens your lashes and adds TONS of volume and doesn’t clump.

It has almost 350,000 reviews on Amazon and it’s under $5.00.

It comes in several variations but the “false last effect” is the one I like the best. I’ve actually started just putting mascara and primer (see below) only on my upper lashes with a little eye pencil on my upper lid. The look is so much fresher and it opens up your face.

Here’s the best price I found it bundled with the Lash Princess curl.

Here it is packaged with the primer I love (see below).

2. Essence lash primer

And as if the mascara wasn’t already good enough?

If you want to take it to the next level? Add this lash primer (that’s under $5 too, too).

It conditions your lashes with acai oil and adds a base to build on with the mascara and really boosts your lashes and makes them look so much longer.

You can see it here.

3. Under Eye Brightener

This is a brand new find and it’s under $5.

It glides on and doesn’t look heavy or too “make-upy.”

And the coverage? The coverage is NEXT LEVEL and hides the dark circles under my eyes and makes them look brighter. The tip to using this is just to apply the under-eye brightener on the dark circle not the entire under-eye. Then lightly blend it out the line of product with a small brush or sponge—that way it doesn’t crease under your eyes.

You can see it here.

4. e.l.f.Flawless Finish Foundation

Okay—I’m going to break foundations down into several categories.

First of all—I have mature skin (and it is maturing even more by the day). Depending on where I’m going or what I’m doing, sometimes I need a little bit more coverage. A little bit of this foundation goes SO FAR so use it sparingly.

For the price of $3.00-$6.00 (depending on the shade)—this elf foundation gives SO MUCH coverage.

I have this foundation in four different colors (depending on how much fake tan I’ve put on—LOL).

Here are my go-to shades:

You can see the foundation here.

5. True Match Glumi Lotion

If you are looking for a natural glow enhancer that feels so light and makes my skin sparkle.

This Glotion is my go-to. It’s what I use when I’m just running errands and I don’t have a lot of time to put on make-up, but I’m worried I might run into someone from high school so I want to look cute.

It smooths out your skin and hides imperfections and generally makes you look finished and ready to go.

You can see it here.

6. e.l.f. camo concealer

If I’ve been up all night watching episodes of Downton Abbey and my eyes are puffy and I have under-eye circles, this camo concealer is my favorite. E.l.f. has several different versions of this product, but this is the one I like the best. 

My best tip for using concealer under your eyes is to go LIGHT. Do not use a heavy hand. Apply a little concealer with a thin brush and pat it in.

With this concealer, a little goes a long way. I’m in the awkward place where I still have blemishes AND WRINKLES. So I use it on my blemishes too.

And it’s affordable enough that you can order it to try it in several colors.

You can see it here.

7. e.l.f. putty primer

I put this in the category of foundation because it’s what I put on before I ever put on foundation.

This foundation is kind of miraculous.

It smooths out the wrinkles and fills in the tiny lines on my face so when I put on my foundation my skin looks even smoother.

You can see it here.

8. e.l.f. powder blush palette

I LOVE this blush palette.

It’s my first e.l.f. product that I ever purchased.

It’s super affordable and has four different shades of blush. I use all four colors at different times depending on my outfit. The colors are just so light and bright and pretty and give you such a sweet glow.

You can see it here.

9. e.l.f contour pallete

In full disclosure, I don’t use this every day. It’s an extra step that I skip for every day.

But when I’m going out to a holiday party and want to look extra cute?

This contour palette is GOLD.

I use it to contour my nose (yikes) and under my chin and on the sides of my temples to lengthen my face. You kind of have to experiment with contouring and make sure to blend it in with a sponge, but once you get the hang of it the subtle difference is amazing.

You can see it here.

10. OPI Plumpkin Top Coat

In the nail category, this plumping topcoat from OPI is the winner.

It literally almost DOUBLES the length of your polish.


Just make sure to wrap it around the top of your nail when you paint it.

I add another topcoat every couple of days to make my nail polish last longer. It also adds volume to the top of your nails and makes them look like a professional manicure.

You can see it here.

11. This L’oreal Lipstick

In all the world. In all the make-up counters. In all the beauty travels I’ve ever been on.

This lipstick reigns supreme (especially for holiday parties).

My beloved British Red.

I have tried dozens and dozens and dozens of lpsticks and I always go back to this one. It’s affordable. It’s moisturizing. It’s long-lasting. It’s such a pretty color.

This lipstick comes in tons of other colors and I wear those too.

When I want something a little longer lasting, I use this NYX professional lip lingerie here. It lasts through cups of coffee and water and then I layer the L’oreal lipstick on top for additional coverage.

I also always line my lips with lipliner to help the lipstick last longer.

But there’s just something about a red lipstick that makes the day a little brighter.

You can see it here.

One last make-up find.

I haven’t used this yet—but I’ve seen a lot of buzz about it.

It’s a lip stain that you put on and let set and then it lasts all day.

You can see the lip stain here.

Here’s to all the holiday parties.

All the shimmer.

All the shine.

All the celebration.


If you have ANY questions about any of these products, ask away.

We beauties need to stick together. 🙂

disclosure: affiliate links are used in this post. If you make a purchase through my links, I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Thistlewood.

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  1. Image for Ginger Ginger

    I love the Princess mascara and what a great price! I'm now on my second tube. I was paying $40 for mascara and it was nothing like this stuff. Never again! I'll have to try some of you other suggestions. Thanks!

  2. Image for Karen B. Karen B.

    Keri Anne, I found out about your recommended mascara on one of your earlier posts. I love it. I had just finished a tube of a much more expensive "lash extender" that was okay, but I had decided after reading your review I'd try your version and save a little $$$ at the same time. It's great. I'll try the other items in this post. Thank you for always giving such great tips and ideas. Karen B.

    1. Image for KariAnne Wood KariAnne Wood

      Karen, So happy! I've started just using the primer and the mascara on my upper lashes and not putting anything on my lower lashes! It really opens up the eyes! KariAnne

  3. Image for JC JC

    Love the mascara! I'll have to look into some of these other products. Saving $$$ is always a good thing! Thank you!

  4. Image for Kim Kim

    Great post and always nice to have affordable options. Like you, I love a good red lipstick. It never fails to make me ultra chic. Wanted to add that with maturing skin, bright lipsticks tend to ...migrate. I purchased a clear lip liner and it goes with every lipstick. Now I can smile fearlessly without instilling fear. Sparkle on, Dear One! Looking forward to more of your posts

  5. Image for Linda Linda

    That mascara! I mean....LOVE it! Thank you for sharing the link. I think I'm ordering some for stocking stuffers for my daughters.

  6. Image for S. Fuller S. Fuller

    Hi there! Can you tell me if the either of mascaras you recommended are waterproof or can they be removed with water?

  7. Image for Nancy Nancy

    I sell Jafra skin care products and they have the lip oil for $19 in four colors…wonderful! My website is www.myJafra.com/npatefield to check out the oil.

  8. Image for Lori A Preston Lori A Preston

    I love all these suggestions! What is the foundation color you have on in the lipstick photo? Your skin looks fabulous!

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