With a dresser bursting at the seams with makeup, sometimes I forget that not everyone has an unconventional obsession with mascaras, foundations and lipsticks, and would be perfectly happy with a small but strong makeup kit. That’s what made me think – what products would I recommend to someone who’s looking to build a core makeup collection that has everything they need? I came up with budget versions for every product, so there’s an option for whatever you’re willing to spend. So grab a pen and paper and make a list, it’s time to go shopping!
Primer - Budget: w7 Prime Magic / High end: Benefit Porefessional – I never used to consider a primer essential, but once I started using one regularly I really saw the difference in how my foundation looked on my skin and how well it lasted. Both of these primers smooth the skin and even out pores, blemishes and any imperfections.
Foundation - Budget: L’Oreal Infallible 24h Matte / High end: NARS Sheer Glow – These are two totally different foundations, but bare with me. L’Oreal Infallible 24h Matte is the only drugstore foundation I’ve ever used that hasn’t broken me out, so it’s the only one I can recommend personally if you’re on a budget. It gives great coverage and as the name says, is matte and long-lasting. I know a lot of people who use L’Oreal True Match Foundation, which is supposed to be similar to MAC Studio Fix and love it, so check that out for another option. NARS Sheer Glow is my holy grail high end foundation as it’s perfect for day and night. It isn’t sheer or glowy, contrary to the name, but gives a really nice amount of coverage and leaves a gorgeous, natural finish on the skin.
Concealer - Budget: Collection Lasting Perfection Concealer / High end: NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer - Both of these concealers are quite similar, in my opinion. They’re great for multi-tasking as they can be used to cover both under-eye circles and blemishes and redness.
Powder - Budget: Rimmel Stay Matte Powder / High end: MAC Mineralise SkinFinish Natural - I use powder every single day to set my makeup in place and keep shine at bay. I don’t think it’s necessary to invest in a high-end powder, but MAC Mineralise SkinFinish Natural in Light is my all time favourite. It’s really light and doesn’t look cakey, but Rimmel Stay Matte is a great dupe which I carry in my bag on nights out.
Blush – Budget: Max Factor Creme Puff Blush / High end: MAC powder blush - Being perfectly honest, I don’t think there’s any need to invest in a high-end blush either, especially since the new Max Factor Creme Puff blushes came out. There’s a great selection with a colour to suit every skin tone, and they give a lovely glow to the skin too. However, if you want to splurge, MAC is the place to go. There are literally hundreds of shades to choose from, and the quality is worth the price. (Fleur Power is pictured above)
Bronzer - Budget: Sleek Contour Kit / High end: Benefit Hoola - A good bronzer can take your makeup look from dull and grey to tanned and glowy. Dust it all over your face to add some colour, or use it under your cheekbones and temples to sculpt and chisel. The Sleek Contour Kit is especially pigmented and good for contouring, and has a gorgeous highlighter included in the compact. Benefit Hoola is really pigmented too, and has no orange/red tones so you won’t look like an Oompa-Loompa.
Highlighter - Budget/ High end: The Balm Mary Lou Manizer - I can’t decide whether The Balm is high-end or budget because it’s kinda between both. I got this on feelunique for around €20 and it’s taken over MAC Soft and Gentle as my favourite highlighter. It’s not too shimmery or glittery, but looks lovely when it catches the light. Pop a bit on the top of your cheekbones, your Cupid’s bow and under the arch of your brow for a gorgeous glowy finish.
Eyeshadow palette - Budget: w7 In The Buff Lightly Toasted palette / High end: Urban Decay Naked palette – When it comes to eyeshadow, the Urban Decay Naked palette has everything you need. The original version is my favourite, as it’s all neutral colours that you can use for any occasion. There are 12 matte and shimmery brown/bronze shades, so you’ve loads of choice for makeup looks. The w7 In The Buff Lightly Toasted palette is nearly an exact dupe for the Naked palette, from the colours to the quality.
Cream eyeshadows - Budget: Maybelline Colour Tattoo / High end: MAC Paint Pot - Some mornings there just isn’t enough time to put on eyeshadow and use loads of different brushes. That’s when cream eyeshadows come in. Just dip your finger in , pat all over the eyelid and rub into the crease and you’re done. MAC Paint Pot in Vintage Selection is my favourite high end cream eyeshadow, and Maybelline Colour Tattoo in On and On Bronze is my favourite drugstore version.
Liquid eyeliner - Budget: L’Oreal Super Liner Perfect Slim – I felt no need to include a high end alternative for liquid eyeliner as the L’Oreal Super Liner is perfect. It’s a deep black colour that doesn’t fade, the formula is quick drying but not too quick drying, and it has a really thin felt-tip pen applicator so it’s easy to use and you can make your eyeliner as thick or thin as you like.
Mascara - Budget: Maybelline Lash Sensational / High end: Benefit Roller Lash - I included these two mascaras in a post about dupes, and explained how very similar they are to each other. Maybelline is my favourite brand for budget-friendly mascaras, and Lash Sensational is their latest release. It’s so similar to Benefit Roller Lash – they both lengthen and lift the lashes so much that they look false. The only thing I prefer about Roller Lash is that it’s easier to remove than Lash Sensational.
Brows - Budget: Soap and Glory Archery - Again, there’s no need to put in a high end alternative for this as the Soap and Glory Archery brow pencil is identical to the Anastasia Brow Wiz, for a fraction of the price. The nib on the pencil is tiny, so it’s really easy to recreate brow hairs, and there’s a spoolie on the other end to brush your brows through.
Lip-liner - Budget: Rimmel Exaggerate Lip Liner / High end: MAC Lip Liners - Can you tell that I love MAC?! Rimmel Exaggerate Lip Liner in East End Snob is the perfect nude liner for underneath lipsticks or just to wear on its own. There are a good few shades in the collection, but if you’re looking for an exact shade to match a lipstick go to MAC and you’ll undoubtedly find what you’re looking for.
Lipstick - Budget: Revlon ColourBurst Lip Butter & Lacquer Balm / High end: MAC Lipsticks - Revlon are my go-to brand for budget-friendly lip products. Their Lip Butters are so easy to wear and are really moisturising on the lips, while the Lacquer Balms are so handy to throw in your handbag and apply on the go. Again, MAC blows it out of the park with their range of lipstick colours, and I think every girl needs at least one MAC lipstick in their makeup stash.
And that’s it – the makeup starter kit! Suitable for all budgets, these products are tried and tested and have firm places in my makeup collection. If you’re investing in anything at all, I’d recommend picking up a good foundation, because it literally is the “foundation” of your look, and it’s very hard to have a nice makeup look if your base isn’t the right colour or isn’t sitting well. However, if you’re lucky enough to be like some of my friends and have fantastic skin, then try and test a few foundations from the drugstore and you might just find something amazing.
As for brushes, Real Techniques has everything you need. I’ll be writing a post about the starter kit for makeup brushes where I include the names of all of the Real Techniques brushes that I love and recommend, but you really can’t go wrong with any brush from Real Techniques. I prefer them over my MAC brushes, and can’t see myself buying any other brushes anytime soon!
Let me know what would be in your makeup starter kit in the comments down below, I’d love to hear!