The Beauty Throw Down: Affordable versus high-end makeup

Whenever we get new assignments for Project Vanity, I always look forward to the makeup throw downs and challenges the most. So far, we’ve done micellar waters, makeup wipes, brow pencils, and tints to name a few. This time, I’ve been tasked to wear two full faces of makeup, reflect on how each one fares, and try to come up with an answer to this question: is it still worth splurging on high end makeup?

We’ve set some parameters for the comparison: all the products for the more affordable makeup look should be below P500 while the higher-end look is comprised of products worth P1,000 and above. Both looks are to be worn for a period of over eight hours, with the after photos taken around the 8-9 hour mark. To check for shine control, oil blotting was also to be avoided.

My below P500 FOTD: Maybelline Fit Me Matte + Poreless Liquid Foundation (P399), Maybelline Fit Me Concealer (P199), Maybelline Fit Me Pressed Powder (P399), EB Advance Uncover Palette (P375), Cathy Doll 3D Face Forward Nefertiti Contour Kit in Nefertiti Weapon (P299), Pink Sugar x Project Vanity These Lips Don’t Lie Matte Lip Crayon in Love at First Swipe (P399), Ever Bilena All Day Eyeliner Pen (P200), Jordana Fabubrow Shape & Set Gel (P399), Avon True Color Dual Ended Brow Pencil (P250), Features & Shades Primer (P299), Features & Shades Mascarade (~P500)

The below P500 look lasted a good period of time save for the lipstick, which faded after my first meal as most lipsticks tend to do. At the eight hour mark, the base has worn off and you can see redness around my nose and some discoloration under my eyes. The blush and highlight have faded as well. Oil-wise, I found it tolerable though I would usually blot around the fourth to fifth hour.

Above P1,000 FOTD: Bobbi Brown Skin Foundation in Natural (P3,000), Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder (P1,850), Laura Mercier Foundation Primer (P1,650), Laura Mercier Secret Concealer (P1,250), Nars Audacious Mascara (P1,450), Laura Mercier Longwear Crème Eye Pencil (P1,095), Becca x Chrissy Teigen Glow Face Palette (P2,615), Lunasol Feathery Smoky Eyeshadow (P2,750), Benefit Ka-Brow Cream Gel (P1,400), Shiseido Natural Eyebrow Pencil (~P1,100), Estee Lauder Pure Color Envy Lipstick in Epic (~P1,700)

The above P1,000 FOTD comprised of some of my staples so I was happy with how it looked upon application. After eight hours of wear though, I found my face quite oily though it was a balanced kind of oily - like I was glowing but bordering on really oily. The base was still there but my eyeliner had smudged underneath my eyes. You can still see some of the blush but the lipstick was a no-show too, save for a pseudo-outline. I really didn’t expect it to last as the formula was the moisturizing kind, aka the ones that you have to reapply constantly. The eyebrows were the best here. They were as polished as they looked when first applied!  

Realization #1: Splurge on base products but save by finding your perfect drugstore foundation match

After trying both looks and paying extra attention to how my foundation performed, I would still choose to go with high-end bases as I am yet to find a my-skin-but-better drugstore foundation. The quality of some high-end bases just can’t be beat though more affordable options have upped their game in recent years. If you're on a tight budget though, finding a great match for your skin tone and type is a very decent alternative. I've used the Maybelline Fit Me Liquid Foundation in several other occasions and like how it performs. Just make sure to get it one shade lighter because it has a high tendency to oxidize.

Realization #2: Splurge on Brows but save by learning how to do your brows well

This challenge made me realize that I didn't have any high-end brow products in my stash so I had to borrow a couple from Liz. After using the Shiseido Natural Eyebrow Pencil and the Benefit Ka-Brow Crème Gel, I am definitely rethinking my eyebrow routine! The products just stayed on all day long, and my brows looked so on fleek even at the end of a long day. While I will probably still reach for more affordable options because I use up brow products quite quickly, I will definitely get myself some luxe brow product bestsellers to try out and use for special occasions.

Realization #3: Splurge on shimmery and sparkly eye makeup but save by using a good eyeshadow primer

I’m not really big on eyeshadows but when I do use eye makeup, I want them to be vibrant, long-lasting, and completely resistant to creasing. The Ever Bilena Uncover Eyeshadow Palette is a nice entry-level palette to play with, and features a few lovely, sparkly shades that attracted me to getting this palette. Unfortunately, the shimmer particles have the tendency to get all over my face unless I make sure to use a good eye primer. For high quality shimmer that stays put, high-end eyeshadows are best because the formulas tend to adhere to skin better.

Realization #4: Splurge on blush and highlighter but save if you know how to blend and don’t mind retouching

Liz already called it – the Becca x Chrissy Teigen Glow Face Palette is totally worth the splurge! These stay on all day, plus it looks so natural on, like you’re just blushing prettily and glowing for it. One thing I noticed with my higher-end highlighters is that most of them give off a subtler, more refined sheen that simply makes my skin look amazing. When I want high wattage, in-your-face illumination, I overload on my more affordable highlighters. 

Realization #5: Save on lipsticks but splurge if you’re a packaging aficionado

Let’s face it: there are plenty of great lipsticks out there that are super affordable. Just think of all the sales that Maybelline and L’Oreal constantly go on! With so many budget-friendly options that perform quite well, why should we even splurge on lipsticks? Answer: because they are gorgeous! From the luxe packaging, the dreamy formula, and down to luxurious scent, each little detail of a luxe lipstick is (often) well thought out. 

If you can afford to splurge on a tube or two, they will up your vanity game because let’s face it - great packaging adds on to the cost of our beauty products. Some of our above P1,000 go-tos include the Laneige Two Tone Lip Bar, the MUFE Artist Rouge Lipsticks, and the Estee Lauder lipstick range.

Realization #6: Save on mascara but splurge on an HG-worthy formula

Given the “replace your mascara after every 3 months” recommendation, why spend on expensive mascaras that you may have to throw out before you've used it up? The Nars Audacious Mascara costs P1,450 so if I use it every day for three months, that will cost me approximately P16 per wear while the Features & Shades Mascarade only costs P5.56 per wear. Plus, it even won in our recent local mascara showdown

I have to admit that the Nars Mascara was an impulse buy and I would probably not repurchase, but I feel like I may cave again every time I see my photo from the very first time I wore it. NARS made my lashes look so full and curled, and they were soft to touch – it was everything I wanted my lashes to be. Unfortunately, it was applied by one of their MUAs and I haven’t been able to truly recreate it on my own. I’m still hopeful that I'll recapture that magic, so I still feel a bit tempted to get another when my current tube is no longer usable.

Overall, this challenge was a good way to show the strengths and weaknesses of the different types of beauty products, with some high-end products having a noticeably superior performance. But upon further reflection and inspection, the below P500 cosmetics still performed well and are simply a lot more practical budget-wise.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with splurging on expensive makeup as long as you can afford it. We deserve nice(r) things from time to time, after all! But if your budget is limited, even cheap drugstore finds can offer great quality. Many brands have been stepping up their game, and they'll always be a smarter and safer choice compared to buying knock-offs of luxury brands. Best case scenario is finding your HG products at a price point you’re comfortable with, so don't restrict yourself from exploring all your options! 

Which of these looks did you like best? What products are you willing to splurge on, and which products would you rather get for cheap?