Building a Makeup Kit: Professional VS. Drugstore Cosmetics - QC Makeup Academy

Building a makeup kit can be both an expensive and confusing process. If you want to create a large number of looks on a global spectrum of people, you need to be prepared with an impressive amount of products. The cost associated with starting a makeup career can be daunting, which makes it very tempting to go the cheap route.

When it comes to choosing your products, costs should be less important than performance. You need to know how to get the most bang for your buck. No makeup artist wants to splurge on a product that’s gone within two sessions!

So let’s chat about when you should reach for drugstore products & when not to!


When it comes to foundation, you need a variety of products that address individual skin types as well as tones and undertones. But having a vast array of products is not cheap. Having liquid, powder, and cream foundations that range from light to deep shades and warm, cool, and neutral undertones, is unlikely within your budget as a beginner makeup artist.

I recommend starting with a foundation palette. Not only will this meet your needs from light to deep, but palettes also contain colors with a variety of undertones. This variety allows you to mix any shade you need to color-match your clients. One benefit of stocking makeup palettes is that they are cream foundations, which can be very effective on every skin type.

If you need a light level of coverage, you can blend creams down with a beauty blender or mix the foundation with a moisturizer. Embryolisse is a perfect moisturizer to mix with your foundations.

Starting with a cream palette will also allow you to meet the needs of a wide array of clients. As your makeup business grows, you’ll be able to purchase more formulations. I always recommend people to consider professional foundations. The vast majority of drugstore brands have drying agents in them so that consumers wouldn’t need to purchase an additional setting powder. But it’s well-worth the extra product (and step) to apply a setting powder.

When people sweat or when the oils from their skin mix with their makeup, their look can often darken, creating the dreaded makeup mask. When you use professional foundations and set them with professional powders, your makeup is less likely to oxidize.

Drugstore foundations are usually less pigmented and less long-wearing. To create the perfect base, I always recommend professional primers, and there are a number of brilliant companies that make beautiful ones including Cover FX, Tarte, and Smashbox.


When it comes to powder products, my opinion is split. I have found that the vast majority of drugstore eyeshadows do not give me the level of rich pigment I hope for. Professional eyeshadows are far more pigment-rich and deliver a much more satisfying lay of color to the eyelids. If expensive shadows are not currently in your budget, invest in a really amazing eye primer. Using eyeshadow primer as your base, you’ll get a better read of color from the less expensive eyeshadows. However, I do recommend that you eventually graduate to professional brands.

Whether or not you are using drugstore or professional eyeshadows, primer truly is essential. It will make the eye makeup last longer, prevent creasing, and deliver richer color.

As for blushes, I’ve never been a fan of aggressive blush. So having the lighter pigment of drugstore blushes might not be such a bad thing! You can get a beautiful, light, effortless glow with a few swipes of your drugstore brand. Meanwhile, some of the richer, more pigmented brands can leave a harsh streak across your client’s face (unless you have mastered the art of the light touch).

Other Makeup Products

I have some drugstore brands that I am proud to recommend. The mascara I cannot live without is Voluminous by L’Oreal, and depending on where you live, it can range from $5.00-$8.00. The gel liners, lip liners, and lipsticks at the drugstore all deliver beautiful and long-lasting colors. I have found that in many cases, I can get the same results at the drugstore as I can from some iconic professional brands.


My biggest piece of advice is that you dedicate yourself to exploring a variety of products for your professional makeup kit. From my experience, I would not use drugstore foundations on a client, but I would not hesitate to use drugstore liners, lipsticks, and blushes. You should always do your own research for two reasons:

First, you might find a product that you love even more than the one you’re currently using, and second, by doing research on both professional and drugstore brands, you can form an opinion that you can share with all of your clients. People will always have questions and will rely on you for guidance. The more you know about the industry and all the products in it, the more likely you’ll be to have an answer for them.

I would really love to know your thoughts on the subject. Are there any products you’ll only use professional brands for? Are there any drugstore products you swear by? Let me know in the comments!

Are there any drugstore products you swear by? Let me know in the comments!

Take Nathan’s advice and follow this guide to building your makeup artistry kit on a budget!

Author Nathan Johnson

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