Pharmacy finds for a whole new arsenal of artifice

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Having been “fresh faced” for months during the lockdown has made me crave some manmade color.  A sweep of blush, a stroke of mascara and perhaps most of all, a dab of lipstick go a long way towards making one feel (and look) like less of a zombie rising from the graveyard mist.  And tired of the same old, same old, I wanted a product overhaul.  With that desire in mind, I ran to the nearest Sephora as soon as it opened.

CVS Cosmetics Manager Klaudia Granados.

Understandably, customers are not allowed to touch the products, much less sample them.  Eyeliners and lip glosses are plucked out by employees who dutifully swipe them on their gloved hands so you can better determine the color.  Needless to say, this is not the ideal way of determining whether a product works for you and can lead to some expensive mistakes which is what happened to me.

As I wanted a whole new arsenal of artifice, I wondered what drugstores had to offer in terms of gently-priced, but high quality products.  Happily, I found quite a few on my own and also with the help of Klaudia Granados, a very knowledgeable Cosmetics Manager and 14-year veteran of CVS.  Here are my discoveries:

Primer and Foundation

I don’t really use primer or foundation, preferring a tinted sunscreen instead (more on that below), but for those of you who do, The Poreless Putty Primer from e.l.f. ($8.00) is very popular with makeup aficionados, according to Klaudia, as a spot-on dupe for Tatcha’s much lauded Silk Canvas Primer ($52). It smoothes over imperfections for a flawless look, providing grip for all-day wear and moisturizes to boot. And, the line is vegan and cruelty free.

Revlon’s PhotoReady Candid Natural Finish Anti-Pollution Foundation ($11.99) is another of Klaudia’s favorites. With a creamy, moisturizing texture, it blends invisibly to even out skin tone, providing medium, natural-looking coverage. According to Revlon, it contains “anti-pollution, antioxidant, anti-blue light ingredients” and leaves out “oils, parabens, phthalates, synthetic dies and fragrances.”

For those of you who don’t like to wear foundation, but still want to even out the complexion, Klaudia recommends Almay’s SmartShade Skintone Matching Makeup ($14.49). This hydrating lotion comes out white and matches your skin color with a light, luminous tint. It also has an SPF.

Personally, I prefer to use a tinted sunscreen like Anthelios 50 from La Roche-Posay ($33.50) because I feel like a sunscreen provides better sun protection than a lotion with an SPF. I have been faithful to La Roche Posay’ face sunscreens for years.

The Anthelios sunscreen is not very moisturizing, though, so I like to add a drop of Loréal’s Magic Skin Beautifier BB Cream ($7.99). This is a recent find for me. I used to use Charlotte Tilbury’s Wonderglow Face Primer ($55) but vastly prefer this one from L’Oréal because it moisturizes and brightens. I feel like it helps even out my skin tone too. For me, it’s a keeper.


Also from Maybelline, the Instant Age Rewind Eraser ($10): The thin consistency of this highly pigmented concealer provides excellent coverage without caking. It lightens and brightens the under eye area while letting your skin tone shine through. Ditto for any redness along your nose and cheeks. I also really like the cushy sponge applicator. And, with ingredients like goji berry and haloxyl, it is supposed to treat dark circles and wrinkles over time. I haven’t used it long enough to be a judge of its anti-aging properties, but I like it a lot.

If you prefer creamier concealers, L.A. Girl’s HD Pro Concealer ($4.99) is a good bet, providing complete coverage for dark circles while evening out skin tone. As with the one from Maybelline, it doesn’t cake into your wrinkles despite its thicker consistency. An added bonus is the brush tip applicator which makes it easy to apply. And, the brand is cruelty free. I like this very much too and am grateful to Klaudia for pointing it out to me. Bye bye to my previous go-to’s – Nars’ Radiant Creamy Concealer ($30) and Sisley’s Phyto Cernes Éclat (an eye watering $109).


Another product I like from L.A. Girl is their Just Blushing range of blushes ($5.29). The highly pigmented formula will last all day. I find that the Just Radiant shade is a good match for Nars’ famous Orgasm ($30).

Speaking of Nars’ Orgasm, honorable mention to another very pretty dupe goes to Pixi’s Glow-y Powder in Rome Rose ($16).

Continuing with the glowing theme, Klaudia reveals that the Megaglow Highlighting Powder ($4.99) from cruelty free Wet n Wild is very popular among her customers. With a slew of moisturizing ingredients like vitamin E, murumuru seed butter, shea butter and argan oil, it melds nicely while nourishing the skin.

It’s summer time and who doesn’t like to have a sun kissed look, especially after spending weeks and weeks indoors? So, if you’re looking for a tanned complexion, but don’t want to risk the sun damage, the Butter Bronzers from Physicians Formula ($11.99) are a good pick.

Packed with no fewer than three types of butter (murumuru, cupuaçu and tucuma), Butter Bronzers from Physicians Formula combines the properties of a powder and cream bronzer, blending beautifully into the skin. The line is hypoallergenic, paraben free, gluten free, oil-free, vegan. cruelty free.

For those of you seeking a mascara that will hold a curl, look no further. For years, I have wandered this desert, faithfully sticking to Shu Uemura’s Ultimate Natural Mascara ($29) which does an OK job. But, now, I don’t think I will ever stray from Maybelline Lash Sensational Curvitude ($10.79). 

Not only does it hold an all-day curl on my fine, straight lashes – considerably better than Shu Uemura’s ever did – but it does so while it lengthens without clumping. Note: waterproof mascaras are better at holding a curl than washable ones and indeed I found that to be true here. While the waterproof one has more curling power, the washable one provides a very nice lift with the benefit of being easier to remove. Either one works for me. Some beauty bloggers have complained that the brush is too springy, even flimsy. Who cares? It does exactly what it advertises and I am a complete convert. If you’re not looking for curl specifically, the regular Mabelline Lash Sensational is excellent, adding a good amount of lift and even holding some curl. It’s been called a shoe-in for the oft-touted Hypnôse mascara from Lancôme ($27.50). My only gripe? The size. That fat tube takes up a lot of real estate in a makeup bag.

Fuller eyebrows are a breeze with the Fill & Fluff Eyebrow Pencil and Brush from NYX ($11.00). Why? Because, as Klaudia points out, the thicker angled tip makes application easier and the brush (as opposed to the usual spoolie) results in better blending.


I’m always on the lookout for a nude or natural lip pencil that doesn’t have a lot of pink in it. Even Charlotte Tilbury’s Lip Cheat lip liner in Iconic Nude ($16) which is decidedly beige when swiped on a tissue or gloved hand, reads pink on me. That color just doesn’t work well with my pale, olive-toned skin. But then, I don’t want something with too much brown in it either as the ‘90s are a distant memory.

Well, hallelujah, stop the presses, because I have finally found not one, but two lip liners that I am very happy with – the Nude Truffle and the Nude Beige from NYX’s line of Slim Lip Pencils ($4.00). I think this brand, owned by L’Oréal, gives you a lot of bang for your buck and I will be returning to check out their other offerings. The lip pencils go on beautifully and you can’t beat the price.

Matte lipsticks are very trendy right now (could it be because of Kylie Jenner?) and the SuperStay Matte Ink line from Maybelline ($9.49) has been very popular, according to Klaudia. That’s because of its superior staying power.
I’m not a huge fan of matte lipsticks as they tend to be rather drying, but the Rouge Signature Matte Lip Stain from L’Oréal ($12.99), although it doesn’t have the staying power of the one from L’Oréal above, has moisturizing properties.
And to take it all off, reach for The Perfect Matcha from Physician’s Formula ($9.99), considered a dupe for Farmacy’s popular Green Clean Balm ($22). I love a moisturizing balm as a makeup remover because I don’t like for my combination skin to feel tight after I clean it. For this reason, foaming cleansers and the like are not for me. The balm emulsifies into an oil when mixed with water and massaged into the skin. Enriched with anti-oxidants, it provides a deep clean while leaving skin soft and supple. It can remove eye makeup too, but waterproof mascara will require an additional cleanser.


But wait, there’s more! Now that you’ve got it glowin’ on (😉) on your face, what about your body? With just a tiny bit of shimmer, Coppertone’s Glow sunscreen lotion ($8.97) has been flying off the shelves according to Klaudia. It comes in a moisturizing hydragel too.

Stay tuned for my drugstore skincare finds. For more beauty tips and tricks, follow me on Instagram @chasingbeautywithdvn

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