If you're in the market for a new lipstick -- maybe yours has run out, failed to live up to expectations, or you just want a change of color -- there's a staggering array of cheap lipsticks to choose among. Will you go for a matte or cream lipstick? What about a gloss? Perhaps you're searching for a lipstick that's earth friendly and all natural. Maybe you're in need of an application for a special event -- a wedding, say, or a day at the beach. One thing you don't have to spend much time weighing is price. Why? Because cheap lipsticks -- the drugstore varieties that sell for as little as $1.50 and top out at $10 -- perform just as well as or better than high-end brands that can hit the $50 mark.
Cheap Lipstick Buying Guide
Expensive lip colors are much like designer clothes: The name behind the product contributes to its stratospheric price, not necessarily to its quality or practicality.
There are several formula categories within the lipstick market. We settled on four -- cream (or creme), matte, gloss, and natural -- and identified products in each that deserve a best cheap lipstick label. Among cream lipsticks, we like Revlon Super Lustrous (starting at $4.74) and Maybelline ColorSensational Vivids Lipcolor (starting at $5.50) for their texture and hydrating qualities. The best cheap matte lipsticks are Revlon Super Lustrous Matte (starting at $4.97) and Nyx Matte (starting at $5.99), both boasting intense pigments and attractive price points. In the gloss lipsticks category we picked CoverGirl Wetslicks Fruits Spritzers (starting at $4.74) and Neutrogena MoistureShine Lip Soother SPF 20 (starting at $5.97) for their moisturizing effect and consistency, and in the case of the latter, its sun-protecting component. Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer Stick (starting at $4.99) is the best cheap natural lipstick owing to its ingredients, balm-like feel, and subtle coloration.
Additionally, we spotted cheap lipsticks representing each of the four formulas that garner enough negative comments to wipe them off our list of picks. Maybelline SuperStay 14(hr) Lipstick (starting at $7.51) is a cream lip product that apparently doesn't last the advertised duration. E.l.f. Studio Matte Lip Color (starting at $4.50) suffers for its fragile, slim shape. Maybelline New York SuperStay 10(hr) Stain Gloss (starting at $5.79) struggles with the same flaw as its 14-hour counterpart. And Badger Lip Tint & Shimmer (starting at $5.39) is tarred by an unpleasant taste and smell.
Of course, users' assessments of cheap lipsticks are highly subjective. Whereas a clear majority of reviews (and they can number in the hundreds) might laud the look, feel, and staying power of a particular lip product, our research inevitably spotted naysayers who insist the color fades quickly, the lipstick doesn't apply evenly, the consistency is greasy or chalky, the taste is off-putting, etc. We also read a lot of critical comments from consumers who just didn't like the shade they had chosen, sometimes saying the mistake was due to misleading hues on the cap or in the online display, but we did not factor these into our assessments.
Each lipstick formula has strengths and weaknesses, and users often gravitate to one as their daily go-to product but sometimes choose something different to suit a specific function. Mattes are intensely pigmented but somewhat drying, and generally the lipstick of choice when aiming for the fresh-faced look suitable to a work setting. Creams are also rich but more varied in color, shinier, and more hydrating, and perfect for a night on the town. Glosses are light on the lips and subtle in tint, with a faint shine, and do well in informal settings. Natural lipsticks are just the thing for anyone trying to avoid lip products containing chemicals.
The primary purveyors of low-cost lip colors include Revlon, Maybelline, CoverGirl, Rimmel, Wet n Wild, and NYC. Others, such as Nyx and L'Oreal, stake a smaller claim at this end of the market. Upmarket producers, like Lancome, Clinique, and Estee Lauder, duke it out against niche labels and those from well-known fashion houses such as Dior and Yves SaintLaurent.
Makeup preferences are always evolving. While barely-there glosses are a staple lip product on beauty shelves, for example, they have been losing out to the trendier "bold is more" of the mattes and creams. Natural/organic, a relatively new lipstick breed, is also gaining ground as more consumers become eco- and health-conscious. By the way, healthcare professionals note that lip products can protect against sun damage, and some glosses and lipsticks now incorporate a bit of sunscreen, as does one of our top picks, Neutrogena MoistureShine Lip Soother SPF 20.
Popular fashion and beauty magazines sometimes up the ante on lipstick buying. Lip products featured in the media are often celebrity-endorsed, with prices to match. Of course, celebrities spend top dollar on beauty products and often rely on a professional to do the application. Considering that many lipstick users have self-taught application technique, a cheaper lipstick is more than adequate. So unless you're a professional, designer lip products just aren't worth the investment. One of the best cheap lipsticks will do you proud.
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