I’ve been meaning to do a sort of all-around brand overviews of some budget brands. I thought of including Korean and Taiwanese ones as well, but those are sort of their own thing (and while many of them are available in Mannings or the like – as in drugstores – their prices are closer to mid-range) with their own focus: more skincare than makeup. Plus I figured the brands I’m including here are probably more accessible to most people I know online than, say, Missha or Dr. Wu. :)
I like Sleek a lot – their eyeshadow palettes, for this price range, are hard to beat and the shadows don’t have that talc smell some cheap eyeshadows do. I’ve found MAC (hi, Heroine) and NARS shadows that perform worse than Sleek. I haven’t tried most of their face or lip products. Their liners are, IMO, of higher quality than NYX.
Avoid: Their matte palettes (Matte Brights, Matte Darks), as their matte shades are almost inevitably chalky and powdery, and need a white or skin-colored base to perform decently.
I haven’t tried much from Maybelline and have found their lipsticks too scented for me (and to taste oddly – I prefer my lipsticks to be tasteless and odorless, with few exceptions). I haven’t tried their face products at all and see no reason to when there are much, much superior brands of comparable prices. In fact, I find Maybelline overpriced for what they are – Sleek produces better products at lower prices, as do many other regional brands.
Stand-outs: Color Tattoos are perfectly solid cream eyeshadows and a fine alternative to the MAC Paint Pots if you’re into that kind of thing. Some of their Color Show liners are okay, but nothing special.
Avoid: Specific shades of the Color Tattoo, namely Painted Purple (awful, low-pigment, patchy). Their powder eyeshadows. All their powder eyeshadows are invariably terrible. Their blushes generally come across as mediocre.
Same deal with Maybelline: overpriced for what it is (with price tags inching waaay close to mid-range brands), so-so quality, limited color choices. I don’t know, get Clio instead.
Avoid: Their eyeshadow palettes. That stuff is breathtakingly bad – powdery, dry, no pigmentation. I understand their Infallible line is better, but that stuff isn’t available in SE Asia. Their liquid lipsticks (‘Colour Riche Extraordinaire Lip Color’) are way too strongly fragranced in a chemical-cheap-perfume way.
This is going to sound boring now, but see above. Like L’Oreal and Maybelline, Revlon is another drugstore brand that doesn’t do anything exciting or exceptional, but is priced waaay too high for what it is. Mediocre face products, appalling eyeshadow, nothing to see here, move along.
Stand-outs: Lip products. Revlon lip products stand out among western drugstore brands in that they are odorless and tasteless, by and large, and they offer a fair range of different formula. There’s the basic Super Lustrous lipsticks with matte, satin, and shimmer finishes. There’s the Colorburst Balms that come in matte and ‘lacquer’ finishes. There’s the Lip Butters, which are tinted lip balms. You aren’t going to find fun, exciting colors like blue or green here, but as far as everyday colors go, you’ll probably find something to like in shade or finish.
Avoid: I’m not a fan of the Moisture Balm Stains because… well, we fall down the trap of chemical taste and smell again. Avoid the Just Bitten Lip Balms and go for the Colorburst Balms instead. As I said, appalling eyeshadow: the Shadowlinks sound nice in theory but the quality’s terrible.
I really dig KATE. They do great face products (think waaay cheaper alternative to Laura Mercier), offer lots of lip product choices with really solid quality.
Stand-outs: Liquid Rouge V (despite the name, it’s a gloss rather than a liquid lipstick; I flat-out prefer it over Bobbi Brown’s gloss formula), Rouge HG (solid lipstick in the tube, pigmented and hydrating), Super Sharp Liner (think cheaper alternative to Stila’s Stay All Day liquid liner), Face Powder (loose finishing powder), High Grade Cover Powder (pressed finishing powder).
Avoid: Their eyeshadows tend to be heavier on shimmer/glitter than pigment, but if you want sheer washes of color – as with most Japanese brands – this is more than serviceable. My Color Pencil N is dry, tugs, and isn’t really worth it.
This is one of Shiseido’s brands, and the price ranges are definitely inching toward ‘mid-range’ more than budget/drugstore. They put a decent amount of thought into their collections and limited editions, their packaging’s cute if you’re into Etude House, and they offer some colors that are fairly unusual and unique at this price range – I’d argue Majolica actually gives you a more decent range of shades than Shiseido itself, and a lot of the colors offered by Majolica remind me of Shu Uemura (much more expensive). I prefer it way, way over most mid-range Japanese cosmetic brands. Their eyeshadows are pretty decent as well, giving you more interesting choices than just ‘neutral, more neutral, here’s more neutral’; they don’t offer as broad a range as Sleek – and Majolica’s more expensive – but most Japanese brands don’t offer a lot of colors. Great alternative to Shu Uemura.
Stand-outs: Perfect Automatic Liners (especially in RD303 and VI303, respectively a pearly red and a pearly lavender – striking and pretty as heck), Cream de Cheek Liquid Blush.
Avoid: I’m not a fan of their lip glosses (I hate tube glosses), but that’s about it.
Meh. Just… meh. There’s nothing distinctive about Catrice. I like that the packaging – hard clear plastic – makes its products look more ‘expensive’ than it actually is, but their brushes are terrible (get Real Techniques or Zoeva instead), their eyeshadows are hit-or-miss. There’s a decent shade selection all around, but for the price range Sleek is just better. Catrice’s glitter and metallic shadows have ridiculously chunky glitter in. Most of their products aren’t bad, but they just aren’t great either. Just mediocre. I haven’t tried their face products, again mostly because there’s just no compelling reason to do so (KATE is better, etc).
Avoid: Their lipsticks. They smell terrible, the shinier formulae have no lasting power, and there’s no unique shades in particular. Their Kohl Kajals are dry, tug, and don’t really blend out.