Beauty Talk: Average Makeup Cost Per Use (Revlon, Covergirl, Maybelline)

Although we consider ourselves to be down-to-earth, we understand that it’s important to have a basic makeup supply. But, we know it’s not worthwhile to spend loads of money on Chanel eyeliner when a basic drugstore brand will do the trick. Why would you pay more for different packaging?

Think About Your Per Use Cost

Different types of makeup have different expiration dates, so think about it this way: Mascara will expire in three months, whether you buy it from CVS or YSL. When deciding how much to spend, think about the lifetime of each item. To help you out, we’ve estimated how many uses you’ll get from each kind of makeup, approximately how much that item will cost you per use, and whether we expect you to use it up before it expires.

Case in point: Drug store mascara will cost you about 6 cents per use, whereas the Yves Saint Laurent mascara will cost you about 33 cents—and you probably won’t finish using either before the expiration date. Meanwhile, splurging on $34 lipstick (instead of our $8 choice) will only increase your per-use cost from 2 cents to 6 cents.

Our Favorite Makeup Collection—The Whole Works For $50

We’ve put together a full makeup kit for less than the price of a Dior concealer/foundation. We’ve listed expiration dates, estimated the per use cost, and calculated whether you’re likely to use it up by the time it expires.

We've done the research and chosen our favorite drug store beauty products. Read on for a slide show detailing a full makeup collection for $50.

View Slide Show

LV Tip:

Do not use makeup past its expiration date. Whenever you buy makeup, stick a piece of tape on the back and date it so that you’ll know when it’s expired. To squeeze some extra life out of your lipstick, store it in the fridge—it will last longer. If your favorite lipstick is about to be discontinued, buy a few sticks…and freeze them.

  • Linda

    nail polish only has a shelf life of 1 year?! i didn't know that!!! although i find my nail polish is doing just fine…although that's because essie and opi cost freaking $9!

    • carolinewaxler

      What's your favorite Essie /Opi color?

      • Annie

        I love Essie Mademoiselle for manicures – it's super light, so it doesn't look bad when it chips, and Opi's ElePhantastic Pink is really fun for a summer pedicure. I've invested in these two colors, so I can touch-up myself in between salon visits.

        • Sareen Char

          OPI “my private jet” I’m obsessed! I have to buy my own bottles because I go through the bottle nearly every time! its insane.

    • Lisa

      Nail polish does not have a shelf life of 1 year – it really doesn't expire, it just dries up. There are enough chemicals and preservatives in it that it can't harbor and grow bacteria the way other makeup can. Old polish can also be easily fixed with a bit of thinner (not remover)

    • Hi Linda and Lisa,

      I think where we were going with this is simply that you can't count on your nail polish lasting for more than a year, so should budget accordingly. Personally, I find that after some time my nail polish separates within the bottle. Even when I shake it up, it's never quite the same… What's your experience?


      • Lisa


        it's definitely true that older polish tends to get a little hard to apply. I find that a bit of nail polish thinner helps a lot. I do like the idea of cost per use though – it makes me think a lot more about how much my eyeshadow is really costing me!


        • Yes, sizes of make up matter! I like Mary Kay's mineral eye shadows because they are small I can actually use one before the recommended expiration date comes up.


  • directyourmusic

    Also, an article came out in TIME magazine a few weeks ago that wrote about how makeup is shown to have toxins in it:

    If you're someone like me who rarely wears makeup except for moisturizer and to formal events, I wouldn't worry about toxins and I will gladly trade-in my makeup for these drugstore brands. However, if you're a daily wearer and are concerned for the health of your skin, I would suggest upgrading to organic makeup until further FDA regulations are passed!

  • directyourmusic

    This TIME Magazine article has shown that there are indeed toxins found within makeup, since makeup is not regulated by the FDA. If you are like me and don't use makeup with the exception of moisturizer or for formal events, then I wouldn't worry about it and am glad to have read this article so I can buy cheaper makeup. However, if you use makeup daily and are concerned about your skin, it may be worth it to invest in some organic makeup.

    • carolinewaxler

      Thank you for pointing this out. Any organic makeup you like and that is budget-friendly?

  • Sukie

    When I use a Kohl eyeliner pencil (I prefer Rimmel, better application), I run out in about 6 months. I've never gotten 18 months out of it.
    Now I use an eyeliner that lasts about a year, it cost $20 in January (and includes a brush – mine has lasted years with regular washing) and if I wear it 6 days a week that's about 6 cents per use.

  • Lauren

    I've been the queen of budgetting over the past year, but, no matter, what I can't/won't end my Sephora addiction. I've bought a lot of makeup products from drugstores, makeup counters, and “big box” makeup stores such a Sephora and Ulta.

    In the end of I have found my splurges on higher end poweder, foundation, concealer, blush, and bronzer (pretty much anything that ends on my face) have paid off in the end. My finicky, acne-prone, super oily skin has cost me (and my parents) a lot money over the past 12 years with dermatologist co-pays, prescription products, and every acne product I can get my hands on. After settling on a pricey container of Bare Escentuals foundation about 4 years my skin looks phenomanal with the additions of Neutrogena face wash, Clearsil spot treatment, and Clinique moisturizer.

    If you have picky skin like me, I'd suggest shelling out the extra $10-15 for a year's worth of foundation instead of hundreds on month on blackhead extractions, facials, and skin regimes that get you nowhere.

  • kristym

    I love Maybelline's Full 'n Soft mascara…it works a lot better than Great Lash for my eyelashes.

  • JackieAU5

    This is one area where I feel strongly about quality. I LOVE makeup, and I have done my own little experiments with cheap vs. department store makeup. I have to say…there really is a difference in quality, where department store/designer brands are in fact better and last much longer. Most designer brands don't flake and ware out too quickly. Staple products in my makeup regiment such as mineral powder, mascara and eye shadow I will not go cheap on because I've tried in the past and it's not worth it. It's not worth it because you wind up reapplying it anyway…where as designer brands you don't have to. I do buy cheaper eye liners, glosses and eyebrow pencils though because I have successfully found cheaper brands that really are of good quality. For all other items, I have not.

    P.S. People actually go 3 MONTHS with the same tube of mascara?! That's insanity!

    • Kristina M. Saar

      I agree completely…love makeup, and willing to splurge on quality items. Drugstore lip gloss is fine, but I wouldn’t dream of replacing my Bare Minerals with a drugstore brand.

      Also, I know what you mean about mascara…I can’t make a tube last more than a month and a half AT BEST :)

    • Kristina M. Saar

      I agree completely…love makeup, and willing to splurge on quality items. Drugstore lip gloss is fine, but I wouldn’t dream of replacing my Bare Minerals with a drugstore brand.

      Also, I know what you mean about mascara…I can’t make a tube last more than a month and a half AT BEST :)

    • Kristina M. Saar

      I agree completely…love makeup, and willing to splurge on quality items. Drugstore lip gloss is fine, but I wouldn’t dream of replacing my Bare Minerals with a drugstore brand.

      Also, I know what you mean about mascara…I can’t make a tube last more than a month and a half AT BEST :)

  • jroo

    I'd like to see the same study done using cosmetics that are not 1) toxic to the environment or the body and 2) tested on animals. Some of us are willing to pay more for make-up “we can believe in.”

  • lovebitesontheradio

    i have a few issues with this article. 1) drugstore brand makeup, especially foundation, eyeshadow and powder just do not compare to department store brands. the quality is mediocre at best, in my experience.

    2) with the known chemicals in makeup, i want to find more healthy solutions, and most, if not all drugstore brands are the worst offenders of this. this is one area i splurge-on bath, body and makeup products. i want the things that go on my skin to be healthy for me, not harmful.

    3) i try to buy as many products as possible that are not tested on animals. it's increasingly difficult to find drugstore OR department store brands that don't. so a focus on healthier, non-animal tested makeup would be interesting to me, and which brands are most affordable.

  • I agree with Lauren. I save money in some areas so I can splurge on others…and for me good quality skin care and cosmetics is a must have. I dress in a modest way so people will see my face and not my body so I want that face to be attractive…for years to come! Everyone is entitled to what they spend and save on but this is an area I'll certainly spend on.


  • Lisagreen8

    If you are looking for great-quality makeup at a low price, check out Avon and Mark. I find many products to be better quality than drug-store makeup. Plus, when you buy Avon, you are helping other women. Check it out!

  • I'll post the same information to my blog, thanks for ideas and great article.

  • Sun

    what drugstore eyeliners are of good quality. i cant find one i like!

    • JackieAU5

      For eyeliner, I like Maybelline Unstoppable. It’s waterproof and goes on smooth, doesn’t fade and it’s not a pencil so you don’t have to sharpen it–which is a big plus.

  • AlabamaGirl

    I couldn’t agree more! Cheap or Expensive, there are numerous toxic chemical used in manufacturing makeup, perfumes, skin care, etc. Walmart even sells an inexpensive collection of organic makeup “Physician’s Formula” I think is the name of it. nnBe very careful about what goes ON your body and INTO your body. READ LABELS! RESEARCH. A good place to start is naturalnews.comn

  • jo

    I agree with JRoo….who’s talking about testing on animals??? We should be ashamed of ourselves, all of us…we should be fighting for zero animal testing and demand high priced items be inclusive of this not for us to be paying for better quality (for sure) but for their marketing and advertising. It is true mascara, eyeliner can be bought cheaper, but there is a price someone or something has to pay, and unfortunately it’s animals who don’t get a say, don’t have a voice.

  • Sunflowerblack

    Hi, Loved this article!
     However, As a woman of color, I going to say it would be verrry difficult/ near impossible to find drugstore makeup, with reasonable coverage and the correct undertone for $5. Yes there is the Cover Girl queen collection, and Black opal, etc, but those aren’t sold in any cvs near me, and I cant test the shades online. This is a huge reason why folks will spend $25 at MAC.