True story: when you're a beauty blogger like me, sometimes freebies just show up on your doorstep. I mean, there's the stuff I request, which is when I reach out to a company's PR for samples to write about. That's one thing, but it's quite another when a huge box of free stuff just lands on your doorstep--and I mean huge, like loaded down with makeup and skincare. It happened the other day, and I was all, "Say WHAT?!" and completely pumped about the whole thing. Incidentally, my 3 year old daughter and the babysitter were also enthralled. I mean, what girl wouldn't be?
So, the kind folks at L'Oreal Paris sent me a ton of stuff, and I was intrigued but admittedly cautious. Usually, I find drugstore shopping to be hit or miss, so I was expecting to maybe like one or two things and share the rest with friends and family. Ladies, I am here to tell you: I was wrong. When that L'Oreal BB cream, concealer, blush, eyeshadow, mascara, and lip gloss were on my face, I was actually quite astonished. I couldn't tell the difference from my everyday look.
Naturally, being a wannabe mad-makeup-scientist, I had to take it to the next level and dig dupes for the L'Oreal products out of my own makeup kit--a kit that's full of considerably more expensive products from department store and niche brands. I did half my face in L'Oreal and half in the other stuff; $71 worth of makeup on the L'Oreal side and $312 worth of Armani, YSL, chanel, By Terry, Laura Mercier, and Kevyn Aucoin on the other side. The verdict? Let's see if you can spot the pricier side in the photos below, and then you can decide for yourself!
In this photo, taken in direct sunlight, half of my face is made up with $312 worth of expensive department store brand products and the other half is made up with $71 worth of L'Oreal brand drugstore products. Can you tell the difference? Make your guess now, and then stay with it as I take you through step by step.
Here is the makeup that I used for the comparison: on each side of the face, I used one foundation product, one concealer, one black mascara, one taupe eyeshadow palette, one bright pink blush, one peachy lip gloss stick, and one hot pink lip gloss stick.
Armani Maestro vs. L'Oreal BB
On one side of my face, I'm wearing Armani Maestro Foundation in shade 4.5; on the other side is L'Oreal Paris Magic Skin Beautifier BB Cream in Anti-Redness. Both products have an incredibly smooth feel with a great slip; they go on moist but quickly dry to a satin-matte finish that looks sheer and refined. The Armani is slightly pinker than the L'Oreal on my skin, which actually comes out of the tube green but turns to a universal light-medium beige shade when blended. The green pigments in the L'Oreal are designed to correct redness in the skin (ever mix red and green paint together? You get brown, and this mint green neutralizes redness in the skin and turns it to beige). Being completely honest and unbiased here (I purchased the Armani with my own money; the $10.99 L'Oreal was a freebie) I am much more a fan of the L'Oreal. It makes me wish I never splurged on the $64 Armani.
By Terry Touche Veloutee vs. L'Oreal Visible Lift Blur Concealer
These concealers look like they would be in different ballparks, but they're actually quite similar in formula. While the $58 By Terry Touche Veloutee in shade 2 is packaged in a click tube with a concealer brush, the jury is still out for me on whether or not I feel that brush is actually helpful. The L'Oreal Paris Visible Lift Blur Concealer in 303 Medium is packaged in a pretty ginormous tube, as far as concealers go, containing 20 ml of product to By Terry's 6.5. Kind of crazy considering that the By Terry costs nearly 5x as much but is 1/3 as big as the L'Oreal. The comparison matters because these products, while differing in shade, are strikingly similar in finish. In both cases, it's a luminous matte, and I actually lean towards the L'Oreal because its peachy undertone in the 303 Medium shade is great for correcting and concealing my blue-tinged undereye circles.
Chanel vs. LOreal blush
The formulas of these two blushes differ; Le Blush Creme de CHANEL in 63 Revelation is a cream while the L'Oreal Paris Visible Lift Blur Blush in 503 Soft Berry is a fluffy, primer-like gel. Both are extremely blendable, and the CHANEL is peachier while the L'Oreal is a deep, hot pink that goes on as a sheer wash of color. After 3 hours of wear, both shades appear as bright as they were when I applied them. Again, a size / price comparison gives a distinct advantage to the L'Oreal product for the budget-conscious shopper.
Kevyn Aucoin vs. L'Oreal Paris
As far as greige eyeshadows go, I actually have had my eye on the new CHANEL eyeshadow quad in 226 Tisse Rivoli. That purchase would actually be unjustifiable at this point, given that I'm now in possession of the L'Oreal Paris Colour Riche Dual Effects Eyeshadow in 250 Absolute Taupe. I am usually wary of drugstore eyeshadows, and I often advise my makeup clients to skip them entirely; I usually find that most of them have poor color payoff and longevity, and look ashy on the skin. This eyeshadow actually caught me completely off guard; it blends well and has a good amount of velvety, pearlized, reflective pigments that are characteristic of more expensive eyeshadows. Even without primer, I experience good color payoff with it. The Kevyn Aucoin shadow is more finely milled, and it would still be my pick for blending out a really smoky look, but the L'Oreal eyeshadow does decent work even when applied and blended just with a finger.
YSL Volume Effet Faux Cils Shocking vs. L'Oreal Voluminous Miss Manga Mascara
As a longtime devotee of YSL mascaras, it takes a lot to woo me away from them. I usually prefer the YSL Volume Effet Faux Cils mascara in the classic formula and brush; I branched out last time and tried the Shocking formula, to find that it is a bit thicker and clumpier than I like. Like the YSL Shocking, the L'Oreal Paris Voluminous Miss Manga Mascara in 373 Black claims to give lashes a doll-like look by gripping and fanning out the inner corners. I usually take these kinds of claims with a grain of salt, but I was actually pleasantly won over by the L'Oreal upon first application. The wand has a little bit of bend to it, which prevents clumpy spider lashes and allows you to gently coat and curl inner baby lashes. Additionally, the formula has yet to flake, clump, or run on me, so that's a plus. This will remain in my daily rotation for sure.
Laura Mercier Lip Crayon vs. L'Oreal Glossy Balm
While the Laura Mericer Lip Crayon in Mayan Sun was a limited edition from last summer, I pulled it out of my makeup bag for comparison's sake since its shade is so similar to the L'Oreal Glossy Balm in 210 Ginger Candy. In this case, the L'Oreal is the clear winner; it's more sheer and glossy, and gives my lips a look of fullness. The Laura Mericer is more opaque and can at times look chalky and feel sticky--probably the reason that it never made it into the permanent line. I used each of these crayons on half of my lips as a base underneath the pink balm featured below. Neither product is flavored or scented.
YSL Volupte Sheer Candy vs. L'Oreal Pop Balm in 440 Electric Pink
These glossy lip balms are strikingly similar, although the YSL Volupte Sheer Candy shade 4 is slightly cooler toned than the brighter and comparably warmer L'Oreal Paris Pop Balm in 440 Electric Pink (I say "comparably warmer" because this isn't a shade that I wouldn't characterize as warm; it's more a true hot pink while the YSL is a hot magenta). Neither stains the lips, and the YSL is heavily scented and flavored while the L'Oreal is not. Sometimes, I'm wary of unflavored and unscented lip products because they can have a weird plastic or chemical taste, but this one has neither. It actually feels and looks like a much more expensive lip product, in my opinion.
Side by side comparison
Knowing now what you know about the products used, ready for the big reveal? OK, draw an imaginary line down my face in this photo, as you see it on the screen. The half of my face that you see on the left hand side of your screen is covered in L'Oreal products. The half of my face on the right hand side of your screen is the YSL, CHANEL etc. Can you see a difference?
Designer Makeup Look
Here's a closer view of the designer makeup look. The only discernible difference to my eye is that the CHANEL blush is more subdued than the L'Oreal, but that's more an issue of shade than formula (the CHANEL is a warm, deep peach).
Designer Makeup Products
Here's a recap of the products on the more expensive side of my face:
Armani Maestro foundation 4.5 $64 YSL Volupte Sheer Candy 4 $34 Le Blush Creme de CHANEL 63 Revelation $46 By Terry Touche Veloutee 2 $58 Kevyn Aucoin The Essential Eye Shadow Set 2 $58 YSL Mascara Volume Effet Faux Cils Shocking 1 $30 Laura Mercier Lip Crayon $22
L'Oreal Paris side
Here's the side of my face with L'Oreal Paris products. I find it really, really hard to tell the difference between the more expensive side. Even if there is a discernible difference--and there isn't one, in my eyes--is it a difference worth spending an extra $241.07 for?
Colour Riche Dual Effects Eyeshadow 250 Absolute Taupe $9.99 Voluminous Miss Manga Mascara 373 Black $7.99
Colour Riche Balm Pop 440 Electric Pink $7.99
Colour Riche Glossy Balm 210 Ginger Candy $7.99
Here is the complete makeup look photographed inside the house with ambient natural lighting but no direct sunlight. I often tell my makeup clients that the quality of your makeup matters most when you're being photographed, but I question that conclusion based on what I see here. Both sides of my face look about the same, in my opinion.
Overall, while the L'Oreal makeup definitely comes out on top for cost effectiveness, there is one caveat. I'm a professional makeup artist, so I know my shades and I know what's going to work on me and how to apply it. There's nobody at the drugstore to help you find your shade, and that can be a problem. If you know what your favorite shades are and what works on you, I would wholeheartedly send you off to the drugstore and tell you to have at the L'Oreal display with no restraint because this test has made it clear to me that they are using the same cutting edge formulas, shades, and pigments as the far more pricey makeup brands. If you're looking to revamp your entire look and try something new, however, there's still no replacement from the advice of a good makeup artist, and unfortunately there's nobody like that at CVS. So, my friends, call me! We'll go shopping!