We’ve all done it. You’re gleefully sweeping your favorite shade of lipstick onto your puckered mouth. Glancing into the mirror, you approach the Cupid’s bow, apply a less heavy hand, and finish by cleaning up the corners. But something isn’t quite right this time around, is it? You’re almost positive you’ve identified the culprit, but you’re dripping with anxiety.

Your quivering hand lovingly grasping the lipstick, and your eyes slowly, cautiously shift from the mirror down to the tube. Your nightmare is confirmed: you’ve officially run out of lipstick, and no q-tip or pinkie finger is going to save you now. Looking down at the metal tube that once ensconced your Russian Red or Pretty in Pink, you begin wondering: “To the drug store, or not to the drug store?”

 

There are seemingly two worlds when it comes to makeup – no, more along the lines of two, parallel universes. There are the easily accessible, mostly affordable, can’t try it on so buy at your own risk, but will probably look good anyway – drug store brands, and the you’ve probably paid way too much, but the packaging is so pretty and you’ve spent an hour trying on lipsticks so you should probably buy something – prestige, department store brands.

Advertising wars have been waged between the two; entire articles have been dedicated to the same (ahem), but, somehow, we keep coming back to the notion that there really aren’t any major disparities between prestige and drugstore brands – except for the very obvious price factor.

Having always used drug store brands (my mother worked as a brand representative for a very high-end line of cosmetics, at an equally hoity-toity department store when she was younger, yet she always reassured me of the ruthless efficiency of drug store brands), I decided, once and for all, to dip my eager toes into the world of department store cosmetics. The notion that one was better than the other did ring quite hollow with me, but I was willing to experiment, and, at least, quell my unyielding curiosities.

The only problem? Finding a plausible excuse to buy outside of my comfort zone. Heck, I was reasonably happy with the brand I was using, but that satisfaction felt more like complacency. Luckily, I had a singular desire from which I could not disentangle myself. I had been on the quest for the perfect nude lipstick for years, and having vetoed nearly five drug store nudes, I knew I had invoked the perfect defense to finally do what I set out to.

I took on the staggeringly useless task of researching the perfect nude shade on cosmetic websites, and YouTube videos (there are a plethora of makeup videos, demos, and tutorials on YouTube – in case you were wondering). 

Makeup is highly subjective – interestingly enough, as are most things that garner endless reviews, raves, hits and misses – meaning one product could be great for one consumer, and a waste of money for another (note the “I loved this lipstick!” and the “I’d rather smear bacon grease on my lips than try this again!” comments). Ergo, researching your perfect shade of lipstick is tantamount to researching what your bra size is compared to what others have to say about theirs…yes, lipstick is that personal). My explorations did, however, put me on the right path.

Later that week, I brought home the much talked about Myth lipstick from MAC. I had experimented (or, rather, obsessively analyzed) with myriad shades. Feeling like a kid in a candy store (one in which the owner didn’t mind if you sampled the goods), I made it a point to use every brush applicator available at the counter. Hey, that’s what they were there for, right?

The true test came when I opened the little, black and white MAC box, and allowed the sleek tube to descend into my hand. I flipped down the car mirror, and slowly introduced the product to my lips. Left to right, right to left – letting my top and bottom lips collide with a swirl and a pucker. It was done. I looked in the mirror with a smirk, and asked my mother how it looked.

“Perfect,” she answered, mirroring my smirk. Yeah, it did look kind of perfect.

I adore my Myth, but going on drug store raids and digging for the perfect shade down aisles filled to the brim with glimmering purple and pink tubes, and secretly hoping someone has already broken the seal so you can sneak a peak, is somehow much more fun.

So, how about you – which do you prefer…the drug store brands, or do you make the pilgrimage to the department store? Or, do you experiment with both?