Budget Beauty: College Packing List Edition

The ultimate drugstore makeup packing list for college kids.
Publish date:
September 25, 2014
Revlon, covergirl, elf, drugstore beauty, drugstore makeup, maybelline, budget beauty, college week

If there’s ever a time in life to save money on makeup, it’s college. I didn’t even have a beauty budget when I went to college--and not as in, “No need for a budget, LET’S GO TO SEPHORA!” but more like I picked whatever shampoo and conditioner was cheapest at CVS and borrowed my roommate’s nail polish more than once (sorry, Hannah!).

Fortunately there’s a middle ground between those two extremes. It's possible to save money while still looking good. I would know: not only was I a poor college student, I also have two younger sisters (and several cousins) in college right now.

Kaila and Kaitlyn have very different styles and levels of interest in makeup. It’s been awesome watching their looks evolve throughout college. Kaila has a sort of girl-next-door-meets-pin-up vibe with her red lips and fringed bob.

Kaitlyn favors an extremely pared down beauty look--as in, I don’t even think she wears chap stick. Girl takes “fresh-faced” to a new level, and why not? She looks adorable with her freckles and the pixie cut that she got right before her freshman year.

I’ve turned my sisters on to so many great drugstore products that they now love, from Revlon Balm Stains for Kaila to short hair products for Kaitlyn. Here’s the ultimate drugstore makeup packing list that I would recommend to my sisters and any college student.

BB Cream

Personally, I don't see a need for heavy foundation every day in college. BB creams seem like the easiest, most practical way to even out your complexion. It's an all-in-one and it only takes a few moments to pat it on with your clean fingers--no brushes needed. I like Revlon's PhotoReady BB Cream with SPF 30. It's just the right consistency (some are too watery and give almost zero coverage) and even has light-reflecting properties that make my face look clear and glow-y.


Maybelline Fit Me Concealer is my go-to drugstore concealer. It's really good for covering up the things that a BB Cream can't, such as under-eye circles and spots. It's not heavy-duty, because it doesn't have a very thick consistency, and it can be a little drying if you have very dry skin, so be sure to moisturize. The best part (besides the price) is the range of six shades, from Light to Deep.


CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara is my favorite drugstore mascara, hands down. I've bought it over and over again, and I still reach for it over much pricier mascaras. This mascara makes my lashes look thicker, longer, and just a million times better without any clumps or smears. Get the waterproof version, obviously.


I just wrote about the new CVS line Makeup Academy, and their Color Infused Lip Balm in Nude was one of my favorite products in the line. It's moisturizing, deposits just the right amount of natural color, and it's easy to apply so you can swipe it on while dashing around. It comes in several shades, too. My other favorite drugstore lipsticks are Revlon Matte Balms and Lip Butters, Wet 'N' Wild Megalast Lipsticks, and Maybelline Color Vivids.

Eyeliner, Blush, Etc.

I don't like gel eyeliners or pen eyeliners from the drugstore because they always dry up on me way too fast. e.l.f. Essential Liquid Eyeliner is only $1 and it applies smoothly and lasts really well. I have it in black and brown.

Another great e.l.f. find, this Contouring Blush & Bronzer Powder includes a universally flattering blush--light pink, not too warm, too cool, or too shimmery. You can get a kabuki brush from e.l.f. for $3 and use that to apply the blush.

e.l.f. is also great for stocking up on blotting papers, fake eyelashes (in strips or individual lashes), and an amazing brow kit.

I put together a simple beauty look using the above makeup products.

The Maybelline concealer, Revlon BB Cream, and e.l.f. blush, gives you that fresh-faced glow, and a few coats of mascara and a very subtle cat-eye adds depth. Can't forget my MUA nude lipstick--the finishing touch.

If I could go back to those days of classes and coffee shop hangouts, this is the everyday look that I would wear. It’s fast, easy, and completely affordable.

If you need more affordable recommendations (who doesn’t?), you can read about my favorite drugstore brands for short hair here; two great heavy-duty drugstore moisturizers here; and vegan/cruelty-free drugstore makeup here.

Any college kids out there stocking up drugstore beauty? For those of you who have already been there and done that, what drugstore favorites were you obsessed with in college?