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Supermarket makeup versus Sephora etc?


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I feel I am kind of getting my beauty routine and makeup game under control. I can now put together something, good enough for work and shopping, in around 10-15 minutes.


Now, when I started I had no idea what I was doing. So, I bought only "cheap" supermarket brands while I figured out what the heck to do with all of this stuff! If I made a mistake and the color was all wrong for me (I found this especially with lipstick!), I could just chuck it without too much of an investment going to waste. Also, its easy to pick up something on special and get a bargain when you know exactly what you are looking for.


Anyway, I have "standardised" on Maybelline which has a fairly decent range where I buy my groceries, is cheap, and I don't mind how it feels and looks going on. I particularly like the pore concealing primer, the mascara, eyebrow pencil and eyeliner (I also like this sparkly stuff by maybelline that comes in a tube  and really helps my eyes "pop"!). I'm less impressed with the foundation - though I've finally found a tone that matches my skin pretty well (now that took a while!) . I don't like their concealer at all and have some NARS concealer (From Mega Maxima) which I love.


Just one teeny tiny jar of the NARS stuff cost  as much as 3 or 4 of my usual Maybelline products (but feels so lovely!)


Which got me thinking ... should I start to look at big girl's makeup? Is there really that much difference if I pay $15 versus $50 for a little bottle of foundation? Will more expensive stuff make me look any better?



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With makeup, high cost does not always equal high quality.  There are $10 eye shadow pallets that are much better than ones costing $60-$100.  The same is true for a lot of other products.  I use a lot of E.L.F. and NYX products such as primers and eye shadow base, and even blush, contour and highlighter.  Most of my eye shadow pallets are Morphe and Coastal Scents, and they formulas are pretty good for the most part.  There is an odd pallet that  doesn't seem to perform well at times.  The area s I refuse to skimp on are foundation and concealers.  Drugstore brands never really performed well for me.  For foundation, I tend to use Tarte, Mac, or RCMA.  RCMA is my go to foundation.  It is a cream foundation that was developed for film and television (They made some of the special shades used in some of the Star Wars movies).  With the RCMA foundation, a little goes a very long way.  They have a large shade range, and were also made so you can easily mix a custom shade.  RCMA foundation pallets cost anywhere from about $70 to $120, but they also sell single shades.  For concealers, the two That I use are 3 Custom Color Specialists, and Ben Nye.  They are both highly pigmented cream concealers developed for professional MUA's.  A little goes a long way with these as well.  Ben Nye also makes a beard cover to hide shadow that works great as well.  Hope this helps.

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In the beginning, stores like Sephora and ULTA were my Trans friendly go to stores where I could get recommendations and tips on application, and I tried the products they marketed all with a degree of success.  I needed to have non-allergenic makeup due to some skin problems I had and still do have.  I am in situations where I need actual theater grade makeup from time to time, and for me those foundations have worked the best overall.  Once the foundation is on, then the other colored agents such as blush and eye shadow are a little more open to quick supermarket brands but not all brands have colors that work with me.  My suggestion is go to Sephora which is Trans Friendly and have them help you pick the right colors and pallets from their stock (I have found their products to last longer) and then once in a good place, get what you want.

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Carolyn Marie

I agree Vicky for the most part.  Sephora is a great place to learn and pick up a starter kit, and I swear by the quality of their brushes.  But their makeup products are much more expensive than retail brands, and I now use retail almost exclusively.  Estee Lauder and L'Oreal for eye makeup, Essie and OPI for nails, and Almay for makeup remover are go-to products.  For lipstick it just depends on what's on sale and what colors and styles are available.  I usually stay away from anything that looks too gaudy.


The one exception is Mac for foundation.  I find it worth the extra money for the way it covers and goes on so smoothly and evenly.


Everyone will have their preferences, of course.  But no one should have to spend a fortune on makeup and supplies.


Carolyn Marie

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Thankyou so much for the detailed replies, @Carolyn Marie, @VickySGV and @MiraM . You have all given me something to think about.


Seems the consensus is things like foundation and concealer are worth a little extra investment. I'm quite nervous about visiting stores like Sephora (they are always packed with beautiful young women and I feel so out of place), but maybe its time I put on my big girl pants and overcame my fears.


@Carolyn Marie You mentioned Mac foundation. I'm sure I've seen that in my travels. Do you have an exact "make and model" for your foundation?  I think it would be easier for me if I went into Sephora and asked for help with a specific product rather than just going in and saying "Help!?! I dont know what Im doing!"

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1 hour ago, Berni said:

Seems the consensus is things like foundation and concealer are worth a little extra investment. I'm quite nervous about visiting stores like Sephora (they are always packed with beautiful young women

The Sephora stores here in the U.S. have special sessions for Trans people a few times a year.  Look for their Special Events on their web page.  They also have special sessions for older girls like myself and I have been ot one where I was treated like one of the girls (er-- mature women--lol!!


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1 hour ago, VickySGV said:

The Sephora stores here in the U.S. have special sessions for Trans people a few times a year.  Look for their Special Events on their web page.  They also have special sessions for older girls like myself and I have been ot one where I was treated like one of the girls (er-- mature women--lol!!


Unfortunately, Australia doesn't have the market volumes of the US and so neither Sephora, nor Mecca Maxima run classes specifically for older or trans folk here (they did try it once back in 2018 for Pride Month - but never repeated it). I just don't have the confidence to sit in the centre of a busy Sephora and have a young girl apply makeup while other looked on.

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Carolyn Marie
5 hours ago, Berni said:

@Carolyn Marie You mentioned Mac foundation. I'm sure I've seen that in my travels. Do you have an exact "make and model" for your foundation?  I think it would be easier for me if I went into Sephora and asked for help with a specific product rather than just going in and saying "Help!?! I dont know what Im doing!"


As far as I know you can only buy Mac products in Mac Stores and some Macy's stores (they have a Mac mini-store inside at my local mall).  There are quite a few "models" of Mac foundation and what's right for my complexion and face may not be right for you, so I hesitate to get more specific.  I'm certain that the store personnel will be happy to help you out.  Especially these days, no one is going to risk pissing off or being rude to a customer.  Money and customers both are in too short supply these days.


Carolyn Marie

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I really like Neutrogena products.   Inexpensive and good quality.  Your foundation should match your skin tone on the back of your wrist, maybe a few inches from your hand.  Thats what I was taught and it worked well. 

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I'm a self declared cheapskate when it comes to buying makeup, foundation included.  Despite this, I think my makeup looks quite good.  The key is to research and then experiment on your own skin.  For years, my go to foundation was Mehran, sold at Camera Ready Cosmetics.com.  It is super pigmented, designed for theatrical use, but is quite inexpensive.  I found it by doing a lot of online research.  I went to Loreal Total Cover foundation when my skin began to age and for the past 5 years, it is my new go to foundation.  It's only $11 per tube and lasts a long time.  It is excellent.  You can find some superb makeup out there without breaking your piggybank, but it does take a bit of effort to fid the brands that work with your skin.

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@Sally Stone Thanks so much for the advice. I love experimenting with makeup and trying new things. I will give the lorie a go ... pretty sure it was recommended by others.


Question   does it come with a corresponding concealer? I love concealers!

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  • 1 month later...

I use brands from Lancôme to Maybelline.  Most recently Clinique.


Drug store/Food mart you get what you bought.  If you buy Department Store, you usually get free this or that which often makes up for the higher initial cost.  Of course what they want is for you to like those things enough to come back and buy more.


I am fortunate in that my wife assists me with what to purchase and how to use it .  

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Erica Gabriel

I’m reading all this with great interest since I’m back in the makeup game again. I’m lucky to have me wife for advice but, until I get some hours in getting my hair follicles zapped, I’ve stubble to conceal. When I first flirted with transition in my 30’s I only shaved a couple times a week. Now, in my 50’s, it’s daily 😪.

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Everyone is different but with HRT my facial hair grows just enough slower that I can shave in the morning, do my makeup and be fine. If I’m going out in the evening I may repeat it.


I have found using JackBlack Shave Lube and a Norelco gets me the closest.  I shave n the shower after I’ve cleaned my face and opened my pores with a facial cleanser.


I won’t be spending the time or money on getting electrolysis or laser.  I know a couple people that spent a ton of time and money only to have it grow back.  

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I have a huge case full of makeup. Ranging from cheap brands like loreal, maybelline, nyx, and elf. To expensive brands like morphie etc. 


Here is the thing I have noticed. Some cheaper brands. Don't cover as well, apply well, or blend well. Its all trial and error with what you like. I have 4 different price points of foundtion. I really can't tell the difference between my 30 dollar one, and my 50 dollar one, but I sure can when I use my loreal one. Which was twelve dollars. 


Another thing is the tools you use to apply with. Cheap tools some times don't work as well. I'm not saying you need to spend a lot of money, but in my case. Most of my brushes are over the 10 dollar mark. 

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I can honestly say my first round of make-up came in at under $50 overall. I went with dollar store stuff, because I am a complete novice. I'm uncertain about the end results, but then, I only did my full face for the first time last night. 😅😅😅😅😅 An old friend of mine tells me I will love Ulta once I get my bearings.

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