TROPHIES Ann Orcutt, a makeup artist, with bargains from a drugstore. THESE days, it’s not a stretch to find former Henri Bendel loyalists navigating the cosmetics aisles of drugstores, intent on finding that perfect shade of $5 blush.
By HILARY HOWARD Published: April 8, 2009 Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times Apparently, they’re not alone. A recent report by Mintel, a market research company, said department store makeup shoppers are increasingly trading down to “drugstore selections” in the current economy. Data from Information Resources, a Chicago-based research firm, seems to confirm that: through March 22 this year, nationwide drugstore sales for facial cosmetics like foundations and powders have increased by nearly $5.5 million over the same period last year. In other words, more women are hitting places like Duane Reade. But they might need help. “I don’t think anyone should be lost or broke because of makeup,” Ann Orcutt, a professional makeup artist, said during a recent trip to Duane Reade in Midtown Manhattan, where she pointed out items that she said compare in quality to more expensive labels. “I did this exact thing recently with a personal trainer from Equinox who was doing a fitness video and had no budget. She was like, ‘I have half an hour and no money!’ ” Ms. Orcutt, whose clients have included the CNN host A. J. Hammer and the actors Liev Schreiber and Kathy Bates, said she helped the trainer (another client) pick out items that included CoverGirl AquaSmooth Compact Foundation for $9.79 (“the best liquid coverage in a compact liquid/powder format,” Ms. Orcutt said); CoverGirl Cheekers Blush for $4.39 (“It has a bit of sparkle in it, it’s not just a flat color”); L’Oréal Voluminous Mascara for $7.50 (“Makeup artists who trained me eight years ago said that it was the best, and I still think it is”), L’Oréal Le Grand Kohl Eyeliner Pencil in Black Sable for $8.49 (“This is a fantastic dark rich brown that works for everyone”) and Revlon ColorStay 12 Hour Eye Shadow Quad for $6.99 (“This is the only drugstore eye shadow I like”). Other items included Neutrogena MoistureShine Lip Gloss for $6.99, L’Oréal Infallible Never Fail Lip Liner for $8.99, and CoverGirl TRUblend Microminerals Finishing Veil, a translucent finishing setting powder, for $12.99. The grand total? $66.13. “High-end versions would have cost upward of $175 easily,” said Ms. Orcutt, who has used all of the above products on her own face and on the job. When splurging on more expensive brands, she emphasized that tunnel vision should be used while visiting upscale stores. “Know what you want, get it and leave,” she said. “Don’t get suckered in by monthly promotions and packages, because they usually involve products and colors you don’t need.” Especially when shopping for a good foundation, she said: “Go to the counter at Henri Bendel or MAC and get professional help. If you try to guess what you need, you’ll end up buying something else later — it’s a huge waste of money.” As for concealers, she recommends a drugstore brand: Maybelline Instant Age Rewind Double Face Perfector, for about $9. “This is practically an exact copy of the Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Radiant Touch Highlighter, which costs about $40,” she said. “It comes in two shades for mistake-proof blending. I have this in every color in my kit.” For women who have basic coverage needs, Ms. Orcutt is a big fan of MAC Mineralize Skinfinish ($25), a dry application that is quick, easy and relatively affordable because it can provide three products in one (foundation, powder and concealer). A drugstore version of this is Neutrogena Mineral Sheers Powder Foundation for $13.59. And makeup brushes? “There is no way around this: professional brushes last and grab the right amount of product,” she said, picking out three essentials: Paula Dorf’s Total Camouflage Brush for concealer, MAC’s No. 129 for powder and blush and MAC’s No. 266 for eyeliner. “I’ve had the same brushes in my kit for years.” When it comes to facial cleansers, Ms. Orcutt said, “There’s no point in spending $26 on something with grapeseed extract when you’re just going to rinse it off.” She recommends Olay Foaming Face Wash. “My skin is at its best when I’m using this stuff.”