What Are the Best Drugstores for Beauty Products?

Published in: Beauty Tips, Drugstore Beauty Finds, Makeup Tips/How To

What are the best drugstores for beauty products?

What a coincidence! Reader Aimee must have known I was planning a jaunt to Tar-ghay today. :)

Hi Karen!

I’m traveling to Miami in the US next month, and I’d like to hear about your favorite drugstores in the US…

Which of these are best for make up (price and variety): CVS, Target or Walgreens? Thanks!
–Aimee

Hi Aimee,

You’re a girl after my own heart. Whenever I travel, I always try to do a bit of beauty research beforehand, and I’m stoked about your enthusiasm for drugstore makeup. I’ve been a Rite Aid regular (aka a Walgreens wallflower) since as far back as I can remember. Drugstores are veritable cosmetics cornucopias!

I’ve shopped all three of the stores you mention — CVS, Target and Walgreens — and have generally had good experiences with each.

Target

I end up going to Target a lot because of 1) how close and 2) how big it is. In addition to carrying the big drugstore beauty lines (your Revlon, Cover Girl, L’Oreal, etc.), they also carry “higher end” drugstore brands, some of them exclusive to Target (at least in the US), like Sonia Kashuk, JK Jemma Kidd, NP Set and Boots.

Target also has testers, which makes swatching easy, but I’m not crazy about their makeup return policy. Most of the time products have to be new, unused and in their original packaging.

CVS

With more than 7,000 stores in 45 states, chances are there’s a CVS somewhere nearby. They have a great selection of drugstore brands and a fantastic product return policy. Truth be told, I’d shop at CVS more often if there wasn’t a Target so close. They accept returns on any opened or unopened beauty products and will refund the full purchase price, no questions asked. Just be sure to bring your receipt or invoice. Oh, and some CVS stores carry the awesome NYX line, which is one of my favorite drugstore brands for colorful eyeshadows and blushes.

Walgreens

No joke, but I used to haunt the Walgreens beauty department back when I worked in downtown San Francisco. Walgreens carries many of the same beauty lines that CVS and Rite Aid do at very nearly the same prices, but I don’t visit as often as I used to (there isn’t one close).

Rite Aid

Another great place for drugstore beauty. They carry all of the general brands and have sales often. Plus, with almost 5,000 stores in the US, there’s probably one nearby.

Prices will vary among the stores, but most are within shooting distance of each other when it comes to makeup. It also pays to keep an eye out for the weekly sales, and look for BOGO deals (buy one, get one free) and BOGHP(?) LOL! — Buy one, get the second one for half price.

Walmart, Ulta, Costco and More…

You might also want to consider hitting up Walmart (they also carry the Hard Candy brand), Ulta and Costco while you’re here. NOTE: Costco is a membership store, so you’ll need to know a member with a card.

Hope this helps! Happy beauty hunting. :)

Budget beauty lovin’ ladies, what are your two cents? What are your favorite drugstores for beauty products?

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,

Karen

41 Comments

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  1. Jen says:

    I’ve been stalking CVS lately lol! They also have a new beauty club which is kind of neat too. I love Target but sometimes I’m not in the mood to “deal” with it. CVS has been my go to lately. One morning I forgot some eye primer with some stuff I threw in my work bag. CVS was my first stop lol!

  2. tania says:

    Oh my I do the same thing when I’m traveling! One thing to note is that when I was in New Orleans this past summer I went to a Walgreens and they had more African American products which was really nice! I remember that there was more of the Covergirl Queen Stuff and more colors of other brands than normal. They also sold hard liquor!!!!

  3. nujee says:

    My favorite has been Walgreens! I find that they usually have what I want in stock and always have great beauty sales. I love Target because of the variety but they always seem to be out of stock on whatever I want at the time…frustrating!

  4. vonnie says:

    walmart has the best prices, from what i’ve noticed…at least out my way! but the selection can be wonky :( target has the best selection because they have elf as well :D
    vonnie recently posted … 28 Days of Black Beauty – Naomi Campbell

  5. Liz! says:

    I think Target is my most fav, because of the variety and mix of high end and drugstore stuff. But, I’ve been hitting up CVS a ton lately because there’s one super close to my house, and they’ve been having all kinds of crazy BOGHP sales, and I’ve seen alot of items marked 50% and 75% off. Though I like Walgreens because they usually seem more organized and less cramped than some CVS’s. And they carry Ecotools brushes, which I can never find in CVS :-/ So I guess really I love most drugstores, it just depends on what I’m looking for :-)

  6. Rachael says:

    I love target is great and they accept most coupons, the sunday paper usually has tons of coupons for drugstore staple brands like covergirl or revlon. Plus target is usually the cheapest, I don’t have CVS so I don’t get to go to their beauty clearance sales I hear everyone talk about. But I do have ULTA which is great, I love that its like Sephora but you can easily find cheap dupes with the drugstore brands.

  7. Christina says:

    CVS CVS CVS for the win. There’s one right by my house and the staff is always super nice to me, as well as having a nice large collection of everything. I like Target too but it’s just too much sometimes, especially on weekends!

  8. mkdallas says:

    I’m voting for CVS & Walgreens ( a tie, since they both have great deals and a good selection) but ULTA remains my #1 spot since it’s got the best of both worlds (higher-end brands like Urban Decay, smashbox & Tarte) along with the good drugstore lines. It also carries the fullest line of NYX products you can get at any brick and mortar store outside of NYC, too.

  9. Tiffany H. says:

    I actually prefer my local grocery store, H.E.B. They have a great beauty department. They carry NYX, Elf, OPI, Essie, & Orly in addition to the normal drugstore brands! I find them to be priced right around Walmart’s pricing. If you’re ever in Texas, check out a H.E.B. store.
    Tiffany H. recently posted … Manicure Mondays-Rescue Beauty Lounge Moulin Rouge

  10. Rads says:

    I have only been to CVS and I love the place :D I was like wowwwwwwwwwwww when I saw all the discounts….nothing that sort in India :D

  11. Mignon says:

    Every time I go to Walgreens, I find myself in the cosmetics aisle no matter what I went there for originally. Well, I guess any store that has makeup! LOL.. I’m addicted! CVS is cool, I have not been to Ulta as of yet, but I hope to go very soon! Walmart is another one of my faves. I love Targets cosmetic section as well… They have a wider variety than most other drugstores. I guess it just depends, because for some of my favorite drug store items, I have to go to different stores because certain ones carry certain lines. I have yet to find one that sells NYX products, though. I have to spend that extra money for shipping to get NYX.

  12. slick says:

    I agree, Target has a largest selection for cheaper prices everyday. They don’t have BOGO sales like the other drugstores however, which is a total bummer. I really love Ulta for the mix of high-end and drugstore cosmetics, plus they have NYX and BOGO sales to boot :) I wish my local Ulta wasn’t 30 minutes away :/

  13. Nina says:

    you know me and my love for Target …. :)

    its just a better, cleaner and friendlier store altogether!

  14. Vanessa says:

    CVS and Walgreens are my favorite! I was at CVS a few weeks ago and they had a ton of their makeup on sale for 50-75% off. Happy shopping!
    Vanessa recently posted … Urban Decay 24-7 Stash Pencil- Two Ways!

  15. Heidi says:

    Walgreens is the closest to my house, but I usually end up going to CVS. It just seems to be roomier and more organized. The beauty section in my Walgreens seems kind of cramped and disorganized. Target is great, of course, but again… the parking! ugh….

  16. Kim says:

    Our closest Rite Aid is about 7 miles away and Target and Walgreens are about 25, so I do most of my makeup shopping online. Luckily, I always have good recommendations from you and all my knowledgeable fellow commenters! :)

  17. ugh, i really wish there was a target in canada! i can easily cross the border to the US since i live about 10 minutes away but the target’s in northern washington aren’t that great =/ and i don’t want to drive all the way to seattle.
    dani@callitbeauty recently posted … Monthly Favourites – January 2011

    • Melessa says:

      they dont have targets in canada? thats lame. and surprising- at first. my mom works there and they really kinda suck management wise

  18. kana says:

    I browse around all of them. They’re all conveniently right around the corner from each other and my house. Now i gotta go and see if there are any deals going on this week!

  19. Sandy R says:

    Ulta is a fav, they have great cosmetics there, you can get Revlon, Loreal, CG, Maybeline, NYX… yea!!!, Prestige and then the higher end make up like Bare Essentials, Smashbox, Benefit… I especially like finding dupes for the higher end stuff all in one store!!! And their return policy is great

  20. Gina says:

    They’re not exactly drugstores, but I prefer going to Harmon Discount Beauty or Sally’s. At Harmon, everything is like $2 cheaper than drugstores! They also have NYX. However, I don’t think there are that many. But if I had to choose from above, I’d have to say Target. The selection is better than the others!

  21. Gina says:

    I always try to shop at Sephora when i can but that is not very often. I appreciate your analysis of the different drug stores’ products. I always seem to need more eyeliner when I’m in a new area with only one store– it usually happens to be a CVS.

  22. Tiffany says:

    If you’re going to south beach, hit up the CVS on Lincoln Rd. that place is huge!

  23. Louise-Lesley says:

    I love this!
    Is there any chance in the near future you can do like what to look for in a drug store in the US for a tourist? Like beauty products and skincare that is only available widely in the US?

    My folks are visiting in a few months and I plan to give them a shopping list of a few things :)

  24. danielle says:

    Walgreens is my favorite because it has Wet & Wild Milani and other brands that aren’t at every drugstore, plus its open 24HOURS yayuhh :D However Rite Aid’s a good place to go to and they always have sales, & new things on display… But CVS is good too if you happen to be near it because they also have a lot of brands and sometimes have sales……… K-mart is also good….. I’m just a drugstore junkie what can I say (Target’s kinda blah for makeup shopping if you ask me)

  25. danielle says:

    Also I believe I’m going to fall in the love the day I take my first step into Ulta….

  26. alex says:

    I been stalking CVS more recently because they have that 75 percent off beauty sale on a lot of items. Lots of things still left.

  27. Wendy says:

    I think I like CVS the most, just because my local ones are VERY clean … my local Walgreens tend to get stock at very different times (as in, some of them aren’t displaying ANY of the new WNW stuff yet, wth?) and also seem to be out of whatever I need anytime I go in there!
    Wendy recently posted … Outfits of the Week 1 Video!

  28. Phyrra says:

    It depends on what I’m going for. I prefer to go to Target, but I’ll also hit Walgreens or CVS. Walgreens usually has Wet n’ Wild, CVS has Physicians Formula (better selection than my Super Target!)and Target has Boots.
    Phyrra recently posted … Some Lipstick Swatches

  29. My favorite is Ulta, they are nice and clean plus they often have buy one get one half off and you can use the $3.50 coupon on top of that. However, I do notice that their prices are generally higher than Target so I’ll go to Target when the item I want is not on sale. Lucky for me, Target, Ulta, and Walmart are all next door to each other for me.
    Beautiful Canvas recently posted … Korres Wild Rose Mineral Foundation Spf 30 Review

  30. Jennifer says:

    I love walgreens, and I actually have a habit of going to different ones where ever I’m at becuase I have noticed that each one carries some different things. Plus they have agreat return policy, no questions asked!

  31. Jennifer says:

    I love walgreens, and I actually have a habit of going to different ones where ever I’m at becuase I have noticed that each one carries some different things. Plus they have agreat return policy, no questions asked!

  32. Megan says:

    I wish there was one drugstore that regularly carried NYX and Elf! I love both of those brands, but usually end up ordering online since they’re so hard to find, and only select stores will have select products in select shades, bla, bla bla.

  33. Markina says:

    I didn’t know that some CVS Pharmacies carry NYX. Now I have to figure out which ones. Thanks for the info Karen!

  34. Gloria says:

    I love Target cause they carry well known drugstore brands like Covergirl plus they have exclusive higher end brands like Sonia Kashuk, and Boots. Also they have elf. CV0%S, Walgreen, and Rite aid always have deals like 50 % off. Walmart has good deals too plus i have a super walmart near and they have hard candy. I love ulta they have the best of both world high end and drugstore plus they have NYX their prices do tend to be pricer than drugstores but i like earning points and getting discounts however it is 20 minutes away so i dont get to go that often.

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