College Makeup Essentials List: My Favorites Basics+ Drugstore Alternatives ✅

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College Makeup Essentials List My Favorites Basics+ Drugstore Alternatives

There are SO many makeup products out there! As a beginner, or even experienced makeup user, it can be hard to know what’s worth spending your hard earned money on.

That’s why:

In today’s post, I’m going to share with you a list of my favorite college makeup essentials. This are products I’ve found WORK for me, and I keep coming back to them.

They’re all part of my secret formula to slaying on the daily. Or at least on the days, I want to do my make up. ?

This list of makeup essentials will give you ideas for what to use for everyday looks, and for going out.

I’ll show you what my favorites are and if they’re high end – I’ll have a drugstore option, too.

Some drugstore brands are my go-to, though!

My Favorite Basics: College Makeup Essentials

1. All About Brows – My Eyebrow Pencil BAE

college makeup essentials


First up on my list of college makeup essentials is something for perfecting your eyebrows.

I L-O-V-E a bold brow! But, creating perfectly manicured eyebrows is time consuming…

As a busy college girl most mornings I just have time to simply shape my brows or fill in sparse spots.

And for that:

I like to stick with an eyebrow pencil.

My go-to favorite is the IT cosmetics Brow Power Universal Eyebrow Pencil.

It blends sooo nicely, matches any hair color and has a spooly attached. This pencil is on the spendy side, but if you can take the splurge it’s worth it!

Doing my eyebrows is easier with this pencil, than anything I’ve ever used before.

✅ Check current price
The usual price is $24 – so if you see it for less than that, it’s a GREAT deal!
P.S. Did you know Macy’s offers FREE shipping on all orders that include a beauty product? So cool!   

If you can’t swing that, no problem:

A comparable, CHEAP brand I’ve found is the NYX Auto Brow Pencil.

It has a little eyebrow brush attached as well (v handy), and you can score it at your local Target for less that 4 bucks. Convenient and low cost – win/win!

2. Lashes to Bat Away Negativity

college makeup essentials

Mascara is always a must have! Whether wearing it while you’re rushing to class, or getting ready to hit the dance floor. ?

I say, there’s no wrong way to wear it. Definitely a college makeup ESSENTIAL.

My favorite has to be Clinique Lash Power Mascara.

I already have long lashes, so I love that this gives me the volume that I need. And it will last ALL DAY, no joke!

✅ Check current price
Normal price is $18, any less that that and you’ve got yourself a deal!

A drugstore mascara type that I like to use when I run out of my Clinique, is the L’Oreal Paris Voluminous Mascara.

This one is usually around 7 dollars, less than half the cost of the Clinique one! It often goes on sale online and in store with coupons, so keep your peepers peeled for that.

It still offers that same volume and lift, but I find that it goes on slightly clumpier.

3. The Palette that Slays 

college makeup essentials

Investigating in a great eye shadow palette has been life changing for me. The difference between higher end palettes and a drugstore ones has been eye opening (bad pun not intended)!

If you’re just getting into make up:

I’d say start with a palette that has neutrals, so that you can transfer from day to night looks easily AND affordably.

My favorite neutral palette is more on the brown shade side and compliments my green eyes. But you should go with what shades compliment your eyes!

My palette of choice is the Morphe 25A Copper Spice palette.

It’s so pigmented and still workable. I really like the shade variety as well.

There are 25 color pots available with this one!

✅ Check current price
I bought mine for $18.

Such a good price for such a good palette!

4. Conceal, Feel and let it Show

college makeup essentials

Between college, work and keeping up with friends – things can get stressful!

Bags under your eyes may start to appear and those damn stress zits will form. Grrr!!

This is one of those college makeup essential that you’ll probably end up carrying around in your backpack; CONCEALER!

Just a little dab of this and those red bumps or dark circles are banished from sight. A real life saver when my skin isn’t quite cooperating.

The Tarte Shape Tape concealer has REALLY sold me on how well it covers. For $27.00 though, this is a little steep!


In my experience, a little goes a long way.

✅ Check the current price here
You never know, sometimes it’s on sale!

If that’s too far out of your budget:

A good drugstore dupe is Revlon’s PhotoReady concealer. It gets the job done and all for a lot less than $10.

5. A Strong Foundation


college makeup essentials

We all need a little skin pick me up at times, and foundation gives you that.

It’s one of my college makeup essentials for two reasons:

  1. It gives you that photo ready look
  2. It helps you to not look so much like a zombie (you know on those days you have early morning class and a wicked hangover)

I have very sensitive skin and after a lot of trial and error, I’ve found that the best is Estee Lauder’s Double Wear Stay-in Place foundation.

It hardly oxidizes, does NOT feel or look cakey and blends so well. I can’t recommend it enough!

The $42 price tag is a bit of an ouch, though. A little goes a long way for this, as well.

✅ Check current price
This one has free shipping at least. It’s something, right??

If you can afford it, I say go for it! If not, it’s not worth blowing your budget for.

In that case:

I have a concealer for you that is a close contender and does what it needs, but at a fraction of the price:

The Wet n Wild’s Photo Focus Foundation. It will run you around 4 – 6ish dollars, depending on sales.

6. A Little Red in the Cheeks

college makeup essentials


Honestly, I’ve never had a bad experience with any kind of blush…

…buttttt nor have I really expanded my horizons on it. ? It’s on this list of college makeup essentials because I use it to match the looks I’m going for (natural, dramatic, sparkly…etc.).

What I use and recommend, is the E.l.f Studio Blush Palette.

It comes with four ranges of pink hues and is a pressed powder.

✅ Target has the BEST price on it.
Walmart and Walgreen’s also carry the blush for those of you who don’t have a Target in your town.

7. Highlight to the Gods

college makeup essentials

The day old question, to highlight or not to highlight?

I always say, YASS! Pop in that glow, girl!

The best brand that I’ve ever used and still love, just so happens to be AFFORDABLE. Yours truly, Wet n’ Wild.

This college makeup essential not only has a huge variety of colors, but formulas as well. Pressed powders, liquids, and creams – you can have so many layers of highlight ?

The best part is:

You can easily score any of the formulas for less than $5!

✅ Find your new favorite highlighter here!
Pssst, watch for the free gift card offers to save a little extra cash.

8. Lips That Pop, Lock, and Drop

college makeup essentials

We all want to look fab, even if we haven’t showered in a week and have been basically living in the campus library. (No – just me?)

Lipstick is one of the most under utilized tools on my list of college makeup essentials. But it’s bold and powerful!

Not only will it brighten up your look, but it has the added benefit of drawing attention away from that three day old taco stain on your shirt.

My favorite all time lippie has to be Jeffree Star’s Velour Liquid Lipsticks. The range of colors is so vast and killer!

Not to mention the actual product itself – completely worth the $18 price tag. It goes on as a liquid (of course), dries quickly, looks matte and will. not. come. off.

Seriously! Unless you want to take it off, it stays on all day and beyond.

Not ready to splurge quite yet?

A great drugstore lipstick option, is Revlon’s ColorStay Overtime. My aunt raves about this one, better than LipSense she says!

9. Looking Good All Day and All Night

No time to make it to the bathroom every hour to touch up your make up?

Try out setting spray!

I just started using this a year ago and now my makeup NEVER moves. It’s magic in a bottle.

My favorite setting spray is NYX Matte Finish Makeup Setting Spray. It’s also budget friendly, at just under $8 a bottle.

The price point plus the quality CANNOT be beat. This for sure is a must-have college makeup essential for busy girls.

✅ Check current price
The best part about Amazon is that there are often price drops! Anything less than the regular $8 price is a good deal.

10. Fresh Face 

college makeup essentials

When you DO finally have some time to wash off that makeup, you don’t want to spend a lot of time doing it, right?

My go to:

Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water. It’s inexpensive for how much you get, and it comes in a HUGE bottle!

The best part?

It not only takes make up off, but cleanses your skin as well. Talk about a time saver!

✅ Check current price
Elsewhere this will typically cost you $8.99
I often find it for about $2 less on Amazon, you can save even more by buying a 3 pack!

That sums up my make up must haves for college.

For my basic, everyday looks those are all the products I reach for most. They versatile enough to work with more glam, girl’s night out type looks,too.

What’s one of YOUR college makeup essentials?

I love finding out about new awesome products!



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