I’ll just admit right now that I spend way too much time at the Forever 21 near me (it’s where I got the shirt that I’m wearing in these pictures) and browsing H&M, Topshop, and Zara online (we don’t have any of those near me because I live in a fast-fashion-deprived wasteland). They have cute clothes that I can afford--no shame in that!
I am embarrassed to say that it took me this long to check out their beauty sections. (Well, Zara doesn’t have one, but the other three do.)
I’ve seen the piles of nail polish and eyeshadow palettes out of the corner of my eye while waiting in line at Forever 21, but I guess it never occurred to me to try any of it because who buys their makeup at Forever 21?
Well, I do now, apparently.
It started with a cute, speckled, mint nail polish that caught my eye in the checkout lane one day. It was only, like, $3, so I figured I had nothing to lose. While I was at it, I loaded up on 99-cent gel eyeliner, $4 red lipstick, a pack of four eyeshadow sticks (similar to the e.l.f. ones that I wrote about), and a bunch of crazy false eyelashes.
Then, the beast having been awakened, I went home and checked out the beauty sections at H&M’s and Topshop’s online stores. That was a mistake. They have perfumed shimmer dust and owl-shaped lip balms and cat nail stickers and bird-shaped lip balms!
Anyway, even though most of it's a lot cheaper than, say, Sephora, I tried to limit myself to mostly sensible purchases. Here’s what I got from each fast-fashion store, and what I thought.
I already listed everything I bought from Forever 21 above, so let’s get right to it, starting with the red lipstick and the ridiculously cheap pot of gel eyeliner.
I actually liked both of these a lot more than I was expecting to, especially the eyeliner. It gets dry pretty easily, but mix in a drop of coconut oil or whatever and it glides on super smooth and thick. The only downside is that it doesn’t come with a brush--make sure you have a good angled brush. I managed to get the best cat eye ever with this stuff. Score!
The lipstick was OK; it has a very creamy, hydrating consistency, but it’s not my favorite color. I prefer a more vibrant red, I guess.
There were four colors in the eyeshadow sticks set: black, brown, gold and silver. I decided to pair them off, combining the brown and gold first.
I really liked this look and I’m definitely going to do it again. I applied the brown very thickly above my lash line and at the outer corners of my eyes, and then blended it lightly with my fingers. The gold went on the rest of my lids, the inner corners of my eyes, and my brow bones.
The silver and black wasn’t as great, mainly because the silver didn’t go on thick enough. I applied it in the same way, with the black above my lash line and at the outer corners of my eyes, blending, and then putting the silver everywhere else.
The silver seemed too patchy and thin, and it wasn’t a great look on me anyway. The black is good, if messy. It would be great for a messy smokey eye, which you could also do with the brown for a less severe effect.
The quality of these is comparable to the e.l.f. sticks, except that they’re more highly pigmented. They do smear easily, though, so make sure to use lots of primer first and don’t expect to get a clean line.
My favorite out of all of this was probably the Mint Chip nail polish.
It goes on smoothly and evenly and dries quickly. One coat might not be enough, as it’s very pale, but a second coat is perfect. It reminds me of a robin’s egg, or even better, mint chocolate chip ice cream. It lasted for days without chipping, too. I was surprised.
I ordered four things online from H&M’s beauty section: lipstick in Wild Thing, mascara and eyeliner in a pastel purple hue, and glitter eyeliner.
Wild Thing is nice, even though I have too many other lipsticks in this shade. It’s creamy and goes on easily, and it has pretty good staying power. Definitely the worth $5 I paid for it.
The pastel-hued mascara and eyeliner are fun, even if they give me alien eyes. They were $4 each, and also come in pastel blue.
I probably won’t use the mascara that much (what is it with me and colored mascara? IT’S NOT PRACTICAL) although the brush and formula were both amazing.
The eyeliner will probably get more use, but there’s a downside: it takes forever to dry and is very sticky in the meantime. It kept sticking to my skin every time I opened my hooded eyes. Annoying.
The glitter eyeliner doesn’t do much on its own because it’s not opaque enough (it’s just clear gloss with specks of glitter in it), but I really like layering it on top of black eyeliner for a glitzy look. I’m excited to layer it on top of all my colored eyeliners, too.
For $5, I definitely recommend this stuff.
H&M had the smallest selection, but the packaging is nice and everything is very affordable. I’m curious to see what the in-store selection is like.
From Topshop, I ordered an under-eye brightener in Moonlight, vibrant cobalt eyeliner (they only have it in black now, I think), and yes, another dark purple lipstick in Depth.
This lipstick is similar to the one from H&M, except a lot darker. There’s no red undertones; it’s just a dark purple. Here’s what they look like side by side.
I wore this lipstick when I took my sister to the mall to see The Hunger Games and a bunch of preteens made faces at me, so I think it’s a hit!
Was it worth a whopping $16 though? Probably not. If your lips are even a little dry, it settles into all of your cracks and crevices, and it slides off really easily. Pretty packaging though! Actually, that goes for all of the Topshop makeup. I’m a sucker for nice design.
The cobalt eyeliner was pricey, too, at $14, but I’ve wanted one even since Hannah wrote this tutorial. It goes on very smoothly and the color is so vibrant.
I had high hopes for the brightener, especially since the reviews were raving, but I’m not sure it was really worth the $14 pricetag. It’s not bad, but I have other concealers that were cheaper and do just as good a job of covering dark circles and spots.
Also, it only comes in one pale shade (“Moonlight”) so it’s tough luck to everyone else out there with darker skin. Boo.
Topshop is the only one with free shipping, but their products were pretty expensive for me. As nice as their products are (and despite the very pretty packaging), I probably won’t order any more beauty products from them. I will, however, use up every last drop of the lipstick, eyeliner, and brightener so as to get my money’s worth. Good thing I like them.
Weirdly enough, I’d probably recommend Forever 21 the most. They have the biggest and cheapest selection, and the quality is surprisingly good for the price. If you go there in-store or check it out online, I suggest going for the nail polish (tons of great colors).
They also have a ton of adorable makeup bags, and lots of makeup tools with cute designs, although I can’t speculate as to their quality. Oh, and Christmas is coming up and this is THE place for cheap, adorable gifts, such as animal-shaped lip balm.
I guess the only con to getting beauty products at Forever 21 is that you might end up feeling a bit like a tween again--but maybe that can also be a pro, I guess?