Living In Italy: A Drugstore Makeup Guide

I’m glad to report that I’ve found drugstore brands that we know and love in the US here in Italy, perhaps in what might be considered some “unconventional” places by American standards.  Read more to find out where to go and what brands you’ll find there if you want to save some $$$ (or €€€)!


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As an American college student living in Italy, one thing that initially concerned me before coming here (because my priorities are just so overwhelmingly off) was the availability of drugstore makeup.  Sure – Italy has Sephora and various profumerie where you can find brands such as Too Faced, Benefit, Dior, D&G, Kat Von D, NARS, etc., but when the other half of your budget includes pizza money, you might necessarily not want to shell out the $$$ (or €€€ here, I guess) for something as simple as a mascara.

I, for one, don’t really believe in high-end items such as mascaras because paying over $20 for a tube of mascara that’ll just expire in 3 months seems outrageous, especially when my favorite mascaras just so happen to be drugstore brands.  We’re also just going to ignore the fact that I can justify my also outrageously large lipstick collection because I work on selective logic.

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Another thing at play here when we’re talking about higher price tags is that due to the exchange rates, you might be technically paying more for something here than you would in the US.  I go more in-depth about this in this post where I talk about Sephora in Italy, but what I’m basically trying to say is just that sometimes, drugstore might just be the better option.

I’m glad to report that I’ve found drugstore brands that we know and love in the US here in Italy, perhaps in what might be considered some “unconventional” places by American standards.  In this post, I’ll be talking about where to go and what brands you’ll find there!

1. Kiko Milano

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Ok, so this isn’t a drugstore brand that we necessarily know so much about in the US yet since I think the brand only just began opening stores there a few years ago, and most of the stores seem to be concentrated in the northeast and California, but you can still shop online!

Screen Shot 2017-05-04 at 2.34.11 PM.pngIn Italy, there are an abundance of Kiko Milano stores – there’s even one here in my little town of Piacenza! Basically, this is what I would consider an “Italian drugstore brand” in terms of price point.  Most of the products are pretty reasonably-priced and fall in the mid-range, similar to Physicians Formula – mascara is usually around €11.95 (or around $13) and they run a lot of promotions (like right now, mascara is only €3.95, or around $4.30), which means you can get a lot more for less.

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The store itself kind of feels like a mix between a NYX store (if you’ve ever been in one – more on that later) and a Sephora.  Things are organized really nicely, and as someone who gets overwhelmed very easily by makeup, I really appreciate their displays.

If you’re in Italy and are having difficulties finding your favorite drugstore brand, or if you’re looking to maybe try something new without breaking the bank, I’d definitely recommend checking out Kiko.

P.S.: If you want to learn more about the brand itself, you can check out this blog post, but some information may be out-of-date since it was written 3 years ago.

2. Coin

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Coin is basically an Italian department store that sells designer brands in clothing and home decor, but also has a pretty impressive makeup section.  Along with brands you can easily find in US department stores, such as Clinique, Estée Lauder, and Burberry, you can actually surprisingly find a decent array of drugstore brands.

Here’s a list of the ones I’ve found at the Coin in my town:

  • Catrice
  • Essence
  • Max Factor
  • Maybelline
  • Physicians Formula
  • Revlon

If you’re curious, a full list of brands they carry can be found here!

3. OVS

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I think I would describe OVS as Forever21’s cooler older sister who actually has her life somewhat together.  It’s a clothing store with price points similar to Forever21, yet it has an entire section of beauty and bath goods that I tend to spend a lot of my time looking through.

Risultati immagini per OVS beauty sectionAlong with their own line called “Shaka Beauty,” OVS houses brands that we’re used to in the US, such as:

  • Wet n Wild
  • Revlon
  • Physicians Formula
  • essence
  • Real Techniques
  • L’Oreal Paris

4. Acqua e Sapone

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This is kind of a strange one – Acqua e Sapone is basically my heaven because it’s a store that specializes in cleaning products and toiletries.  It has every scent of fabric softener you can think of and a huge wall of different cleaning sprays and is one of those stores that I often go into needing one thing and coming out with a whole bunch of other things that I’ve somehow convinced myself I also need.  It’s basically the ULTA of cleaning products.

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Me @Aqua e Sapone

On the flip side, Acqua e Sapone also has a nice little makeup section.  Brands I’ve seen at mine are:

  • Max Factor
  • Maybelline
  • Revlon
  • Rimmel London
  • L’Oreal Paris

Overall Comments:
Brands that I see the most often in stores include essence and Physicians Formula, but their price in Euros tends to be slightly higher than their prices in dollars in the US, so if you add in the whole exchange rate thing, they’re overall a bit more expensive.  Still, when you compare those prices to the much higher prices you’d find at Sephora or the like, they’re definitely the lesser of two evils.

Another brand I’ve seen a lot of is NYX.  It’s funny because I haven’t actually seen NYX products themselves in any other stores, but I’ve seen a few NYX stand-alone stores in Milan and I actually went to one in Madrid.  There aren’t any in Piacenza, so I haven’t been able to find NYX here, but if you’re in Milan or Rome, you should definitely be able to find a store there.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that although a store might carry a brand, it probably won’t carry the full range.  For example, I see the new Beauty and the Beast collection for L’Oreal Paris everywhere, but I haven’t really seen any of their other products.  I also find the Wet n Wild selection generally lacking here in Italy, and although they have a lot of their “classic” products here, like the MegaLast Lip Colors,  some of their newer launches, like the MegaLast Liquid Catsuits, aren’t stocked yet.  Another example is Physicians Formula, where although the stores have the Murumuru Butter Bronzers (which I’ve actually reviewed here, ICYMI), they don’t have the accompanying Murumuru Butter Blushes yet.

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This all will probably differ depending on where you are, as this can also be the case in the US.  Like I’ve said, Piacenza is a pretty small town, so if you’re in a place like Milan, you’re chances of finding a full or full-er range of products are a lot higher.  Randomly, even in tiny Piacenza, I find that brand that’s the best in terms of stock is essence, which almost always has the full range of product.  I think this is because cosnova, the company that actually produces essence (and Catrice!) is German.  The company only tapped into the US market in 2012, and given essence was voted Europe’s No. 1 by Euromonitor International, it’s starting to make a lot more sense why the brand is so abundant in Italy.

Even though I’m a creature of comfort and tend to prefer brands I already know, it’s cool to try other drugstore brands I’ve heard of in the US, but haven’t necessarily seen in any stores near me there, such as Catrice and Max Factor.  One of my favorite mascaras is actually by Max Factor, which is a brand that was actually started in the US in the early 1900 by a man of the same name.  The company’s history is actually pretty interesting – Factor’s career was actually launched by the film industry and a lot of our modern products we use today evolved from his inventions, from his creation of the word “make-up” itself in 1920, to his 1928 “Lip Pomade,” which would later be called lip gloss.  In 1991, the company was acquired by P&G, who discontinued selling the brand by 2010 in the US (but not globally).  In 2015, P&G sold the brand to Coty, who actually offered a limited edition collection in Walgreens from 7/31/16-10/1/16.  I personally don’t shop at Walgreens that often (I’m a CVS gal at heart) so I haven’t actually seen whether or not Coty now sells Max Factor there as a permanent fixture (although you can find the brand being sold on Overstock.com), but what I’m trying to say after all this jazz is that Max Factor is a lot easier to find in Italy than in the US, despite its origins of being an American brand.

So… I’ve done it again and somehow managed to turn what should have been a relatively straight-forward post into something else entirely.  Hopefully this is helpful for anybody who might be studying abroad in Italy – I know I wish I knew all this going into it, but I guess half the fun of discovering a new country is learning what kind of makeup is available!

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5 thoughts on “Living In Italy: A Drugstore Makeup Guide

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