Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Cosmetics that won't break the bank? Here's where to buy

Forget the Dow Jones Industrial Average — as a gauge of the economy, try the "leading lipstick index.'' • It's a well-known fact that women buy more lipsticks and other cosmetics during times of recession. If you can't afford a hot new car, how about a hot new look? • But beware: Department store brands will set you back a pretty penny. Cosmetics manufacturers can afford to give away those "free," sample-laden totes because they're charging $30 for a simple tube of mascara. • You can save big, though, at many stores in the Tampa Bay area that offer brand-name cosmetics, perfumes and toiletries at bargain prices. The trick is to make frequent visits because the inventory changes often — an item that's here today might be gone tomorrow.

Where to look:

Close-out stores

These carry items from drugstores and other retailers that have gone out of business or have left the area. A few months ago, I discovered the Bargain Basement Outlet Store in St. Petersburg (there's also one in Pasco County) with an impressive array of lipsticks, nail polishes, eye shadows and other cosmetics that still carry their original Rite Aid stickers.

Here you'll find bins of Revlon, L'Oreal, Maybelline and Cover Girl products for just $1.50 compared to three or four times that elsewhere.

Bargain Basement also has a decent selection of brand-name hair color products, cold medicine, toothpaste and the like. On my last visit, I got a two-pack of Oral-B vibrating toothbrushes for $6 and a handful of lip balms for only 25 cents.

Stores are in the Big Lots shopping center at 34th Street and 30th Avenue N in St. Petersburg and at 14117 U.S. 19 in Hudson, next to RV World.

Bealls Outlet

Unlike the regular Bealls, the chain's discount stores carry some perfumes and cosmetics in addition to clothing. On a recent trip, I found Almay Eye Makeup Remover pads for $2.99, about 40 percent less than they cost in a drugstore, and a two-pack of Revlon nail polish for $2.99.

For even bigger savings, apply for a Beall's Outlet One Card. Customers 50 and older get 15 percent off their purchase on Mondays; for those 49 or younger, it's 15 percent off on Fridays. You also earn one point for every dollar spent, with 200 points netting a $5 reward coupon.

Dollar Tree

As even the well-heeled have discovered, you just can't beat Dollar Tree for gift bags, stationery, party supplies and dozens of other items. And if you're on a really tight budget, Dollar Tree offers a decent selection of lip, eye and nail products, too.

Although the stores occasionally carry discontinued Revlon or Maybelline cosmetics, the main brand here is L.A. Colors. It gets good online reviews, and the lipsticks I've tried have seemed comparable in quality to drugstore brands.

Dollar General, Family Dollar and Big Lots also have bargain cosmetics and toiletries, though the selections vary by store and time. At Big Lots, I recently found Revlon lipsticks for $2 each and a two-pack of Revlon nail polish for $2.



Whenever I'm in T.J. Maxx, a lovely scent leads me straight to the area with luxury toiletries and boxed perfume sets. Prices are generally higher than at other discount chains, but this is a great place to shop for gifts or just indulge yourself a bit.

My favorite splurges: Milled soaps from Italy and Portugal. At $5.99 for three, they smell wonderful, last far longer than ordinary soap and come in beautiful boxes.

Though T.J. doesn't carry lipstick or mascara, it has a wide, if ever-changing, variety of face and body creams by Elizabeth Arden, Shiseido, StriVectin and other top brands, all at considerable savings. On the realization that nothing is going to make me look 40 again, I deserted my regular drugstore brand to try a wonderfully silky French face cream I found at T.J. for half the price (just $5.99).

Aging does have one advantage: On Mondays, T.J. Maxx gives customers 55 and older a 10 percent discount.

Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at

Cosmetics that won't break the bank? Here's where to buy 03/11/12 [Last modified: Sunday, March 11, 2012 4:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Letter from 'many' St. Petersburg High faculty, staff to Pinellas School Board pushes for assistant principal to be next principal


    A St. Petersburg High teacher sent a letter on the behalf of "many" school faculty and staff to the Pinellas County School Board and school district superintendent Mike Grego in support of appointing their assistant principal, Darlene Lebo, as principal.

    Darlene Lebo, an assistant principal at St. Petersburg High, is supported by "many" school faculty and staff to be the school's next principal, according to a letter sent to the Pinellas County School Board.
  2. 2017 Florida Theme Park Guide: A look at this summer's top attractions


    Florida's theme parks are getting ready for their busiest season with new rides, shows and perks, and we have rounded up a guide to the best new things to see.

    The newest fireworks presentation at Magic Kingdom uses lasers, lights, projections and pyrotechnics showing characters and scenes from more than 25 Disney films. [Walt Disney World]
  3. Meet 'rave pops,' the EDM-loving, hard-dancing 72-year-old who went viral via the Sunset Music Festival (w/video)

    Music & Concerts

    Alan Grofé is a 72-year-old, semi-retired entrepreneur and former tech executive with frost-white hair, two grown children and five grandchildren.

    Alan Grofe dances at the Electric Daisy Carnival festival in Orlando in 2016. [aLIVE Coverage for Insomniac]
  4. Humana adding 200 telemarketing jobs in Tampa Bay

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Health insurance company Humana Inc. is hiring more than 200 workers in Tampa Bay. The Louisville, Ky.-based company said Wednesday that the new positions will focus on phone sales for Humana's direct marketing services department.

    Humana is adding 200 positions to its Tampa office. Theo Sai, chief medical officer for seniro products at Humana, is pictured in the company's Tampa executive office in 2015. | Rachel Crosby, Times
  5. Congressman wants Trump to pay for Mar-a-Lago travel


    WASHINGTON -- This bill won’t go anywhere, but give Rep. Alcee Hastings creative points with the TRUMPED Act, aka Taxpayers Require Urgent Mandatory Protection from Egregious Debt Act of 2017: