Most American teens grew up with the slogans, “Easy, breezy, beautiful: Covergirl,” and “Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline” ringing in their ears. Covergirl and Maybelline are two of the most enduring drugstore makeup brands in the country.
You may be wondering if there’s anything special about either company or if they’re pretty much interchangeable. After all, they offer many similar products at similar prices. In this article, however, we’ll break it down for you from the history of the companies to their present-day ethics, to the products each brand does particularly well.
Maybelline is the older of the two brands, founded in 1914 in Chicago. The story has it that Thomas Lyle Williams observed his sister Mabel using petroleum jelly and coal dust as a sort of mascara to darken and thicken her eyelashes. He decided to adapt her at-home innovation to something more sellable and named the company Maybelline in her honor (hopefully he also sent a few royalties her way). Mascara has remained one of the company’s most popular products with that classic pink and green tube appearing in makeup bags and bathroom vanities internationally.
Covergirl was founded in 1961 as a subsidiary of Noxzema– yes, that strong-smelling medicated lotion company. Initially, Covergirl advertised itself as a medicated makeup company with its limited line of products formulated to contain the same medicinal ingredients as Noxzema lotion. The brand gradually evolved to produce more products, all based on the concept of fresh, clean, natural-looking beauty. The brand has famously contracted plenty of celebrity spokespersons, typically celebrities that embody a girl-next-door vibe.
We expect more than just good-quality makeup from cosmetic companies. With large and wealthy brands producing the products we use each day, we expect them to use their financial power and visibility to help beautify the world a bit too.
Covergirl has been working on modernizing its image in recent years, focusing more on inclusivity and charitable causes. By using models and spokespersons of diverse ages and skin tones, the brand makes it easier for the average customer to relate and envision themselves using Covergirl products. They are also one of the first cosmetic brands to use a model with vitiligo in 2018, with Amy Deanna appearing in their advertisements.
Covergirl launched a line of powder makeup in 2011 for their 50th anniversary. All the proceeds went to the Children’s Safe Drinking Water campaign. They also have an ongoing program called Girls Can dedicated to empowering young women to excel in male-dominated arenas. The company is also Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free.
In 2018 Maybelline announced that they were undertaking a massive color test on their new Color Sensational lipstick. Each shade in the line was tested on 50 different skin tones so that they could truly say the colors were for everyone: flattering to any shade and undertone. Many see this as a great step towards more inclusivity in the makeup world.
Maybelline has also recently headed up several campaigns. Brave Together is a project to raise awareness about and provide resources for mental health conditions like anxiety and depression. Another recent initiative is The Girl Project to support women’s education.
While Maybelline’s parent company, L’Oreal, maintains that they don’t test their products on animals, Maybelline products are sold in markets that require animal testing on imported cosmetics. So, the company has not been given the cruelty-free stamp of approval.
Comparing Covergirl and Maybelline Products
It’s no secret that Covergirl and Maybelline offer similar products. They are, after all, in competition with each other. Both brands tend to be sold at the same stores and same prices. So which products from each brand are worth your time?
Both Covergirl and Maybelline offer several types of base makeup to give their customers options. From lighter BB Cream options to more full coverage matte foundations, both brands have a wide variety. Covergirl’s Trublend Matte and Maybelline’s Fit Me! Matte are the companies’ flagship foundations, both offered in 40 shades. They offer very similar coverage and you can see the two tested side by side in this video.
Covergirl has a few more foundation options, particularly in makeup designed specifically for sensitive and aging skin. They also offer powder and cream compact foundations, whereas Maybelline only offers liquid.
While both brands offer a variety of mascara options, Maybelline has a wider selection of more highly praised options. While their Great Lash is the go-to standard of many people, they have some more dramatic options like their Falsies Lash Lift Mascara, a winner of Allure’s Best of Beauty in 2020. If you aren’t sure which mascara is right for you, there’s a handy quiz on their website to help you decide.
Covergirl’s mascara line focuses mainly on volume-building formulas that are long-lasting. We do like their Lash Blast Clean, a gentle vegan mascara that is enriched with natural oils to condition your lashes. It’s a good option for people who have sensitive eyes and for vegans.
Both brands have also released nude-range eye shadow palettes that are popular alternatives to Urban Decay’s Naked palette collection. Maybelline has received a lot of hype for their Nudes Of New York palette (another 2020 Best of Beauty winner), a universally flattering 16 shade collection that rivals higher-end brands. However, some users prefer Covergirl’s palettes for being more deeply saturated with highly blendable pigments.
Lipstick, lip gloss, lip liner: There are plenty of ways to decorate your pout and both brands have some strong options, no matter your preference. Covergirl has received a lot of attention for their long-wearing Outlast lip color. The secret to the product’s longevity is in its two-step system of color and topcoat, but many users find it to be drying.
For more intense pigment with only one step, Maybelline’s SuperStay is a better option. It stays bright all day and doesn’t dry out the lips. Super Stay also comes in a wider variety of colors, including purples and even a dark blue for experimental looks or cosplay makeup.
For creamier lip color, Covergirl’s Exhibitionist lipstick is a good choice. It’s moisturizing and comes in several different finishes including metallic. Maybelline’s Color Sensational Matte lipstick is also a great product, with a smooth, moisturizing formula that still looks matte without being drying.
There are a few other unique products from each brand that are worth checking out.
From Covergirl, the Lash Blast Lash and Brow Serum is a great multitasker. This conditioning serum gel has ingredients like castor oil and biotin to help encourage thicker and fuller eyebrows and eyelashes. If you struggle to grow thick, healthy lashes, this can give you a little boost. It can also help smooth down your brows and keep them in place while nourishing them.
We also love Covergirl’s new Cooling Glow Highlighter Stick. Available in four flattering shades, this multi-stick can be used as way more than a highlighter. The sheer, shimmery pink tones are great on lips, cheeks, even eyelids to give a glowing flush. We can’t think of anything better or easier for your summer makeup routine.
Maybelline, unlike Covergirl, sells a line of nail products as well. Their Fast Gel polish is a quick-drying formula that gives you a gel manicure effect at home for a fraction of the price (about $2.50 a bottle!). This one-step manicure comes in 18 different shades and gives a great finish at a low price.
Marvel and Maybelline have recently teamed up to bring a collection of super-powered makeup. The collection includes Colossal Mascara enriched with collagen to give incredible lash volume, character-inspired shades of their matte SuperStay Ink, and a limited edition skin-correcting Instant Eraser. For high-quality makeup featuring your favorite superheroes, we call this collab a win.
CoverGirl and Maybelline are both affordable drugstore brands, with few products that cost more than $10. Most of the time, the two brands are very on par for pricing. CoverGirl can sometimes skew slightly more expensive with specific items like lipsticks or foundations, but it’s by a small margin, and there are also some outliers that cost a little more at Maybelline.
The two brands rarely go on sale at the same time, and discounts are often the real tie-breakers. If your main concern is budgetary, it’s better to compare prices every time you go shopping, since you never know which of the two brands will have a big discount.
The Ultimate Winner: Maybelline or Covergirl
When it comes down to versatility and performance, Maybelline has a slight edge in our opinion. Their foundations, mascaras, and long-wearing lip colors are very high-quality for the price. But Covergirl has plenty of great options too, especially when it comes to makeup for mature and sensitive skin types. We also appreciate that they are Leaping Bunny certified as cruelty-free.
Some makeup enthusiasts are diehard fans of one or the other brand, but we say: why not both? Fortunately, you don’t have to choose. You can enjoy the best of either brand simply by doing a little research first. Every skin type has different needs and every makeup lover has different preferences, but there are products from both companies that are definitely worth checking out.
Either way, it’s clear that you don’t have to pay a lot to find high-quality makeup options. Covergirl and Maybelline have both endured for so long because their products are good and they continue to adapt to the changing market. So next time you’re at your local pharmacy, why not try something new from one of these staple brands?