Affordable Highlighters Under $12 That Actually Work

Careless Morgan is a beauty influencer who shot to fame with her viral ‘bullshit makeup tutorial.’ Her content embraces carefree expression, a love for all things makeup, and the exploration of inner beauty and confidence. Follow her on Instagram at @carelessmorgan.

Makeup is f*cking expensive. There, I said it. Not all of us have $130 to spend on a single highlighter this month…or this year. Looking at you, La Mer. So, for all of you baddies on a budget, here are my beauty guru-approved makeup items that won’t break the bank. I know that when money is tight, every little bit counts. I’ve been there, and I make sure my money does not go to waste. With your makeup, you always want to make it last as long as possible, so here are a couple of my favorite tips for using highlighter.

One of my all-time favorite beauty hacks require one simple thing, and you can get it right from your sink. WATER! Normally, when we are finished with empty spray bottles, we throw them away. NO MA’AM! Not I. Save those bottles, clean them well, and fill them up with good old H2O. Whether I’m dealing with a name brand beauty blender, a favorite highlighter brush, or en e.l.f. beauty sponge, what I love to do is spray water on my brush/sponge, dip it into my highlighter, and immediately start applying product on the parts of my face that I want to enhance with that banging glow. The water makes the product brighter, and gives it more of a glimmering, metallic appearance. 

If you’re looking to make your highlighting products last longer, do what I do! STRRRRRETCH those products out. Here’s another hack I do to make my highlighter last that much longer: I use my beauty sponge to take some of the product, and pat it into my skin, rather than rubbing or brushing it on. By doing that, you’re pushing it in there and blending it out to make it look as glowy as possible! By applying it with the patting method, it evenly buffs it into my skin, basically forcing it to collide with my foundation. Often times, a highlighting brush sheds off most of your product just by moving it back and forth. I tried this beauty hack about three years ago, and trust me, IT WAS A MIRACLE. I not only noticed I was saving product, but I also noticed how beautifully my skin soaked up the highlighter, leaving it with a smooth finish.

Now that you’ve got the best secrets on using highlighter, here are some of my favorite inexpensive options to make your face glowy AF. Take notes.

e.l.f. Cosmetics Baked Highlighter

e.l.f. Baked Highlighter in Moonlight Pearls, $4.00

For $4, this Champagne Pop dupe is a highlighter must-have! I enjoy this highlighter the most when I’m going for a really deep makeup look. I’m talking intense contour paired with a huge pop of shine, all thanks to this less than $5 highlighter. Its golden undertone makes it a lot easier to blend with my bronzer, making everything seem flawless, even if I’m in a rush. 

I also love using this highlighter as an eyeshadow—two-in-one! Applying a little bit to my inner corner leaves me looking like I got a full 8 hours of sleep, which literally never happens. That simple pop of brightness can bring together your entire look, and take things to the next level.

Physicians Formula Butter Highlighter

Physicians Formula Butter Highlighter in Champagne, $11.49

I cannot stand patchy makeup products. You can spend forever on a look, and then it’s ruined instantly. Highlighter is normally meant to make your strongest points stand out from the rest of your face, but this highlighter also blends so nicely with the rest of my makeup. It really is like butter. It applies on my cheekbones in the smoothest and creamiest way. The price is a little bit higher than the rest on the list, but it’s definitely worth every cent. Prepare to have a new favorite, so you can thank me later.

Maybelline Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter

Maybelline FaceStudio Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter in Molten Gold, $9.99

3 words: PIG-MEN-TATION! (Okay, so those are not exactly distinct words, but you get what I mean.) This metallic highlighter gives a glow like none other. The formula of this product is amazing and the pigmentation is phenomenal—especially for something under $10. You no longer have to dip back into the product 100 times to get the look you want. If you’ve ever had to do that with a crappy highlighter, not anymore! 

NYX Land Of Lollies Highlighter

NYX Land of Lollies Highlighter in Powdered Sugar, $5.60

I absolutely LOVE NYX! When I found about this product, I was in love. It’s inexpensive and irreplaceable! This highlighter is not only beautiful in the package, but gorgeous on your actual skin. I love putting this specific highlight color on my nose. I draw an exclamation point, starting from the top of my bridge to the tip at the bottom, and it makes my nose appear Kardashian-level snatched. It leaves my face looking more structured and put together with whatever makeup look I’m going for.

Wet n Wild MegaGlo Highlighter

Wet n Wild MegaGlo Highlighter in Precious Petals, $4.69

This $5 Wet ‘n Wild beauty is so amazing that it fits right in with the high-end highlighters. I love this highlighter for a natural, dewy look! It gives me a nice glow without making me look like a complete ball of grease. For an everyday highlighter, this bad boy is the one. Believe me when I say that you would never be able to tell that it was less than $5. Out of all 5 of these beauties, this is my all-time favorite drugstore highlighter.

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