The former two are must-have formulas I discovered back in high school and college when I was too broke to eat anything but peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and dinner, but the latter was actually a more recent product discovery thanks to my fabulous 71-year-old mom. Even more bizarre? My mom has extremely expensive taste in beauty products with a regimen consisting of Tatcha, La Prairie, Dr. Barbara Sturm, Charlotte Tilbury, Natasha Denona eye shadow palettes (yes, really), and more. So the fact that she loves a $4 highlighter you can snag at the drugstore is pretty miraculous. Of course, what's even more miraculous is that Wet n Wild's affordable little tube is the best highlighter I've ever put on my face. In fact, my mom even taught me a super-stealthy application tip that raises your cheekbone game about five octaves—more on that in a second.
After discovering the magic a $4 drugstore highlighter could wield, I was intrigued, and I began dabbling here and there in other affordable highlighters you can find at budget-friendly retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Ulta, the like. I was pleasantly surprised. In addition to talking a bit more about the best drugstore highlighter there is (and how my mom and I love to apply it), I'm also sharing nine more standout highlighter dupes comparable to way more expensive formulas you maybe don't need to be spending your money on. Don't get me wrong; I love highlighters from Becca, Glossier, and Dior, but having some extra padding in my bank account is the ultimate high. Keep scrolling!
I love Glossier's cult highlight stick, but if you're looking to save some money, this drugstore highlighter from Wet n Wild is almost identical in both design and dewy finish.
"Truly, it's much softer and more flattering than any highlighting/illuminating product I've tried—and as you know, I've tried a lot!" my mom emphasized to me in an email. "It really, really works and looks truly beautiful." Since stick formulas can sometimes be tricky to apply or look unnatural on the skin, we have a trick we like to use: Take a little bit of face cream on your finger and rub it on the tip of the highlight stick. Then, tap and blend onto your cheekbones and the high points of your face. It might seem weird, but it makes the overall finish a little softer, believable, and dewy.
What I love about both of these formulas is how saturated they are in pigment—a little goes a long way, and lightly swirling your favorite brush into the powder and swiping wherever you want some gleam adds the perfect touch of dimension and radiance. I'm also obsessed with Milani's blush options, but that's another story.
Guerlain's pretty highlighting pearls are one of the most iconic makeup products in the industry—an awarded formula makeup artists have long sworn by. I own it, but in complete honesty, I use this budget-friendly drugstore highlighter (with a doppelgänger-esque pearl pigment) from Physicians Formula more often. The lavender hue looks intense, but it's surprisingly beautiful once applied, as long as you're light-handed.
I'm not going to tell you to not buy Tilbury's fan-favorite complexion multitasker. It's an It product within the industry and immediately perks up a tired or flat complexion. But it will cost you a significant amount of money, and Nyx (one of my favorite drugstore brands) offers something similar in its glowy liquid skin booster. I love that there is a range of colors and how user-friendly it is. Just like Flawless Filter, you can apply it before, during, with, or after your other products with a luminous, airbrushed-like result.
Fenty's newest diamond highlighter is stunning, but the holidays are just around the corner and now is not necessarily the time to fork over almost $40 for a highlighter—no matter how high it is on our wish list. Luckily, drugstore brand Essence (which also makes seriously amazing blushes and mascaras) has a comparable option with a shimmering galactic hue.
I get it—a jelly highlighter sounds more gimmick than lust-worthy, but Farsáli's bouncy formula is one of the prettiest I've ever tapped on my cheekbones. It's out of this world. A little bit does go a very long way, but the price tag still has some bite. If you're looking for something that won't incite heart palpitations but is very similar in terms of formula and end result, I recommend this pretty little highlighter from E.l.f. Cosmetics.
I was shocked the first time I ever used ColourPop's Super Shock Highlighter. Yes, I had heard rumblings that it was amazing and knew it was one of the beloved brand's best-selling formulas, but the finish is light, shimmery, and offers a candlelit glow that feels worthy of a price tag five times the size. I love Hourglass, but I think this is a great dupe if your wallet is feeling skinnier than you'd like.
Every makeup artist (and all of their celebrity clients) fawn over RMS Beauty's iconic creamy highlighter. And, brace yourself, it's a staple in Meghan Markle's makeup arsenal. Yes, you're getting organic ingredients and A-list approval, but Covergirl's similarly glow-enhancing formulas will keep you $30 richer with zero sacrifices when it comes to the end result.
This strobing formula from MAC is one of those age-old icons within the industry that are hiding in almost every makeup artist's kit. It's universally flattering, multitasking, and all-around fab. But I'd argue this pretty glow lotion from drugstore giant L'Oréal is equally impressive. I love swirling it with a creamy blush, mixing a tiny bit with my foundation, or just dotting it on my cheekbones, Cupid's bow, the inner corners of my eyes, and the bridge of my nose before a night out. It glints beautifully under the light.
Both of these highlighters were created by major beauty icons, so it's not surprising they're both fabulous. Makeup artist Gucci Westman's super-sheer lumi stick is always on my top shelf, but I get that $50 isn't necessarily in the cards for the majority of makeup shoppers out there. Linda Wells's creation is another I always have on hand, and it offers a similar hit of believable glow that's extremely wearable and not at all obvious. Prepare for all the compliments for a fraction of the investment.