best halloween makeup

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The best products for Halloween makeup on a budget

Save your money and forget the special FX kit.


Marisa Losciale

Dot Recs

Posted on Aug 26, 2020   Updated on Oct 18, 2021, 8:56 pm CDT

If you want the best Halloween makeup look, you don’t need an expansive or expensive special effects kit to get the job done. Most pricey brands are duped and to further avoid sticker shock, it’s also possible to purchase SFX makeup products on their own outside of the larger movie-studio-style kits.

Scooby doo dresses up

I know this year won’t be like Halloweens past, but that doesn’t mean you should forgo all traditions. If doing spirited and spooky Halloween makeup allows you to feel joy and a sense of normalcy, why deprive yourself of that? Even if it’s just for a 45-second TikTok.

Best Halloween makeup products

1) Best primer: Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water

You don’t apply paint without priming first. The same rule applies to Halloween makeup, which makes a solid primer is definitely worth the splurge. Whether you’re keeping with a natural skin tone or going for a more extraterrestrial appearance, if you don’t start with a primer, your Halloween makeup will melt off in just a few hours.

Smashbox photo finish primer is cruelty-free and doesn’t contain any silicone, oil, or alcohol, so it won’t dry out your skin, cause acne, or make your skin feel heavy and tight. This particular primer also contains electrolytes to help revitalize your skin.

Major perk: Since the Photo Finish Water Primer is super lightweight, there are multiple ways to use it. You can spray it on before you apply, set layers of your look with a single spritz, or just use it throughout the day to rehydrate and refresh skin!

Price: $9.31

Other recommendations: Mehron Makeup Skin Prep Pro Primer ($13.00), NYX Professional Makeup Studio Perfect Primer ($9.68), Smashbox Original Photo Finish Primer ($29), Tarte Double Duty Base Tape Primer ($39.47), and for heavy eye looks don’t forget the NYX Eyeshadow Primer ($5.99)

2) Best pigment: Mehron Greasepaint makeup

Mehron is special effects makeup recognized for its outstanding durability and affordability. Its Greasepaint Cream Makeup collection is no exception. Mehron practically put pigmented foundation on the map with these colorful pods. The collection features every color of the Rainbow, neutrals, metallic and matte finishes, whatever your foundation needs Greasepaint will get you there. And despite its name, Greasepaint is anything but greasy. It’s not known for staining or irritating skin, but like any new product a patch test is definitely recommended.

Mehron has even gone as far as designing professional all-in-one kits to help you transform into your favorite fictional character with ease (just look at this Resident Evil 2 Zombie Halloween Makeup Kit!). Watch as you morph from your regular cute self into something so unrecognizable you’ll even end up questioning your existence.

While I don’t necessarily believe that an out-of-the-box makeup kit is mandatory for a successful spook, it is helpful that Mehron’s including a detailed tutorial in every kit. It’s to make your (after) life even easier! For all other extraordinary makeup needs, be sure to take a look at Mehron’s Performance and Special FX lines. 

Major perk: Greasepaint can be applied as a foundation or used with detail brushes to create stunning designs, bright brows, and whatever else your imagination may come up with. All Mehron products deliver outstanding concentrated color, so you can use less and make the most bang for your buck. The Greasepaint Cream Makeup product line is now available in compact sticks for greater control and touch-ups with less of a mess. Did we mention it’s vegan?!?

Price: $75.00+

Other recommendations: NYX Professional Makeup SFX Creme Colours ($4.59), Splashes & Spills Water-Activated UV Black Light Face and Body Paint ($38.99), CINEMA SECRETS Ultimate 5-in-1 Color Corrector ($36), Bloody Mary Monster Makeup Cream ($10.50), and Bloody Mary Bruise Kit ($14.99)

3) Best Halloween special effects makeup: Mehron Special FX makeup collection

best halloween makeup

In terms of SFX makeup brands, Mehron is probably the best known in the business–and for good reason. The company serves a long-range of special effects makeup tools, from blood and gore to alien-like adhesives, fake hair, twisted and terrifying teeth, you name it and Mehron makes it. Mehron products go on smooth, stay on all day (and night), and haven’t been known to permanently stain or irritate the skin (although a patch test is recommended!).

Major perk: Mehron Makeup products are relatively low-cost, professional quality, long-lasting, cruelty-free and vegan!

Price: Varies

Other recommendations: Graftobian Special FX Makeup (price varies), Narrative Cosmetics (price varies), CCbeauty (price varies), Splashes & Spills Special FX Range (price varies), and Ben Nye (price varies)

4) Best highlighter: NYX Professional Makeup Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator

Highlighters are one of the most important additions to special FX makeup, anyone with makeup experience will tell you that. Highlighters accentuate your already gorgeous face while adding some dimension. They can also be used to give an extra glow to witches and lions to fairies, angels, and cartoon characters. Apply it freely on your cheeks, eyelids, lips, chest, wherever you’d like to shine! 

Major perk: Not a fan of glitter? Shimmer highlighters like this make for a super lightweight, comfortable alternative! 

Price: $6.28

Other recommendations: IBY Radiant Glow Highlighter 24k Magic ($8.97), FENTY Shimmer Stick in Confetti ($38.90), Milani Hypnotic Lights Powder Highlighter ($14/99+), and Elizabeth Mott’s Show Me Your Glow Compact Highlighter ($15)

5) Best eye pigment: Milk Makeup Eye Pigment

Milk Makeup’s eye pigment creams are the definition of long-lasting, vivid, eyeshadow color. I speak from multiple years of experience using this as my go-to eye make-up for Halloween. This line covers all your bases by offering a variety of colors, including bold colors and shimmery neutrals. The cream shadow works great on its own or can be used as a base for other eyeshadow/highlighter/lip gloss, depending on the look you’re trying to achieve.

Major perk: Aside from being used on your eyelids, Milk’s Eye Pigment collection can be applied as a highlighter, used for accent details, and worn as a lip color. The eye pigments can also be mixed with each other and other cream or liquid eyeshadows to create custom shades.

Price: $7.99+

Other recommendations: Maybelline Color Tattoo ($5+)Tarte Shadow Pots ($13+), NYX Professional Makeup Ultimate Palette ($14.05), KAJA Beauty Bento Shimmer Eyeshadow Trio ($21), Giselle Cosmetics’ Loose Mineral Shadow ($20), and Prism Makeup’s Interstellar palette ($9.99)

6) Best eyeliner: NYX Professional Makeup Vivid Brights

best halloween makeup

Whether your Halloween face makeup look calls for tiny details, bold liner, or both, NYX Vivid Brights liner is all you’ll need. Unlike some liquid liner brushes that retain the product into a non-usable glob, this pinpointed brush provides you with precise and even coverage.

Major perk: Cruelty-free and long-lasting, this eyeliner is guilt-free, available in nine colors (a mix of both bold and casual), and once it’s dry, it’s not budgin’!

Price: $5.99

Other recommendations: Bowitki Water-Activated Retro Liner ($29.99) Prestige Total Intensity eyeliner ($25)), Moon Glow Blacklight Neon eyeliner ($19.24), and L.A. Girl Cosmetics Eyeliner Pencils ($5.81+)

7) Best lashes: Ardell Professional Magnetic Gel Eyeliner & Lashes

Ardell’s Magnetic Liner and Lash kit is personally my favorite of its kind–especially for witchy and glam Halloween makeup. I struggle with applying regular lash glue and would be lying if I said I’ve never glued my eye shut in the process. But with the magnetic liner, that isn’t a problem since I can clearly see where I’m applying it. And I know what you’re thinking, “since this uses eyeliner as adhesive, I’m not going to be able to use my regular or colorful liners.” WRONG! When applied correctly, the lash liner isn’t visible since the lashes are sitting on top of it. Instead, it gives the illusion of fuller, thicker lashes that stay in place all day.

Major perk: The lashes are reusable, just remember to soak them in soapy water in-between wears. And when you inevitably finish the magnetic liner pod (it’ll take a while) it can be re-purchased on its own, separate from the lashes.

Price: $8.50+

Other recommendations: KISS Magnetic Lashes ($5.35), MoxieLash Essentials Kit Vol. 1 ($38.99), Eylure Luxe Magnetic Lashes ($9.99), LashRay Magnetic Liner and Lashes ($29.99)

8) Best lip gloss: NYX Butter Gloss

best halloween makeup products

Not all special FX makeup needs to be over-the-top, every look needs balance. Which is exactly what NYX Professional’s Butter Gloss provides, a high-quality, polished, matte lip. This line comes in a variety of pigments–both theatrical tones, and colors you can rock every day. But that’s not all these babies are good for. Test your creativity and layer these lippies with each other (or other makeup products) to create bruises, bloody lips, fake scars, and more. And any color in this line lasts through hours of eating and drinking too (trust me, I’ve tried it!).

Major perk: You’ll use this well past Halloween, even if you get a bold color.  And unlike other mattes, it doesn’t dry my lips out to dust! 

Price: $3.98

Other recommendations: theBalm Cosmetics Jour Lip Stain ($13.84), Huda Beauty Lip Strobe Metallic Lip Gloss (price varies), Half Caked Lip Fondant Liquid Matte Lipstick ($12) Jules Smith Power Lip Gloss Set ($27), Total Intensity Total Wear Satin Lip Crayon ($9.50), Kokie Kissable Liquid Matte Lipstick ($6+) and Revlon Ultra HD Matte Lip Color ($6.33)

9) Best glitter: Unicorn Snot

best halloween makeup

Unicorn Snot isn’t just glitter face paint for Halloween. It’s face, body, and hair glitter for every damn day of the week! It’s vegan and cruelty-free, long-lasting, and doesn’t involve a messy or sticky application. Just poke your finger in the pot and press where you desire some sparkle.

Major perk: You can apply this wherever you feel like it–eyelids, cheekbones, chest, arms, legs, places you have skin. And after Halloween, this glitter can be used in place of (or layered on top of) eyeshadow, highlighter, or lipgloss for just the right amount of sparkle! 

Price: $14.99+

Other recommendations: NYX Professional Makeup Face and Body Glitter ($6+), Milk Makeup Holographic Stick in SuperNova ($11.88), and Anastasia Beverly Hills Love Loose Glitter ($15)

10) Best setting spray: Ben Nye’s Final Seal

No special FX makeup, Halloween makeup, or general makeup look is done until you set it. Unless you want the elements, time, or blowing your nose to disrupt your efforts it’s recommended to use a setting spray or finishing powder to keep everything in place. I personally prefer setting sprays over finishing powders for a few reasons.

The first being there’s little to no risk of smudging your hard work, and the second being that since most setting sprays are (rose) water-based they’re more hydrating. So if you have combination or dry skin, the sprays may hold more benefits for you, too. Unless you’re wearing heavy cream makeup, then you might want to invest in a powder seal.

Major perk: Ben Nye’s Final Seal is water-resistant, professional-grade setting spray meaning it’s built to hold the weight of glitter and theatrical, caked-on makeup. And if you get so spooked you cry, are splashed with water, rained on, whatever it may be, you won’t have to worry about touching anything up.

Price: $17.99

Other recommendations: NYX Professional Makeup Matte Finish Setting Spray ($6.69), Mehron Setting Powder ($8.95), Elizabeth Mott’s Thank Me Later Makeup Setting Spray ($20), Maybelline Lasting Fix Setting Spray ($7.94), and MORPHE Continuous Setting Spray ($31)

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*First Published: Aug 26, 2020, 2:30 pm CDT