I think we can all agree that dewy, lit-from-within skin is something to strive for. Of course, it’s possible to get a major glow from smoothing on serums and creams, but the easiest way to look impossibly glowy is by applying highlighter.
Highlighter may seem like the kind of product that you can pick out on a whim, but in reality, it’s like choosing a foundation—you should base it on your skin’s tone and needs for a flawless, illuminated finish. I reached out to makeup artists to learn more about how to choose the best highlighter plus which highlighters have a forever spot in their kits.
How can you choose the best highlighter for you?
“When looking for a highlighter, someone would want to select a product that is about two shades lighter than their skin,” says makeup artist Marsha Page. “You can also find the perfect highlighter by selecting a shade that complements your skin’s undertones.”
For the most natural-looking finish, makeup artist Judi Gabbay recommends staying away from highlighters with chunks of glitter in them and opting for subtler shimmers. “They tend to appear muddy or dirty on skin,” Gabbay says.
The best cream highlighters:
Cream highlighters are a great option for anyone who wants a natural, blendable finish. “Cream highlighters are great to use alone, under the skin before foundation, or over foundation for a dewy effect,” says Gabbay.
This is Gabbay's go-to cream highlighter. "I love RMS Beauty Living Luminizer highlighter for a natural, clean-girl-aesthetic glow," she says. With the addition of coconut oil, vitamin E, and castor-seed oil, this highlighter also doubles as skincare. The subtle shimmer gives you the ultimate reflective finish.
Surratt never messes around in terms of quality makeup products. Its cream highlighter stick was inspired by the jewels in Place Vendôme in Paris. It's made with real diamond and gold dust, making it easily the most opulent option on the list. It imparts skin with an ethereal glow.
Though it comes in three colors, this highlighting stick has undertones meant to flatter all skin tones. Your skin looks impossibly dewy after swiping it on. Plus, it's made with Vitis vita grape extract, which helps encourage collagen and hyaluronic acid production in skin.
Fortified with almond-seed oil and Rosa rubiginosa oil, this highlighter also works to moisturize and hide imperfections. It delivers a sun-kissed glow to skin and builds easily. Plus, it's refillable and sustainable, so you can feel good about making it your go-to highlighter.
The best powder highlighters:
If you want a more dramatic finish, Page says that powder highlighters are the way to go. But they can also be a great option for anyone who has oily skin. “A powder highlighter is perfect for more oily skin, as it adds sheen to the skin without the dewiness from a cream or liquid highlighter,” says Gabbay.
Since this compact comes with four highlighter colors, it's endlessly customizable to fit your needs. "My favorite powder highlighter is Dior Backstage Glow palette," says Gabbay. "The palette has four shades for all areas of the face and is super-finely milled." This helps add a more dramatic glow to your skin.
For a subtler powder highlighter, don't sleep on these pressed compacts from Hourglass. With six different shades, these powders are made with all skin tones in mind. "Because of the variety of shades, [they] reflect light beautifully on most skin tones," says Page.
This highlighter is a great option for deeper skin tones. "It blends beautifully and comes in warm red tones," says Page. It comes in five swirled shades that help impart subtle radiance. Shea butter and vitamin E also work to soften skin.
Fenty's highlighters are perfect for anyone who loves experimenting with makeup. The shimmers range from subtle to otherworldly, with a few options imparting a shimmer to your face that you could probably see from outer space. Snag a single shade or opt for an expert-crafted duo.
The best liquid highlighters:
Liquid highlighters are the most multipurpose options. “One of the best benefits of liquid highlighters is that you can mix it into your liquid foundation for an allover dewy look to the skin,” says Page. “If you are looking for a glow with a dewy wet finish, liquid highlighter is your best bet.” They’re also easy to blend out to your desired finish.
This TikTok-favorite highlighter is worth the hype. Gabbay shares that if she's reaching for a highlighter, she always goes for a liquid option first, and this is her holy grail. "Charlotte Tilbury's spotlight wand is a staple in my makeup bag," she says. "Its sponge tip makes it an easy application on the go."
"Koh Gen Do Aqua Illuminator is great because it offers buildable coverage so that you can achieve your desired level of glow and sparkle," says Page. This innovative highlighter is also perfect for adding to your foundation for a boost of radiance. Formulated with the brand's signature T3 oil, which is a blend of jojoba oil, olive squalane, and shea butter, it also adds major moisture to skin.
There are no rules for how best to wear this luminizer. Use it to highlight the high points of your face, mix it with foundation, use it as a dewy primer, or even wear it alone for a fresh-looking glow. Vitamin C, glycerin, and rose-hip oil also make sure it works overtime as skincare.
This Kevyn Aucoin highlighter is a classic. Perfect for both face and body, it will give you a multifaceted shimmer. Blend it with your foundation or dot it on to your face for tons of radiance. Bonus: A little goes a long way, so one bottle will last you for quite a while.