We know the power of a good highlighter better than anyone. It can breathe new life into a minimally made-up face or be the cherry on top of a full beat. With so many options (pressed powder, liquid, and cream options) on the market, you'd think selecting the right highlighter would be as simple as picking something up at Sephora. However, if you have Black or Brown skin, you know it isn't that easy. Although makeup brands have come a long way, I can't tell you how many highlighters don't really show up on my skin tone (even if they claim to be "universal"). Because of this, I decided to call in an expert. Beauty mogul and renowned makeup artist Danessa Myricks provided much-needed insight into the matter.
Everything you need to know about highlighter shopping for Black and Brown skin tones is below. Keep scrolling!
What to Look for in a Highlighter for Dark Skin Tones
When shopping for a highlighter, Myricks wants you to keep a few things in mind. "Highlighting is about bringing light to the face," says Myricks. "When talking about traditional highlighters that have illumination and glow, understanding your undertones is essential in selecting a highlighter that suits your skin. For instance, if you have a medium to deep complexion with yellow or neutral undertones, look for more golden highlighter shades. Bronze or copper highlighters will complement your skin if your complexion is rich and deep with red or warm undertones. Overall, playing off your undertone is key."
Myricks shared a few of her favorites for darker skin tones below.
Best Overall: Danessa Myricks Beauty Lightwork Highlighting Palette
Pros: Six-piece highlighter kit, multi-tonal shades, creamy powder formulas infused with micro-light refracting particles.
"Though I love all my highlighters, my go-to highlighters are cult classics—the Lightwork I and II Highlighting Palettes. Both palettes have six of the most beautiful shades that can be used on multiple areas of the face. The reason I love them so much is because they're super easy to use, complement various undertones, and the texture is super buttery and glitter-free. When I apply Lightwork I or II, it's like a smooth second layer that effortlessly amplifies all the high points of the face for a more life-like glow." —Myricks
Danessa Myricks Vision Flush Glow Hyper Radiant Liquid Highlighter in Tiara
Pros: Highly pigmented, buildable radiant coverage, utilizes pearl pigments instead of glitter.
Cons: May be too pigmented for some.
"I also love to use different shades from the Vision Flush Glow collection. This collection of liquid illuminators was based on the viral, universally flattering shade I created, Tiara. I've extended the collection into six gorgeous shades that include gold, bronze, champagne, and pink—perfect for those with deeper skin tones with various undertones." — Myricks
Customer Review: "These highlighters aren't like any other product I've tried. They are so creamy and apply so easily. I love using them for underpainting, adding a slight glow, or even as an eye shadow. As the name says, the pigment is extremely radiant and lasts all day. I would highly recommend it! I was gifted this by Danessa Myricks Beauty, but my opinions are my own."
Dior Backstage Glow Face Palette
Pros: Contains four luminous shades that can be worn separately or mixed together. Highly pigmented warmer tones suit dark skin tones.
"The Dior palette is also a staple in my kit because it has a variety of colors and it's a compact quad palette. You can apply a single shade or mix them to your liking. The highlighter gives a glossy wet look without looking unnatural. It's a healthy glow without sparkle and glitter. I would say it's a strong highlight, but you can go super light-handed if you want a subtle glow."
Customer Review: "[This] is really pretty [with] soft colors. Leaves a pearly finish."
Ilia Illuminator in Summertime
Pros: Infused with avocado oil to protect the skin, orange peel wax to lock in moisture, and shea butter to hydrate the skin, buttery texture adds dewy radiance to the skin.
Cons: Expensive for one stick.
Ilia's Illuminator is ideal for medium brown skin tones. It's the perfect bronze tone, and the stick texture is smooth and buttery, so blending is easy—even for unsure hands.
Customer Review: "When applied modestly, it gives a really natural glow without the sparkle. Easy to apply and lasts a long time. Expensive, but I haven't found anything even close to as natural looking."
Lancôme Dual Finish Highlighter in Radiant Rose Gold
Pros: Great for caramel skin tones, warm pink-gold tint that compliments darker skin tones,
Cons: Powder formula may be drying for drier skin types.
For lighter caramel tones, this gives you a believable sunkissed glow. It's the perfect pinkish-gold that's bright yet doesn't tip over into a frosty, unflattering pearl. It can be applied dry for a subtle glow or applied wet for an amped-up sheen.
Customer Review: "Perfect Highlighter! A little is all it takes for a subtle effect. It glides on perfectly, and I love the finish. I use a large loose highlight brush, and that works perfectly. Love it."
Milani Baked Highlighter in Bronze Splendor
Pros: Great shade range for darker skin tones, budget-friendly.
Cons: The formula is a bit thick.
Those with deeper skin tones would benefit from looking for highlighters that contain warm undertones, like gold and deep orange or red tones. Milani's Baked Highlighters are all warm-toned and offer a range of deep tones. They're also super finely milled, so there's no chalky, powdery buildup on the skin.
Customer Review: "The baked highlighter has become a favorite go-to in my daily makeup routine. It leaves a glow that brightens my face, and I use it most days after a foundation, but also use it by itself when I'm in a hurry."
Fenty Beauty Killawatt Foil Freestyle Highlighter
Pros: Cream-to-powder hybrid formula, hyper-metallic finish, highly pigmented.
Cons: Not as easy to blend.
This weightless Fenty Beauty formula has a cream-to-powder texture and leaves a gorgeous hyper-metallic finish. The pigment power alone is enough to get my endorsement for darker skin tones, but the buttery texture melts into the skin so nicely. A little goes a long way, though use sparingly because it's hard to blend.
Customer Review: "This highlighter is so good and pigmented. I barely put anything on, and it's so blinding! The perfect highlighter!"
Physicians Formula Butter Highlighter
Pros: Budget-friendly, the cream-to-power formula contains ultra-refined pearls and soft-focus pigments and is infused with a blend of nutrient-rich butters to lock in hydration.
Cons: May be too sparkly for some.
Physicians Formula offers this buttery highlight that contains moisture-locking ingredients like murumuru, capuacu, and tucuma butter. Most importantly, this golden champagne shade is perfect for darker skin tones.
Customer Reviews: "I use it as a bronzer for a more dewy look, but it's also great as its intended purpose of a highlighter. It's just so silky and smooth—the name is accurate. I get compliments on it."
Haus Labs Bio-Radiant Gel-Powder Highlighter
Pros: Talc-free, contains fermented arnica oil to soothe redness and inflammation, silver vine extract brightens skin.
This is one of my all-time favorite highlighters for Black and Brown skin. First, the formula is gorgeous—it may be a powder highlighter, but it completely melts into your skin and applies so smoothly. All the shades look fantastic on darker skin tones, but the shades Chocolate Opal and Pink Amethyst are particular standouts.
Customer Review: "Absolutely stunning! It is buildable to go from day to night, but definitely less is more! Incredible pigmentation and a beautiful shimmer!"
LYS Beauty Aim High Pressed Highlighter Powder
Pros: Talc-free, highly pigmented, and contains hydrating sodium hyaluronate and niacinamide to help with oil control.
Cons: May be too pigmented if you're looking for a subtle glow.
With skincare ingredients like niacinamide and sodium hyaluronate, this formula does more for your skin besides highlight. What really deserves a standing ovation here is the shades. Each looks radiant, warm, and gorgeous on Black and Brown skin.
Customer Review: "Great product, amazing packaging, great price. I love the rose gold tone. I can use it on my eyes as well. The packaging [is] a little compact with a magnetic closure and a mirror. Super cute. Not just powder, they added skincare benefits. You never see that really for highlighters. [This is a] very good brand."
Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Highlighter Wand
Pros: Rich, warm shade shades look great on darker skin tones, lustrous polymers enhance your natural luminosity, lindera extract hydrates skin.
This liquid highlighter formula is such a gem. As with all Charlotte Tilbury products, the pigment in each shade is extremely rich and warm. Lustrous polymers enhance the look of your natural luminosity, while velvety silica gives the skin a soft focus. The shades Pillow Talk Medium, Goldgasm, and Peachgasm stand out particularly well on Black and Brown skin.
Customer Review: "This highlighter looks so natural and blends so nicely. It can be worn on its own or with a full glam look. I typically don't wear a full-beat face and keep it light, and it always looks BEAUTIFUL on the skin."