The best highlighter makeup products you can buy

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best highlighter

For a high-impact highlight with an incredible shade range, you can’t go wrong with BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector.

The pressed powder formula is buildable, so you can wear it day or night.

My ride-or-die, desert island beauty product has to be highlighter. It’s not that it’s my favorite to apply (I love the artistry of eyeshadow) or the thing that makes me look most human (that award goes to under-eye concealer, certainly). But nothing quite beats the thrill I get from turning my face toward the light and seeing the glowy flash of my cheekbone. That, my friends, you can only get with highlighter.

There are so many beautiful illuminators on the market, not to mention different formulas that give you varying, yet equally beautiful, affects — how can you possibly choose between them? My answer is that I basically don’t choose. I have dozens of highlighters and I’m not in a rush to whittle down my collection anytime soon.

If, however, you consider yourself a reasonable person who doesn’t need six versions of champagne gold highlight, I’m here to help you narrow things down. The options on this list vary from “natural” to “strobe light” in terms of intensity, but they all make you glow without emphasizing texture or making you look like the Tin Man — unless that’s the vibe you’re shooting for, in which case, it’s totally doable.

Here are the best highlighters you can buy:

Best highlighter overall: BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed
Best stick highlighter: Glossier Haloscope
Best natural highlighter palette: Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette
Best intense highlighter: Fenty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter
Best cream pot highlighter: Decorté Dip in Glow Cream Highlighter 

Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.The best highlighter overall
BECCA Cosmetics

Why you’ll love it: BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector is the first word in highlighter, known for its intense glow and impressive shade range.

The first highlighter I ever fell in love with was Champagne Pop, a best-selling illuminator that BECCA Cosmetics developed in conjunction with YouTube star Jaclyn Hill. Though I now prefer dewier cream highlighters on a daily basis, it remains a staple in my collection.

BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector is by far one of the most popular highlighter formulas on the market — the pressed powder formula alone has more than 4,000 Sephora reviews and a 4.6-star rating — and I consider it responsible for my personal highlighter awakening.

These highlighters manage to be intense without looking too wild for the office or a casual setting. I use a fan brush and a very light hand to apply the powdered version to my cheekbones for bold highlight, but they’re super buildable if you want to go “full glam” with your look.

There are 12 Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed shades available to accommodate most skin tones, from icy Pearl to deep Chocolate Geode. Some of the colors also come in liquid and cream formulations, so you’re sure to find one that matches your highlighter personality.

I’m partial to the powders because they are super smooth and versatile. I even wear them as eyeshadow sometimes. One downside to note: BECCA pressed powders are super delicate, so store them somewhere safe and pick a more durable formula for travel.

Pros: Intense and buildable highlight, shade range incorporates a variety of skin tones, comes in multiple formulas

Cons: Powder is really delicate and breakable

Buy the BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed at Sephora for $38

The best stick highlighter

Why you’ll love it: With just one quick swipe, Glossier Haloscope gives you a dewy, natural highlight — if “natural” means “glowing like a you dipped your face in icing,” that is.

I’m a creamy stick highlighter devotteé, especially for daytime, and Glossier Haloscope is one of my favorites. It’s considered a “dew effect” highlighter (read: glossy and natural, not overly sparkly) with a nourishing formula containing coconut, castor seed, and sweet almond oil and real gemstones that give it pizazz.

It comes in three versatile shades — bronzey Topaz, pearly Quartz, and opalescent Moonstone. I use all three in different ways, treating Quartz and Moonstone as traditional highlighters and Topaz as a bronzer for a sun-kissed look. Sometimes I even pop them on my eyelid. The effect: kind of sweaty, but in a hot way.

Haloscope is pretty sheer, so each color adapts to multiple skin tones. Moonstone, for example, looks almost white in the tube, but blends out to a clear gloss with subtle opalescent sparkles.

I adore these for everyday use, and I’m not alone — Glossier won a Glamour Beauty Award in 2016 and has been recommended by countless other publications, including The Strategist.

“When it comes to daytime makeup, this product is one of my go-tos and certainly one of my most-used ‘natural’ highlighters,” writes Rio Viera-Newton.

Pros: Dewy, natural highlight; convenient stick packaging, great for travel, three versatile shades

Cons: Avoid if you are sensitive to oils

Buy Haloscope at Glossier for $22

The best natural highlighter palette
Hourglass Cosmetics

Why you’ll love it: The Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette is not a highlighter palette in the traditional sense, but that’s exactly what makes it so special.

If you’re not a fan of a really intense, strobing highlight, here’s something different. The Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette contains six powders that give you a glow visible from the moon, but without the sparkle you find with many highlighters. This is a true “lit from within” vibe.

I’ve tried these powders in a variety of different ways, but I love Dim Light, which blurs imperfections and gives skin luminosity, under my eyes and in the t-zone, Incandescent Light on the cheekbones as a subtle highlight, and Radiant Light under the cheeks for natural bronze glow.

This is roughly how the brand recommends applying the powders, but you really can mix it up to find what’s best for your face and skin tone — there’s even an entire Reddit thread dedicated to discussing how to use it.

Many of the more than 1,000 reviews on Sephora (the palette has a 4.3 rating) also point out how incredible this palette makes their skin look in photos, so it could be a fabulous option if you have a big event, like a wedding, coming up.

The biggest note of praise I can bestow on these powders? They considerably lessen the trauma of accidentally opening your phone to the front-facing camera.

Pros: Gives a gorgeous and natural glow, works for a lot of skin tones, minimal sparkle

Cons: There’s a bit of a learning curve and the price tag is high

Buy the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette at Nordstrom for $80
Buy the Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette at Sephora for $62 (out of stock) 

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