First, I feel like I should start this story with a disclaimer—something like, "No Facetune or filters were used in the making of this article." Because it's true. Second, yes, my mom is actually 70 years old. (In general, people think I'm exaggerating and swear on their life she doesn't look a day past 55. What can I say? The woman is blessed.) That being said, she also knows a thing or two about makeup and has some amazing habits up her sleeve when it comes to her skincare, exercise, and diet regimens. Again, she's kind of a superhero—or at least mine anyway. Oh, and like me, she also has a healthy addiction to high-end beauty products, which, ironically, leads me to the shocking topic of this story (and probably why you came here in the first place)—her obsession with a $4 drugstore highlighter. Truly, people.
Again, like me, my mom is the type to hoard products, especially makeup. Of course, this could have something to do with the fact she's also a part-time makeup artist, but it's more to do with the fact she purely just likes the stuff. (Not all that surprising she wound up with a beauty editor for a daughter, right?) She also really likes to email me when she discovers a new product or application technique she feels to be borderline life-changing, or at the very least, face-changing. And as you might surmise, this is exactly what happened a couple of months ago when her subject line read something like, "I've discovered the best highlighter ever, and I bought it at Walgreens!!!!" Obviously, I clicked. (Who knew a 70-year-old could be so adept at drafting such clickbait?) Alas, this bait ultimately delivered.
So what's the miracle hero product my mom (and now I) can't stop yapping about? Well, it just so happens to be Wet n Wild MegaGlo Makeup Stick in When the Nude Strikes ($4). And while fantastic on its own, (again, this coming from someone who's a self-professed makeup snob), my mom's ingenious application method is what really takes it up a notch. Prepare yourself—here it goes.
"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 her email. "It really, really works and looks truly beautiful." (Okay, mom, you have our attention!)
"What you do is put some moisturizer on the back of your hand and then take a highlighting stick (I've used both the Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlight ($25) and the Wet n Wild, which is less expensive—both have worked equally well), and rub it into the moisturizer.
"Then, apply the highlighter stick with the moisturizer still on it to your face. It creates a beautiful, soft, amazing glow. I may just try mixing the highlighter with my foundation to see if I can get this glow all over my face—but that may just be too much. [Ed. note: She is so my mother. Ha!] Anyway, I wanted to let you know about this because it's truly one of the best."
So here's what I've learned: Mom really does always know best. The next time I put on makeup, I took a pea-size amount of my favorite moisturizer (the same one I applied prior to my foundation), and rubbed my newly purchased Wet n Wild stick all up on it. But then I balked. Wait, was I supposed to rub the stick with the moisturizer directly onto my skin? Or should touch my finger to it and then massage it in? After a quick text to my dad (who, unfortunately for him, often has to mediate beauty talk between my mom and me), I had my answer: "Mom says after she applies her foundation, she puts the moisturizer on the tip of her finger and then rubs it on the highlighter stick and then applies it. For moisturizer, she uses Clinique's 72-hour formula." First of all, bless that man. And second, ah! The woman is honing her skills!
So with my stick adrip with moisturizer, I took my finger, tapped it on the tip, and nervously began spreading it on top of my cheekbones and eventually up to my temples and brow bone. Then, I repeated the process so I could lightly hit my other favorite spots to highlight: my chin, my Cupid's bow, and the bridge of my nose.
I will say, I was initially a little freaked out and convinced I had smudged away the foundation, bronzer, and blush I had already applied. (In hindsight, I would probably apply these after, but as you'll see, it all worked out in the end.) But after blending the elixir out with my finger and ever so slightly reapplying my blush on top, I was super-satisfied with the results. Typically, I love my powder-based highlighter, but after receiving multiple compliments and snapping some filter-less selfies in my living room (for the story!), the radiantly dewy effect was seriously growing on me. And to add one last touch of oomph (and because it's hot and dry as f*ck in L.A. right now), I finished the whole thing off with a couple spritzes of Maya Chia's The Optimist ($58). No lie, this spray is gold.
So what' the bottom line here? Thanks to my mom, I have now discovered the single best way to apply highlighter along with the single best drugstore highlighter. Talk about killing two birds with one stone, right? Of course, you don't necessarily need to use these exact products to achieve similar results (my mom and I have both strayed with success), so below, I've included more moisturizers and more highlighter sticks vouched for by my mom, fellow Byrdie editors, and me. Keep scrolling to shop our favorites!
This is my mom's holy-grail moisturizer (a cool, gel-cream hybrid boasting loads of hyaluronic acid), and considering she has better skin than I do, it best become yours too.
Okay, so this hydrator costs a pretty penny, but man oh man is it good. It's infused with a patented "Miracle Broth" that plumps, hydrates, firms and tightens your complexion. Not to mention, it's basically silk in a jar.
A great option for the dehydrating tendencies of summer, this plumping, hydration-packed cream from Sunday Riley has made its way into my regular routine and instantly makes skin feel 100 times better than it did pre-application. Thanks, hyaluronic acid, papaya enzymes, and tamarind extract!
With a strategic infusion of cactus/prickly pear extract, fermented rice water, lactococcus ferment lysate (probiotics!), and hydra plant complex, this is a brand-new discovery my newly thirsty skin (the joys of 100º-plus heat waves!) has been craving lately. Plus, Tula is so lovely, and many of our editors are huge fans of the line.
I could talk about this luminizing SPF until I'm pink in the face—just kidding, because this color-neutralizing skin protectant would never let that happen. I wear it as a moisturizer, sunscreen, primer… the list goes on. And of course, when I combine it with the Wet n Wild MegaGlo Highlighter, the result is magical.
Favorite highlighter sticks:
Ah, the star of the show! Truly, this pearlescent highlighter delivers the prettiest payoff, and at less than $5, it's the best drugstore highlighter on the market. (I'm 100% convinced, and I feel very passionately about this.)
So this is brilliant: one part glow-inducing liquid, one part stick highlighter (simply twist off the top). Both Editorial Director Faith Xue and I are partial to this luminizing stick from Wander Beauty.
According to managing editor Lindsey Metrus, this creamy stick from It Cosmetics is another commendable option. It's bursting with powerhouse ingredients like antioxidants, collagen, peptides, and hyaluronic acid. So basically, it has it all.
For a pearly sheen, features editor Amanda Montell uses this ultra-blendable highlighter in Pearl. According to the brand, the result is "delicate and dewy."
Available in two different shades (one's pearly, and the other's bronzy), this multipurpose highlighting stick is pretty. Coconut oil makes for a superior glide (although, if you're prone to breakouts, this formula might not be for you), and the sponge side makes blending an absolute snap.