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In years past, highlighters were more of an optional "extra" makeup step you might apply for a special occasion—like a fancy cat-eye or false lashes. But today, the glowy illuminator has become part of many beauty enthusiasts' daily routines.
Whether it's used in tandem with contour products or on its own, the right highlighter can brighten your complexion and enhance the angles of your face. You can even use it on your body for a little extra glow. If you're looking for an affordable option (or want to try a few to see what you like), drugstore highlighters are a great place to start. When looking for a highlighter, you have options in all formats, from liquid to stick to powder, so you can choose whichever type is easiest for you to work with. You'll want to select one that's a color and tone match for your preference, and has just the right amount of illumination for the look you're seeking.
Read on for the best drugstore highlighters on the market now.
Best Overall: Maybelline New York Facestudio Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter
With so many stellar options, it's hard to name just one drugstore highlighter as the best of the best. Having said that, this one rises to the top of the list. It comes in four shades: pearl, gold, rose gold, and peach. The pressed powder formula melts into your skin and leaves a smooth, light-reflecting glow. Unlike many others in its category, this highlighter doesn't have any large glitter pigments—just a subtle, illuminating shimmer that looks effortless.
Best Budget: e.l.f. Cosmetics Baked Highlighter
If you're looking for a super-affordable pick, this award-winning product comes in three versatile colors: Blush Gems, Apricot Glow, and Moonlight Pearls. It's also infused with ingredients like jojoba oil, sweet almond oil, and vitamin E. Apply it wet for a more vibrant look, or dry for a sheer finish.
Best Liquid: Iman Luxury Concealing Foundation
If you're partial to liquid formulas, you'll definitely want to check out this blend. It comes in a little dropper bottle and is available in three highly pigmented shades: Slay (a deep coppery hue), Strut (a medium golden tone), and Serve (a cool pearlescent color). A few drops are all you need to highlight your face, collarbone, and maybe even the tops of your shoulders.
Best Powder: Juvia's Place The Nubian Loose Highlighter
If you're more of a powder person, this one comes in three showstopping shimmery shades: Nubia (a pearly golden-bronze), Nefertiti (a buttery champagne gold), and Cleo (a light, creamy champagne). Loose powders are a little messier than liquid and pressed-powder formulas, but this highlighter is easy to apply. Using a fanned brush, lightly dust it over your cheekbones, Cupid's bow, brow bones, and down the bridge of your nose.
Best Cream: Physicians Formula Butter Highlighter
Want something a little creamier? This product is made with four naturally derived butters: emollient murumuru, moisturizing tucuma, cupuacu, and shea. The formula goes on smooth and then dries as a velvety soft powder. It comes in six flattering shades, ranging from Deep Mauve to Pearl.
Best for Dark Skin: Coloured Raine Focal Point GlowLighter
This weightless and buttery soft pressed powder comes in several color options to complement and highlight deeper complexions. Notable shades include Lavender Dreams, which has blue and purple undertones; Bourgeois, a coppery raspberry hue; and Selfie, a luminous champagne color. The formula melts into skin with a dewy, dreamy effect.
Best for Olive Skin: Revlon PhotoReady Highlighting Stick
The light-filtering formula (especially in Gold Light or Pink Light shades) of this highlighter is ideal for the cool tones of olive complexions. The smooth and creamy stick glides effortlessly over your skin, and it's easy to apply with precision. Use just a little for a subtle brightening effect or layer it on for a bolder look.
Best for Medium Skin: NYX Professional Makeup Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator
For medium skin tones, this liquid illuminator is a winner. It comes in four light-reflecting colors: Sun Goddess (a deep copper), Pure Gold, Gleam (pink-toned champagne), and Sunbeam (a pinkish pearl). It can be dabbed onto your cheekbones, brow bones, and Cupid's bow to highlight your face—or you can mix a drop in with your lotion or foundation to create an allover opalescent glow.
Best for Fair Skin: Wet N Wild Mega Glow Highlighter in Precious Petals
This pearlescent highlighting powder is super flattering on fair skin. It comes in four easy-to-blend, highly pigmented colors and applies effortlessly for a lightweight, silky smooth finish. Tap it on with your fingers, or use a brush to lightly dust it over the areas you want to highlight.
Best Shade Range: ColourPop Super Shock Highlighter
This versatile highlighter comes in eight different hues. Deeper shades include Smoke n Whistles, cool-toned champagne with silver undertones, and Parasol, a peachy gold. As for medium hues, there's Wisp, a pearlescent golden champagne; Guilty Pleasure, a peachy blush; and Flexitarian, a reflective champagne. Lighter shades include Monster, a pale opalescent pink; Stole the Show, a silvery gold; and Lunch Money, a pearlized gold. The long-wear cream powder is light, buildable, and buttery soft. The result is a subtle shimmer that creates a natural-looking glow.
Best Palette: Milani Stellar Lights Highlighter Palette
Why choose just one shade when you can have three? This convenient compact offers a trifecta of pressed powders. Choose between two options—Rose Gold or Holographic Beams. You'll get a highlighter, low lighter, and illuminator all in one. Combine all three to create the perfect multidimensional glow, or use one at a time. Even just a touch of the incandescent finish will enhance your complexion while highlighting the angles of your face.
Best for Body: Revlon x Ashley Graham Tropical Vibes Makeup Kit
Most highlighters can be used on both your face and body. But if you want something formulated specifically for a below-the-neck glow, your best bet is this beachy collab from Revlon and model Ashley Graham. This highlighter kit includes Golden Lava Face & Body, a dewy liquid bronzer you can use from head to toe. You'll also get Lip Highlights, a shimmery copper lip gloss.
Best for Contouring: Wet n Wild MegaGlo Contouring Palette
This super-convenient product features a deep contour color and a light highlighter all in one. This affordable duo makes it easy to achieve a flawlessly sculpted look. Define with the contour powder, enhance with the highlighter, blend, and you're good to go.
What to Look for in a Drugstore Highlighter
Highlighters are available in a wide variety of formats, including loose powders, pressed powders, liquids, sticks, and cream pots. Which is right for you? That would be the one that you can work with the most easily. Or, you can layer a powder highlighter over a liquid or cream formula for a kilowatt glow.
Tone and Color
It's fairly easy to discern your skin tone, but it can be more of a challenge to figure out your undertone. You'll want a highlighter in a color just a hint lighter than your skin tone—one to two shades lighter is a common suggestion—and with an undertone that coordinates with your own.
From full shimmer to a barely-there glow, highlighters offer a range of illumination. Some are holographic and multidimensional, whereas others provide light without any sparkle whatsoever. Pick the amount of illumination you want based on the look you enjoy most; there's no right or wrong answer when it comes to illumination.
How do you make highlighter look good?
Do you blend highlighter?
Yes, it's a great idea to blend highlighter in. Face makeup products—including foundation, blush, bronzer, and of course, highlighter—will look most natural when blended, no matter which blending tool you use.
What goes on first, blush or highlighter?
What is the difference between blush and highlighter?
The purpose of blush is to add a glow to your cheeks, similar to how you would look if you were actually blushing. Conversely, highlighter is used to illuminate the points on your face where the light naturally hits.