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Not only does highlighting go hand in hand with the ever popular technique of contouring, it’s also just an easy way to bring light to the face and show off your best features. Have you heard of the full face of highlighter challenge? Yes, the result is quite disco ball-esque, but there’s something so beautiful about skin the shines so bright, you almost can’t look straight at it. And don’t get us started on the holographic trend. Beyond your usual gold and silver hues, highlighters come in blue, green, pink and even black tones because believe it or not, the demand is there.
The world of highlighters is so endless that there seems to be a new formula popping up everyday. There are sticks, creams, powders—oh, my! And despite what you may have been told, highlighter knows no age limit. When used in the right way, it can actually make you appear younger, instead of making you look like you’ve broken into a tween’s makeup stash. Skip the expensive offerings and head straight for your drugstore. Brands like NYX, Maybelline and L’Oreal make some of the best highlighters out there, meaning you don't have to break the bank to get that sun-kissed glow.
To learn more about the best drugstore highlighters you can buy now, read on.
Best Overall: wet n wild MegaGlo Highlighting Powder
You just can’t beat this wallet-friendly glow-maker that’s a favorite amongst highlighter newbies, beauty junkies, makeup artists, and more. The velvety smooth powder dresses the cheekbones, Cupid’s bow, inner corners, or wherever you apply it with a ultra-pearly finish that never accentuates texture or visible pores. No matter if you prefer a subtle sheen or an intense glow this highlighter will work for you since you can build up the color from a light wash of shine to a more intense gleam.
The easy-to-blend formula becomes one with the skin when applied with a fan-style brush or a small, dense powder brush. It also comes in a variety of shades from golds, to pearlescent pinks, to unique shades like iridescent blue. One reviewer even said that it did not break out her acne-prone sensitive skin—which can be common with certain highlighting powders.
Best Liquid: NYX Professional Makeup Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator
The opalescent quality of this fluid makes it super wearable and also very versatile. Mix a drop into your skincare (think: serum or cream) or base product (think: tinted moisturizer or foundation) and smooth all over for a lit from within glow. The light-reflecting pigments will help blur any imperfections, making for an even more flawless base than if you were starting with even the most full coverage foundation. The more you add into your products, the less coverage they’ll have, so if you like a finish that’s more high intensity, this technique may not be for you. Instead, dab some of the straight up liquid highlighter onto your cheekbones with a damp beauty blender. Though the effect won’t be exactly the same as if you mixed it with your foundation, it’s a nice compromise.
Best for Dark Skin: Physicians Formula Butter Highlighter, Rose Gold
It’s called butter highlighter for a reason—it’s so velvety, it actually feels like butter on the skin (and it’s formulated with a power-packed trifecta of butters: Murmur, Capua cu, and Tucuman that moisturize skin). Upon first touch, it’s creamy and then it turns into a powder, giving it more staying power for all-day wear. This shade in particular is perfect for darker skin tones because it has rich pigments that match the warmth in deeper tones. While the champagne option might look ashy, this one leaves you with a subtle hint of radiance that catches the light and dazzles. Use your fingers or a brush for the application.
Best for Fair Skin: e.l.f. Baked Highlighter in Moonlight Pearls
Anything that’s pearlescent will flatter fair skin tones. Stick to shades with a cooler appearance like blue and green shimmer flecks instead of warm ones like pinks and oranges—the latter will make it look like you weren’t too sure about where your blush should go. This illuminating powder in particular is finely milled and won’t make it look like you have chunks of glitter on your face—score! For a more intense sheen, dip your brush in water first and then swipe this on skin. It even works well as an eyeshadow if you’re going for a more monochromatic look.
Best Stick: Wet n Wild Mega Glo Makeup Stick When The Nude Strikes
The best thing about a stick highlighter is not needing any extra tools. It’s such a great on-the-go product because all you need is a few swipes and you’re looking more put together than before. Pro tip: throw this in your carry-on and just before landing, dab some on your cheekbones, down the bridge of your nose, and on your cupid’s bow. Even if you don’t have a stitch of other makeup on or didn’t get a wink of sleep on your red eye, you’ll emerge from the plane looking glowy and well-rested.
Best Kit: L'Oreal Paris Cosmetics True Match Lumi Glow Nude Highlighter Palette
Whether you’re trying to recreate the full face of highlighter look or just like having options, this quad of four powder shades has got you covered. Armed with two universal glowy highlighters, a blush, and bronzer tone, you’ll be glistening in no time. Get creative and try multiple shades on your face to come up with your own unique hue or stick to one if it suits you. Choose from the Moon-Kissed kit or Sun-Kissed kit based on your skin tone.
Best Powder: Maybelline New York Face Studio Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter
One of the things you need to look out for, especially if you have more mature skin, is glitter pigments in highlighter. This one is formulated without any chunky glitter and will glide on smooth, melting into skin without it looking like you’re headed to a rave. It’s described as a metallic sheen and that’s exactly what you’ll get with this. It won’t settle into fine lines, but instead, blur them and give the appearance of a smooth complexion. Try tapping it on with your ring finger (it’s the weakest, so it won’t tug, especially around the delicate eye area) for a more diffused look that’s on the natural side. Makeup artists love using a formula like this on the brow bone—it creates the illusion of an eye lift and will help to shape the brow, too.
Best for Body: Hard Candy Glow All The Way Glamazon Bronze Face & Body Luminizer
When highlighting your arms, legs, and chest you want to choose a formula that creates a soft sheen as opposed to an Instagram-style metallic finish. But many oils slide right off the body making you look like you just came out of the ocean or off of the running trail. That’s why we love the shimmering body highlighter from Hard Candy.
The glowy cream comes in a gorgeous bronze shade that works for fair to deep complexions. The fast-setting formula stays put after application. Just squeeze a small amount into the palms of your hands, then apply to clean dry skin. A word of caution: Wait a few minutes before dressing to ensure the oil dries.
Best Cream: Flower Glisten Up! Highlighter Chubby Stick
Finding a cream highlighter that gives you a gorgeous glow that lasts can be quite the challenge. Many cream formulas tend to slip and slide all over the face creating a sweaty, not glowy, look. That is until we came across this gem from Flower Beauty.
The self-sharpening chubby stick houses a smooth emollient cream infused with ultra-refined shimmers and melts into the skin, leaving behind a soft-focus gleam that never appears too shiny or sweaty on your complexion. The silky cream always gives a natural-looking radiance and never cakes up when applied over other products. What makes it a true stand out glow-getter is how well it layers over powers.
To apply, dab your fingers into the formula then sweep over the highpoint of your cheekbone moving upward toward your temple. You can also use it on your brow bone, bridge of the nose, and Cupid’s bow for an overall strobed look. It also comes in a stunning shade range that works for all skin tones.