12 Amazing Highlighters You Can Buy At the Drugstore

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True story: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get an amazing highlighter. Sure, there are plenty of pricey, prestige options out there (many of which are amazing), but no matter whether you’re working with a tighter makeup budget, don’t necessarily use a highlighter regularly, or want to try out a new one for the first time, there are plenty of amazing options to be found at the drugstore.

Drugstore highlighters have become more and more comparable to prestige formulas because the category, in general, has become a bigger focal point for brands,” explains New York City makeup artist and beauty expert Neil Scibelli. “Keep in mind too that mass brands have the budget for development and testing, meaning they're able to nail down the formulas and create amazing products, all while keeping the price super accessible,” he adds.

Meet the Expert

  • Neil Scibelli is a New York City-based celebrity makeup artist and beauty expert. He focuses largely on fashion, celebrity, and television, as well as sharing his beauty education via contributions to various makeup outlets. 
  • Tobi Henney is an Australian makeup artist.

Here are the drugstore highlighters absolutely worth checking out.

Best Overall: Physicians Formula Butter Highlighter

4.9
Physicians Formula Butter Highlighter

Ulta

What We Like
  • Creamy texture

  • Goes on very smooth

  • Contains skin-loving ingredients

What We Don’t Like
  • Reviewers say it’s a bit too sheer

Who else recommends it? Today, Cosmopolitan, and Good Housekeeping all picked the Physicians Formula Butter Highlighter.

What do buyers say? 1,300+ Ulta reviewers rated this product 4 stars or above.

As the name suggests, this option does indeed have a buttery, creamy texture; credit a base made with four plant-derived butters. "Even though it goes on as a powder, it leaves a beautiful 'buttery' soft-focus finish on the skin," says Scibelli. "It’s also ultra-finely milled and super pigmented, so it goes on silky smooth with great color payoff. It’s one of my all-time favorite drugstore highlighters."

Size: 0.17 ounces | Shades: 4 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Overall, Runner-Up: Maybelline New York Facestudio Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter

Maybelline New York Facestudio Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter

Walmart

What We Like
  • Buildable formula

  • Goes on very smooth

What We Don’t Like
  • Packaging can be a bit cheap

Another ideal pick, this pressed powder melts beautifully into the skin, imparting an impressive glow thanks to pearl pigments. It comes in four shades that, despite the name, still deliver a natural-looking radiance (rather than looking artificially metallic). Dust it on with a brush for a more subdued effect, or use your fingertips to up the level of glow.

Size: 1 ounces | Shades: 4 | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Dark Skin: Juvia's Place The Nubian Loose Highlighter

Juvia's Place The Nubian Loose Highlighter

Ulta

What We Like
  • Ideal for darker skin

  • Finely milled texture

  • A little goes a long way

What We Don’t Like
  • Need a brush to apply it

Even though this loose powder only comes in two shades, they both are great choices for deeper complexions, imparting enough color and shimmer to really pop. FYI, the shimmer level is more intense on these, particularly in natural daylight, although reviewers do say a little goes a long way.

Size: 0.28 ounces | Shades: 2 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Medium Skin: CoverGirl TruBlend Super Stunner Face Highlighter

CoverGirl TruBlend Super Stunner Face Highlighter

Walgreens

What We Like
  • Multi-dimensional shades

  • Ideal for medium and olive skin

  • Goes on very smooth

What We Don’t Like
  • Reviewers say it’s a bit too sheer

This powder formula comes in three colors, though each of them is dimensional and multi-tonal, and looks great on a wide array of skin tones, particularly more medium and olive tones. Fun fact: All three hues look beautiful blended, too. At this price, you can easily afford to nab all three and mix and match.

Size: 0.12 ounces | Shades: 3 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Fair Skin: Wet N Wild Megaglo Highlighting Powder in Blossom Glow

Wet N Wild Megaglo Highlighting Powder in Blossom Glow

Amazon

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Ideal for fairer skin

What We Don’t Like
  • Packaging can be a bit cheap

Finding the right shade of highlighter if you have fair skin can sometimes prove to be a bit tricky; many of the deeper or warmer shades can quickly look unnatural. This powder formula comes in four shades, all of which look great on paler skin tones, although Blossom Glow is an especially great choice. The cooler, pale pink adds just the right amount of pigment and shimmer and feels beautifully silky on the skin, too.

Size: 0.19 ounces | Shades: 4 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Liquid: Flower Beauty Spotlight Liquid Highlighter

Flower Beauty Spotlight Liquid Highlighter

Ulta

What We Like
  • Creamy texture

  • Contains skin-loving ingredients

  • Built-in applicator

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricier than some other options

Scibelli says this is a fantastic drugstore option. Even though it’s technically a liquid, he says the texture is more akin to a cream, creating a dewy, skin-like finish and blending in beautifully. (To that point, the formula also contains moisturizing ingredients, such as goji berries and cranberry seeds.) He also lauds it for the built-in sponge-tip applicator and three universal shades.

Size: 0.47 ounces | Shades: 3 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Stick: Burt’s Bees All Aglow Bronzer Stick

Burt’s Bees All Aglow Bronzer Stick

Amazon

What We Like
  • Easy to apply

  • Contains skin-loving ingredients

  • Travel-friendly

What We Don’t Like
  • Reviewers say it’s a bit too sheer

“I recommend these sticks for anyone who loves the look of dewy skin,” says Scibelli of another one of his faves. “They’re made with coconut and jojoba oils to create a hydrated, dewy look, and the formula is clean and natural,” he adds. His preferred way of using them? Swiping them on just above the cheekbones and around the temples for a super natural effect. Plus, since they come in a stick, there are no tools (or even a mirror) required for application. Just dab on and rub it with your fingertips.

Size: 0.3 ounces | Shades: 2 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Powder: Revlon SkinLights Prismatic Highlighter

Revlon SkinLights Prismatic Highlighter

Amazon

What We Like
  • Buildable formula

  • Silky texture

What We Don’t Like
  • Reviewers say glitter particles are too noticeable

“This is a highly pigmented powder highlighter that reflects light and creates a beautiful glow to the skin, comparable to that of a prestige powder highlighter,” explains Scibelli. He adds that it’s also a great choice for anyone with combination or oily skin or who doesn’t love the look or feel of cream or liquid formulas. Still, even though it’s a powder, it is silky and soft and never comes across as cakey or chalky. It’s also super buildable, making it easy to achieve your desired level of shimmer.

Size: 0.31 ounces | Shades: 3 | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Shade Range: ColourPop Super Shock Highlighter

ColourPop Super Shock Highlighter

Courtesy of Ulta

What We Like
  • Cream-powder hybrid formula

  • Long-lasting

  • Goes on very smooth

What We Don’t Like
  • Has some fallout

As a general rule of thumb, highlighters tend to come in two, three, or maybe four shades. That’s why we’re so impressed that this option comes in a whopping array of seven colors, ranging from a super pale pink to golden champagne (and everything in between). No matter which hue you choose, the formula goes on like a cream but sets like a powder and has impressive staying power.

Size: 0.15 ounces | Shades: 7 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Contouring: Wet n Wild MegaGlo Contouring Palette

Wet n Wild MegaGlo Contouring Palette

Ulta

What We Like
  • Multi-tasking product

  • Great for contouring-beginners

  • Good value

What We Don’t Like
  • Has some fallout

Contouring and highlighting are kind of like the peanut butter and jelly of the makeup world—you can have one without the other, but they’re just better together. And this convenient compact makes it easy to do exactly that. Use the deeper hue for contouring purposes and the lighter one to highlight—it’s just that easy.

Size: 0.44 ounces | Shades: 1 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Palette: Milani Stellar Lights Highlighter Palette

Milani Stellar Lights Highlighter Palette

Courtesy of Amazon

What We Like
  • Multiple shades can be mixed and matched

  • Vegan

  • Goes on very smooth

What We Don’t Like
  • Has some fallout

Use any of the three highlighter shades individually or mix and match them for even more ways to add luminosity and radiance to your complexion. The vegan powders are all micro-milled for extra smooth application and blendability, and the palette comes in two trios of shades, too, one with cooler undertones and one with warmer.

Size: 0.42 ounces | Shades: 2 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Face and Body: NYX Professional Makeup Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator

NYX Professional Makeup Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator

Amazon

What We Like
  • Can be used on face and body

  • Very pigmented

What We Don’t Like
  • Reviewers say glitter particles are too noticeable

Highlighting isn’t just for your face: You can also apply a highlighter to accent certain areas of your body, like your collarbone, decolletage, and even shins. If you’re in search of a formula that works equally well everywhere, check out this pick. Scibelli says the super-pigmented formula works beautifully on both face and body. And, if you want to sheer it out a bit, try mixing a drop of it with your foundation to create a more subdued, all-over glow, he advises.

Size: 0.6 ounces | Shades: 4 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Final Verdict

Don’t sleep on the many amazing highlighters found at the drugstore. The Physicians Formula Butter Highlighter and Maybelline New York Facestudio Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter are two of our overall top picks, both pressed powder formulas that blend seamlessly into skin. If you prefer the more pigmented effect of a liquid, try the Flower Beauty Spotlight Liquid Highlighter, a moisturizing formula that leaves skin beautifully dewy. The Burt’s Bees All Aglow Bronzer Stick is another choice pick, a super easy-to-use stick that also has the distinction of being 100 percent natural. 

What to Look For in a Drugstore Highlighter

Format

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.

Illumination

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.

FAQ
  • How do you make highlighter look good?

    Makeup artist Tobi Henney has a multistep process for highlighting. She recommends starting with a cream highlighter on your cheekbones, then adding a powder highlighter over that. She also recommends highlighting down the bridge of your nose, the inner corners of your eyes, and your cupid's bow.

  • 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?

    Blush usually goes on before highlighter. Apply it as you normally would for a natural flush, then move on to your 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, a highlighter is used to illuminate the points on your face where the light naturally hits.

How We Researched

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. She loves and will try any type of highlighter and can attest that, yes, sometimes the inexpensive drugstore options are just as good as their more expensive counterparts. 

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Today. Glow like a pro with these 8 makeup-artist approved drugstore highlighters.

  2. Cosmopolitan. 10 Best Drugstore Highlighters That Actually Look Natural.

  3. Good Housekeeping. 13 Best Drugstore Highlighters for a Natural Glow.

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