We live and breathe beauty at Byrdie HQ, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single one of our editors without 50 beauty products on her desk at all times. That being said, it’s nice to have a second (or rather, seventh) opinion around here. Thus, we wondered: What if we gave one you a chance to swatch, swipe, and weigh in on some of the buzziest products in the industry? After all, who better to give it to us straight than one of our very own readers? So we posted an open call on Instagram to seek out a Byrdie reader with a way with words and a beauty-loving temperament after our own hearts. The winner? Stefani Botelho (@botste), to whom we promptly shipped six of the most popular highlighters on the market with the request that she test them. Keep reading to find out her verdict.
A few months ago, I was inspired by Alicia Keys’s #nomakeup essay on Lenny Letter, but I knew I didn’t have the time, willpower, or cold hard cash to commit to her regimen of healthy eating, exercise, and acupuncture to literally be lit from within. I wanted a shortcut to that glow, so I started looking for a highlighter to add to my arsenal that would turn back the clock by giving my features a youthful, natural dew. I wanted a formula that imparted sheen, not shine and blended as easily into bare skin as a full face of makeup. When I saw Byrdie was putting together a #ByrdieReviewed on highlighters, I jumped at the opportunity to help. Luckily, I found several highlighter sticks to help me look more like a defined, downtown cool girl than a David Bowie glitter groupie. So sit back, relax, and scroll through my reviews to get your glow.
Ilia’s organic highlighter has a rosehip oil, cocoa, and shea butter base, which promises a subtle, truly natural glow. Although the consistency is firm and dry, the formula quickly sunk in once it warmed on my skin to give me a reflective sheen that caught the light in all the right ways. The pearly shade I tried brightened while never looking oily. It added subtle dimension to my features, but the key word here is “subtle”—it looked very, very natural, so it walks the line between “barely there” and “is it there at all?” It’s perfect for a day at the office or to compliment a pared-down (read: lazy) weekend look, but I need a product with more color payoff for nighttime. Apply everywhere (cheekbones, forehead, brow bones, Cupid’s bow, collarbone, etc.) and don’t be shy to layer this one.
Benefit’s High Beam quickly became a classic as it found its way into every high school girl’s makeup bag in the late ’90s (including my own). It’s easy to see why the creamy highlighter has become a new classic and, for me, the clear winner. The lightweight formula glided on easily and set on my skin the way a powder would, to give me the best of both worlds. The champagne shade created a warm glow that wasn’t too bronze. It left me with a natural looking luminescence that indicated a full night’s sleep. It was easy to layer from day to night for a more dramatic effect. The highlighter stick includes a sponge applicator to help with blending, but I found my own fingers did a better job.
Not being a fan of trends that are just new names for things people have been doing for decades left me skeptical of a “strobing” stick. I was quickly converted by Maybelline’s new, strongly pigmented highlighters in 100 (a light rose gold) and 200 (a warm champagne). The formula is creamy but not heavy, and the shades gave my skin a distinct radiance while steering clear of any chalkiness. It only required a very light swipe to deposit a lot of color before setting into a long-lasting, powdery finish, which begs a comparison to Benefit’s Watt’s Up for a fraction of the price.
Haloscope is from beauty newcomer Glossier, and I was excited to see if the product would live up to the expectations of the cool-girl marketing the brand is well known for. It features an outer ring of crystal-infused metallic sheen with a solid core of vitamin-rich balm. The shimmer is reflective without looking glittery and packs a punch of color. The texture feels silky and dries down well on the skin for a finish that stays put. Verdict is out if I was more creative (from the Topaz crystal) or hydrated (from the almond, castor, and coconut oils) as promised, but after a lot of blending, I did look as sun-kissed as I do in the peak of summer. I could see the gold shade being particularly flattering on darker skin tones. On me, this was more of a bronzer than a highlighter and also doubled as a great eye shadow.
I am a drugstore makeup devotee, so I wanted to love Revlon’s highlighter. The formula applied smoothly but felt heavier than its counterparts, leaving a more obvious finish that felt more like disco than dewy. I was disappointed but decided to give it another go and had much better success by lightly tapping it on the high points of my face with my fingertips instead of swiping and blending. I still found both shades to be a little frosty on my skin tone, but these sticks offer a lot of color that is buildable and can work separately as well as together. Personally, I would reserve this one for a big night out where I want a striking, Instagram-worthy look.
Have you tried any of these highlighters? Do you agree with Stephanie’s reviews? Sound off below! Then check out the drugstore highlighters makeup artist are obsessed with.