If you didn’t own a highlighter a year ago, today you probably own 12. Just as 1999 was the year of butterfly clips and 2003 the year of punky black eyeliner, 2017 is the year of the highlighter. But judging by the blinding radiance coming from your cheekbones, you probably knew that already.
Here’s our theory: In a dramatic rebellion from the harsh contouring trend, the beauty community has ricocheted in the opposite direction with force. The result? Such things as the “Full Face Using Only Highlighters” challenge trending on YouTube and the term “aliengelic ” becoming a part of our daily vernacular.
Nearly every makeup brand has released a highlighter over the past two years, but they’re not all created equal. Highlighters come in a wide variety of textures and finishes: sparkly, glittery, satiny… but our preferred type of highlighter happens to be very specific: In the Byrdie office, it’s dewy or bust.
When we say dewy, what we mean is glossy, glistening, and natural—like you just walked in from spending a hot afternoon by the pool. No chunky sparkles, no glitter, just pure dew.
Dead set on finding the absolute dewiest highlighters on the market, we devised a dewiness scale—a Dewy Decimal System, if you will—and ranked 13 popular picks.
Keep scrolling for our honest reviews of the dewiest highlighters on the market.
The promise: “Face Gloss provides a colorless finish and sheen on bare skin or on top of foundation while its lightweight, vitamin-rich formula nourishes your skin.” — Milk
The review: “When it comes to that slick, glossy, almost wet-faced look, Milk clearly gets it. There’s no way to describe the texture and finish of this stuff other than the name—face gloss. Slather this over your eyelids, on the tops of your cheekbones, and in your Cupid’s bow for a perfectly modelesque, dew-soaked look.” — Amanda Montell, Byrdie associate features editor
The promise: “Inspired by extraordinary light phenomena, each shade imparts an ethereal glow—with a highlight that subtly shifts and transforms to reveal a remarkable depth of color.” — Rituel de Fille
The review: “There are few beauty products that I feel so strongly about I will interrupt a stranger’s conversation to tell them they just need to use it, and Rituel de Fille’s Living Luminizers are one of them. (Just ask my fellow Byrdie editors Hallie and Lindsey—I practically forced the products into their hands and stood over them impatiently until they applied. Luckily, they now share my same passion.) There’s something about an iridescent, purple-tinged highlighter that just speaks to my soul, and Rituel de Fille’s cream version in Ghost Light is the best of the best.
It looks a soft, shimmery white at first, then purple and even slightly blue depending on the angle. It blends beautifully—I use my fingertips to tap it along the tops of my cheekbones for a subtle, otherworldly glow. I can’t get enough.” — Faith Xue, Byrdie editorial director
The promise: “Our satiny pink liquid highlighter accents cheek and brow bones for a dewy glow.” — Benefit Cosmetics
The review: “This has been my go-to highlighter since my freshman year of college. It gives me an ethereal glow without looking like a shimmery mess. Whenever I wear it, I receive compliments on how dewy my skin looks. I’ve tried other highlighters, and yes, some of them are really good, but my first love will always be High Beam.” — Aimee Jefferson, Byrdie social media editor
The promise: “It’s a subtle shimmer cream that wakes the entire face up and gives the skin that dewy look K-beauty put on the map.” — 24/7
The review: “Considering K-beauty is all about a dewy, youthful glow, I had high expectations for this product. I was hesitant as the product came out quite thick, opaque, and slightly pink. How would I achieve K-pop star–level dew and luminosity with this? Well, my doubts were quickly proven wrong. As I tapped the product onto the high points of my face, I was seriously impressed. This is the ideal product for anyone who hates shimmer in their highlighter but still wants to glisten and glow. I don’t think my skin has ever reached this level of wet, glowy dewiness.
The best part, though, was when I dabbed some under my eyes. The area looked way brighter in seconds, and I looked like I actually got a decent amount of sleep (which I most definitely did not).” — Paulina Campos, Byrdie editorial intern
The promise: “The galaxy’s first dew effect highlighter. It’s a dual-delivery formula: the outer halo is infused with genuine crystal extracts for all-day enlightenment, with a solid oil core of vitamin-rich moisturizers for a hydrated, dewy finish.” — Glossier
The review: “I’m typically a blush girl, but Glossier’s Haloscope in Topaz brings my skin a little color while giving me major glow. I apply it to the highest points of my cheekbones for a lit-from-within look. It’s lightweight, and the natural oils in the product really give me that coveted dew without looking too shiny. It sometimes feels a little sticky when I first put it on, but overall I love it.” — Maddie Sensibile, Obsessee editor
The promise: “A brightening highlighter with a pearl color that boosts the look of the skin’s vitality for a dewy, youthful appearance.” — Ilia
The review: “This isn’t just my holy grail highlighter—it’s my holy grail makeup product, period. Trying it on for the first time a couple of years ago suddenly and completely changed my entire makeup routine—it just finally gave me this glowy finish that really brought my entire look together in a subtle but essential way. It really creates that perfect illusion of a dewy, lit-from-within finish without actually feeling wet or sticky. Plus, it’s created from really hydrating, plant-based ingredients, so it actually improves my skin while I wear it.” — Victoria Hoff, Byrdie news editor
The promise: “Its 100% natural, creamy formula goes on sheer, catching and reflecting light to brighten the look of the areas that the sun would naturally illuminate for a subtle, lit-from-within glow.” —Tata Harper
The review: “As an oily-skinned gal, I’ve mostly stayed away from products that promise a dewy finish out of fear that my face would end up looking like an oily mess. I think the wet look is so pretty, but trying out a dewy highlighter always seemed counterintuitive after years of trying to achieve a perfectly matte complexion. However, this product has convinced me that dewy yet non-greasy skin is possible to achieve. The balm-like formula glides on without disturbing my makeup, and it blends seamlessly into my skin.
I’m glowing—but without one fleck of shimmer in sight. The finish looks dewy, almost wet, but not oily or greasy in the slightest. This product will give you the fresh, natural glow we all wish we were born with.” — Paulina
The promise: “This formula is the ultimate illuminator for creating a sensuous, sheer, luminous glow.” — RMS
The review: “I prefer a subtle, pearlescent finish over anything glittery—and Rose-Marie Swift had those same requirements in mind when she created this product. It has a base of coconut and castor oils, so it really melts into your skin for a natural-looking dewiness.” — Victoria
The promise: “The sheer cream luminizer gives skin a uniquely mist-like radiance as a result of the balanced ratio of pearly gold and silver pigments. … [It] glides on smoothly and effortlessly for the right dose of dewiness anytime, anywhere.” — Marc Jacobs
The review: “A lot of brands describe their highlighters as ‘pearlescent.’ I’ve never met a pearlier highlighter than this one. Before it’s even applied, it looks beautiful in the packaging, so shiny that it’s almost holographic. Not to mention the packaging itself—it’s minimalistic, clean, and unique. It’s a package that makes me want to toss it in my bag for busy days. The intensity is the same once it’s applied on the skin. One swipe on my cheekbone was all it took for an intensely dewy highlight.
I usually don’t go for intense, but its creamy, blendable formula convinced me otherwise. It may be a splurge for a highlighter, but I believe it’s worth it.” — Kaitlyn
The promise: “The ultimate in luminosity … Use on key areas of the face for a perfectly dewy glow.” — L’Oréal Paris
The review: “I love this stuff. It has more of a pinky blush color, but it looks amazing, like glowy color that doesn’t look crazy or like you have a bunch of makeup on. It’s super natural, like a subtle flush, which is awesome if you just want an awakened glow. … You could even use it for a bit of contour—it’s a great all-in-one product.” — Amanda Steele, Byrdie guest and YouTube star
The promise: “The creamy, pearl-infused formula housed in a portable stick creates an illuminated effect, making it easy to selectively highlight features or add a healthy glow to bare skin.” — Sonia Kashuk
The review: “When it comes to highlighter, I have to admit that I’m predisposed toward choosing the sparkle-free variety. I love dabbing a touch of the clear Maybelline Baby Lips on the high points of my face. It catches light in a very subtle way—a look I love. I’ve tried both drugstore and high-end highlighters in the past that made me look too icy for my liking. To me, there’s a difference between having a nice glow and looking like frost is forming on my face.
“With that being said, this Sonia Kashuk highlighter is impressive. Its golden undertones and finely milled sparkle can do double duty, transitioning from subtle to intense. Although it’s not my typical glossy highlight, it lends a similar dewiness to my complexion. I will definitely be wearing this again.” — Kaitlyn McLintock, Byrdie editorial intern
The promise: “Nars’s highlighting blushes subtly highlights the face with soft pigments and shimmering pearls to create instant radiance, leaving skin with a luminous glow.” —Nars
The review: “I was a full-fledged member of the cream highlighter club until I stumbled upon this gem. Yes, it’s a powder—so it doesn’t immediately inspire fantasies of dew. However, nothing has left me glowier or garnered more compliments from strangers. It’s subtle but reflects light in the prettiest way. I mean, would you expect anything less from an iconic brand like Nars?” —Hallie Gould, Byrdie senior editor
The promise: “Bring a halo of transformative light to your look with the Vapour Organic Beauty Halo Illuminator. This mineral makeup highlights and enhances your most beautiful features: cheeks, brow bones, lips, and décolletage. Halo Illuminator is non-irritating, will not clog pores.”
The review: “I love that this is a totally clean highlighter—no unwanted chemicals or toxins, which seems pretty oxymoronic for something that’s supposed to give you a ‘healthy glow,’ anyway. It’s super sheer, but buildable depending on the level of cheekbone bling you’re after.” — Lindsey Metrus, managing editor
Dewy decimal rating:
What’s your favorite highlighter? Tell us in the comments!