Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Highlighters, in my opinion, are more fun than foundation because they involve a lower margin of error, light up your skin, and don’t require complicated calculations to figure out where to place them. And right now, highlighters come in every finish imaginable—dewy highlighters to top off the deceptively simple “no makeup” makeup look, liquid highlighters that come out of the bottle like molten metal, and creamy holographic highlighters that add a pretty, shimmery flush of color all over your cheeks. To help you wade through the options, read on for the top highlighters, from a silky coconut formula to an impressively pigmented budget pick.
Best Overall: Anastasia Beverly Hills Amrezy Highlighter
This limited-edition collaboration with Instagram beauty blogger Amrezy sold out a few months ago, before Anastasia Beverly Hills decided to restock it for a second run, to everyone’s relief. The Amrezy Highlighter comes in a black compact emblazoned with delicate gold stars, a small, shiny brick of luminous decadence. The silky, champagne-gold powder looks pretty enough on its own. Applied wet, it’s blinding. The buttery, buildable formula melts into skin without reading too glittery. Plus, it works across skin tones.
Best Budget: J.Cat Beauty You Glow Girl Baked Highlighter
The You Glow Girl Baked Highlighter is surprisingly good for the price. It’s one of the more glittery highlighters, so not quite as natural-looking as the Amrezy. Still, it creates a luminous finish on the skin that catches the light quite nicely. The J.Cat highlighter comes in nine shades, including a shimmery pistachio green. If you have texture, don’t worry—the smooth formula skims over scars and acne without emphasizing anything.
Best for Pale Skin: Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops
A consistent favorite, the Cover FX drops can be applied straight to skin or mixed in with moisturizer or foundation for an all-over glow. The molten liquid drops don’t appear glittery at all—just very, very shiny. Most highlighters come in a champagne gold color that’s one or two shades too dark for pale skin. The Halo and Celestial shades, which run on the silvery side, fix that problem. The Cover FX drops also apply over skin without moving the foundation underneath. Once the highlighter goes on, it sinks right in for a silky, foil finish.
Best for Dark Skin: Becca Shimmer Skin Perfector
Becca’s highlighters are in general, gorgeous, and it’s easy to forget that they make any other products. Thanks to a pearl-infused formulation, the Shimmer Skin Perfector creates a beautiful warm glow, with 12 shades in both warm and cool undertones to choose from. The selection of gold highlighters, like Gold Lava, Topaz, and the bronzy Chocolate Geode, enhance your natural glow without too much work. The silky formula lasts for hours and produces a radiance that’s like sunlight on your face—no chunky glitter here.
Best Cream Highlighter: Glossier Haloscope
If you prefer natural-looking makeup with little fuss (which you probably do if you skipped right to this option from Glossier) this one’s for you. The Haloscope highlighter looks a little peculiar at first, with a hydrating balm in the center with a creamy highlighter wrapped around it. Together, they spread a subtle, dewy highlight over cheekbones. The highlight you get from the Haloscope isn’t glittery, since it’s meant to impart a natural sheen rather than anything that’d be visible from space. Packaged in a plastic twist-up stick that doesn’t require too much precision, the easily blendable Haloscope is best when you’re on the go.
Best Powder Highlighter: Laura Geller Baked Gelato Swirl Illuminator
The Swirl Illuminator’s baked in a swirled pattern meant to remind you of the indulgent Italian dessert it’s named for. The smooth highlighter comes in a simple circular compact and applies without any of the dryness associated with cream-to-powder formulas. A single layer results in a juicy glow that lasts for hours. It’s on the more subtle side, but can be intensified with a powder highlighter or additional lawyers on top.
Best Stick Highlighter: Hourglass Vanish Flash Highlighting Stick
As seen with its Ambient Lighting powders, Hourglass’ brand identity seemingly revolves around adorning everyone in a sultry glow. This highlighter is no different. The triangular shape of the Vanish Flash Highlighting Stick makes applying on the brow bone (or any other areas on the face) a breeze. Unlike other stick formulas, the Hourglass version isn’t overly creamy or gritty so that it drags the foundation underneath. It’s smooth enough to run over cheekbones and everywhere else you’d want to luminize. As the formula warms up, the creamy highlighter sinks right in for a seamless finish.
Best Liquid Highlighter: Marc Jacobs Beauty Dew Drops Coconut Gel Highlighter
This pick from Marc Jacobs, contrary to its product description, lies somewhere between a liquid and a gel highlighter. It’s infused with coconut (which you can smell, faintly) to hydrate skin and comes in two shades: Pearly gold and a limited-edition rose gold. The Dew Drops Coconut Gel Highlighter’s racked up more than 1,000 five-star reviews on Sephora for its flattering, silky finish on the skin. Fair warning: With this super-pigmented formula, it’s easy to overapply. One drop is enough, believe it or not, for the entire face.
Our writers spent 45 hours researching the most popular highlighters on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 16 different highlighters overall, screened options from 12 different brands and manufacturers, read over 70 user reviews (both positive and negative) and tested 4 of the highlighters themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.