When choosing a highlighter, the world is your oyster. Do you want a liquid formula with a molten metal-like gleam? There's a product for that. A clear balm that makes your complexion look effortlessly dewy? There's a product for that, too. You get the point—there are more highlighters on the market than ever before, and in every possible formula and finish you can think of.
With that being said, the overload of options can often feel intimidating and leave you wondering what is the right one for your skin—and when you do find it, how best to use it. So, we combined hours of research as well as our editor's hands-on experiences to bring to you a comprehensive list of the best highlighters on the market. From natural-looking options to beaming powders and more, we've got you covered no matter your preference. We evaluated them based on formula, application, shade range, and wear, and we're sharing our picks with you below.
MAC Mineralize Skinfinish
Smooth, lightweight formula
Diverse shade range
Shiny, but natural-looking finish on skin
Great for all skin types
Some shades have micro glitter in them
This highlighter was one of the original highlighting products on the market, and it stands the test of time. The baked powder formula is soft and lightweight, and it works to illuminate the complexion without looking overly metallic, greasy, or powdery. It comes in a range of shades with various depths and undertones that complement different complexions, and it's quick and easy to apply with a few strokes of a highlighting brush. Unlike cream formulas that can contribute to excess oil—especially for those with oily skin—this one is flattering on all skin types. With one gentle swipe, you're able to achieve a natural-looking glow, but it can also be built up for a more intense highlight, making it a versatile product that any makeup collection can benefit from.
Price at time of publish: $40
Type: Powder | Shades: 5 | Size: 0.35 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
e.l.f. Cosmetics Halo Glow Liquid Filter
Smooth, creamy formula
Comfortable feel on skin
Subtle, glowing finish
Large shade range
Shades could go a bit lighter and a bit deeper
E.l.f. nailed it with this liquid formula that works beautifully as a luminous primer or a traditional highlighter for more targeted application. The texture is smooth and lightweight, and there are absolutely no large glitter particles, making it an excellent option for those on the hunt for a skin-like glow. The large doe-foot applicator makes application quick and easy, and it can be blended out in seconds with your desired blending tool. Once applied, it creates an etherial radiance to the skin that truly looks like it's coming from within. While we adore that it's offered in so many shades, we would love to see a lighter option for those with very fair skin, as well as a darker option for those with very deep skin.
Price at time of publish: $14
Type: Liquid | Shades: 8 | Size: 1 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Chanel Baume Essential Multi-Use Glow Stick
Goes on smoothly
Easy to apply
Remains tacky on the skin
If you want to treat yourself to a little luxury item, this gorgeous highlighter is a great place to start. The silk, smoothy, juicy-looking formula looks gorgeous when swiped onto cheeks, lips, or lids. While one layer offers a more sheer, dewy finish, you can also build it up for more impact. Bonus points for the fact that it comes in an easy-to-use twist-up stick. While we adore the dewy glow it creates, beware that it does remain a bit tacky on the skin.
Price at time of publish: $45
Type: Stick | Shades: 3 | Finish: Gloss | Size: 0.3 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
RMS Beauty Living Luminizer
Gives a sheer, natural-looking glow
Skin looks lit from within
Can look a little patchy when layered
This long-beloved pick (Byrdie’s Senior Editor, Hallie Gould, is just one of a legion of devoted fans) is more about leaving skin with a natural-looking glow rather than coating it with glitter. It strikes that perfect balance, offering plenty of radiance without veering into disco-ball territory. The creamy finish is super easy to blend onto the high points of the face with your fingertips, making it a great product for an on-the-go makeup look.
The luminous finish offers a gorgeous wash of incandescent color—it comes in four shades—while the base is rich in skin-loving hydrators such as coconut oil and vitamin E. Plus, it works equally as well dabbed on your cheekbones as it does on spots like your collarbone, chest, or even shins.
Price at time of publish: $35
Type: Cream | Shades: 4 | Size: 0.2 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Rare Beauty Positive Light Silky Touch Highlighter
Smooth, high-shine finish
Powder is very fragile
Rare Beauty has created yet another fantastic product with this silky powder highlight. The ultra-smooth formula is so finely milled and completely weightless, allowing it to provide an airbrushed finish on the skin. In fact, it's so soft that the product is prone to cracking if you drop it, so be careful. We love that while it provides a super high-shine finish that can be built up to create a blinding highlight, it doesn't look overly metallic on the skin, nor does it look dry or powdery. If you're looking for a powder formula to give your complexion some serious illumination that somehow looks pretty skin-like, this is the one for you.
Price at time of publish: $25
Type: Powder | Shades: 4 | Size: 0.1 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Victoria Beckham Beauty Reflect Highlighter Stick
Sheer, shiny finish
Remains slightly tacky on the skin
We often reject the idea that products are universally flattering, as everyone's skin tones are truly so different—but this highlighter really does look so beautiful on everyone. It has a clear base with an extremely fine pearl running through it, so the color is almost undetectable—it's just enough to provide the most natural-looking glimmer. The stick format makes it easy to swipe on, and the creamy formula can be effortlessly blended with your fingertips, a brush, or a sponge. It can be used on bare skin or layered on top of foundation for a sophisticated, glowing finish, and we love that the compact packaging is chic and easy to pop into any bag.
Price at time of publish: $42
Type: Stick | Shades: 1 | Size: 0.2 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Auric Cosmetics Glow Lust Radiant Luminizer
Inclusive shade range
Skin-like, glowing finish
Shades are pretty opaque, so they're not super flexible across skin tones
If you're looking for a liquid highlighter that appears incredibly natural and elevated on the skin, we highly recommend checking this one out. The creamy formula contains squalane and glycerin to keep the skin hydrated, yet it's not greasy or heavy once applied, making it an excellent liquid option for all skin types. It can be applied underneath foundation or layered on top for a subtle glow, and you can build it up slightly for added luminosity. It also works beautifully as a mix-in product to enhance the glow of your foundation—it's truly so versatile. Plus, it comes in the most gorgeous glass packaging that looks beautiful on any vanity.
The brand nailed the shade range of this formula—there are eight different colors that range from fair to dark with varying undertones. But while there's no need to get an exact shade match to your skin, it's worth nothing that the formula is pretty opaque, so getting a color that's as close to your skin tone as possible is ideal.
Price at time of publish: $47
Type: Liquid | Shades: 8 | Size: 1.2 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Dior Backstage Glow Face Palette
Smooth, lightweight formula
Powder blends into the skin seamlessly
Excellent color story
Some shades have fine glitter in them
If you like to customize your highlight color, you'll love this palette from Dior. It comes with four different shades that range in depth and color, and the formula is buttery smooth and ultra-shiny. The baked powder doesn't produce any kickback, making it totally mess-free, and just one or two swipes with a brush is all you need to get intense color payoff. Despite how shiny it is, it still manages to maintain a fairly authentic-looking appearance on the skin, and miraculously, it doesn't emphasize texture nearly as much as other powder highlighters do. While some shades to have a fine glitter to them, we find that tapping off your brush and being sure to really blend the product into the skin seems to mitigate a glittery finish.
Price at time of publish: $45
Type: Powder | Shades: 2 colorways | Size: 0.35 oz | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No
UOMA Beauty Double Take Contour Stick
Great for contouring and highlighting
Highlighter shades all lean pretty warm in tone
As any professional makeup artist will tell you, the key to creating natural-looking contour is to pair a creamy contour stick with a strategically placed highlighter. Enter this dual-ended stick, which makes it easier than ever to do just that. The contour end is made with 30 percent pure pigments, so just a little bit delivers the right amount of color to help " your features. Then flip it over and use the shimmery side, which imparts buildable glow that can easily be more subtle or full-on strobe-like.
Price at time of publish: $40
Type: Stick | Shades: 5 | Size: 0.4 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No
Ami Colé Light-Catching Highlighter Balm
Universal for all skin tones
Glowy, natural finish
Looks beautiful on bare skin or over foundation
Feels lightweight on the skin
Not the most long-wearing
Translucent, balm-like highlighters are excellent for anyone who appreciates a no makeup, makeup look. We adore this one because it's truly translucent, meaning it works for every skin tone and won't leave a cast on the skin. While you will notice super fine shimmer particles scattered throughout the stick, they're almost undetectable once you apply it. The balmy texture blends into bare skin to create an effortless glow, and it also layers nicely on top of foundation. It's not the most long-wearing highlighter formula, but the stick format and easy application make re-applying totally doable throughout the day.
Price at time of publish: $22
Type: Stick | Shades: 1 | Size: 0.14 oz | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Our favorite highlighter is the MAC Mineralize Skinfinish. It's lightweight, features a diverse shade range, and it strikes a nice balance between a natural-looking finish and an intense glow. If you're looking for an affordable option that creates a subtle luminosity on the skin, we recommend the e.l.f. Halo Glow Liquid Filter. And if you want a translucent highlighter that's a quick, on-the-go product, go for the Ami Colé Light-Catching Highlighter Balm.
Meet the Expert
Emily Amick is a New York City based makeup artist with more than a decade of experience. Her work has been featured in magazines like Paper, Vogue, Marie-Claire, and Town and Country, and on red carpets for icons like Jenifer Lewis and Venus Williams.
What to Look For in a Highlighter
Choosing the right formula is the first step in finding the perfect highlighter for you. Whether a balm, stick, powder, or liquid, there's something for everyone (and every look). If you want something with an intense shine, powders, like the Rare Beauty Positive Light Silky Touch Highlighter, are a great option. If you're aiming for a more subtle glow with a creamy formula, try the Victoria Beckham Beauty Reflect Highlighter Stick.
Your preferred finish will largely depend on the look you're after. Dewy, satin and glossy finishes are often the top choices for fans of "no-makeup makeup." Those going for high glam often opt for pigmented, slightly glittery highlighters that impart a megawatt glow.
Where should you apply highlighter on the face?
The intention of highlighter is to give your complexion a glow and enhance your features. Apply it to the areas of your face that you want to draw attention to. "I like to highlight through the center of the face," says Amick. "Forehead, bridge of nose, chin, and cheekbones if I were to give a general answer. However, bone structure of course plays a factor. If someone is self conscious of any of those areas it might not be best to draw attention to them by using a highlighter. Remember, highlighting draws focus, so be mindful of what you want to show off and what you'd rather not. There is no one-size fits all application when it comes to makeup."
What type of highlighter is best?
As you can tell from this list, there are various types of highlighter formulas. Which one is best? That really depends on what you want your makeup to look like. Amick explains that if you want a really bright highlight, opting for a powder is your best option. "If I want a really intense pigment, I might even use my finger to apply a powder highlight and really press it into the skin," she says. On the other hand, she explains that creams and liquids can be applied before or after foundation to create a more lit-from-within glow.
How an you make highlighter look natural?
If a natural-looking highlighter is what you're hoping to achieve, Amick explains that using cream or liquid products, or even a light shade of concealer, is often the way to go. But if you prefer powder products, she says it's all in the formula and the application. "If you're using a shimmery highlighter, take into account how fine or chunky the shimmer actually is," she says "If your highlighter looks more like glitter than a fine powder, it is probably going to be difficult to make it look natural. If you're more comfortable with a powder highlight make sure it has a fine texture and use a fluffy brush to apply so the powder is more diffused."