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Here’s the beautiful thing about choosing a highlighter—the world is your oyster. Do you want a liquid formula with a molten metal-like gleam? You got it. Or maybe a clear balm that makes your complexion look effortlessly dewy is more your jam, or a pressed powder with holographic shimmer. You get the point—there are more highlighters than ever before, in every possible type of formula and finish. But, it’s a little bit of a double-edged sword because the sheer amount of options can sometimes be a little (read: a lot) intimidating.
So consider the below your highlighter handbook, a helpful compilation of the best of the best. It’s time to get glowing.
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 satin-y finish offers a gorgeous wash of incandescent color—it comes in five 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.
We’re big fans of any and every kind of stick product, largely for the ease of use—juts swipe and go. This highlighter is no different. In true Glossier fashion, the glow factor is noticeable, yet subtle; credit genuine crystal extracts. And that white center you see? It’s an oil-based core that imparts hydration and helps the stick glide on super smoothly.
If you love a liquid highlighter, Byrdie Associate Editor Holly Rhue recommends this one. It feels undetectable, and the glow factor is wearable, buildable, and totally believable. Sephora shoppers praise it for exactly that, noting that it’s perfect for every day. We also appreciate the doe-foot applicator, which makes it easy to dot the perfect amount onto the strategic spots you want to highlight.
Byrdie Editorial Director Faith Xue can’t get enough of this highlighter, repeatedly singing its praises and sharing how many compliments she gets when wearing it (daily). The velvety consistency melts beautifully into the skin creating what Xue describes as, “a cosmic baby angel glow.” There’s an impressive array of six shades, all of which boast a non-toxic formula on top of all the other attributes.
Prefer powders? Xue suggests this convenient palette, which houses a bronzer and highlighter, both in a silky pressed powder form. While the two work totally fine separately, they pair beautifully together, the perfect way to define and highlight all of your features. Throw this and a foundation stick in your purse and you have everything you need to score flawless skin anytime, anywhere.
If you associate drugstore highlighters with full-on, unicorn-style glitter you’re not entirely wrong. Once upon a time, not so long ago, that was pretty much what you got. But times have changed, and now there are plenty of amazing drugstore highlighters that will make your skin look stunning, without doing a number on your wallet.
This stick, a favorite of Xue’s, is proof-positive of just that. Micro-fine pearls add the perfect amount of glow—enough that you can see it, but not so much that you run the aforementioned unicorn risk. The chunky size is easy to swipe on, and it comes in two equally pretty shades, a pale pink and nude champagne.
If you can’t treat yourself to a Chanel bag, go ahead and treat yourself to this highlighter, another one of Gould’s favorites. Silky and smooth, any of the three shades look equally gorgeous 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 a twist-up stick.
You can find highlighters in all kinds of pretty shades, but if you want to keep it simple and just let your natural skin really shine through, opt for a clear variant, like this one. It’s a go-to for Karli Bendlin, Byrdie’s Email Editor, for both the lightweight feel and beautifully glossy finish it offers. And no, it’s not in the least bit sticky or tacky, just nice and hydrating, thanks to a combo of passion fruit and marula oils.
With this pick, it’s not about the quantity of the shades, it’s about the quality. There are three to choose from: the standard rose gold and bronze options, as well as a more unexpected cool lilac that looks particularly pretty on deeper complexions. Hyaluronic acid in the formula moisturizes and plumps skin (always a good thing). Warm a dab in between your fingers or on the back of your hand before applying, and the bouncy, cushiony texture will blend in even more seamlessly into skin.
Rhue vouches for this multi-tasker, a must for fans of the ‘no-makeup makeup’ look. Technically speaking, it’s actually not really considered a highlighter at all; the hydrating balm boasts of a combo of natural oils plus shea butter to help moisturize dry spots from head to toe. That being said, the unintended side effect of said hydration is a beautiful, dewy finish, so go ahead and load it onto cheekbones with reckless abandon.
Try dabbing it onto lids to create a very on-trend glossy eye.
Leave it to Rihanna to come up with more highlighter colors than we’ve ever seen before. Since the more traditional champagne or bronzy tones most similar products come in can often disappear on darker skin, we greatly appreciate that this one comes in, wait for it, 15 different colors. That includes vibrant pinks and yellows and oranges, all of which pop on deeper skin tones.
As any professional makeup artist will tell you, the key to creating a natural-looking contour is to pair it 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% pure pigments, so just a little bit delivers the right amount of color to help sculpt and define your features. Then flip it over and using the shimmery side, which imparts buildable glow that can easily be more subtle or full-on strobe-like.
No matter whether you seek out clean formulas, or, like us, love a good stick product, this option is sure to please. It’s another one Xue’s favorites, a vegan find filled with good-for-your-skin organic ingredients; think coconut, jojoba oil, and shea butter, among others. While it only comes in one tone—a subdued bronze—it works well on most skin tones, imparting a sheer wash of glimmery shine.