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Everybody loves a good glow. You know the one—we're talking a warm shine that gives you that golden hour look at any time of the day, without overdoing it on the glitter. And that's why there's nothing worse than thinking you've found your perfect highlighter, only to discover that it leaves a stark, unnatural contrast or a chalky, powdery finish.
When choosing makeup for deeper skin tones, it's important to choose shades that are warmer—think bronzes and rosy golds. You'll want to avoid any shades that are too cool or icy. To help weed out the weak, we went straight to the source and asked a handful of Black women which highlighters they recommend and use on their own skin.
Whether you're looking for a liquid, cream, or powder illuminator, we've got you covered. Read on for the best highlighters for dark skin tones.
Best Overall: Aether Beauty Supernova Crushed Diamond Highlighter
Diamonds are ethically sourced
Gives a shining, bright highlight
Has skincare benefits
Frequently out of stock
Vegan, cruelty-free, clean? You name it, this highlighter's got it—minus the icky ingredients. This product is made with women of color in mind, so you can count on it to be brown-skin friendly without the chalky residue. It also has crushed diamonds in the formula, so you can shine bright like a diamond, literally.
"Diamonds [may] actually help to moisturize and protect the collagen in your skin," Āether Beauty founder Tiila Abbitt says. "But, then you also get the spiritual side of all of these minerals that are added. Diamonds [are believed by some people to] help to embrace the strength of one's character."
Type: Powder | Shades: 3 | Finish: Shimmer | Size: 0.4 oz. | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes
Best Long Wear: Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter
When Trophy Wife hit the market, we saw shimmering gold all over our timelines, and for a good reason. The weightless, cream-powder formula lasts all day long and gives your cheeks that sought-after glow. Model and owner of Slaid in Braids, Helena Koudou, says, "It's not too bright or too bold; it's just perfect, and it blends well with my skin."
Best for Medium Brown Tones: Smashbox x Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector
When your brown skin is much too dark for fair skin products but still too light for ultra-rich tones, it can be tricky to decide a shade for you. Luckily, this cream-based formula blends into a range of skin tones for a shimmer ideal for any occasion, according to visual artist Leah Chin.
"This highlighter is my favorite," she says. "My go-to makeup look is natural glam, and this highlighter gives me the best of both worlds. It's very bright and luminous but doesn't give a powdery and overly shimmery look. Instead, I consistently end up with a glowy and dewy look, which I love."
Best Splurge: Pat McGrath Labs Sublime Skin Highlighting Trio
This multi-use highlighter pulls out all the stops, making it worth the splurge. The iridescent pearl-infused, gel-powder formula is great for eyes or cheeks when you're looking for a metallic shine to accentuate bone structure and take your look up a notch. Users of all skin tones rave that this highlighter reflects light beautifully and delivers head-turning pigments.
Best Budget: Wet n Wild Mega Glow Highlighter in Precious Petals
This highlighter's buildable coverage gives you the ultimate shimmer and shine without breaking the bank. Stephanie Johnson, digital creator of Flowers for Steph, cites it as her favorite. "It's buildable and gives a pretty glow," she says. "This highlighter has golden tones, which always pair well for deeper skin tones because of its natural reflections."
Runner-Up, Best Budget: Wet n Wild MegaGlo Highlighting Powder in Awesome Blossom
For those who love a rosy shimmer, this pressed powder highlighter brings on a glow for cheeks that look warm and healthy. Lustra Miller, an educator and former pageant queen, calls this her go-to for everyday beauty. "I love a good drugstore brand," she says. "I only need a little with a highlighter brush, and it gives me a nice glow."
Best Drugstore: Milani Baked Highlighter
We know firsthand that this highlighter is everything. While on a road trip to the middle of nowhere, our traveling partner forgot her makeup bag, so we stopped into a drugstore with hopes of getting the basics for a full face. We stumbled upon this Milani highlighter and were so impressed with it. It's super buildable, making it flexible for a natural glow or a more dramatic evening look, and it's very comparable to some of the pricier highlighter options.
Best Subtle Glow: Trinny London The Right Light Highlighter
This subtle cream highlighter offers a natural glow sans the glittery shine. The hydrating formula blends into the skin seamlessly for a low-key radiance, or you can build on it for a bolder highlight. Users rave that it is moisturizing, easy to blend, and catches the perfect amount of light all day long.
Best Bronze: Smashbox x Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector
If you love a sultry, bronzy glow, then this one is for you. It has a rich chocolate brown color enhanced with gold pearl shimmers that make it especially flattering on dark skin tones.
Courtney Danielle Bryant of Curls and Couture says, "This has been my go-to for years. I mix it with moisturizer or oil for more of a glisten, or I just dust it on dry for a full beat."
Best Balm: Danessa Myricks Beauty Dew Wet Balm in Hot Water
This creamy highlighter hydrates your skin as it enhances your glow, bringing out the most of your natural highlights. The translucent formula is infused with jojoba oil and other skin-softening ingredients, so it's better for your skin in the long run.
South Carolina-based makeup artist Nykia Breon swears by this shade. "It gives that natural glow-from-within finish to the skin, and it's a different formula from your average powder or cream highlighter," she says. "It can be applied on the skin alone, underneath makeup, or on top of foundation."
Best Palette: The Lip Bar Stuntin' FACE PALETTE
This 4-in-1 face palette takes the guessing out of deciding which highlighter/blush combo is right for you. Available in six easy-to-use complexion coordinated palettes (Stuntin' is for cinnamon complexions), you can achieve a full makeup look fast. It comes equipped with a setting powder, blush, contour powder, and a highlighter for a flawless, glowing finish.
Proper product placement is crucial. When applying, resist the urge to overdo the shine. Instead, strategically add soft touches only to the areas you want to pop: the top of the cheekbones, brow bone, forehead, Cupid’s bow, the center of the nose, and maybe a dab to the center of the chin.
What to Look for in a Highlighter
Degree of Shine
Your first step is to decide what kind of highlighting effect you're after. Most highlighters offer a certain degree of shine—whether it's created with finely-milled flecks or emollient oils. If you're after a dewy glow, opt for a creamy formula infused with oils. If you're after that highly 'grammable shimmery highlight, try a powder formula with flecks of pearlescent mineral or glitter.
The ability to place smaller and larger quantities of a product in various areas of your face is incredibly helpful. That's because you may need more or less depending on how oily different parts of your skin are or which parts of your face you want to help catch the light.
For darker skin tones, roses and gold are often more flattering than cool shades like blue and purple. In addition to your skin tone, also consider how warm or cool your skin's undertone is. Once you know whether your tone is warm or cool, it will be easier to find colors that best match you. Celebrity makeup artist Robert Sesnek notes, "Your skin tone may change throughout the year (a shade or two deeper in the summer or maybe fairer or lighter in the winter months), but your undertone never changes," so once know your undertone, you'll be set indefinitely on that.
Which shade of highlighter is best?
The right shade of highlighter is dependent on your skin tone. As mentioned, darker skin tones tend to look best with warm roses, golds, and occasionally peach.
How do I choose a highlighter for my skin tone?
A rule of thumb for highlighter color selection is to go about two shades lighter than your own skin tone. Makeup artist Khera Alexander suggests, "There are so many lovely highlighters on the market, and you should pick a color you love, as long as it's not too ashy."
Does highlighter make you look older?
Quite the opposite! When used correctly and placed in the suggested areas above, a highlighter should impart a youthful glow to your face. There are numerous tricks for using makeup to achieve a more youthful appearance, and a highlighter is one of them. Highlighter can help lead the eye to areas of the face that are naturally less wrinkled than others, such as the center of your nose and your brow bone.