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Now's about that time when we find ourselves gravitating toward all light-reflecting and pearlescent makeup products. (As for my makeup collection, it currently consists of a small stockpile of highlighters that's growing at a fearsome rate.) What can we say? We're coveting that dewy complexion à la Brooke Shields in The Blue Lagoon. Our weapon of choice is a liquid highlighter for a few reasons. They're radiant, dewy, low-maintenance, and super blendable, which makes them the perfect complexion companion.
So without further ado, keep scrolling to see the best liquid highlighters that are incredibly well-received.
Best Overall: Becca Cosmetics Ignite Liquified Light Face and Body Highlighter
Top honors goes to this radiant highlighting gel from Becca. Created for both the face and the body (we love a multitasker!), its multidimensional micro-pearls can be tapped onto the high points of the face for a glowy finish to any makeup look, or it can be dabbed along the décolletage, shoulders, and even the legs. And don’t worry—it’s also transfer-proof and water-resistant, so you can trust that it won’t end up all over your clothes.
Available in four flattering shades ranging from incandescent pearl to gold-reflecting bronze, the formula is infused with sunflower oil and vitamin E to nourish and visibly soften the skin. It also has the most delicious tropical scent, giving us all the more reason to toss it in our beach bags.
Best Drugstore: Maybelline Master Strobing Liquid Illuminating Highlighter
This Maybelline highlighter is a Byrdie-team favorite. It has illuminating micro-pearls that blend flawlessly onto the skin, and makeup artist Tony Tulve considers it a great pick for anyone who wants to try out a liquid highlighter before fully committing since it's so affordable. “All three shades give the skin the right amount of glow without reading as too frosted or glittery, and the texture works with all sorts of foundations and skin types,” he says.
We like to squeeze a pearl-sized dollop on our palms and then dab into the high points of our face using our fingers or a beauty sponge. The effect is luminous and radiant and glowy and every other synonym you can think of.
Runner Up, Best Drugstore: L'Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Liquid Glow Illuminator
This creamy highlighter from L’Oréal Paris is a fan favorite, and for good reason. The illuminating formula lends a subtle, natural-looking shimmer to the face and body and can be worn under or over makeup, or even alone. Plus, it’s *technically* a tinted moisturizer, meaning you can count on its glycerin and shea butter-infused formula to hydrate and nourish the skin. Available in four different shades, this multitasking product is an absolute must for all skin tones.
Best Budget: Wet n Wild MegaGlo Hello Halo Liquid Highlighter
This small-but-mighty highlighter from Wet n Wild is proof you don’t need a big budget for a show-stopping glow—in fact, you don’t even need ten bucks! All six shades contain ultra shimmery pearl pigments that can be applied to the high points of the face or mixed with foundation for an all over dewy sheen. We love that the formula is buildable, making it easy to customize the intensity of your final look. Plus, it’s infused with skin-loving murumuru seed oil, grapeseed oil, and vitamin E, applying like butter and leaving the skin oh so smooth and supple.
Best Splurge: Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops
This might be one of the pricier liquid highlighters to make the list, but its versatility alone makes it totally worth the splurge. The ultra-concentrated, buildable formula can be used as a highlighter or bronzer on the cheeks and other high points of the face, or it can be dabbed onto the eyes, lips, or body for an all-over glow.
Best for Light Skin: Benefit Cosmetics High Beam Liquid Face Highlighter
A true classic, this fan-favorite liquid highlighter from Benefit is well-loved thanks to its iconic satin pink color. “It’s a wonderful baby pink that gives the slightest hint of warmth and glow to light to fair complexions,” says Tulve.
Its doe foot applicator makes for easy application to the cheeks, brow bones, or wherever else a bit of dewy radiance is desired. Pro tip? Try using it as the first step in your makeup application. “It’s a great shade to underpaint as blush before foundation to give a little oomph!” he adds.
Best for Medium Skin: Rare Beauty Positive Light Liquid Luminizer Highlight
If a soft, luminous glow is what you desire, look no further than the Positive Light highlighter from Selena Gomez's Rare Beauty. Its second-skin formula is virtually weightless, packed with light-reflecting pearl particles and infused with a botanical blend of lotus, gardenia, and waterlily that lend a dewy, shimmery finish that lasts all day long.
It comes in eight different shades with plenty of golds, rose golds, and coppers that are super flattering on medium skin tones. While they’re all insanely pretty, our favorite would have to be Mesmerize, a rosy-bronze which just so happens to be Ms. Gomez’s go-to.
Best for Dark Skin: Danessa Myricks Beauty Illuminating Veil Liquid Highlighter
This long-wear liquid highlighter from Danessa Myricks Beauty is packed with microfine pearlescent shimmer, adding luminous dimension to both the face and body. “This formula is super concentrated, so a little goes a long way," says Tulve. "Still, it’s very easy to manipulate and is super versatile.” It can be applied both over or under makeup, but we love using it as a primer for a lit-from-within glow that lasts all day long.
Thanks to the addition of avena sativa kernel extract, a skin-conditioning antioxidant, the water-based formula leaves behind a supple, hydrated finish. It's available in six high pigment shades, including Tempest, a deep golden chocolate that’s stunning on deeper skin tones. “Her range of deeper tones in this formula really allow for all skin tones to be able to explore how they want to glow,” he says.
Best Subtle Glow: Ilia Liquid Light Serum Highlighter
While we’ll always appreciate a good blinding strobe, sometimes we want a look that’s a tad more subtle. For those moments, we turn to Ilia’s Liquid Light Serum Highlighter, which, as the name implies, has a delicious serum-like texture. It leaves behind a dewy finish with low-key shimmer for an effortless no-makeup makeup look.
We love that it has some skin-care benefits too: It’s formulated with a blend of organic and natural botanicals and marine actives that help protect against free radicals and boast anti-pollution properties. Yes, please!
Best Intense Glow: About Face Light Lock Highlight Fluid
For the times we do want a highlight that blinds, Halsey’s About Face Light Lock Highlight Fluid is where it’s at. This weightless liquid formula is packed with ultra-reflective shimmering pearl particles that create an intense glow. While you can apply this one over or under makeup or even mix it with your favorite skin-care products, we like to use it sparingly, dabbing a bit on our cheeks, brow bones, and along the bridge of our nose over our foundation.
Best Multitasker: Huda Beauty N.Y.M.P.H. Not Your Mama’s Panty Hose All Over Body Highlighter
While this multitasking highlighter from Huda Beauty can be used all over the body, we love using it on our arms, legs, and décolletage to fake that just-got-back-from-vacation glow. Not only does the hydrating formula help to blur out imperfections, but you also can trust that it won’t streak or transfer.
Best Clean Formula: Saie Glowy Super Gel Lightweight Dewy Highlighter
This clean, gel-based highlighter from Saie boasts a ton of skin-loving ingredients like plant-derived glycerin, vitamin C, and rosehip seed oil to hydrate and brighten the complexion—plus, its formula is 75 percent water, keeping it ultra lightweight. Available in two shades, bronzy Sunglow and champagne-tinged Starglow, it aims to give you a natural, dewy finish with less shimmer than your typical highlighter. We love layering this on under our makeup so our skin can soak up its plant-based goodness.
All of the above will help you achieve your dream highlight, but we’d have to pick the Ignite Liquified Light Face & Body Highlighter from Becca Cosmetics as our absolute favorite. It creates a captivating prismatic look on both the face and body, plus it's transfer-proof and water-resistant. Another must-have is Rare Beauty’s Positive Light Liquid Luminizer, a weightless highlighter that creates a soft, luminous glow and is available in eight different shades that flatter a range of skin tones. But be warned—this one is definitely not for the faint of heart. If you’re more of the subtle highlight type, look no further than Ilia’s Liquid Light Serum Highlighter, a dew-inducing serum-highlighter hybrid that’s chock full of skin-loving ingredients and antioxidant benefits.
What to Look for In a Liquid Highlighter
Pay Attention to Finish
When it comes to finding the right liquid highlighter, Tulve says it’s important to keep the desired effect in mind—whether that’s a dewy sheen or something on the sparklier side—and then shop for a formula with the appropriate finish. “A pearl formula will give a sheen from soft to bold, while something more crystalline will give the skin a shimmer like light dancing on water,” he says.
Find the Right Texture
Liquid formulas can range in texture, so consider what texture you’d like to work with before making a purchase. Do you prefer a dewy gel that keeps its “wet” look, or more of a weightless liquid that dries down quickly? Tulve recommends opting for a formula with more of a “slip” to it. “This texture is great for underpainting, mixing into a foundation, or tapping over makeup,” he says.
Consider Your Skin Tone
If you can’t decide between an iridescent pearl or a golden bronze shade, take your skin tone into consideration. According to Tulve, pearly whites, pale golds, pinks, and soft peaches all flatter light skin tones, while beiges, rose gold, gold, and golds that pull copper or orange are best for medium skin tones. Darker skin tones will find coppers, antiqued and warmer golds, plums, and bronze with red undertones to be the most flattering.
However, Tulve stresses the importance of knowing what you want the glow to do. “Do you want to elevate the way light naturally bounces off your skin, or do you want it to give warmth or bring out the cool tones in your skin?” This should ultimately be the deciding factor in the shade and finish you pick.
How do liquid highlighters differ from powders and creams?
Aside from the obvious textural differences, how else do liquid highlighters differ from their powder and cream counterparts? According to Tulve, they’re much more versatile and are much easier to build up during application. “These formulas tend to be very concentrated, so a little goes a long way,” he says. “They’re also a lot easier to control over a powder formula, in my personal experience.”
How should a liquid highlighter be applied?
According to Tulve, liquid formulas are best applied with the fingers. “They help warm up the product so it just melts into the skin,” he says. “In some situations, your fingers can give you a better blend than any brush—and this is one of them.”
What skin types are liquid highlighters best for?
Contrary to what you might think, liquid highlighters have the potential to play nice with all skin types, from oily to dry. "With how versatile the formulas are, any skin type can find a liquid highlight that works for them,” says Tulve. “Drier skin types will love the fact that the pigments won’t gather up on problem areas like a powder formula would, while oilier skin types can use a bolder gleam as an underpaint to bring life back to a matte foundation without making it look too shiny.”
Meet the Expert
Tony Tulve is a NYC-based makeup artist who takes a genderless, gleam-and-grunge approach to beauty, drawing inspiration from trailblazing icons such as David Bowie, Grace Jones, and The New York Dolls. His work honors the vision and spellbinding individuality of various subcultures and values the expression of self, unbound by convention or tradition. You can find him painting faces backstage at New York Fashion Week and see his work in countless advertisements, films, and publications.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find enough liquid highlighters from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business to meet this percentage. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at email@example.com and we will evaluate the product ASAP.