The 12 Best Liquid Highlighters That Leave Skin Radiant

The Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Light Wand is our top pick

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These days, there’s no shortage of highlighters to choose from when it comes to shimmer level and formula. Much like foundations, you can find a plethora of powder, cream, and liquid highlighters. Which one you choose largely boils down to a matter of personal preference, although celebrity makeup artist Bryan Cantor says liquids do have some unique advantages. “I love liquid highlighters because they allow for a thin layer of application that melts right into the skin, imparting a natural luminosity that lasts for hours,” he says. They end up looking more like the skin itself rather than a product that’s laying on top of it, he adds. Plus, liquid highlighters are also super easy to apply. Cantor says the best way to do so is to use your fingertips to tap a small amount onto the high points of the face. Yes, it’s that easy.

Meet the Expert

  • Bryan Cantor is a celebrity makeup artist and beauty expert based in New York City. He brings his impressive knowledge of makeup products, skincare, application techniques, and professional tips and secrets to clients and companies in New York City and across the globe.
  • Tony Tulve is an NYC-based makeup artist who takes a genderless, gleam-and-grunge approach to beauty.

Keep reading for more on the best liquid highlighters that will help you get the glowing skin your complexion dreams are made of.

Best Overall: Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Light Wand

4.6
Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Light Wand

Sephora

What We Like
  • No visible glitter

  • Built-in applicator

  • Vegan

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Who else recommends it? Allure, Elle, and Cosmopolitan all picked the Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Light Wand.

When your goal is to make skin look luminous rather than glittery, reach for this liquid highlighter. It combines treated pearls with light-reflecting particles to create a natural glow with no visible glitter particles, says Cantor, who is a big fan. (He also lauds it for the built-in sponge-tip applicator, great for those who don’t like using their fingers.) It comes in four shades, offering a nice variety for a range of complexions.

Size: 0.4 oz. | Shades: 4 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Budget: NYX Professional Makeup Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator

NYX Professional Makeup Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Great for all skin types

  • A little goes a long way

What We Don’t Like
  • Some may prefer something less subtle

While there are plenty of pricey highlighters out there, you don’t have to pay a lot to get a great highlighter. Exhibit A, this super wallet-friendly option. The moisturizing formula offers what we think is just the right amount of shimmery radiance, though it never comes across as shiny, a major boon for anyone with oily skin. And, even though it only comes in two shades, they work surprisingly well on a wide range of skin tones.

Size: 0.6 oz. | Shades: 2 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Drugstore: L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glow Amour Glow Boosting Drops

L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glow Amour Glow Boosting Drops

Amazon

What We Like
  • Affordable

  • Multi-tasking formula

What We Don’t Like
  • Reviewers note it's hard to blend

Yes, you can find a great liquid highlighter at the drugstore; this is proof positive. Cantor is a big fan of the versatile, multi-tasking formula: “The drops can be used alone as a highlighter or mixed with your favorite skincare product or foundation if you want to create more of an all-over glow,” he explains. We just wish they came in more than two shades.

Size: 0.47 oz. | Shades: 2 | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Light Skin: Chantecaille Liquid Lumiere

Chantecaille Liquid Lumiere

Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Buildable formula

  • Multi-tasking formula

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

Extremely sheer and lightweight, Cantor says this buildable formula reflects light beautifully and also helps to blur blemishes. It comes in three shades including ‘Sheen,’ a pearly pink that enhances even the lightest of skin tones beautifully without ever coming across as garish or fake-looking. For a more subdued effect, try mixing it with your moisturizer or foundation.

Size: 0.8 oz. | Shades: 3 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Medium Skin: Rare Beauty Positive Light Liquid Luminizer Highlight

5
Rare Beauty Positive Light Liquid Luminizer Highlight

Sephora

What We Like
  • Lightweight

  • Vegan

  • Long-lasting

What We Don't Like
  • Reviewers say the applicator is too big

Extremely weightless, this silky formula—a star of Selena Gomez’s beauty line—feels nearly undetectable on the skin, though still imparts a gorgeously luminous finish. Credit light-reflecting particles that create a seamless dewy glow. It also has the benefit of coming in eight shades, a high number for a highlighter, with plenty of gold, rose gold, and copper hues that look great on medium skin tones. Mesmerize in particular is one of our favorites, and it happens to be Selena’s fave, too.

Size: 0.5 oz. | Shades: 8 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Dark Skin: Danessa Myricks Beauty Illuminating Veil Liquid Highlighter

Danessa Myricks Beauty Illuminating Veil Liquid Highlighter

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Long-lasting

  • Multi-tasking formula

  • A little goes a long way

What We Don't Like
  • No applicator included

Use this under makeup, primer-style, or dab on a little bit as the finishing touch—either way, the formula leaves the skin looking beautifully glowy and is extremely long-lasting. Plus, it’s water-based and contains a skin-conditioning antioxidant, avena sativa kernel extract, which further helps to keep your skin supple. All of the shades are super pigmented, so a little goes a long way; there are six to choose from, including some deeper tones that work especially well on darker complexions.

Size: 1 oz. | Shades: 6 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: No

Best for Subtle Glow: Ilia Liquid Light Serum Highlighter

Ilia Liquid Light Serum Highlighter

Courtesy of Nordstrom

What We Like
  • Has skincare benefits

  • Multi-tasking formula

  • Pump bottle

What We Don't Like
  • Pricey

“This is a gel-based formula that melts into the skin to give a sheer, natural glow,” says Cantor of another one of his favorites. Per the name, it has skincare-like properties, too, namely containing marine-derived antioxidants to protect skin from free radical damage caused by exposure to UV light and pollution and hydrolyzed algae to condition the skin. It looks super subtle even if you use it solo, though if you want to downplay the luminosity even further, mix in just a drop or two with your moisturizer or foundation.

Size: 0.5 oz. | Shades: 3 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best for Dramatic Glow: About Face Light Lock Highlight Fluid

About Face Light Lock Highlight Fluid

Cult Beauty

What We Like
  • Extremely luminous

  • Buildable

  • Water-resistant

What We Don't Like
  • Can take practice to apply

On the flip side, if you’re after some seriously intense shimmer, this is the way to go. It relies on ultra-reflective shimmering pearl particles to pack a nearly-blinding level of highlight, though it is buildable. It’s also long-wearing and water-resistant and comes in six colors, including some that are unique in the highlighter category (think a metallic lavender that looks nice used as an eyeshadow).

Size: 0.5 oz. | Shades: 6 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Splurge: Armani Beauty Fluid Sheer Glow Enhancer

Fluid Sheer 7 1 oz/ 30 mL
What We Like
  • Multi-tasking formula

  • A little goes a long way

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

If you’re going to shell out the big bucks for a highlighter, why not make it one that can do more than just highlight? “This multi-use product provides sheer coverage with natural luminosity and can be used not only as a highlighter but also as a blush or bronzer,” says Cantor, who adds that it’s been a makeup artist favorite for years. To that point, we find that it’s great for adding both natural-looking shimmer and some color to your skin, not to mention that it layers and mixes very nicely with other makeup products.

Size: 0.6 oz. | Shades: 5 | Cruelty-Free: No | Byrdie Clean: No

Best Clean Formula: Saie Glowy Super Gel Lightweight Dewy Highlighter

Saie Glowy Super Gel Lightweight Dewy Highlighter

Courtesy of Sephora

What We Like
  • Has skincare benefits

  • Lightweight

  • Hydrating

What We Don't Like
  • Some may prefer something less subtle

Fun fact: This pick is made from 75 percent water, making it both extremely lightweight and hydrating. (It has an almost gel-like texture.) The squeaky clean formula relies on plenty of plant-based ingredients; think glycerin for hydration and rosehip seed oil for antioxidant benefits. To that point, we like layering it underneath makeup so our skin can reap those benefits, though its shimmer level is super subtle even if you apply it on top.

Size: 1 oz. | Shades: 2 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Multi-Tasking: Live Tinted Hueglow

Live Tinted Hueglow

Ulta

What We Like
  • Has skincare benefits

  • Can use on face and body

What We Don’t Like
  • Some may prefer something less subtle

Think of this as less of a highlighter and more of a serum with a little bit of shimmer. It’s packed with hydrating ingredients—squalane, sunflower seed oil—but also has a micro-shimmer finish. You truly can use it instead of moisturizer or use it like you would a traditional liquid highlighter. Not to mention that it’s also gorgeous on both face and body.

Size: 1.6 oz. | Shades: 2 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Best Clear: Beauty Blender Glass Glow Shinelighter Crystal Clear Highlighter

Beauty Blender Glass Glow Shinelighter Crystal Clear Highlighter

Sephora

What We Like
  • Won't add extra color

  • Not sticky

  • A little goes a long way

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricey

This aptly-named product is the way to go for those who want that glass skin effect made popular on Instagram—tons of reflective radiance but no added color. It’s almost like a clear lip gloss for our face, although the transparent formula is more balm-like and isn’t in the least bit sticky. Also nice: It’s super buildable, so you can easily layer it until you reach your desired result.

Size: 0.4 oz. | Shades: 1 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Byrdie Clean: Yes

Final Verdict

Liquid highlighters create a very natural-looking luminosity and are extremely easy to apply—a true win-win. The Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Light Wand delivers the ideal amount of luminosity (but no glitter) and touts a built-in applicator that makes for seamless blending. The Rare Beauty Positive Light Liquid Luminizer Highlight is another one of our top picks, coming in an impressive line-up of eight shades with options for all skin tones. It is slightly more pigmented, though, so if you’re after a more sheer or subdued glow, consider either the ILIA Liquid Light Serum Highlighter or the Saie Glowy Super Gel Lightweight Dewy Highlighter. They are both clean formulas that also contain good-for-your-skin ingredients.

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, consider your skin tone. According to Tulve, pearly whites, pale golds, pinks, and soft peaches look great on 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 best.

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.

FAQ
  • How do liquid highlighters differ from powders and creams?

    According to Tulve, liquid highlighters are much more versatile and easier to build up during application than powders and creams. “These formulas tend to be very concentrated, so a little goes a long way,” he says.

  • 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?

    "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.”

How We Researched

To compile this list, our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features—like ingredients, shade range, or design—in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.

Why Trust Byrdie

Byrdie contributor Melanie Rud has over a decade of experience in the beauty industry, writing for some of the biggest magazines and websites out there. A lover of anything and everything glowy skin-related, she uses many of the liquid highlighters featured on this list regularly.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. The 21 best liquid highlighters for perfectly dewy skin. Allure. https://www.allure.com/gallery/best-liquid-highlighter

  2. The 15 best liquid highlighters for all skin types. Elle. https://www.elle.com/beauty/g39702215/best-liquid-highlighters

  3. 12 liquid highlighters to keep that glow going. Cosmopolitan. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/beauty-hair/g32764006/best-liquid-highlighter

  4. Pangestuti R, Siahaan EA, Kim SK. Photoprotective Substances Derived from Marine AlgaeMar Drugs. 2018;16(11):399. Published 2018 Oct 23. doi:10.3390/md16110399

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