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Light It Up! The Best Highlighters for Darker Skin Tones

Felicia Walker Benson has been blogging since 2006, pouring her heart and soul into her passion for beauty. Walker Benson, who serves as editor in chief for top-rated beauty blog ThisThatBeauty, is a highly sought-after authority in the industry. She has appeared on TV programs like the Today show and in beauty publications such as Allure, Ebony, and Marie Claire. Each month, Walker Benson gives Byrdie readers tips and recommendations on the best in hair and beauty for women of color. If it’s happening in beauty, Felicia is on it—with red lips in tow!

highlighter for dark skin

Every girl wants the glow. You know, that ethereal model-off-duty light that bounces off skin. For women with darker skin tones (*raises hand*), the key to achieving the perfect glow is picking a highlighter shade that brilliantly boosts the complexion without creating a stark, unnatural contrast. For olive, dark, and deep skin tones, it’s important to choose shades that skew a bit warmer. Avoid cool, icy tones. Instead, think sheer gold, peachy gold, pale bronze, and rosy gold.

Once you’ve nailed down your perfect shade (practice makes perfect), choose the formula that best complements your skin. Most highlighters and illuminators come in three textures: liquid, cream, and powder.

Liquid and cream illuminators work best over wet products like liquid foundation or a creamy concealer. Powder illuminators are great as a finishing touch, or as an added hint of sparkle over a liquid or cream base. Powder also works well when applied over powder foundation or bronzer, particularly in summer, when we tend to avoid liquid foundations.

If you’re a highlighting newbie, creams and liquids are easiest to maneuver because they’re typically very sheer and spread easily if you start out a little too heavy-handed.

And because there’s a fine line between highlighting and disco-balling, 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, center of nose, and maybe a dab to the center of the chin.

Read some of my favorite illuminators for darker skin tones.

Bobbi Brown Highlighting Powder in Bronze Glow $46

This multidimensional powder imparts a soft golden glow. In a pinch, it can also double as a sheer wash of eye shadow.

Becca x Jaclyn Hill Champagne Collection $38

The pearlescent pinky-gold cream blends effortlessly to create an angelic flush of light. This product melts into skin like a dream, making it impossible to detect when the product ends and skin begins. The finish is seamless.

Danessa Myricks Beauty Enlight Illuminating Powder in Attraction $20

Don’t let the loose powder texture intimidate you. Handcrafted by Danessa Myricks, the go-to makeup artist for women of color, the finely milled pigment fuses with skin on contact to perfectly highlight facial features. The subtle touch of sheen will win you over.

Laura Geller Baked Gelato Swirl Illuminator in Gilded Honey $26

This powder/cream hybrid applies sheer, adding a translucent, caramelized honey–colored glow to brown skin. Prepare for luminous overload (in the best possible way!).

Lancôme Éclat Miracle Highlighter $36

Once discontinued, this illuminating highlighter is back by popular demand—and for good reason. The universally flattering (and I usually hate that term) shade works on a wide range of complexions, from fair to deep. When blended, the formula is super sheer, so it’s virtually foolproof.

The Estée Edit by Estée Lauder Flash Illuminator in Night Light $28

Hydrate and highlight in one step. Packed with hyaluronic acid, this glow-getter adds moisture and boosts brightness at the same time. Plus it’s oil-free, so you don’t have to worry about clogged pores.

Nars Illuminator in Super Orgasm $30

Not to be confused with the original Nars Orgasm, Super Orgasm works incredibly well on deeper skin tones because it incorporates a shimmering golden base and has a pink undertone. Go on—light up your best features!

What are your top highlighter picks for darker skin tones?

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