We like glitter on our fingers and eyes (and maybe, if we’re feeling some kind of way, on our lips). We don’t like glitter on our cheekbones, or down the bridge of our nose—and definitely not on our forehead. Thus, we’re always disappointed when a highlighter—something that supposedly promises to give us a healthy radiance—ends up leaving flecks of sparkle behind and leaves us disco ball-esque. With that in mind, we’ve gathered our all-time favorite products that highlight and bring light—not glitter or sparkle—to the high points of our face. Keep scrolling to see the best highlighters that don’t involve any glitter!
This water-based highlighter is a makeup artist favorite—mainly because you can’t tell anyone is wearing it. Instead, the liquid formula softly diffuses fine lines and blends unevenness wherever applied.
We’re obsessed with makeup artist Jamie Greenberg’s second collaboration with Colourpop, #Squad—and the warm, golden-peach highlighter is a standout. The formula is ridiculously silky soft and adds a subtle pearly sheen wherever you choose to apply. Plus, the wallet-friendly price tag doesn’t hurt (and explains why we have two rolling around in our makeup bags at all times).
Sculpt and emphasize your cheekbones with Tom Ford’s creamy highlight-contour duo. The highlight shade looks stark white but brightens and lifts in the subtlest way anywhere you apply—just use your fingers, then blend with a brush.
In the same vein, the Sculpting Pencils from Nudestix give creamy, shimmer-free payoff—and are made with hydrating shea butter and vitamin E to boot. Plus, their stick form makes it super easy to sculpt and highlight to your heart’s content. (Bonus: The highlighter end can also double as a concealer in times of need. You’re welcome.)
Hourglass’s subtle soft-focus powder is less of a highlighter and more of a sweep-everywhere illuminator. Sure, the palette comes with three different shades, but we like to sweep a fluffy brush over all of them, then powder our whole face. Rather than becoming a glittery mess, our skin always looks softly radiant, smooth, and poreless.
Want to get a little crazy? Swap out your traditional cream highlighter for a face gloss, like this one from Make. If the thought of putting anything glossy on your face sounds like a bad idea, we don’t blame you. However, Make’s version refreshes tired skin in an instant—and you only need the tiniest drop. Apply it with your fingers and tap it above your cheekbones, dabbing it in until it melts into your skin.
Makeup artists stock up on this cult concealer when they head overseas—and for good reason. The stick is like a magic wand, adding the most gorgeous, creamy glow anywhere you swipe. We’re waiting with bated breath for the day when we can buy it stateside.
What’s your favorite highlighter? Here’s how to use it to fake a glow even in the dead of winter.