6 Best Highlighters

6 Best Highlighters

16
Hours
Researched
102
Products
Evaluated

After 16 hours of research evaluating 102 products, we picked theBalm Mary Lou Manizer as our top choice.

Every girl desires that 'pregnancy glow' that moms-to-be get in their second trimester. The American Pregnancy Association explains that pregnancy glow is caused by an increase in hormones and oilier skin.

But, it turns out, you don't actually need to get knocked up to get the glow. All that's needed is some highlighter. 

You might be wondering: What is highlighter? 

Highlighter is a powder or liquid makeup applied to the face to give your skin a shimmered glow. It basically draws light to areas on your face making you look like a dewy goddess.

The best highlighters can be found in liquid, powder, stick, or pot form. They also vary from sheer to shimmery finishes, gold to peachy tones, and afforable options to designer brands.

The secret to getting that perfect dewy glow is not just about having the best highlighter, it's knowing how to appy it as well. We love the tutorial by beauty vlogger, Desi Perkins.

Now for the best part:

To make your life easier, we spent hours testing and researching the best highlighters. The result? A list of the 6 most lit highlighters. 

Now, check out our llist below to get the glow down. 

6 Best Highlighters

  • 6. MAC Prep + Prime Highlighter
  • 5. e.l.f. Cosmetics Baked Highlighter
  • 4. rms beauty Living Luminizer
  • 3. Benefit Cosmetics Watt’s Up! Cream-to-Powder Highlighter
  • 2. BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector® Liquid Highlighter
  • 1. theBalm Mary Lou Manizer

Best Travel Highlighter

#6

MAC Prep + Prime Highlighter

Best Travel Highlighter: MAC Prep + Prime Highlighter
Get from MAC
120 Bought
76 % Editor Score
80 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Stays put throughout the day requiring no touch ups
  • Works wonders for darkness under eyes
  • Perfect for on-the-go

A pen-style highlighter that features a bit of shimmer that lasts all day. 

The click pen sometimes causes you to release more product than necessary. 

Color: This is a lightweight, long-wearing highlighter that comes in nine shades so you can wear this no matter what your skin color may be. Shades include Radiant Rose, Peach Lustre, and Bright Forecast. The best news is, each shade features a barely-there, natural looking shimmer. 

Application: We have mixed feelings about MAC's choice of packaging, mostly because it comes in a click pen-style with a brush tip. It's often easy to click too many times causing extra product to come out. Despite our feelings about the 0.12 ounce pen, it does make applying easy. The brush tips makes it easy to apply highlight just where you want it. You can use this highlighter over makeup for highlights, touch-ups, or under makeup to brighten and prime. This stuff is also great for brightening dark circles under your eyes. 

Price: We're not complaining about the $27 price, especially since highlighters are typically more expensive. 

Best Drugstore Highlighter

#5

e.l.f. Cosmetics Baked Highlighter

Best Drugstore Highlighter: e.l.f. Cosmetics Baked Highlighter
Get from Ulta
94 Bought
80 % Editor Score
82 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Gives you beautiful shine without the intense glitter
  • Saves you money - perfect for bargain makeup shoppers
  • Not very pigmented so gives you a natural look

This e.l.f Highlighter is affordable, sheer, and infused with Vitamin E, jojoba, sunflower, apricot and grape to nourish and hydrate the skin.

Many users have to scrape the top layer off, which does work. There is a protective base on the top, so once that is scraped, the pigment is amazing.

If expensive beauty products aren't your thing, this is the perfect highlighter for you. And, you can find it at most drugstores.  

Color: We love that this highlighter has a wide variety of colors available (3 to be exact) so you can save money no matter what skin tone you have. The equally beautiful shades include moonlight pearls, blush gems, and pink diamonds. This highlighter looks completely natural with no shiny glitter, which is always a plus. However, it can be applied wet for a more pigmented, intense look. Keep in mind this isn't a blinding product. It's more of a sheer, natural highlighter. 

Application: The e.l.f Baked Highlighter has a traditional round 0.21 ounce compact case like most drugstore highlighters. This product doesn't transfer onto brushes well so use your fingers for a more pigmented look.

Price: Have you ever seen such an inexpensive makeup product? For the $4 price, you can't find better - it's definitely the cheapest highlighter out there. 

Best All Natural Highlighter

#4

rms beauty Living Luminizer

Best All Natural Highlighter: rms beauty Living Luminizer
Get from Amazon
89 Bought
84 % Editor Score
86 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Not sticky, greasy, or glittery
  • Can be easily applied with fingers
  • Organic and clean product

A natural, lightweight highlighter with a translucent, dewy finish. Hypoallergenic, paraben free, gluten free, and cruelty free.

Because this highlighter is so hydrating, it can get absorbed into the skin making it not last as long throughout the day. 

If your skin is sensitive, or you just prefer to use more organic and clean makeup products, this RMS Beauty highlighter is perfect for you. It won't leave your skin irritated or super glittery-looking.

Color: The rms beauty Living Luminizer is a translucent, dewy color that is the perfect combination of natural shine. Even though the product is light, it effectively gives a nice glow without being shimmery. As a bonus, ingredients such as caster seed oil, coconut oil, beeswax, and rosemary help to moisturize and soften your skin texture. 

Application: This highlighter comes in a 0.17 round pot that makes it easy to take on-the-go. Not to worry though, the small pot should last you a long time. While most use their fingers to apply, a brush can also do the trick. 

Price: Most decent highlighters average around $30. This product is $38 and made with better ingredients. If you have sensitive skin, this is definitely the highlighter you want in your makeup bag.

Best Stick Highlighter

#3

Benefit Cosmetics Watt’s Up! Cream-to-Powder Highlighter

Best Stick Highlighter: Benefit Cosmetics Watt’s Up! Cream-to-Powder Highlighter
Get from Amazon
67 Bought
89 % Editor Score
89 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Generous amount of highlighter in the stick
  • Blends well into the rest of your skin
  • Gives a delicate, natural glow that's perfect for everyday

A champagne cream-to-powder highlighter stick that gives you a delicate, natural glow. 

The cream can make it more difficult to apply and blend out. 

Color: The luminous champagne color of this highlighter looks perfect on those with any skin color. And, you'll be happy knowing this is a neutral color - not too gold or silver. 

Applications: This highlighter comes in the form of a cream-to-powder stick, which is a little different than most highlighters. The good news is, it's extremely easy to blend out. This highlighter can be lightly applied for a soft glow or can be built up for that Instagram highlight.

Price: At $30, the price of this product is somewhat more affordable than its competitors. Our favorite products are the ones where a little goes a long way (mostly because it saves us money), and the Benefit Cosmetics Watt’s Up! Cream-to-Powder Highlighter is one of them. This stickwill last for a year (or more) so you don't have to buy it again for a while. Definitely worth the splurge.

Best Liquid Highlighter

#2

BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector® Liquid Highlighter

Best Liquid Highlighter: BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector® Liquid Highlighter
Get from Amazon
89 Bought
93 % Editor Score
93 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • You can mix it with your moisturizer, primer, bb cream, or foundation
  • Not too glittery or intense
  • Doesn't make your skin oily

A dewy, liquid highlighter that you can wear two ways. You can mix it in with other products or you can wear it on high points of your face. 

The glow doesn't last more than a couple of hours.

Color: The BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector® Liquid Highlighter has seven eye-catching shades. So, you can use this product no matter what your skin tone may be. Each shade has a barely-there gold or pearl shimmer (that's not overwhelming). Some of the colors include a white pearl, pale gold, golden bronze, golden rose, and white gold peach. This is the kind of highlighterthat makes you look subtly luminous and dewy.  

Application: The traditional design of this 1.7 ounce bottle is one we love. It's small in size and comes with an applicator so you can take it with you on-the-go. 

Price: This highlighter is on the high-end at $41 and the most expensive one our list. However, depending on how much you use, it should last you a while. The good news is, BECCA sells two travel-sized shades so you can try them out before investing in the larger bottle. 

Best Overall Highlighter

#1

theBalm Mary Lou Manizer

Best Overall Highlighter: theBalm Mary Lou Manizer
Get from Amazon
136 Bought
90 % Editor Score
96 % User Score

Why People Love it

  • Super pigmented so you don't need a lot of product
  • Blends easily 
  • A little goes a long way

A best-selling, champagne gold highlighter at an affordable price. 

This highlighter can and will shatter if dropped. 

This highlighter from theBalm is the best of the best. We know because we've used it ourselves. And, it's one of the best-selling highlighters on Amazon. So why do we love this product so much? It's highly pigmented and is the perfect honey hued shade. 

Color: The thing we love most about the Mary Lou Manizer is its super pigmented, gold champagne color. This pigmented highlighter gives a beautiful hint of shimmer that is very reflective, so you don't need to use very much. 

Application: The theBalm Mary Lou Manizer Highlighter comes in a 0.3 ounce compact pan and includes a mirror that is stored on the inside of the lid. 

Price: We think $24 for a best selling highlighter is a pretty good deal. Not to mention, because this is so pigmented you don’t have to use very much to get the job done. The less you have to apply, the less you have to buy. And, depending on how much you use on a daily basis, it will last you well over a year. Trust us, you won't be disappointed. 

Highlighter Buying Guide

Like it or not, highlighters really have evolved into an absolute staple in the last couple of years. From the Kardashians’ obsession with deep contours and blinding highlights to the strobing phenomenon that has taken the makeup world by storm, it’s obvious that the highlighting trend is here to stay.

At this point, it feels like we’ve seen it all—poppin’ champagne-toned powders, metallic strobes, and lit-from-within liquids that give an ethereal glow. But the highlighter industry really comes up with ways to surprise us. Every. Single. Time. Who could possibly forget the shocking-yet-sassy unicorn-themed highlighter powders that were all the rage a couple of seasons ago?

The beauty in highlighters is that you can use them to achieve pretty much any look you can dream of. There are thousands of formulas, colors, and techniques that you can play with to achieve that coveted glow! And with the possible exception of the almighty concealer, it’s the best weapon for faking eight hours of sleep.

Whether you’re the type who wants to be highlighted to the gods (as how trendy Instagram gurus would say it) or a gal who’s happy with a subtle radiance, there’s definitely something for you in this guide.

Read on as we explore textures, tones, and finishes and give you top-caliber advice on how to navigate the world of highlighters like an absolute pro. Are you ready to shine like a glowing goddess? We sure are!

Types of Highlighters

Powder highlighters come in various forms and finishes. Pressed powder formulas usually come in a handy compact while loose powder highlighters come in jars with sifters. If you’re an absolute newbie, powder formulas are generally the easiest to apply.

Cream highlighters are packaged in tiny pots, pans, and even in stick form. This formula offers the most natural-looking finish as it tends to melt into the skin. Unlike powder highlighters that apply best with a brush, cream formulas work best when applied using a sponge or your fingers.

Liquid highlighters are runnier than cream ones. While conventional liquid highlighters are packaged in pump bottles and tubes, newer novelty formulas have given birth to liquid highlighters in cushion compacts and pen-type packaging.

Jelly highlighters even exist nowadays, with a consistency that’s kind of like a liquid-cream hybrid. When we said that the highlighter industry always comes up with novel ways to surprise us, we clearly weren’t exaggerating.

Highlighter Finishes

Now that we’ve discussed the different types of highlighters, it’s time to familiarize yourself with different finishes. It’s really up to you to choose which ones are up your alley. You make the rules!

Shimmery highlights look exactly how you’d imagine finely-milled shimmers will look. Products with a shimmery finish are perhaps the most versatile. You can use them to apply a thin layer for a subtle glow, or build them up to a blinding radiance.

Glittery highlights may look less natural than shimmery formulas, but they’re no less fun. If you want visible specks of glitter peeking through your cheekbones, this is the finish for you.

Wet-finish highlights are just that: wet-looking. You know that luminous sheen that you get post workout? That’s exactly it. If you’re a fan of the dewy look, you’re going to love this finish.

Metallic highlights are arguably the most fun to use, though we understand that they’re the least natural-looking of all. But hey, if you’re feeling creative, these frosty, iridescent hues are hard to top!

Not sure which finish to try? Well, one of the best things about highlighters is that they’re fun to mix and match. Many people like to layer a wet-finish highlighter on top of a shimmery base—especially for taking photos for the ‘gram. Really, the possibilities are endless!

Finding The Right Shade for Your Skin Tone

While the rules for picking the right highlighter color aren’t as strict as, say, choosing the right foundation shade, some hues are more flattering on certain skin tones than others.

Super pale highlighters can look chalky on deeper skin, while darker highlighters can appear streaky on fair skin. But while it’s true that you should pick a color that’s as deep as your skin tone (pale colors for fair skin, deep colors for dark skin—you get the gist), taking into account your undertone is essential, too!

So which color will make it seem as if you were—as a popular drugstore brand would put it—born with it?

Determine your undertone. Are you a cool-skinned chick or a warm-toned woman? If you don’t already know what your undertone is, check out the color of the veins on your inner wrist. If they’re mostly green, your skin is warm. If they’re blue, then your undertone is cool. Seeing a fair mix of blues and greens? That means you’re neutral-toned.

For cool skin tones, look for highlighters with a bluish-pink tinge in them. Icy white and cool pink highlighters are best, but you could also get away with light champagne shimmer and rose gold.

For warm skin tones, go for gold! A light, golden peach hue will look amazing on fair skin. Medium to deep skin tones, meanwhile, will look lit-from-within using yellower golds, bronzy shades, and deeper champagnes.

Sitting on neutral ground? You’ll likely pull off every hue. Lucky!

Which Highlighters Are Best for Oily Skin?

Ninety-nine problems—and melting makeup is one of them!

If you have oily skin, one of your primary concerns is probably longevity. That said, go for powder highlighters as they’re more likely to go the extra mile. Creamy formulas have a tendency to slide off on oily skin.

Even though powder highlighters aren’t as natural-looking as creams and liquids, your natural oils will eventually seep through and melt the powder anyway. Win-win!

Which Highlighters to Choose for Mature and Dry Skin?

If your skin feels like the Sahara Desert, it’s probably craving for moisture 24/7. The same holds true if you’re at an age where fine lines and wrinkles are your number-one enemy.

Go for moisturizing highlighters in cream, liquid, or stick form. Powder highlighters might emphasize dry spots and texture. Can’t live without your powder highlighter? That’s okay. Just make sure to deeply moisturize your skin prior to applying makeup. Using a dewy setting mist will help, too.

How to Achieve the Perfect Finish for Every Occasion

For a subtle, everyday highlight that looks effortless, we recommend that you pick the most natural-looking highlight color for your skin tone in a liquid or cream formula. This usually means light golds, champagnes, and pearls for fair skin, mid-tone gold and peach shades for medium skin, and deeper peach and bronze tones for darker skin.

The key here is to choose a highlighter that would melt into your complexion. Apply just enough product on your cheekbones, nose bridge, and cupid’s bow then blend it with your fingers or a damp sponge. This look is perfect for a day in school or at work.

 


For a put-together glow that’s eye-catching but not too in-your-face, start off with a liquid or cream highlighter in your color of choice. Then, lightly dust powder highlighter over it to make you even more radiant—be careful not to overdo it, though!

You can also apply highlighter on the inner corners of your eyes and on your brow bone to look more awake. This technique works really well if you’re meeting up with your friends for brunch or attending a day event. You can also wear it out on a date or even on your wedding, TBH!

If you want to be the star of the show (or blind everyone with your highlighter, in other words), metallic and wet-finish highlighters are your best friend. Use a damp sponge and layer powder highlighter on top of an iridescent cream base for maximum effect. Feeling unstoppable? Mix a dollop of liquid highlighter into your foundation for that all-over glow.

How to Nail That Long-Lasting, All-Day Highlight

As a general rule, your highlighter’s staying power will depend on its formula and whether or not it works well with your skin type. Although liquid and cream highlighters are unbeatable in terms of being the most natural-looking, they might not stay all day on oilier guys and gals.

Powder highlighters are widely-regarded as the longest-lasting formula, but again, it all depends on finding the right product for your skin. If you have normal to dry skin, you could probably get away with using balmy highlighters—especially in the winter.

One thing, however, is definite: nailing that long-lasting, all-day highlight could be achieved by using tried-and-tested application techniques.

Without further ado, here’s the secret—broken down for you step by step:

First, make sure your skin is properly prepped for makeup. Investing in a good primer doesn’t only help foundation apply better on your face, but it helps the rest of your makeup stay on all day, too.

Second, when applying your highlighter, it’s best to start off with a liquid or cream formula to act as a base. This will give your powder highlighter something to cling to, therefore ensuring that it won’t rub off as easily.

Third, it’s time for powder highlighter! But before you pack it on, here’s a tip: spray your brush with some setting spray (Urban Decay’s All Nighter Spray works really well) until it’s slightly damp. Use this brush to layer on your powder highlighter according to the intensity you’re going for.

Lastly, finish off with another spritz (or two) of setting spray, and then you’re good to go!

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Article Staff

Marina is a California girl and former Idaho resident who is currently living her best life in the Seattle area with her husband and newborn baby. She has a BA in Journalism from Boise State University, as well as a M.Ed from Western Washington University.

Marina has a passion for running, hiking, brunching and, of course, all things home decor. When she isn’t writing, Marina loves to be with family and friends, preferably in the outdoors.

Marina covers everything from health and beauty to babies and women. If the product is in one of these categories, she's likely tried it. For all beauty + mom advice, she's your go-to girl. Want to be friends? Follow her on Instagram: @mrswiersma

Editor Jenna Holtz
Researcher Ronnie Langston
Art Director Cherry Barbacena

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6 Best Highlighters

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