20 best highlighters for a next-level glow: liquid, powder and cream | plmubl.com

20 best highlighters for a next-level glow: liquid, powder and cream

It carves out cheekbones. It imparts the type of ethereal sheen that rivals a dewy-skinned ’90s supermodel. Yes, highlighter has a magical quality, making you look like a fresher, more polished version of yourself with a single swipe.

Whether you choose a powder, cream or liquid formula, they are designed with one goal in mind: to bathe the high points of the face in light because, unlike contouring, which uses shade to create dimension. Highlighters are all about glow.

At one time, highlighters laid down a blinding, highly pigmented chrome finish. Now a major shift has taken place as dewy, glass skin continues to capture our imagination and our social feeds, with 231.7 million posts on TikTok alone.

So it’s no coincidence that today’s highlighters typically have featherlight, reflective pigments that mimic the way natural light dances on the skin rather than large glittery flecks.

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Best highlighters at a glance – our five top picks:

  1. Best Highlighter OverallRare Beauty Positive Light Liquid Luminizer, £24, Space NK
  2. Best Powder HighlighterMAC Mineralize Skinfinish Highlighter, £34, Look Fantastic
  3. Best Liquid HighlighterCharlotte Tilbury Beauty Light Wand, £30, Cult Beauty
  4. Best Highlighter StickVictoria Beckham Reflect Highlighter Stick, £40, Selfridges
  5. Best Affordable HighlighterSleek Makeup Highlighting Palette, £9.97, Amazon

MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Highlighter

£34 AT AMAZON

£34 AT LOOK FANTASTIC

Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Light Wand

£30 AT CULT BEAUTY

£30 AT AMAZON

Victoria Beckham Reflect Highlighter Stick

£40 AT SELFRIDGES

Rare Beauty Positive Light Liquid Luminizer

£24 AT SPACE NK

£34.93 AT AMAZON


How we test highlighters:

Our editors are constantly testing the new highlighter launches that land on the beauty desk, aiming to us them for at least a week before featuring them. It’s important to us that new highlighters are cruelty-free and come in recyclable packaging – and we’ll score the products themselves based on value for money, packaging, innovation, whether they actually give you a from-within glow – and whether that glow lasts.


How to apply highlighter:

When it comes to application, it very much depends on the consistency. “Powder highlighters should always be applied after using a setting powder, otherwise they grab on to any oil in the skin and won’t blend seamlessly,” says makeup artist Liz Pugh.

While liquid and cream highlighters can be applied over the top of foundation, Liz is also partial to dotting them over freshly moisturised skin, underneath foundation, for a hint of sheen during the winter months when the light is flat.

“However, I would never do this in summer as the skin will appear too shiny,” she adds. Liz likes to push the product into the skin with her fingers first, before buffing with a brush.

As for creating dimension, Chanel makeup artist Marco Antonio points out that it’s best to mimic where light naturally hits. “Pick up the highlighter with a small, fluffy makeup brush and apply it to the high points of the face, including the top of your cheekbones, bridge of the nose, cupid’s bow, brow bone and possibly on the inner corners of your eyes,” he says.

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He suggests using a light-handed approach, “starting gently by blending the highlighter into the skin to achieve a seamless, natural-looking glow rather than harsh lines. But if you are more into an intense glow, you can layer the highlighter by applying a second or third coat to build up the intensity gradually.”

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Either way, there’s just one caveat, says Liz. “Never blend too far into the centre of the face – a good indication is no further than the centre of the cheek below the eye, blending to the top of the cheekbone.”

The beauty of highlighter is that it is a multi-dimensional product. So don’t be afraid to experiment with different placement techniques to see what works. “For example, applying highlighter along the collarbones and shoulders can enhance a summery glow,” says Marco.

Meanwhile, Liz often adds a touch of highlighter to the centre of the lip to give the illusion of a fuller pout. “Another trick I use is to wear it alone on the eyelid, or in place of eyeshadow, to give a beautiful light-reflecting, awakening effect. Highlighter can even be pressed into a matte lipstick to transform it into a soft shimmering one.”


Powder, cream or liquid?

The choice of formula is largely down to personal preference and season. “The most used formulas in my kit are creams or liquids as I feel these are the most flattering on the skin and you have a little more control with them,” says Liz.

Generally speaking, creams and liquids will also deliver the dewiest results, but powders have longevity on their side, especially during the warmer months. “A powder highlighter used over cream bronzer will keep it in place,” she notes.


Our edit of the best highlighters to channel your inner glowy goddess…

1. Best overall highlighter

Rare Beauty Positive Light Liquid Luminizer

£24 AT SEPHORA

£24 AT SPACE NK

Why we love it: Trust us, this highlighter lives up to all the hype it gets – one very good reason it won Best Highlighter in the GLAMOUR Beauty Power List Awards 2023. In seven shades, it somehow manages to be both long-lasting and lightweight, resulting in a gorgeous luminous finish that is bound to work on all complexions. It is also a great skincare/makeup hybrid as light-reflecting flecks of pearl meet hydrating waterlily and lotus extracts. A top tip: mix it in with a liquid blush and you’ll get the prettiest shimmer-y blusher.

Save big when you shop for best highlighters with these Space NK discount codes.

2. Best highlighter for a bronze glow

Merit Day Glow Solstice

£34 AT MERIT BEAUTY

Why we love it: Unfussy beauty sings a certain siren song in summer and that’s where this dewy highlighting balm comes in. As well as complementing warmer, sun-kissed skin, this highlighter is also packed with kind-to-skin ingredients including squalane to lock in moisture, fatty acids and antioxidant vitamin E for a dewy glow that lasts beyond makeup.

3. Best highlighter for buildable glow

Dior Forever Glow Maximiser

£36 AT JOHN LEWIS

£36 AT SEPHORA

Why we love it: This highlighter has been dominating the algorithm of late, largely because it can take tired, lacklustre skin to new glowy heights within a matter of seconds. The seven tints are all super versatile, bathing skin in radiance when used traditionally as highlighter, as well as replacing your blusher, bronzer and even your eyeshadow for a soft glam effect.

4. Best highlighter for dark skin tones

Fenty Beauty Killawatt Foil Freestyle Highlighter

£32 AT BOOTS

Why we love it: The clue is definitely in the name. Not designed for those who shine away from a killawatt glow, this cream-powder highlighter comes in a wide shade range for deep skin tones. Brace yourself, the finish is mega-reflective and pigment-rich, ensuring this highlighter has some serious punch.

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Save when shopping for the best highlighters with these Boots discount codes.

5. Best premium highlighter

Pat McGrath Skin Fetish: Sublime Skin Highlighter

£43 AT PAT MCGRATH

£53 AT SEPHORA

Why we love it: Thanks to a very creamy formula, this gel-powder highlighter is guaranteed to give your cheekbones an other-worldly, ethereal sheen. With enough slip on the skin to allow for play time, you can easily build and blend as needed. Plus, the product comes in the most gorgeous packaging too – I mean, look at it, it’s practically an accessory on its own.

6. Best powder highlighter

MAC Mineralize Skinfinish Highlighter

£34 AT AMAZON

£34 AT LOOK FANTASTIC

Why we love it: If there’s a highlighter that needs no introduction, it’s this one, specifically in a rose gold shade dubbed “Soft & Gentle.” It’s been winning all of our hearts for years now, and still remains a cult-favourite for beauty enthusiasts. This slow-baked powder highlighter ensures silky smooth application and a radiant strobe finish.

Save big when you shop for the best highlighters with these LookFantastic discount codes.

7. Best highlighter for dry skin

e.l.f. Halo Glow Liquid Filter

£15 AT AMAZON

£15 AT BOOTS

Why we love it: Infused with moisture-boosting ingredients such as squalane and hyaluronic acid, this liquid highlighter is perfect for creating a skin-enhancing, soft-focus effect while taking care of dry patches. You can wear it on its own or mixed into your favourite foundation.

Save when shopping for the best highlighters with these Boots discount codes.

8. Best highlighter for a subtle glow

Laura Mercier Face Illuminator Highlighting Powder

£41 AT LOOKFANTASTIC

Why we love it: Alongside luxe packaging, this product’s radiance-boosting credentials are pretty impressive, too. Despite being a finely milled powder it goes on more like a cream, making it easy to apply, especially if you’re after a highlighting powder that won’t emphasise uneven skin texture.

Save big when you shop for the best highlighters with these LookFantastic discount codes.

9. Best liquid highlighter

Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Light Wand

£30 AT CULT BEAUTY

£30 AT AMAZON

Why we love it: This best-selling product has turned into a TikTok sensation, and with good reason: a combination of brightening pearls and pigments delivers the slickest of dewy finishes when applied to the tops of cheekbones and down the centre of the nose.

Bookmark these Cult Beauty discount codes to save big.

10. Best highlighter stick

Victoria Beckham Reflect Highlighter Stick

£40 AT SELFRIDGES

Why we love it: Put simply, this highlighter stick gives skin the type of dewy, no-makeup look that mimics an expensive facial. It’s so sheer, it’s virtually foolproof to apply on the go while the glossy, second-skin finish is next-to-natural.

11. Best highlighter for long-lasting glow

Vieve Skin Dew

£21 AT CULT BEAUTY

£21 AT SPACE NK

Why we love it: This liquid gel has a unique bouncy texture that makes it easy to swipe over both the face and body. Crafted from good-to-skin ingredients such as squalane for hydration, anti-inflammatory sunflower seed oil and antibacterial papaya fruit, its honey hue imparts a warm, glossy veil that looks like your skin made it.

12. Best gel highlighter

Saie Glowy Super Gel

£22 AT CULT BEAUTY

Why we love it: Consider this gel highlighter to be like a long, tall drink of water for the skin. Made up of 75% water, it’s cool to the touch on summer days, loaded with skin-brightening vitamin C and comes in two shades – champagne and bronze – for a gleam that livens up dull skin year-round.

13. Best shimmery highlighter

Glossier Haloscope

£22 AT GLOSSIER

Why we love it: A great option for a highlighter if you prefer a bit more shimmer as well as glazed effect. The stick itself is made up of two different formulas – an oil-based inner core rich in vitamins and hydrators, and an outer ring containing actual crystal extracts. Talk about a crystal-like glow.

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14. Best affordable highlighter

Sleek MakeUP Highlighting Palette

£9.96 AT AMAZON

Why we love it: This affordable and versatile highlighter palette contains three velvet cream formulas as well as one powder. It’s ideal for creating a seriously sculpted glow without breaking the bank. Plus, it’s designed to give your face the glow it deserves while eliminating any unwanted oily shine.

Save big when you shop for the best highlighters with these Amazon discount codes.

15. Best highlighter for a wet-look glow

ICONIC London Illuminator

£32 £25.60 AT LOOKFANTASTIC

Why we love it: It’s beyond easy to create a lit-from-within glow when you have this liquid highlighter at hand. A celebrity favourite, this product features a gleaming metallic formula in a variety of shades that can be mixed with foundation, moisturiser or primer to create a customisable glow.

Save big when you shop for the best highlighters with these LookFantastic discount codes.

16. Best highlighter palette

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Edit Unlocked

£78 AT CULT BEAUTY

Why we love it: Why settle for one shade for your highlighter? This palette features an array of shimmering rose-tinted blushes, bronzers and straight-up highlighters, all of which capture and diffuse light for a pretty candlelit glow.

Save big when you shop for the best highlighter with these Cult Beauty discount codes.

17. Best highlighter balm

Chanel Baume Essentiel

£38 £31.50 AT BOOTS

Why we love it: This buttery highlighter balm from Chanel continually sells out thanks to a texture that melts into the skin and a light-reflecting glimmer that sculpts your face. It’s incredibly easy to use and will give your face, lips and eyes a sophisticated, dialled-down sheen that will have people asking where you’ve been on holiday to look so well.

Save when shopping for the best highlighters with these Boots discount codes.

18. Best highlighter for a dewy finish

RMS Beauty Magic Luminizer

£39 AT SPACE NK

Why we love it: Looking for a highlighter that can light up your skin with the most amazing iridescent champagne shimmer and pink undertones? Say no more. RMS Beauty’s Living Luminizer is well-known for its subtle, dewy glow and how it helps to achieve a real-life Instagram strobing effect while still looking natural.

Looking for savings? Check out these FeelUnique discount codes.

19. Best highlighter for body

Refy Body Glow

£28 AT SEPHORA

£28 AT SELFRIDGES

Why we love it: Refy’s gloss highlighter for the face is renowned for adding a glass-like sheen to cheekbones, eyelids and the Cupid’s Bow. Now the brand has taken that glow below the jawline with light reflective pearl pigments and antioxidants whether you want to make a feature of your shoulders or use it all over.

20. Best on-the-go highlighter powder

Bobbi Brown Mini Highlighting Powder

£26 AT LOOK FANTASTIC

Why we love it: This miniature highlighter comes in a mirrored compact that can slot into any bag – perfect for on-the-go touch-ups throughout the day if you lean more towards powder than creamy highlighter sticks. It’s exactly what you need to create a subtle rosy shimmer or enhance your cheekbones with extra dimension.

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