10 best highlighters: Liquids, powders and creams for the ultimate glow

The perfect formula will help accentuate the highest points of your face, adding radiance to your complexion while defining features

Pippa Bailey
Thursday 13 August 2020 17:30
The classic formula is a pressed powder, best applied with a brush, but stick applicators are currently in vogue
The classic formula is a pressed powder, best applied with a brush, but stick applicators are currently in vogue

Highlighting has to be one of the biggest beauty trends of recent years, with everyone searching for that perfect dewy glow that looks healthy, radiant and natural, not spangly and disco ball-like, as this can draw attention to uneven texture or blemishes.

A good highlighter accentuates all the highpoints of your face that light would naturally hit: cheekbones, the bridge of your nose, your cupid’s bow and your brow bones.

We also love applying them to our collarbones and the tops of our shoulders for special occasions.

The classic formula is a pressed powder, best applied with a brush, but stick applicators are currently in vogue, which are super easy to blend out or tap on with your fingertips.

Some are silky satin in finish and rely on pigment and light-reflecting particles to work their magic, while others have a balm-like consistency that stays tacky on the skin and gives a dewy wet wet look.

Whether you’re after a megawatt iridescence or a natural, healthy, everyday glow, you’ll find your new can’t-live-without highlighter in this round-up.

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Chanel baume essentiel

This coveted product often sells out, which speaks to its high acclaim. It’s a lightly tacky formula in a twist-up stick, that gives unbelievable natural glow without a single visible glitter particle. We’re completely addicted. Available in four shades, our favourite is “sculpting”, which isn’t a dark contour as the name suggests, but a neutral, barely there beige-pink. We’d particularly recommend it for dry skins, as it won’t settle into patchy areas.

Becca shimmering skin perfector pressed highlighter

This is a cult product for good reason, and we keep going back to it no matter how many new highlighters we try. Rather than the wet, balmy finish of many recent releases, it’s a good old-fashioned pressed powder, but is creamy enough not to appear chalky on the skin. Sweep it gently across your cheeks for a healthy but not OTT glow. Our favourite shades are “C pop,” a peachy gold, and “opal”, a neutral and universally flattering white gold.

Nars light sculpting highlighting powder

If you’re craving a good old-fashioned pressed compact, plump for this offering from Nars, a lightweight, luminous powder that gives a beautiful, buildable glow when swept across the face with a tapered brush. It comes in a great shade range, from the almost-white gold “albatross” to the warm bronze “St Barths”, which means there’s something here to suit every skin tone.

Suqqu multi-glow sticks

We can’t choose our favourite between the two shades of the Japanese beauty brand’s glow sticks, so we quite regularly just wear both. Inside the classy black and gold packaging is a perfectly balanced formula of light-reflecting pigment and smooth, wet-look balm. The shade “101” is an almost-clear pink, while “102” is a pale gold. Without fail, people comment on how radiant we look when we wear them.

Pat McGrath skin fetish highlighter and balm duo

This, from the famous make-up artist Pat McGrath, is the best of both worlds. At one end of the uber-chic white stick applicator is a silky golden, powder-textured highlighter; at the other a clear, tacky balm for the wet look. Both are gorgeous and long-lasting; we love carrying this one in our bag and sweeping it on for a pep-up throughout the day.

RMS Beauty luminiser

If you’re after a beautiful, natural, everyday highlighter that won’t settle into fine lines around the eyes and temples, RMS’s luminiser is your best bet. Its coconut oil and beeswax base feels really nourishing on the skin and it gives a gorgeous, light-reflecting glow without looking spangly. Perfect for mature skins, our favourite shade is the slightly pink gold “magic”.

Kevyn Aucoin the glass glow face and body illuminator

This is a really high-wattage highlight, with both a tacky, wet formula and a lightly coloured, glass-like finish with a hint of glitter. The latter means we prefer it for nights out rather than daylight, and it has the staying power to match. It’s a gel formula that blends really easily and also contains omega fatty acids and antioxidants for a nourishing little skincare boost. The white-gold “solar quartz” will suit everyone.

Glossier haloscope

This brand is about dewy, youthful skin, so you know its highlighter is going to be good. Another twist-up stick, it has a vitamin-rich, buttery moisturiser at its core for the wet look, with a glittery “halo” outer core. The shade “moonstone” is an opalescent white that is made for big nights out (once we’re allowed to go on them again).

Charlotte Tilbury beauty light wand

A different formula to most we tried, this a liquid highlighter that’s applied with a sponge tip. It gives a professional make-up artist-like shine with minimal effort: tap it out to blend with your fingers or with a brush. The original shade, “spotlight”, is a light, natural-looking gold, but we also love the new peach-pink “pillow talk”, which gives both highlight and a light flush.

Surratt torche lumiere

Inspired by the master craftsmanship found in Japanese culture and born in New York to the A-list make-up artist Troy Surratt, every product in the line is gorgeous and well thought out. This highlighter has the texture of a powder but the easy application of a stick. It feels silky smooth on application and leaves a iridescent, ever so slightly glittery colour. The shade “D’Or” is our favourite holiday highlight for a sun-kissed, golden glow.

The verdict: Highlighters

Chanel’s baume essentiel is a best-seller and we completely understand why: it gives a natural but super glowy finish; our skin has never looked healthier. Coming in a close second is our old favourite Becca, for a classic pressed powder.

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