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14 best highlighters 2023: Liquids, powders and creams tried and tested by beauty experts

These illuminating formulas are perfect for catching the light on your cheekbones

Helen Wilson-Beevers
Tuesday 07 November 2023 17:10 GMT
We looked at the effect, packaging and price point of each product in our selection
We looked at the effect, packaging and price point of each product in our selection (iStock/The Independent)
Our Top Picks

Highlighter is a make-up bag buy that will add shimmering radiance when applied to parts of the face (and other areas of the body) that catch the light – think temples, brow bones, cupid’s bow, cheekbones and décolletage – adding a healthy-looking finish and iridescent glow to skin.

Depending on your preference, there are creams, liquids, powders and sticks to choose between, creating both natural effects and more overt sparkly looks. Typically, though, they have a lightweight texture suitable for dotting onto key areas, and can be mixed in with foundation or tinted moisturiser to maximise an all-over glow. They work well when paired with blusher, too.

Mimicking natural light, highlighters serve up a flattering softness that has universal appeal, whether opting for full-on strobing or a simple sweep of pearlescent sheen. Plus, dewiness – which appears thanks to a hydrating slick of glowing balm or cream – gets our vote, too.

Whether you favour bold metallics, understated luminosity, pink hues or gold glitter, there’s a highlighting option for everyone. So, with that in mind, we’ve been researching the best around, from luxury picks to affordable purchases.

How we tested

We sampled a selection of highlighters for several weeks, testing cream, stick, liquid, and powder versions. We looked at the highlighting effect created, packaging and price point, plus how wearable each formula was. Those making the list had to bring a shimmery glow and add illumination seen when the light shone on our skin. These are the ones that really sparkled.

Just a handful of the highlighters we tested (Helen Wilson-Beevers)

The best highlighters for 2023 are:

  • Best highlighter overall – Pat McGrath Labs divine glow highlighter, venus nectar: £45,
  • Best budget highlighter – Lottie London diamond bounce illuminating powder highlighter, rose gold: £8.95,
  • Best stick highlighter – NARS the multiple, copacabana: £33,
  • Best liquid highlighter – SUQQU shimmer liquid highlighter: £26,
  • Best compact highlighter – Dior forever couture luminizer, pearlescent glow: £44,

Pat McGrath Labs divine glow highlighter, venus nectar

Pat McGrath labs highlighter.png
  • Best: Highlighter overall
  • Size: 4.6g
  • Shades: Three
  • Why we love it
    • Buildable
    • Softening, luminous finish

This luxurious highlighting powder creates a silky, buildable finish that delivers iridescence and luminosity while feeling comfortably softening on the skin. There’s a mirror included inside the compact, for application ease, and you’ll find a few different shades to shop. This venus nectar number is a beautiful rose-gold colour, which adds a warming midweight make-up glow.

We saw a dewiness when popping it onto cheekbones, décolletage and cupid’s bow, noticing a bold reflective finish in the light, too. It’s also impressively nourishing as highlighters go, thanks to its botanical oil ingredients.

Although undeniably a splurge buy, we’ve been using this versatile highlighter almost daily for more than a year now and still have product left in the sturdy black compact.

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Lottie London diamond bounce illuminating powder highlighter, rose gold

Lottie London highlighter.png
  • Best: Budget highlighter
  • Size: 8g
  • Shades: Three
  • Why we love it
    • Generous size

This vegan-friendly powder highlighter is a generous size, particularly given the sub-£9 price point, and we think it’s likely to last for ages. We applied the shiny pigment to our skin and felt its smooth formula glide across our cheekbones, brow bones and décolletage.

The highlighter is available in silver and golden shades but we chose the rose-gold option, which lives up to the diamond bounce name and is suitably sparkly. It’s a gel-powder hybrid, meaning we saw all the benefits of a pressed highlighter plus a hydrating make-up finish, too.

  1. £8 from
Prices may vary
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Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood beauty light wand, spotlight

Charlotte Tilbury highlighter.png
  • Best: Cult classic highlighter
  • Size: 12ml
  • Shades: Six
  • Why we love it
    • Versatile for different make-up looks

This cult classic buy regularly sells out in a few of its six shades, and it’s not hard to see why. The signature beauty light wand cushioned sponge tip makes for quick and easy application, and we added it to our cheekbones, brow bones and cupid’s bow. The spotlight version is a rose-gold highlighter, which created champagne tones on our skin. We found the creamy liquid highlighter hybrid buildable and brilliant for blending. It reflects light rather than creating a glittery effect, making the formula versatile for both casual and dressed-up make-up looks.

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Nars the multiple, copacabana

NARS the multiple, copacabana.jpg
  • Best: Stick highlighter
  • Size: 14g
  • Shades: Seven
  • Why we love it
    • Glides easily onto skin

This chunky highlighter stick hugs the contours of your face when applied directly onto skin, but you can also use a brush or your fingertips. The stick’s shape lends itself well to different areas of the face – we’ve used it on our lips, cheeks, underneath our brow bone and above our cupid’s bow.

This highlighter glides easily onto skin and, when the creamy formula sank in, we saw a powdery finish that didn’t slide about. It creates a gorgeous layer of iridescent shimmer, which looks luminous when it catches the light, without being overtly sparkly. Ingredients include acai oil and vitamin E, which adds to the softening feel.

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SUQQU shimmer liquid highlighter

SUQQU highlighter.png
  • Best: Liquid highlighter
  • Size: 7.5ml
  • Shades: Two
  • Why we love it
    • Long-lasting

Presented in a chic glass bottle with a pump release nozzle, this liquid highlighter creates a glowing gold wash on skin – it has long-lasting staying power, too. We’ve been wearing it under our brow bones for a brightening lift, as well as across our cheeks and even as a metallic liquid eyeshadow option.

We saw shimmery sparkle, while the inclusion of ingredients such as sunflower-seed oil, jojoba oil and macadamia oil added noticeable skin smoothing. A little bit goes a long way in delivering highlighting luminosity that lasts for hours, so we think we’ll be using this tiny 7.5ml bottle for a while.

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Dior forever couture luminizer, pearlescent glow

Dior highlighter.png
  • Best: Compact highlighter
  • Size: 6g
  • Shades: Six
  • Why we love it
    • Application mirror included

Presented in a chic Dior compact, this highlighting powder comes complete with an application mirror. Thanks to its quilted finish and raised logo, it’s bound to add a bit of luxury to any make-up bag, too. There are six colour options to choose between, including golden, pink, and coral notes.

We plumped for the silvery pearlescent glow shade and immediately saw sparkly particles appear on our skin. We also noticed hydrating ingredient pansy extract adds a softening feel, and a tiny amount dabbed onto cheekbones and the cupid’s bow brought instant shimmer, which we could still detect hours later.

Meanwhile, a sweep of the highlighter worked well on larger areas too, such as the décolletage, for a long-lasting glittery effect.

  1. £41 from
Prices may vary
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Beauty Pie triple beauty luminizing wand, champagne

Beauty pie(2).jpg
  • Best: Highlighter for a subtle finish
  • Size: 15ml
  • Shades: One
  • Why we love it
    • Creates a subtle glow

This is an understated highlighter creating a soft glow and comforting creamy finish that feels silky on skin. The sleek 15ml tube has a twist-up sponge tip, which we either dabbed onto our hand ahead of application or directly onto the area we wanted to highlight. We saw subtle illumination without overt sparkle, and appreciated how buildable this formula is. We also added it to our foundation, for a little extra luminosity.

The champagne shade is a stunning combination of pearlescent and golden tones. If you’re a fan of glowy cheekbones minus the glitter, we think this is the highlighting buy for you.

It’s worth knowing Beauty Pie members can bag this highlighter for the bargain price of £11.

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Jones Road miracle balm, golden hour

Jones Road highlighter.png
  • Best: Highlighter balm
  • Size: 50g
  • Shades: Eight
  • Why we love it
    • Adds dewiness to skin

This is a glow-giving balm that delivers a hybrid make-up and skincare finish – ideal if you prefer a hydrating dewiness when highlighting your face. We enjoyed wearing this formula on bare skin and over foundation, seeing the product glide smoothly on and deliver a glassy, glowy effect.

There are eight shades to choose between, with our current favourite being golden hour, as it has metallic notes. We noticed a dewiness to skin when slathering it on, and we use the balm regularly as a quick make-up pick-me-up.

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Illamasqua beyond liquid highlighter, OMG

Illamasqua highlighter.png
  • Best: Highlighter for a glossy shine
  • Size: 15ml
  • Shades: Three
  • Why we love it
    • Mixes well with moisturiser and foundation

This vegan-friendly buy comes in a squeezy 15ml tube, and there are three different shades to choose between, with OMG being a metallic rose-gold tone.

The glossy liquid glides easily across skin, creating a glowy coverage that shimmers, and it is very comfy to wear – the lightweight formula feels like it’s barely there, while offering a noticeable highlighting impact.

Ingredients include jojoba oil, and we could detect a hydrating boost. Plus, the liquid lends itself well to being mixed with tinted moisturiser or foundation for an all-over buildable glow.

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Fenty Beauty eaze drop’lit, taffy topez

Fenty Beauty highlighter.png
  • Best: Highlighter for skincare ingredients
  • Size: 32ml
  • Shades: Four
  • Why we love it
    • Adds a natural highlighting effect

Presented in a signature prismatic Fenty Beauty bottle, this sizeable 36ml highlighter is available in four shades. We’ve been wearing taffy topez – a light golden tone offering lightweight shimmer and radiant coverage.

It’s a sheeny formula that is particularly soothing, thanks to skincare-style ingredients, including sodium hyaluronate, vitamin E and prickly pear extract.

Suitable for an all-over highlighting boost, the gentle finish is natural-looking while helping to offer subtle tone balancing, too. For that reason, we like to wear it on the décolletage and limbs.

  1. £29 from
Prices may vary
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Hourglass vanish flash highlighting stick, gold flash

Hourglass highlighter.png
  • Best: Tip shape for precise application
  • Size: 6.1g
  • Shades: Five
  • Why we love it
    • Layers well

This twist-up highlighting stick is presented in luxurious metallic packaging, and we found its unique triangular-shaped tip assists with precise application. The uplifting gold colour adds an illuminating effect, and there are four other shades to try.

We noticed its texture ensures buildable blending, and the highlighter can be seamlessly layered with other make-up. Meanwhile, the stick format helps with easy on-the-move application, minus any mess, and offers the option of a speedy illuminating top-up throughout the day.

  1. £45 from
Prices may vary
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Gucci Beauty illuminateur de beauté liquid highlighter, universal

Gucci Beauty illuminateur de beauté liquid highlighter, universal.jpg
  • Best: Multi-tasking highlighter
  • Size: 12ml
  • Shades: One
  • Why we love it
    • Can be mixed with skincare and make-up

What’s useful about this liquid highlighter is it comes in a slimline bottle complete with a pipette dropper, so the product can be dabbed onto skin or mixed with foundation or moisturiser. There’s only one shade available and that’s a metallic golden colour, which adds a glow to skin or a shimmering sheen on top of make-up.

Key ingredients include daisy, lily and black rose extracts, and we noted how comfy it feels to apply and wear. We’ve found the formula is long-lasting, offering a healthy-looking radiance throughout the day.

  1. £37 from
Prices may vary
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Trinny London the right light illuminator, sunlight

Trinny London the right light illuminator, sunlight.jpg
  • Best: Cream highlighter
  • Size: 4g
  • Shades: Four
  • Why we love it
    • Stackable packaging

This little pot of creamy highlighter is part of Trinny London’s stackable product collection, so you can pair it with blush and eyeshadow for easy make-up storage. The shimmery highlighter is available in four golden-hued options, including the sunlit shade we sampled.

The lightweight formula smooths easily onto skin, whether you prefer using your fingertips or a brush. Because of this, we liked how little or much can be added, according to the look you’re trying to achieve, and it’s a useful addition to our make-up bag when we’re on the move, too.

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Chanel duo lumière illuminating powder duo

Chanel duo lumière illuminating powder duo .jpg
  • Best: Highlighter for dual shades
  • Size: 7.5g
  • Shades: Two shades are included within the compact
  • Why we love it
    • Remains on skin for several hours

If you fancy a splurge, this limited-edition Chanel buy has a showstopping sequin-print finish and features two highlighter shades.

It’s presented in a chic compact, complete with a mirror and the iconic interlocking C branding, and there’s a separate application brush within an additional velvet case.

This sparkly highlighter has a powdery finish that sweeps onto skin and leaves a glittery glow. It feels weightless to wear and doubles up as a dot of radiance on the eyelids. We also noted this highlighter remains on skin for several hours.

  1. £54 from
Prices may vary
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Highlighter FAQs

Does highlighter make you look older?

On the contrary, using a highlighter actually adds a youthful sheen to the face. While mature skin can often appear dry and flat, applying a highlighter will give it more depth and allow the skin to look healthier.

That said, if you have mature skin, steer clear of highlighters containing glitter or sparkle, as this can draw attention to fine lines. You should also avoid applying thick highlighting textures in the lines around your eyes, so the product doesn’t clog them.

The performance of your highlighter also depends on your pre-make-up skin prep. Make sure your skin is cleansed, toned and moisturised before applying your make-up, so your highlighter stays put and doesn’t slide off or, equally, dry up.

The purpose of a highlighter is to keep the skin looking fresh and youthful, so not doing a proper skincare routine before you apply it would be counteractive. If you have mature skin, choose cream- or liquid-textured highlighters, instead of powders, to keep dry skin supple and glowy.

Where should you use highlighter?

Highlighter should be applied to the high points of your face, so you can create the illusion of a prominent bone structure. This means along the tops of your cheekbones, on your brow bones, down the bridge of the nose and on your cupid’s bow. The light will bounce off wherever you put it, so try not to overdo it – subtlety is key.

However, if you prefer a little more radiance, dab some in the upper-centre of your eyelids, in the inner corner of your eyes and even near your temples on the sides of your forehead, but not in the middle, as that area is naturally more oily and you don’t want to add more shine to an already oily T-zone.

How do you choose the right colour?

Highlighters are applied to add light to your face and also to enhance your features, so choose one that is one or two hues lighter than your natural skin tone. The idea is for it to create a natural, seamless glimmer of light on your skin, rather than a harsh, noticeable strip.

Fair skin tones should opt for pearlescent or champagne shades, medium/neutral skin tones suit iridescent, pink or golden tones and dark skin tones look best in rose gold or bronze highlighters. When you’re more tanned during the summer, you can go a little bit darker.

The verdict: Highlighters

Our best overall buy is Pat McGrath Labs’ divine glow highlighter for its silky soft buildable finish, which radiates luminosity. Meanwhile, for an affordable glittery option, we’d recommend Lottie London’s diamond bounce illuminating powder highlighter. Finally, if you’re seeking a stick highlighter, Nars the multiple is a chunky shape that glides onto skin, and the luminous finish stays put.

For more must-have complexion products, read our review of the best bronzers

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