10 best highlighters for showcasing a shimmery glow
Highlighter is an essential make-up bag buy and when applied to parts of the face and body which catch the light – including the temples, browbones, cupid’s bow, cheekbones and decolletage – it adds a healthy-looking glow and iridescent shimmer to skin.
While desired highlighting effects can vary dramatically according to your preference, formulas span across creams, powders, and sticks in naturally radiant to overtly sparkly finishes. Typically though, they have a lightweight texture which is suitable for dotting onto key areas and can also be mixed in with foundation or tinted moisturiser to maximise an all-over glow and work well paired with blusher too.
Mimicking the natural light, highlighters serve up a flattering softness which has universal appeal, should that be thanks to full-on strobing or a simple sweep of a smoothing, pearlescent sheen. Plus, dewiness – which appears thanks to a hydrating slick of glowing balm or cream – gets our vote too.
These enlightening buys also offer an excellent way of elevating understated looks and taking your beauty base from daytime to disco. After all, anything which adds an extra lift to our make-up look wins extra points where we’re concerned.
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 across several weeks, testing cream, stick, liquid, and powder formulas. Our tester looked at the highlighting effect created, their packaging and price point, plus how wearable each one 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.
The best highlighters for 2022 are:
- Best overall highlighter – Pat McGrath Labs divine glow highlighter, venus nectar: £45, Selfridges.com
- Best cult classic highlighter – Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood beauty light wand, spotlight: £29, Charlottetilbury.com
- Best highlighter for a golden glow – SUQQU shimmer liquid highlighter: £26, Cultbeauty.com
- Best compact highlighter – Dior forever couture luminizer, pearlescent glow: £41, Dior.com
- Best highlighter for a creamy finish – Beauty Pie triple beauty luminizing wand, champagne: £25, Beautypie.com
- Best highlighter balm – Jones Road miracle balm, golden hour: £36, Jonesroadbeauty.com
- Best highlighter for a glossy shine – Illamasqua beyond liquid highlighter, OMG: £24, Lookfantastic.com
- Best highlighterfor skincare ingredients – Fenty Beauty eaze drop’lit, taffy topez: £27, Boots.com
- Best affordable highlighter – Lottie London diamond bounce illuminating powder highlighter, rose gold: £8.95, Lottie.london
- Best luxury highlighter – Hourglass vanish flash highlighting stick, gold flash: £45, Spacenk.com
- Best: Overall
- Size: 4.6g
- Shades: Three
This luxurious highlighting powder creates a silky, buildable finish which 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.
Our tester saw a dewiness when popping it onto cheekbones, decolletage and cupid’s bow, noticing a bold reflective finish in the light too. Impressively nourishing as highlighters go, that’s because of included botanical oil ingredients. Although undeniably a splurge buy, we’ve been using this versatile highlighter almost daily for over a year now and still have enough product left in the sturdy black compact.
- Best: Cult classic
- Size: 12ml
- Shades: Six
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, browbones and cupid’s bow. The spotlight version is a rose gold highlighter which creates champagne tones on our skin and our tester 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 as well.
- Best: For a golden glow
- Size: 7.5ml
- Shades: Two
Presented in a chic glass bottle with a pump release nozzle, this liquid highlighter creates a glowing gold wash on skin which 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.
Our tester saw shimmery sparkle, while the inclusion of ingredients like 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 too.
- Best: Compact highlighter
- Size: 6g
- Shades: Six
Presented in a chic Dior compact, this highlighting powder comes complete with an application mirror. The case adds extra make-up bag luxury too, thanks to its quilted finish and raised logo branding. There are six colour options to choose between, including golden, pink, and coral notes.
Our tester plumped for the silvery pearlescent glow shade and immediately saw sparkly particles appear on skin. We alsonoticed 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 reached larger areas such as the decolletage for a long-lasting glittery effect there too.
- Best: For a creamy finish
- Size: 15ml
- Shades: One
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 skin. We saw subtle illumination without overt sparkle and appreciated how buildable this formula is. Plus, our tester added it to 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.
- Best: Balm
- Size: 50g
- Shades: Eight
This is a glow-giving balm bringing a hybrid make-up and skincare finish, which would be ideal if you prefer a hydrating dewiness for highlighting your face. Our tester enjoyed wearing it on both bare skin and over foundation, seeing the product glide smoothly on and deliver a glassy glow effect.
There are eight shade variations to choose between, and our current favourite is golden hour as this tone has metallic notes. We noticed a dewiness to skin when slathering it on and use the balm regularly as a quick make-up pick-me-up.
- Best: For a glossy shine
- Size: 15ml
- Shades: Three
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 on our tester’s skin. The glossy liquid glides easily across skin, creating a glowy coverage that shines and 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 in with tinted moisturiser or foundation for an all-over buildable glow.
- Best: For skincare ingredients
- Size: 32ml
- Shades: Four
Presented in a signature prismatic Fenty Beauty bottle, this sizeable 36ml highlighter is available in four shades. Our tester has 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, our tester likes wearing it on the decolletage and limbs as well.
- Best: Affordable buy
- Size: 8g
- Shades: Three
This vegan-friendly powder highlighter is a generous size, particularly given the under-£9 price point and we think it would last for ages. We applied the shiny pigment – it’s 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 – to our skin and felt its smoothy formula glide across our cheekbones, browbones and decolletage. It’s a gel-powder hybrid meaning we saw all the benefits of a pressed highlighter plus a hydrating make-up finish too.
- Best: Luxury buy
- Size: 6.1g
- Shades: Five
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 too.
Our tester noticed its texture ensures buildable blending, and the highlighter can be seamlessly layered with other make-up too. 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.
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 that the product doesn’t clog inside 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 that 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 young looking, so not doing a proper skincare routine before you apply it would prove to 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 that 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 we liked the glowing gold finish and sparkling look SUQQU’s shimmer liquid highlighter delivered. Finally, for an affordable glittery option, we’d recommend Lottie London’s diamond bounce illuminating powder highlighter.
For more must-have complexion products, read our review of the best bronzers