Get the glow without spending the dough! Check out our 11 best drugstore highlighter picks.
The past few years have seen the meteoric rise of the contouring craze, and it seems everywhere you turn there’s a crazy new technique or product aimed to make you appear more chiseled than a Michelangelo sculpture. Well, word on the street—and runway—is that those heavily shadowed, contoured faces are being phased out and being replaced by bright, illuminated ones. Phew! Yup, that was a collective sigh of relief from those of us who have not quite mastered the complicated art of contouring yet. So, stash away that multi-step contouring palette and break out your highlighter. While highlighting might not exactly be a brand-new concept, it’s definitely a hot topic and one to take seriously. And, if you’re not willing to fully commit to the highlighting and strobing trend sweeping the nation, that’s OK, too. Take baby steps by picking up a highlighter that won’t cost a bundle and will work with any level of highlighting you want to partake in. Here, our top picks that you can find at your local drugstore. Plus, how to use them get your skin glowing—stat.
A Few Highlighter Tips to Know Before You Glow
Thanks to the recent buzz surrounding highlighting these days, drugstore shelves are now flooded with radiance boosters—and you may have noticed that they’re not all created equal. There are powders, creams, sticks, all in an array of shades ranging from pinks to icy silvers and metallic golds. So, how do you pick the best one for your skin type and tone? Here, three pro tips to help you nail the right formula and shade.
1. First, consider your skin type
If your complexion is oily, you probably want to avoid cream and liquid formulas. They can make skin look sweaty and greasy. Instead, get your radiance from a powder, which also helps absorb excess oil as it gives skin luminosity. On the other hand, if your skin is on the dry side, skip the powder shimmer. It will only shine a spotlight on flaky skin—and who wants that? Opt for a cream or liquid product, which gives dry skin a fresh, hydrated look. What about stick formulas? These tend to have a creamy finish, so will also work well for those with normal to dry skin.
2. Focus in on your skin tone
You’ve probably noticed that highlighters come in a lot of different tones: pale champagne pinks, rich golds and coppers. So, how do you choose? If you’re fair, choose an illuminator in a cool, icy tone such as silver or pale pink. If you go too dark or golden, the product will look like bronzer on your skin, not highlighter. If your skin is medium, try peach or rose golds. And if you have dark skin, choose one that’s deep gold, copper or bronze.
3. Match it to your makeup’s texture
Do you wear powder foundation? Then you should stick to a powder highlighter. On the other hand, if you wear liquid or cream foundation, go with a creamy illuminator, too. Since you’ll be layering your highlighter on top of you base, you want the two to be compatible. If they aren’t, the two formulas will be tough to blend.
Yes, the strobing trend is still going strong (that is, applying an illuminator where light naturally hits your face—cheekbones, the bridge of your nose, your forehead, and tip of your chin). This liquid formula with micro-pearls makes it super easy. It comes in three shades—light, medium, and dark—and gives skin radiance in seconds.
Quick tip: If you’d rather an all-over glow than strategic shimmer, mix a small dollop in with your primer in the palm of your hand, and apply to your entire face. Wear it alone or top with foundation.
If powder is your jam, then you’ll love this gilded pressed formula. The single-shade highlighter contains metallic pigments to give skin a cool, reflective quality wherever it’s applied that won’t look greasy even on oily skin.
Quick tip: Dip a small, fluffy blush brush into the powder compact and sweep it along the high points of your face.
Aptly named, this concealer/highlighter duo is the stuff dreams are made of. Swipe the areas that need to be highlighted with the tapered brush and blend in the liquid formula by patting it lightly with your fingertip or a cosmetic sponge.
Quick tip: Use it to brighten your eyes instantly by dabbing a bit of the concealer on the inner corner of your eyes.
L’Oréal Paris Infallible Pro Glow Concealer
Ok, technically it’s a concealer, but thanks to its illuminating formula, when applied to targeted areas, it doubles as a liquid highlighter. If you use it this way, go one shade lighter than your skin tone. Then swipe it on cheekbones, bridge of your nose, brow bones, and anywhere else you want to glow.
Quick tip: Use it to create the look of a more pillow-y pout. Dab the concealer around the outer edge of your lips and blend well with your fingertips.
L’Oréal Paris Magic Lumi Light Infusing Primer
It’s another double-duty product. This primer, which is meant to be worn alone or underneath your makeup, has an illuminating formula.
Quick tip: Layer it underneath your makeup for a lit-from-within quality. Or, apply it over your foundation on key areas
L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Liquid Glow Illuminator
If you’re looking to take a subtler approach to the glowing goddess look, this skin-matching formula is the one for you. Available in three shades—Golden, Ice, and Rose—this liquid-based highlighter will accommodate any and all skin tones for a naturally radiant complexion.
Quick tip: For an extra-subtle glow, mix a little of this shimmery stuff with your regular foundation and apply as usual.
Quick tip: Swipe it on skin straight from the tube. Then use your fingertip to tap it (and blend it) into the skin. You want the overall effect to say soft glisten, not Jem and the Holograms
NYX Away We Glow Illuminating Powder
You get to customize your radiance with this powder compact. Each one has four different tones in different finishes, ranging from matte to full-on shimmer. There are six different shades in all, so you can easily find one that works with your skin tone.
Quick tip: Wear one of the hues alone, or swirl them all together with your brush and dust on targeted areas of your face.
If your matte, pink blush needs a little shimmery kick, this compact illuminator will get the job done. It comes in five different shades—from pale champagne to gilded pink.
Quick tip: Try dusting a bit of this warm highlighter along the cheekbones, after you’ve applied your blush, to give your face a dewy finish, sans the dew.
NYX Hydra Touch Brightener
If you’re determined to master strobing or contouring, you need an artful tool that will deliver a precise and pigmented highlight without all the fuss. Try a pencil highlighter that illuminates on contact. This one comes in three shades—a soft pink, pastel yellow, and peach. Don’t worry about building intensity—a little goes a long way with this crayon. All you have to do is swipe and blend.
Quick tip: Use the pencil to trace around your brows. Drawing light to this area makes your brow line look lifted and precise.