There’s no way to deny the highlighting trend that has dominated our Instagram feeds over the last few years. And with all-over dewy, radiant skin an official year-round staple in the makeup category, highlighter is becoming as classic and essential as blush and eyeliner. But with the endless number of shimmery options out there, how do you know which one is right for you? Ahead, we rounded up the best highlighters for your skin tone, with a little guide as to why we love each. Without further ado, let’s get sparkling.
Fair Skin Tones
If you have pale to light skin, you should opt for highlighters with a pearlescent, icy-silver or champagne sheen. The light pigment adds just enough radiance to your complexion. You also want to avoid going with shades that are too warm or contain dark red undertones, and opt for shades that have a little bit more of a light, pinky-peach finish. For fair skin tones, we absolutely love the Urban Decay Sin Afterglow Palette because it’s an easy way to play with color and highlight, all while accentuating your complexion. If you want that crisp, ice finish, we recommend the NikkieTutorials x Maybelline Master Chrome Highlighter 250. This product was specifically built for lighter to pale skin tones and will help strobe your complexion without washing you out.
Medium and Olive Skin Tones
To keep your complexion from looking too frosty, warmer skin tones pair well with highlighters that have gold-bronze or iridescent undertones. The hint of color is just enough to give you that sun-kissed glow or a double-take worthy highlight as you please. A daily go-to for olive skin are Mehron Highlight-Pro 3 Color Palettes, which provide a bunch of shades to use daily for a bronzed finish — or occasionally if rainbow is also your style. We also adore the NYX Professional Makeup Away We Glow Liquid Boosters to give a ton of personality to your highlight on medium-toned skin.
Deep Skin Tones
Rich variations of rose gold or bronze work wonders on darker complexions. Just be sure to look for options that pack a ton of pigment and steer clear of frosty, opalescent shades, as they can cause the skin to appear dull instead of lit-from-within Instead, keep your focus on warm hues. We are absolutely enamored with the Maybelline Master Chrome Highlighter in Molten Gold for this. For another gorgeous highlighter for deeper skin tones, we recommend the Giorgio Armani Fluid Sheer, which is a liquid formula you can easily blend into your foundation or face product for some extra sheen.
More on Highlighting
Applying highlighter is not simply a matter of swiping the stuff on the cheeks and forehead and going about your business. In fact, if you’re not strategic and careful in your application, you could end up looking a bit disco ball-esque (not a great look). Choose the radiant, sun-kissed skin route by following these application tips.
Choose the right tools. Use a medium tapered brush (or setting brush) when applying highlighter to the cheekbones. If you choose to layer products, use a fan brush to apply the accent highlighter on top.
Smaller areas need smaller tools. For more detailed areas that cover smaller real estate (corners of the eyes, center of the nose, and brow bone), use the NYX Professional Makeup Pro Smudger Brush as it’s small, but fluffy. Put a pea-sized amount on the back of your hand, then dip the brush into it and blend lightly on each small area of the face. Reapply as desired.
Cream products like sponges. For cream products, try mini cosmetic sponges to ensure precise blending. With cream stick illuminators, apply foundation after highlighter. Sticks tend to lift the foundation off. But if you prefer to apply your foundation first, then use a sponge to apply it so it goes on more gently and doesn’t disturb your makeup.
Use a light hand. Another thing to consider when applying highlighter is how much you’re applying, since it's easier to build up than to remove. And with powder formulas, tap the excess off the brush to prevent the powder from straying into other areas and minimizes fallout.
Mix It Up
A great way to add highlighter into your daily routine is to play mixologist. All you have to do is blend it into your foundation, pre-application. Doing this will lend your face a natural, subtle radiance that leans more on the dewy-look side (as opposed to full-on strobing). Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Blend equal parts. After you’ve settled on the right liquid highlighter shade for your tone, drop equal parts highlighter and liquid foundation onto the back of your hand. Make sure the highlighter formula you go with has a nice sheer finish to it and isn’t super sparkly or glittery. Remember — this is going all over your face, so you want more sheen and less shimmer. The total amount of product should be about a dime-sized amount.
Step 2: Smooth over skin. Dot the mixture on your forehead, cheeks, nose and neck. Blend it all in with a foundation brush or damp cosmetic sponge or blender. Make sure it’s evenly distributed (even the neck!), and check the edges to ensure there are no harsh lines.
Highlighters used on the body do not need to be the same as the ones used on the face. While it’s all about personal preference, the purpose of a body highlighter is to define certain areas. Cream and stick highlighters work really well on the shoulders and collarbone areas, and we love the Maybelline New York Master Strobing Stick Illuminating Highlighter or It Cosmetics Hello Light Anti-Aging Luminizing Crème Stick for this.
For larger areas to cover, like the legs and arms, using a body-specific glow-inducing cream is key. Make sure, when working on larger body parts, you spread it evenly and completely, so you don’t get weird streaks or patches on the body. The Urban Decay Naked Illuminated Shimmering Powder for Face and Body Powder is spot on for this — and is super easy to use too.