While scientists have not yet figured out how to literally bottle the skin-flattering effects of a good night’s sleep, makeup for glowing skin (a.k.a. highlighters, strobing creams, luminizers) come pretty darn close. In just seconds, these illuminating cosmetics can make skin look glowy, vibrant, and well-rested—kind of like you’ve just applied an amazing Instagram filter, only you get to own the look IRL, not just in your photo gallery. It’s no wonder radiance-boosting cosmetics are the secret weapons in the kits of most pro makeup artists.
Ahead, we broke down all the types of glowy makeup products you can get your hands on from creams, sticks to powders and everything in between.
What it is: A cream highlighter has the same texture as a cream blush, only instead of delivering a pop of color, you get a serious strobe effect. Cream highlighters usually come in a few different shades: golden or champagne for warm skin tones, pink or icy white shades for cool complexions.
Who needs it: Creams are a go-to texture for normal-to-dry skin. Not too wet and not too dry — they mimic the skin's texture and give the most natural glow.
How to use it: After you’ve applied your liquid base product (that could be a tinted moisturizer, BB cream or liquid foundation), blend the cream onto the high points of your face — your forehead, the bridge of your nose, the tops of your cheekbones — using a foundation brush. Then set your makeup with powder and avoid the spots you’ve applied.
We love: L’Oréal Paris Lumi Glotion for under makeup application — and the NYX Professional Makeup Highlight & Contour Pro Palette. The Glotion works with your makeup to give you an overall dewy finish, while the palette really allows you to sculpt your high points and contour.
What it is: With the thin consistency of a serum or a liquid foundation, this type of radiance-booster gives skin more of a dewy, luminous look. But don’t mistake its thin texture for weakness; liquid highlighters tend to be highly concentrated cosmetics compared to other types.
Who needs it: Like a cream formula, a liquid formula works best on someone with normal or dry skin. It makes these skin types look healthy and fresh but can make oily skin appear greasy.
How to use it: For an all-over glow, mix a small dollop with your foundation or tinted moisturizer in the palm of your hand. Blend, and then apply to skin. Or, use the liquid highlighter spot treat: Once you’ve applied your foundation, apply the highlighter to the high spots on the face using a brush or your fingertips. Don’t layer a liquid luminizer over powder. The two formulas don’t play well together.
We love: YSL Touche Éclat Glow Shot Liquid Highlighter embodies the same uber-glowy formula as the original cult fave Touche Éclat pen, but it comes in a larger tube that allows you to apply it all over the skin as well as in targeted areas. We also love theL’Oréal Paris Pro-Glow Concealer, which helps to not only even out skin tone but also gives you a radiant finish in all the right places.
What it is: A stick highlighter is a solid, but it goes on skin like a cream. Sticks are great because they're super convenient and don't require any application tools besides your fingertips.
Who needs it: Because it’s technically a cream, sticks work best on normal to dry skin.
How to use it: Straight from the stick, swipe it right onto those high points of the face. Then tap with your fingertips to blend in the formula.
We love: NYX Strobe of Genius Holographic Stick for an out-of-the-box, colorful finish. We love this product because not only is it super creamy, but it’s also incredibly pigmented in pretty pink and blue hues. Another crowd favorite is the Maybelline Master Strobing Stick, which works great on any skin tone. Additionally, it’s easy to throw in any makeup bag or purse.
What it is: Typically pressed, highlighting powder is similar to powder blush, only it comes in gilded, pearly or champagne shades, usually flecked with metallic or opalescent pigments. Bonus: Powders pack the most punch and are usually more long-wearing than other formulas.
Who needs it: Powder highlighter is a good choice for anyone with oily to normal skin. It won’t make naturally dewy skin look greasy, nor will it disappear minutes after you apply it to your face. Skip this formula if you have a dry complexion because it sometimes calls attention to flaky areas.
How to use it: If you wear powder foundation, lay powder luminizer right on top. If you prefer a liquid base, set it with translucent powder before applying your highlighter. If you apply it onto un-powdered skin, the pigment will catch and not blend properly. Then, use a fan brush (we love IT Cosmetics Heavenly Luxe Mega Fan Brush #9) to dust the highlighter over the high points of the face.
We love: Urban Decay Sin Afterglow Palette because it contains six different skin-illuminating powder shades, from champagne to rose gold and pink, which allows you to mix and match flawlessly for a warm glow. We also love the NYX Professional Makeup Born to Glow! Highlighters because they’re super pigmented and very soft to the touch.
What they are: Super-concentrated liquid luminizer that you can add to your existing products, including your face cream, tinted moisturizer or foundation. They’re the dewiest option available because they mix into your foundation to give skin an all over radiance — not just on targeted areas.
Who needs them: Drops are great for mature or dehydrated skin because they give your complexion an instant boost.
How to use them: In the palm of your hand, mix the drops one-to-one with your foundation, BB cream or moisturizer. Then apply to skin as you would your foundation (with a brush or your fingertips).You can also control the intensity of your glow by using more or less of the liquid drops.
We love: Urban Decay Liquid Aura Illuminating Mix-In is a pearlescent, silvery-white liquid that comes in a dropper bottle for easy mixing and leaves a radiant, breathtaking finish.