My first experience with highlighter was seeing the “big girls” (they were 16) at my dance school applying glitter body lotion to the high planes of their cheekbones and brow bone so it would catch the light on stage- a subtle way of both drawing focus and rebelling against the pancake foundation, blue eyeshadow, red lipstick combo we knew so well. As soon as I witnessed just how well the stage lighting bounced off that glitter, I was hooked.
The more issues of Dolly magazine (it was actually Sabrina’s Secrets and S Club 7 magazines but Dolly sounds more like something a cool teenager would read) I poured through, the sooner I learnt the difference between glitter and shimmer, between sparkling and glowing. The older I grew, the more my preferences steered towards the latter of those adjectives. Highlighter plays a key role in my beauty routine, and all (three) of my friends (so 100% of my friends- you can’t argue with those odds) regularly ask which highlighter I’m wearing. My answer is always “oh I’ve got about four different highlighters on” and everyone laughs and think I’m being funny and it’s great, except I’m not being funny.
It can be hard to differentiate between my joking voice and my regular voice, so I’m putting it in writing to avoid any more mistakes like this. I’ve compiled my Highlighter Edit- the highlighters that are currently sitting in my collection, what I like about them, what I don’t, what they’re good for and whether or not they’re worth the investment. Sit down, buckle up and enjoy the result of my 5-page-coffee-induced-highlighter-rant.
THE LIQUID HIGHLIGHTERS
Kevyn Aucoin The Celestial Skin Liquid Lighting
This is one of my all time favourite highlighters. I use often use it underneath foundation in place of a primer (it has a similar effect on the overall appearance of the skin as Wonderglow by Charlotte Tilbury and Mecca’s Lit From Within Primer which I haven’t included here because I have them stored in a different drawer and who has the time to move things) when my complexion needs a bit of a lift, but I also use it over foundation on the cheekbones and cupid’s bow. It’s champagne, verging on gold in its colouring so the effect is quite subtle compared to a more pearlescent highlighter. Expensive, but a bottle will last an eternity (I can’t prove that but I’ve been living large with my bottle for 18 months and still kicking).
Josie Maran Argan Enlightenment Illuminator
The colour of this one is more or less the same as the Kevyn Aucoin Liquid Lighting, but the consistency is thinner and feels more like a true liquid. I only have a sample size of this, and while it would make sense to say I wouldn’t repurchase this as it’s so similar to my current favourite, I am a big fan of literally throwing away my money so I’d absolutely buy this one again.
Benefit High Beam & The Base Illuminator in Shimmer
I’ve lumped these two under the same header because I realise at this point I still have about 80 highlighters left to talk about and these two are similar in both their consistency and their colouring (Benefit leans towards pink where The Base is more of a pearl, but we’re clutching at straws here). Both traditional liquid highlighters as far as their consistency, so they’re very easy to blend, and the colour is almost frosted so they create more of an obvious highlight than the gold toned varieties. I’ll revisit this thought in a moment.
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector in Opal
I have two Becca Shimmering Skin Perfectors, one liquid and one powder, as they have something of a cult following as far as highlighters go. The consistency of this is beautiful, however the colour, to me, isn’t as striking as my Kevyn Aucoin nor my Josie Maran. This comes down to how I use liquid highlighters- as I tend to layer them underneath foundation, or as a step after foundation before adding a power or cream highlight, I like to start quite subtle with the colour and build up to a more noticeable pearl as my finishing touch, hence my strong preference for champagne toned liquid highlighters for everyday. This colour is described as a “golden opal pearl” which sounds like three different colours to me. I’d describe it as a rose gold.
Nars Illuminator in Orgasm
I don’t know why I still own this. It’s too thick for a liquid and the colour is, as its name would suggest, the same colour as the orgasm blush- so it’s pink. I look like I have a rash when I try to use it.
THE CREAM HIGHLIGHTERS
Mecca Enlightened Illuminating Balm
Created as so many people (myself included) loved the colour of their Lit From Within Primer so much that they were using it as a highlighter. The first balm/cream highlighter stored in a pot that I’d tried was the RMS Living Luminizer (see below) about a year prior, and where I found the RMS formula beautiful but difficult to build up in its intensity, this Mecca alternative shon (pun intended). I find it easiest to apply using either my fingers or a damp beauty blender, and as it’s quite tacky in its consistency I only ever use it as a final step to avoid the texture becoming muddy.
RMS Living Luminizer
As far as highlight colours go, this is one of the most beautiful I’ve come across. It looks almost pearlescent, nearly white in the tub, but it has a gold shimmer through it that catches the light beautifully. It’s very sheer and best applied with fingertips, giving the most natural glow of any product on this list.
Nars The Multiple in Copacabana & Maldives
These were two of the first highlighters I owned, and it took me years to understand how to work with products of this consistency. For these two (particularly with Copacabana as it’s that beautiful pearlescent hue I mentioned earlier that I prefer in creams than liquids), I scape a little off the top and use a stippling brush to apply it as a final step over my base products, then I’ll apply any excess to my eyelids and brow bones. I don’t get a lot of use out of Maldives as the colour is too close to my complexion to be considered a true highlighter. I should note, as has everyone else who has ever discussed these products in any capacity, that products that claim to have multiple uses rarely do. I would not recommend these for anything other than the cheeks as they are far too drying for the lips.
Nude By Nature Touch of Glow Highlight Sticks in Champagne & Rose
These are the same concept as the Multiples, but far sheerer in their appearance on the skin and containing far less shimmer. Champagne, for me, is the perfect natural highlight over a BB cream, tinted moisturiser or just a bare face (can you tell I'm getting lazier as this post goes on? Good on you for sticking with it).
THE POWDER HIGHLIGHTERS
Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow
The Glow shade in this duo is, without an semblance of a doubt, my favourite powder highlighter of all time. These reviews will be pretty snappy as they’re all very similar as far as opacity and texture- where they vary is colour. The colour of this comparable to the Kevyn Aucoin Liquid I mentioned earlier, making it the perfect powder with which to set or add depth to my liquid highlight.
Nars Highlighting Blush in Albatross
The product is great (white in the pan with pearl and champagne flecks throughout, so it photographs beautifully and is really easy to build up from natural to intense), but it makes me almost anxious typing out the name of this- why they’ve called it a “blush” is beyond me and it bothers me more than it should, but enough for me to admit my state of annoyance.
Nude By Nature Highlight Palette
I would only classify the Champagne pan as a true highlight, and I’d give the Rose shade an honourable mention. The bronze, to me, is a bronzer with shimmer through it, which poses the question- can you call literally anything a highlighter if you put some shimmery flecks in it? The shades in this palette are very sheer and not particularly buildable, but they don’t claim to be intense in their colour payoff so I don’t have a problem with their opacity. Nude by Nature’s entire ethos is about enhancing your natural beauty, so this consistency works here.
Kevyn Aucoin The Celestial Powder in Candlelight
I know I said the Charlotte Tilbury highlighter was nearly identical to the Kevyn Aucoin liquid, but as its name would suggest this highlighter truly is identical to its liquid counterpart. Where it differs from the Charlotte Tilbury Glow powder is in its level of shimmer. There is far less sparkle to this powder, but I would argue that its colour payoff is better.
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Champagne Pop
Probably the sparkliest option on this list, what I love most about this powder is how heavily pigmented it is and how it looks once applied. Despite being a powder, its appearance on this skin is comparable to a liquid or even a cream.
For me, the highlights from this edit (hahahaha do you get it) are the Kevyn Aucoin Liquid and Powder in Candlelight, the Mecca Enlightened Balm and the Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow. You’re welcome.