Image: Elle

5 Editor-Approved Highlighters For A Gorgeous Glow

The perfect highlighter for your beauty routine, explained.


Finding the perfect highlighter for your beauty routine can be as difficult as finding a non-creepy dude on Tinder. As in, it’s almost impossible. Between all the cream, powder and liquid formulas, not to mention the rainbow of shades available, buying a new highlighter can be treacherous territory. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. To make shopping for a new highlighter less stressful, we’ve developed an official wattage scale. We’ll start with highlighters that will give you a barely-there glow and move all the way to the end of the scale, blindingly bright radiance. Here are our favorite products for each category:

Glow Wattage: 💡

Looks: Barely There

You know that enviable model-off-duty, #wokeuplikethis glow? Yeah, that’s the work of a really good highlighter. For this dim wattage, you’re going to want to look for a powder highlighter that’s very finely milled. The best highlighter for just the slightest bit of shimmer is Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder ($38). Dust this highlighter on your cheekbones for the most low-key glow out there. People may even think you actually woke up like this.

Glow Wattage: 💡💡

Looks: Subtle

For a more obvious shine, try a liquid formula. The Smashbox Halo Highlighting Wand ($29) is a easy-to-use illuminator in a click-through pen. Just brush on a small amount of product with the applicator and gently blend with fingertips. Consider this your secret to looking well moisturized when you’re clearly not.

Glow Wattage: 💡💡💡

Looks: Dewy

If you’ve ever looked in the mirror post-workout, you’ve personally witnessed that glistening sheen that somehow makes your skin look magically bright. Good news: Cream highlighters are basically bottled up versions of that glow. So, even if you’ve only banked 75 steps on your Apple Watch today, you can still achieve the look. The Glossier Haloscope ($22) is a ride-or-die favorite for us. The stick is idiot-proof—you just swipe a line above your blush and tap, tap, tap it in—and you never have to worry about it looking chalky, cheap or too sparkly under the sun. And you can easily throw it in your bag to reapply if you’re going after work. Easy peasy.


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Glow Wattage: 💡💡💡💡

Looks: High Shine

If you thought gloss was only for your lips, fake news alert! You can apply it to your cheeks, too, for a lacquer-like look. Rub the Milk Makeup Face Gloss ($20) on your cheekbones to become a glazed donut IRL. (We mean that in the best way possible.)

Glow Wattage: 💡💡💡💡💡

Looks: Visible From Space

If you follow Insta-famous makeup artists, you know this look all too well. Their highlighters are so bright you basically need to dim your phone’s backlight to look at them. But you don’t need millions of followers to shine bright like a diamond. All you need is the super shimmery power of the Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit ($40). Pro Tip: To give the powder an even more intense glow, spritz your brush in a setting spray before dipping in the pan.

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