19 best highlighters for a blinding, glass-like skin or a subtle glow

We all love a crisp cat flick, but, healthy, fresh, glowy skin courtesy of a delicious highlighter, is the jewel in the crown of a pretty makeup look. What’s the point in fussing over smokey lids or a statement lip if the base beneath looks dull and chalky?

Now that lots of us are wearing less makeup, we want to be tactical about the areas that we dedicate the most attention. The golden rule? Skin, is everything.

It starts with good skincare, but to really amp things up, there’s one product that can always be relied upon to bestow the glow in times of need, and that’s highlighter. Joining the likes of foundation and mascara, it’s in the top tier of makeup bag essentials. So, if you’re in the market for a healthy dose of sheen, highlighters can offer a swift complexion-boosting solution, pronto.

Want to know the best bit? Formulas have got ultra sophisticated in recent years, with beauty insiders hailing a departure from crispy, crunchy glitter cheekbones. “People want premium looking skin,” says makeup pro and MAC director of Artistry, Terry Barber. “Like more of a rainforest, humid glow, than an obvious sparkly highlighter,” he reckons. “A sweep of almost imperceptible silkiness.”

The new guard feature powder, liquid, stick and cream formulations that can be misted, patted or swept on or mixed into moisturisers to bathe skin in a gorgeous barely-there sheen during the daytime, or build up to a mega-watt finish for evening. With many of us forgoing heavier coverage for more breathable formulas, a dot of highlighter (and perhaps a hint of tinted moisturiser) might well be all we need.

And, if you fancy looking extra glossy, you could always try layering more than one. “The best way to get a multidimensional glow,” says makeup artist and GLAMOUR columnist, Nikki Wolff, “is to layer your favourite powder highlighter over a liquid illuminator.”

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Or, incorporate glow throughout each different step, from your skincare to your setting spray like makeup artist Mali Thomas. She created the look above by starting with Bobbi Brown’s Illuminating Moisture Balm (a moisturiser/highlighter hybrid) and Chanel’s dew-inducing Hydra Beauty Essence Mist on skin. Silky formulas like Bobbi Brown’s Intensive Skin Serum Foundation create the base. MAC’s Skinfinish helps to strategically neutralise shine where you don’t need it and Dior’s Glow Face Palette in Universal 001 layers an extra sheeny sweep of glow across high points. Mali’s top tip for fresh looking skin? “Apply skin prep and wait five minutes for it settle into the skin. Use translucent powder only to set under the eye and on the side of the nose. Set everything else with skin finishers and glow products.”

As for where to apply – stick to areas that the light would naturally hit, so down the bridge of your nose, along your brow bones and cheekbones. You could even sweep it all the way across collarbone, the tops of your shoulders and down your limbs, too. There are plenty of dedicated (body highlighters, to make it easier than ever to radiate a healthy look from head to toe.)

Now that you’ve got the pro tips, browse our roundup of the best highlighters to try now…