Best highlighters to give your skin an effortless glow

Feeling in need of some added sheen after the long winter months? Madeleine Spencer has your ultimate glow guide

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Tom Ford Women's - Arrivals - February 2018 - New York Fashion Week
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Madeleine Spencer13 March 2024

There’s no quicker and easier make-up win than highlighter. Nothing lights up a face or amps up bone structure better, nor gives a sense of not being completely and utterly ravaged by winter/late nights/too much wine than the presence of a little gentle sheen on the high points of the face.

Before I share my favourites, we need to do a little homework on how precisely to apply highlighter. This is issued with the big fat caveat that of course you should use make-up and decorate your face as you see fit — but if you’d like it to look au courant and sophisticated, here are some rules of thumb.

Place your sheen wisely

The obvious spot to highlight: the tops of your cheekbones. Less obvious places to experiment with: cupid’s bow, inner corner of eye, outer corners of temple, the pronounced sections of the ear and collar bones. You may notice I’ve left out the area under the eyebrow; this is on purpose as the trends, should you wish to stick to them, dictate that that particular area should currently enjoy a rest from being highlighted. If ever in doubt, just look at where the light bounces off your face when wearing moisturiser and mimic that.

The liquid vs powder rule

Liquid highlighters are having a moment in the sun, but either liquid or powder do the job well. It’s worth remembering that powder only slips on seamlessly when applied on top of powder, so if you do that, make sure you pop a little down first. 

Blend, blend and blend some more

The edges are crucial — you don’t want a stripe of highlighter making it abundantly clear that make-up is to thank for your lit-from-within thing. The easiest way to blend really well is with fingers — just tap tap tap at the edges until it’s melded in with your skin.

A word on tinted highlighters

Highlighters containing hues are great, but you do need to keep an eye on how they look on your skin tone. Anything that’s obviously there undoes the element of highlighter being the result of healthy, sheeny skin. Equally, shimmer. It’s worth mentioning that there’s nothing wrong with make-up being obviously there, but highlighter is something you generally want to put in a supporting role. 

Positive Light Liquid Highlighter

Rare Beauty

Selena Gomez’s entire Rare Beauty range is sublime — and this highlighter is no different. It adds lustre, but still manages to blend into skin just so. Her products frequently sell out so if you like the look of this one, snap it up, pronto.

Buy now£24, Sephora

Elevated Glow Highlighter

Lisa Eldridge

Conceived by the A-Lister favourite make-up artist Lisa Eldridge, this highlighter really mimics that healthy glow very well, and can be applied under or over base.

Buy now£27, Selfridges

Lit Up Highlight Stick

Westman Atelier

If you want your highlighter to give you a slip of hydration and glow in one, then Westman Atelier’s is the one to know. I use the shade Nectar most often, but Lit is a wonderful clear shade if you don’t want even a whisper of colour along with your highlighter.

Buy now£44, Net a Porter

Reflect Highlighter Stick

Victoria Beckham Beauty

This highlighter garners compliments on my skin every time I wear it. Note that it’s my skin, not my make-up being complimented — that’s how subtly this one does its great work of lighting up the face.

Buy now£40, Victoria Beckham Beauty

Backstage Glow Face Palette

Dior Beauty

By far the best powder highlighter I’ve found to date, these quads double up as eyeshadow too, and never fails to light up features. I sometimes dab a bit of the pink from 002 in the centre of my lipstick to add dimension.

Buy now£40, Dior

Gloss Highlighter


Refy’s cult highlighter does what it says on the tin, imparting glossy glow wherever you put it. This is the one I turn to when I want to go for body sheen, too, just adding a little to my moisturiser and smoothing it on.

Buy now£18, Refy