Less fiddly than a liquid, more blendable than a powder, not prone to spilling or cracking all over your bathroom sink like either of the above, cream highlighters are the ideal highlighting vehicle. The right one for you — stick, pot, liquid; silver, pink, gold — will depend on your skin tone and application preferences, but all of the best cream highlighters are made with nourishing ingredients, like shea butter and argan oil, to give them their smooth, buttery consistency and comfortable finish.
Cream highlighters are typically best applied with your fingers, but you could also use a makeup sponge or brush (highlighters in stick form can be drawn right onto your skin, but you’ll still want to blend them out with your fingers for a more natural effect). If you love the look of an all-over glow, go for a liquid highlighter, as they can be mixed into your moisturizer, foundation, or BB cream. Otherwise, apply your highlighter of choice on the parts of your face where the light would naturally hit — mainly, your cheekbones, but makeup artists also love putting a bit above the cupid’s bow, under the brow arch, and down the nose to tie all the glowiness together.
Whatever type of illuminator you tend to go for, scroll on to shop some of the best cream highlighters on the market right now.
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1. Best Pot
Remember those gooey pots of glow-in-the-dark slime you got in the checkout aisle at Toys ‘R’ Us? The consistency of this e.l.f. Jelly Highlighter is kind of like that — bouncy, jiggly, cooling, satisfying to stick your fingers into (or glide over your face, for these purposes). The payoff is extra-concentrated as a result — the finish is glazed, wet-looking, and almost reflective — but it’ll blend in smoothly with your fingers or a makeup sponge. It dries down pretty quickly, too. You can apply this anywhere you want, of course, but it looks especially gorgeous as an eyeshadow.
- Available shades: Bubbly, Cloud, Dew
2. Best Lotion
This L’Oreal highlighter is technically an extra-glowy tinted moisturizer, but it can also be used as a foundation primer or subtle highlighter. This delivers a decidedly natural glow, so you can wear it all over your face without refracting like a disco ball. But you can still dilute it with your favorite face cream, body lotion, oil, or foundation for a tamer, “lit from within” glow.
- Available shades: Deep, Fair, Light, Medium
3. Best Stick
For a slightly easier/less messy application, try this Revlon stick highlighter — the formula is extra soft and creamy, so it takes virtually no effort to apply. It’ll deposit a subtle, shimmery glow on your first swipe, but you can build it up for more intensity. It works beautifully on all skin types, too: The long-lasting formula sticks around on oily skin, and it’ll blend seamlessly into (well-moisturized) dry skin.
- Available shades: Pink Light, Gold Light
4. Best Cream-to-Powder
Just like the brand’s best-selling butter bronzer, Physicians Formula Butter Highlighter is a unique, cream-to-powder formula that melts right into your skin, thanks to a blend of murumuru, cupuaçu, and tucumã butters. Those tropical butters are also packed with antioxidants and fatty acids, so this’ll actively nourish and protect your skin as it brightens it up. Micronized pearls impart a soft-focused but buildable finish, which leans more metallic than glittery.
- Available shades: Champagne, Copper, Deep Mauve, Iridescence, Pearl, Rose Gold
5. Best Contour & Highlighter
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single highlighter stick must be in want of an accompanying contour stick, as this NYX Wonder Stick understands well. One one end, you’ll find a creamy contour stick with a comfy, rounded tip designed to hug the planes of your face; and an equally creamy-and-comfy highlighter on the other. In terms of finish, think “healthy glow” rather than “covered in pixie dust.” Other than the convenience factor, this gets points for its six-shade range and two-for-one price.
- Available shades: Deep, Deep Dark, Deep Rich, Light, Medium, Universal
6. Best Concealer &Highlighter
This Undone Beauty palette literally covers all your bases: Each palette contains three concealer formulas, which increase from sheer to opaque coverage (though they all impart a fresh, natural finish). The sheerest strip can be used as a light concealer, similar in coverage to Glossier’s cult-favorite Stretch Concealer, or as a highlighter for a dewy, glitterless gleam. The medium and fuller coverage strips, meanwhile, are best suited for concealing things like unwanted blemishes, redness, or anything else you want to cover up. Reviewers with dry skin especially love how moisturizing and silky this feels.
- Available shades: Almond Latte Medium, Buttercream Medium Light, Cacao Dark, Caramel Medium, Latte Medium, Pink Petal Light, Porcelain Light, Toasted Almond Medium Dark
7. Best Highlighter & Blush
There are so many ways to use this Wander Beauty blush and highlighter duo: You can use the pink or peachy end as a blush, lip color, or eyeshadow, while the luminous pigment can function equally well as an eyeshadow primer or highlighter (which you can run over any spot on your face/body that could use a little gleam). Both ends of the stick are infused with conditioning vitamin E, and the formulas are free of parabens, phthalates, mineral oils, and synthetic fragrances — a safe choice if your skin is prone to irritation. I also love the luxe gold packaging, which has a satisfying, expensive-feeling heft to it.
- Available shades: Coral Rose/Nude Glow, Bare/Nude Glow, Berry Whisper/Nude Glow, Petal Pink/Nude Glow
8. Best Shades
If you’d rather your radiance seem to emit from a supernatural source, opt for one of these Rituel de Fille highlighters. Inspired by “extraordinary light phenomena,” according to the brand, each iridescent shade shifts with the light to reveal even more dimension. I’m intrigued by Lunaris, a cool-toned opal with a lavender shift; and Anthelion, a warm gold inspired by halos thrown off by the sun, which would look gorgeous on medium to darker skin tones. Also extraordinary: The formulas are made of 100% ethically derived natural ingredients.
- Available shades: Anthelion, Ghost Light, Lunaris, Phosphene, Solaris, Stellaris
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