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2020 has become the year of the dewy, natural look. But it’s also been a year of makeup experimentation (hello, colorful eyeliner). Whether it’s a part of your everyday look or you’re experimenting with an over-the-top style, the best highlighters can turn any look into a glowing masterpiece.

From liquid to powder, stick to palette, I could write love ballads about ‘em all. But instead, I decided to highlight (pun intended) the best brands by showing them off with my very own coworkers and friends. They’ve tested our their favorites below for you to admire and shop, but first, a few things to keep in mind:

When to Wear It:

Thankfully, the glow only a highlighter can give is something that should be worn in all four seasons. During the daytime, I like to keep things subtle, but nighttime is a great opportunity to layer on the shine.

Where to Wear It:

You’ll want to apply highlighter to areas where the sun reflects against your skin. Basically, it should be the star of the look and really draw attention to those targeted areas. The bright spots are usually the cheekbones, brow bone and the center of the nose. You can also add a speck on your cupid’s bow, forehead and lids.

How to Apply It:

First, start out with light coverage and build on the area if you want a bolder glow. (You’ll find that a few products can do just fine with one swipe.) If you’re using a powder highlighter, reach for a fan brush to swipe on your desired areas. And for cream or liquid highlighters, just use your finger to dab it directly onto your skin. Another tip is to add a few drops of your liquid highlighter into your foundation or primer for an all-around shine. Here’s a handy how-to by our very own beauty director Jenny Jin to get you started.

What’s My Perfect Shade?:

Highlighters are for all skin tones. But if you want the product to really pop, look for a color that works well for your complexion. Check out this breakdown to find your perfect tint:

  • For light to fair skin: Look for pearl, pink or silver shades.
  • For medium to tan skin: Look for peach, champagne or rose shades.
  • For dark skin: Look for gold, bronze or copper shades.

RELATED: If You’ve Been Sleeping on Bronzer, Let Us Convince You Otherwise with the 12 Best Bronzers of 2020

Sabrina S. in Mean Baby/Hu$tla Baby/Sephora

1. Fenty Beauty Killawat Freestyle Highlighter

Best Overall

  • Value: 19/20
  • Functionality: 20/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aesthetics: 20/20
  • Glow Factor: 20/20
    TOTAL: 99/100

With over 3,000+ reviews, it’s no surprise this is a fan favorite. The cream-powder hybrid has two shades (a sheen and shimmer side) that you can wear alone or layered together. Sabrina S., a model at Stetts Model Management, uses both shades to really show off a glow. “I don't know about you, but anything involving Rihanna makes me feel super badass, and her highlighter was nothing short of what I was expecting!” she expressed. “It gives me that super glow so when the sun hits my face, I know I'm going to blind someone! It doesn't leave a streak on your face, it blends seemingly into your skin. I love it!”

Buy It ($36)

Jenny Jin/Sephora

2. Becca Skin Glaze Glow Stick

Best Balm Stick

  • Value: 19/20
  • Functionality: 20/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aesthetics: 19/20
  • Glow Factor: 20/20
  • TOTAL: 98/100

FYI, not all highlighters come in palettes and compacts. How about a highlighting stick for a change to pull off a dewy glow? The ginger, avocado and melon mix makes it a radiant balm that Jenny Jin, beauty director at PureWow, couldn’t rave about enough. (She even wrote a detailed review on the highlighter.)

“It's the rare highlighter that looks just as good in photos and videos as it does in real life. With a balmy texture that doesn't settle into pores or fine lines and a sheer, near-translucent finish that is super subtle until you step into the light (whether that's from sunlight or unflattering fluorescent bulbs), it's less ‘sparkly disco party’ and more ‘I just got a facial,’” she said.

But there are two things Jenny would change—the aesthetics and value. “I only knocked one point from ‘aesthetics’ when comparing it to powder highlighters that are swirled into the shape of intricate flowers and I docked another point from ‘value’ because at $28 a stick, it's definitely not the cheapest option on the list (though I firmly stand by its worth),” she said.

Buy It ($28)

Aly O. in Afternoon Delight/Sephora

3. Lawless Lucid Skin Highlighter

Best for Subtle Look

  • Value: 17/20
  • Functionality: 18/20
  • Quality: 18/20
  • Aesthetics: 18/20
  • Glow Factor: 19/20
  • TOTAL: 90/100

Believe or not, it’s OK to not be a big fan of glitter and shimmer. Aly O., director of social strategy at Gallery Media Group, recommends this powder highlighter if you’re in the market for a subtle, everyday look. “I was a very loyal customer to the NARS Highlighter stick, but I love the Lawless highlighter for its soft-powder and easy application. It gives me a super subtle glow that looks *just* right when I'm in the sun. Also, it's clean!”

Buy It ($38)

Jackalin C. in Light Champagne Gold/Dose of Color

4. Dose of Color Desi x Katy Fuego Highlighter

Best Shimmer

  • Value: 19/20
  • Functionality: 18/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aesthetics: 19/20
  • Glow Factor: 19/20
  • TOTAL: 95/100

One word: Shimmer. This powder highlighter will bless you cheekbones with its glowing finish thanks to its golden peach shade. Jackalin C., a freelance esthetician, explained why it’s a fave: “It’s my go-to highlighter because it goes on smoothly on the high points of my face. It also gives a beautiful glistening sheen.”

Buy It ($28; $14)

Jamie S. in Shade 01/Nude Glow/Sephora

5. Diorskin Nude Luminizer

Best Natural Glow

  • Value: 20/20
  • Functionality: 18/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aesthetics: 20/20
  • Glow Factor: 18/20
  • TOTAL: 96/100

A powder highlighter comes in five shades for all skin tones to brighten your complexion. Now, the price might be a little steep, but Jamie S., account executive at VaynerMedia, is here to tell you it’s totally worth it (especially since it’s been her one and only for two years now). “This highlighter gives me the most natural-looking glow without any of the heaviness or cakey-ness that I've experienced with other powder formulas,” she said. “The product stays really nicely throughout the day and helps me achieve the high cheekbones that I don't have naturally.”

Buy It ($48)

Kara C. in Pink Sands/Santorini/Huda Beauty

6. Huda Beauty 3D Highlighter Palette

Best Palette

  • Value: 16/20
  • Functionality: 19/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aesthetics: 18/20
  • Glow Factor: 19/20
  • TOTAL: 92/100

Why choose between having a powder or cream in your collection when you can have both in one palette? This highlighter has four different shades and two textures to upgrade your glow. Kara C., assistant commerce editor at PureWow, has been using this product for years to achieve an everyday look. But it’s the Santorini shade in particular that has her reaching for the palette over and over again. “Honestly, the Santorini shade is the first one I've found that gives me a subtle, lit-from-within glow that doesn't look too shimmery or over the top. I love how light the powder is. I just swipe a bit onto my cheekbones with a fluffy brush and find that I don't really have to blend it much,” she explained. “I like that it's easy to use vs. other cream or gel highlighters which tend to require a really light application and lots of blending in order to look natural.”

Buy It ($45)

Leah C. in Apricot Glow/Walmart

7. E.L.F Baked Highlighter

Best Drugstore

  • Value: 18/20
  • Functionality: 18/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Aesthetics: 12/20
  • Glow Factor: 18/20
  • TOTAL: 85/100

Why spend $$$ on a highlighter when there’s a $4 that does the job well? Leah C., media tour coordinator and guest booker at Envision Networks hit the jackpot when it came to this drugstore find. The jojoba, rose hip, sunflower, apricot and grape oil mixture nourishes the skin and leaves a sheer glow, all while being a go-to for people with dark skin.

“Elf’s ‘Apricot Glow’ is easy to apply and really does shine when the sun hits your skin perfectly and at just the right time,” she said. “Usually, it’s difficult to find a highlighter that actually shows on deep, brown skin, but this one works perfectly and it gives a summery look that you can wear during any season.”

Buy It ($4)

Stephanie L. in Precious Petals/Ulta

8. Wet n Wild MegaGlo Highlighting Powder

Best Buildability

  • Value: 20/20
  • Functionality: 20/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aesthetics: 18/20
  • Glow Factor: 20/20
  • TOTAL: 98/100

Just one swipe is enough, but the buildability is there if you’re looking for that intense glow. It comes in four different shades for all skin tones, and a quick scroll through the reviews shows this is a great dupe to the Becca highlighter. Plus, you can’t beat the $6 price tag. “I love the price and the payoff. The color is super nice and shows up well on medium [to] dark skin. Honestly, it is a great product,” said Stephanie L., a social worker at a non-profit organization.

Buy It ($6)

Anne F. in Crystal Clear/Sephora

9. KEVYN AUCOIN Glass Glow Face Liquid Highlighter

Best Dewy Look

  • Value: 18/20
  • Functionality: 18/20
  • Quality: 17/20
  • Aesthetics: 17/20
  • Glow Factor: 16/20
  • TOTAL: 86/100

A marula and passion fruit oil combo hydrates the skin and leaves a glassy look. You can also add a few drops into your tinted moisturizer, primer or foundation, a tip that Anne F., VP at VaynerMedia, suggests. “I used the shade Crystal Clear, which gave me a very glossy, dewy finish, but not as much highlight as the Rose or Bronze options. It's a great pick-me-up to look awake. I layer it under my make-up which helps it blend into my foundation and give a nice glow,” she said. “If I wear it over my foundation, it is more of a ‘wet’ look, so certainly a matter of personal preference. A little goes a long way, so best to use a very small amount.”

Buy It ($32)

Maria M. in Gilded Honey/Amazon

10. Laura Geller Baked Gelato Swirl Illuminator

Best Cream

  • Value: 20/20
  • Functionality: 20/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aesthetics: 18/20
  • Glow Factor: 20/20

TOTAL: 98/100

Here’s a highlighter hybrid that looks and applies like a powder, but actually leaves a creamy finish for a luminous look. The warm shade is a fan-favorite for how it complements tan to medium skin tones, and Maria M., data analyst at VillageCare, can attest to it. “I love this highlighter because it is not super bright, it’s very subtle and gets the job done. It’s also, in my opinion, the perfect gold for people with warm skin tones. It gives you an instant glow,” she said.

$26 at Amazon

Jose M./Sephora

11. Natasha Denona Tan Bronze and Glow Palette

Best Luxury

  • Value: 17/20
  • Functionality: 17/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aesthetics: 20/20
  • Glow Factor: 18/20
  • TOTAL: 92/100

This $55 highlighter-bronzer duo is a great splurge if you’re looking to minimize your makeup bag. Start with the cream (or powder) highlighter shades before finishing your routine with a glowing bronzer (which can also act as a blush). Content creator Jose M. recommends the palette for how well it blends with his entire look—matte or dewy—and even gave a good tip to keep in mind to really brighten up your targeted areas. “This highlighter blends well with other products such as blush and bronzer. It does work best with a spritz of setting spray prior to application,” he explained.

Buy It ($55)

Cristine J./Vive Cosmetics

12. Vive Cosmetics Luz and Glow Highlighter

Best Highlighter/Bronzer Duo

  • Value: 20/20
  • Functionality: 20/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aesthetics: 15/20
  • Glow Factor: 20/20
  • TOTAL: 95/100

Whether it's the dead of winter or the hottest of summers, Cristine J., copywriter at Vaynermedia, uses this two-shade powder to add warmth to her skin all year long. “I love that there are two shades; one deep bronze color and the other champagne, which give you flexibility when wearing the product,” she said.

She continued by breaking down what she uses each shade for. “The bronze color [Diosa] is perfect for me in the summer when I’m tan and am trying to get a healthy glow, but it can also be used in the winter when I’m lighter in place of my matte bronzer when I’m trying to add some dimension/warmth to my skin,” she explained. “The champagne color [Reina] can be used in both cases to achieve more glow, or just a subtle glow. I also occasionally use it on my brow bone and cupid’s bow. It’s truly a versatile product, so it’s easy to love!”

Buy It ($23)

Leah S. in Celestial/Sephora

13. Lorac Light Source Mega Beam Highlighter

Best Pigmented

  • Value: 18/20
  • Functionality: 20/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aesthetics: 15/20
  • Glow Factor: 20/20
  • TOTAL: 93/100

Look up highlighter in the dictionary and you might just find this pigmented powder displayed next to it. The brand promises maximum radiance thanks to the vitamin E, cucumber extract, chamomile extract and willow bark combo.

Leah. S, shopping writer at Mashable, put the brand’s words to the test. Here’s what she thought: “This is the best highlighter I've ever used — hands down. At the risk of looking like a bad pun enthusiast, Lorac's MegaBeam highlighter gives my cheeks such a glow-up,” she expressed. “The powder is fluffy and makes it easy to pick up a lot of product on one swipe. (Other highlighters start to get packed down and almost turn matte over time.) The shimmer is *so* bright, not too gold, and avoids the dewy-turned-oily look.”

Buy It ($24)

Diana B./Sephora

14. RMS Beauty Luminizer x Quad Highlighter Palette

Best Natural

  • Value: 19/20
  • Functionality: 20/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aesthetics: 17/20
  • Glow Factor: 20/20
  • TOTAL: 96/100

The coconut and castor seed oil blend in this cream highlighter is a natural alternative for achieving a soft, hydrated shine. For Diana B, account supervisor at VaynerMedia, it was just the product she needed for quarantine.

“I bought the RMS Luminizer Quad on a whim as I've been slowly getting rid of anything in my makeup cabinet that isn't clean. I bought the mini as it was $25 and the perfect size to stash in my boyfriend’s medicine cabinet,” she said. “Throughout quarantine, it's been my go-to for a little glow up moment. I've been embracing my no makeup-makeup look. I like that it catches the light both from the pigments and the shine.”

There’s just one thing Diana wants you to keep in mind. “Packaging is a great size, but I did remove some points because the compact is a little hard to open —otherwise, this is something I'll be repurchasing in the future!”

Buy It ($48)

Angie M. in Gumdrop/Butterscotch/Sephora

15. Anastasia Beverly Hills Sugar Glow Kit

Best Powder

  • Value: 15/20
  • Functionality: 20/20
  • Quality: 20/20
  • Aesthetics: 15/20
  • Glow Factor: 20/20
  • TOTAL: 90/100

If you’re looking for a range in one palette, this highlighter checks all the boxes. You’ll find four metallic powder shades (with by far the sweetest names) to highlight any area of your face. Freelancer and content creator Angie M. praises the product for how versatile it is for any look. “I really like this palette because of the different shades that can complement most undertones! Whether your natural glow is yellow-toned, red-toned or on the fairer side, this palette gives you options. The packaging is convenient too because of the minimal product fallout.”

Buy It ($40)

Katie Russell in Rose Gold/Cover FX

16. Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops

Best Liquid

  • Value: 18/20
  • Functionality: 20/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Aesthetics: 19/20
  • Glow Factor: 20/20
  • TOTAL: 96/100

Choose between seven shades for an all-over glow. Whether you mix it with other products or use it alone, a few drops go a long way for a shimmery finish. Katie R., account manager at PureWow, uses this liquid highlighter to really upgrade her everyday makeup routine. “Forget highlight, this stuff gives you a straight Goddess glow! While it may be more of an investment item in your beauty regimen, the bottle does go a long way since you don't need much of the product per use to make a statement,” she said. “The Rose Gold color gives a bronzy, warm summer glow all year long - the best! The other shades I've tried are fire too. They absolutely nailed the iridescent aspect with this highlighter formula. Bye-bye dull, dimensionless looking skin!”

Buy It ($42)

Brianna L. in Dawn/Live Tinted

17. Live Tinted HUEGLOW

Best Serum

  • Value: 20/20
  • Functionality: 19/20
  • Quality: 18/20
  • Aesthetics: 18/20
  • Glow Factor: 20/20
  • TOTAL: 95/100

Brianna L. has been experimenting with different highlighters to go well with her combination skin, and she might’ve found her match with this one. “There's one new formula that blows the rest out of the water: Live Tinted HUEGLOW. It's actually more of a serum, which means it melts into my skin even easier than a cream formula. I'm partial to the rose gold hue, because it leaves behind the most beautiful glow that's not the least bit sticky, yet somehow stays in place all day long,” she said.

While the hybrid may leave a glow, it’s also packed with a ton of skincare benefits (aka their star ingredient squalane). “On days when I'm feeling extra dull, I apply a few drops to my bare face for a subtle radiance (no makeup needed). But most days, I dab a tiny amount on my cheekbones and brow bones like a typical highlighter,” she explained. Brianna L. just has one warning, “HUEGLOW looks extremely metallic just out of the bottle, but I promise once you rub your fingers and apply it to your skin, there's nothing unnatural about it.”

Buy It ($34)

Chelsea C. in Starstruck/Ilia

18. Ilia DayLite Highlighting Powder

Best Everyday

  • Value: 17/20
  • Functionality: 19/20
  • Quality: 19/20
  • Aesthetics: 18/20
  • Glow Factor: 18/20
  • TOTAL: 91/100

I’m so used to going over-the-top with my highlighter that I never stop to find a product that will leave a subtle look for casual days. As soon as I applied this powder highlighter, I knew I could rely on it to provide a hint of glow without it being too much, even for a quick visit to the grocery store or Zoom calls at home.

But I also enjoy having the option to build on the shimmer with a few more swipes if I want to do the over-the-top style I love. Overall, this one blends so easily that I can use a brush or even just my finger to apply it. Plus, I highly recommend the Starstruck shade for medium to tan skin tones (though both shades available in the collection is great for all skin tones). The minimalism of the packaging is very chic in my opinion and easy to spot in my bag (and the mirror is a major bonus for on-the-go).

Buy It ($34)

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