Illuminating, strobing, chroming. Whatever you call it, highlighting has become a routine staple in basically everyone’s makeup routine. The bright, shiny sister to contouring, highlighting is the act of applying a light-reflecting color on the planes of your face, such as the tops of your cheekbones, your brow bone, and the bridge of your nose, in order to create the illusion of brightness.
While several high-end brands have cult-favorite, highlighting products in their line-up, their prices aren’t so wallet-friendly.
Thankfully, there’s a slew of drugstore products that can keep you looking radiant without going broke — but not all drugstore highlighters are created equal. Some are way too glittery, while others just end up being weirdly chalky. Whether you’re someone who only highlights their face on special occasion or you want a cheekbone strobed so brightly you can see it from space, these are the six budget-friendly highlighters that will give a glow even Jennifer Lopez is jealous of.
Revlon Photoready Skinlights Face Illuminator, $9.99
This particular highlighter was a cult favorite over a decade ago, originally known as simply SkinLights, but Revlon took it off the market, breaking several hearts in the process. They brought it back in 2014 due to customer demand, giving it a new name and reformulating it so it has better texture and consistency than the older version. It’s a liquid formula and comes in four shades that you can mix and match together, wear alone, or combine with your foundation for an all-over strobed effect. The liquid formula also makes it easy to mix in with your body lotion to create a glow on your collarbone, shoulders, and legs.
Physicians Formula Nude Wear Touch of Glow Palette, $14.95
Some people swear by PF’s Mineral Glow Pearls Powder Palette, a small circular compact with bronze-y “pearls” of color. That one’s great, but we find that it works more like a bronzer, adding warmth more than a glow. The Touch of Glow Palette is a small square compact with four shades of shimmering powder: champagne, pink, light gold, and a soft bronze. You can definitely use them separately, but this product really packs a punch when you swirl all the colors together for a customized glow.
Maybelline Face Studio Master Strobe Stick, $7.99
Honestly, is there anything easier to use than makeup in stick form? Maybelline’s Strobe Stick is basically a crayon for your face. It’s small and only comes in two shades (“Light Iridescent” and “Medium Nude Glow”) but it packs a major punch — a little goes a long way, and you can easily apply a small application and buff it out along more areas of your face with your fingers or a brush. This is a great dupe for NARS’ the Multiple Stick, in terms of formula (not necessarily color). The creamy formula works well with skin’s natural texture, and dries down to a pearlescent glow with a slightly powdery finish. For 10 bucks, you can’t go wrong. Plus, it’s SO easy to travel with.
Black Radiance Artisan Color Baked Bronzer, $4.99
This is technically a bronzer, but as we said above, highlighting is a technique, so you can use whatever gives you the best look for what you’re going for. It can be tough to find a decent highlighter for darker shades of skin, but this comes in four shades (Gingersnap, Rum Spice, Caramel, and Blackberry, shown above) that will help you achieve a diamond glow. The powder formula is marbleized, mixing together several shades of tones of caramel, gold, brown, and gold for a unique finish. You can also use it wet (we recommend using a makeup setting spray over water for extra staying power), which turns it into a sheer cream-like formula. Be forewarned though: The shimmer factor in this is strong, so it’s not for the weak of heart or for those afraid of a little extra dazzle.
NYX Born to Glow Illuminator, $7.50
This might easily be one of the most recognizable drugstore highlighters, aside from the aforementioned wet N wild one. NYX’s Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator is basically an IRL Snapchat filter for your skin. It’s easy to find at basically any drugstore and can be used as under or over foundation and/or mixed in with your foundation. Don’t let the name fool you though, as it’s less of a liquid and more of a lightweight cream. It comes in a squeeze tube and is available in four shades: Sunbeam (pale pink pearl), Gleam (golden peach pearl, shown above), Pure Gold (gold pearl), and Sun Goddess (bronze pearl). They can also be mixed together to create your own shade. It also has unimaginable staying power, so if you have oily skin or have issue with your product tending to run, this one’s for you.
wet n wild MegaGlo Highlighting Powder, $3.99
This is the holy grail of drugstore highlighters, if you can find it. It’s so popular that it’s almost always sold out on their website and in most stores. When do you find it, we recommend picking up several, especially since its only four bucks a pop. The formula is a super soft powder that swipes on easily and gives you just the right amount of glow. It’s only available in one shade, a rose gold-tinted tan, but it looks great on nearly all skin tones. It will warm up cooler skin tones and add radiance to deeper ones.