Realistically, one highlighter and/or illuminating product is all that’s needed in the standard makeup collection. I gave some of my highlighters to a friend but somehow managed to purchase more than before! In fact, about half of the products in this post are new (added a week or two ago) to my makeup stash.
Becca Afterglow Palette/Shimmering Skin Perfectors
*Swatches above have no primer underneath. The remaining photos in the blog were applied over Too Faced Primed and poreless primer.
Becca’s Skin Perfectors are some of the top highlighters in the industry. They’re also the most intense that I own. The pressed powders are finely milled and come in enough shades for everyone to find a suitable match. That being said, my tailored shade is achieved by combining Moonstone and Topaz.
Topaz is well reputed as being suitable for darker skintones but it blends too much with my skin. While the shimmer would still catch the light, the shade of the pigment is what helps bring the features forward. So giving Moonstone a little tap onto the brush before swirling into Topaz makes it light enough to work.
This palette, at $39.50, is nearly the same price and total gram size of a single full sized highlighter. For those of us wanting to customize shades in smaller amounts, this palette is a great option. I also get the benefit of being able to mix the two blushes together for an even better shade on me.
I also have mini sizes (ironically larger than the pans in this palette) of the pressed and poured perfectors in Opal.
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Spotlights
This $25 trio was a holiday release last year and Champagne Gold is a limited edition color. Although it’s a touch too yellow for me, it works beautifully when blended well enough. If the pressed version was ever re-released, I would buy it on the spot.
Laura Mercier Shimmer Bloc – Golden Mosaic
I purchased this a few weeks ago on the Birchbox site. It retails for $44 but I had $20 saved in points and a 25% off coupon. You can barely see the individual colors in blended swatches, but when all four are swirled and applied together it creates the most flattering shade on my skin. The mixture is even nicer than the Moonstone-Topaz combo, although less shimmery.
Laura Geller Baked Gelato Swirl Illuminator – Gilded Honey
This is a product I tested so many times at Ulta, thinking it was just too shimmery for my taste. However, blending with an actual brush produced the results I was looking for. This shade is a bit more textured than Becca and almost the same amount of shimmer. I would have purchased this at Ulta but I spent much less than the $26 retail by purchasing through Birchbox.
I should also note that this is an actual illuminator, which means it is recommended as an all-over-the-face product. I think it’s too intense for that, although strobing is in!
This is all that remains in the pan after dropping the compact. I was able to transfer the broken powder into 4 standard circular pans in my Z palette. I have been using this blush/blushtopper/highlighter exclusively for five months. I had a sample of the pink grapefruit shade initially, but purchased Sunswept for $27.50 from Ulta once I realized there were more brown tones and less pink in this one.
Subscription Box Goodies
Amazonian Clay Waterproof Bronzer: This is not intended as a highlighter, however, this gives a natural glow to my complexion without adding much additional shimmer. Using bronzer as a highlight is a trick that many of us with dark skintones have been doing for ages. I still prefer more sparkle, which is why I rarely keep the bronzers I receive in subscription boxes. It’s $30 for the full size.
Kryolan – Cashmere: This cream highlighter was packaged exclusively for Glossybox and even has the Glossybox symbol on the lid. I wanted to love this when I received it but the color is too light for me to wear alone. I only use this to mix with other creams that are too dark or too yellow. The packaging is no longer available but it might be the same product as the Kryolan Illusion Highlighter in cashmere which is available for $19 on the official site.
TEMPTU S/B Highlighter – Champagne Shimmer: The SB stands for silicone based. I’ve seen every shade offered as samples in subscription boxes except Gold Shimmer, which is the color I wished the most to try. It takes a lot of product to get the intensity I want but at least it is buildable. I got my sample at Birchbox but more colors are available from Temptu for $27.50.
Finding the right tool for the job is just as important as the product itself. It comes down to the fiber type, density, and bristle shape to achieve the look you’d want.
The pointed tip brush with the black ferrule is the Velvet Luxe Precision Complexion Brush #310 by It Cosmetics (IT brushes for Ulta). It has synthetic bristles which makes it great for creams and liquids, but still works well with powder. In fact, it is the brush I use for my most intense highlight application because it is so dense.
On the contrary, the brush with the silver ferrule is the Hakuhodo Pointed Highlight Brush B/G 5521; a brush which produces the most sheer results. This is my favorite brush to use with the Laura Mercier Shimmer Bloc. It’s among the top three softest brushes I own, as the hairs are comprised of blue squirrel and goat. Although my IT velvet brush is soft as well, the cut of that brush does make it drag ever so slightly. This one which glides across the skin like a feather (but gentler)! It truly is an impressive brush.
Fan brushes are wonderful for blending out overly applied highlight. In the past I actually used them as highlighter brushes by collecting product on the tips, stippling onto the skin, then sweeping away the excess. A great synthetic bristle, budget-friendly option is the e.l.f. Studio Fan Brush. It performs better than so many other expensive brushes I have tried.
My absolute favorite fan brush is the Wayne Goss Brush 15. It’s a thick goat hair fan brush which I use for setting my undereye concealer and blending/applying highlighter. It’s very soft but not so soft that you’d have trouble packing on product, as some delicate animal hair brushes can do. I’m always on the lookout for tools but I have zero interest in buying more fan brushes while I still have this one.
For larger areas of the face, a stippling brush is a good option. I don’t necessarily recommend the brush above (soft, dense, sturdy bristles but a poorly constructed nameless brand off Amazon), but it’s the only stippling brush I’ve used so far for highlighting. Just remember to only use natural hair/duo fiber brushes with powders. Natural bristles are porous which means liquids and creams will be wasted soaking into your brush rather than just the face.
All of these highlighters are non-chalky and fantastic quality, although I like the Temptu highlighter the least. Finding the right highlighter just depends on getting the correct shade for one’s skintone, undertone, intensity and texture preferences.