If you know your makeup history, you’ll remember the time when Yves Saint Laurent Beaute’s Touche Eclat was religiously dotted onto high planes of the face to achieve that “I had 10 hours of sleep” effect. Since then, makeup—and highlighters in particular—have come a very long way. Now, highlighters are as indispensable in every woman’s makeup arsenal as a good ol’ mascara.
Whether you prefer highlighters in a powder, cream, or fluid texture, the options are virtually endless. Plus, modern highlighters no longer contain chunky glitter pigments that are better suited for on-stage performances than real life. Instead, they contain finely milled pigments that meld into skin seamlessly so you can easily control the desired intensity. Here, the best highlighters you can dab on the tops of your cheekbones, the inner corners of your eyes, your brow bones, or even your cupid’s bow to get your ultimate glow on.
As one of the most lavish highlighting powders in the market, you have to try it to believe it. Not only does it have the most incredible texture that glides onto skin like a dream, it also leaves skin subtly gleaming. Less Instagram makeup-ish and more I-woke-up-like-this fabulousness. It also comes with a handy brush that picks up just the right amount of product to give your skin a soft kiss of radiance. And did we mention that the entire case is almost as pretty as how it makes us look?
At just 4 ml per tube, it’s easy to guess that a tiny bit—we repeat, a tiny bit—is all it takes. A total of six shades are available for you to choose from, but our heart lies with Halo, this milky fluid that contains prismatic pigments for a holographic effect. Best part, the silky texture blends into skin seamlessly and even has a crease-proof formula so you can use it on your lids without worrying about it sinking into fine lines and wrinkles. With just a small dollop, you’re instantly transformed from plain Jane to unicorn beauty—perfect for those who didn’t just come to play, but came to slay.
So soft and smooth it almost feels like a cream, this highlighter duo comes in two complementary shades with different finishes so you can customise your desired look. The shade on the left gives a subtle sheen that’s perfect for day and even for the office while the shade on the right is packed with tiny shimmer pigments so you can easily layer it on for a high-impact finish. A total of four palettes are available, each perfect for every skin tone.
Another cult favourite that has remained a mainstay in makeup artists’ kits, these glow-enhancing pearls from Guerlain add the most subtle, almost undetectable sheen onto skin—until you snap some selfies and notice the difference. With different combinations of pearls to choose from, Clair remains the most universally-flattering as it contains green, lilac, champagne, pink and ivory pearls, which also colour-corrects for a radiant, even-toned complexion. Just swirl a large powder brush around the pearls and dust lightly all over your face.
Give your skin a touch of warm radiance with this highlighter stick that contains bronze pigments. Thanks to its long-wearing formula which adjusts to your body temperature, it melts and softens as you warm up the product on your fingers before blending it into your skin. It also features a soft-focus technology for a flawless, Photoshop-like effect. Plus points go to its sleek, portable packaging so you can always layer and add on more while on the go.
Featuring one cream shade with a pearlescent finish and three powder shades, this highlighting palette is unbeatable for its versatility. After foundation, apply the creamy layer first on areas where you want to highlight. It is enriched with shea butter to help smooth skin so the powder highlighter goes on seamlessly. Packed with light-reflecting pearl pigments, you can easily layer on more product for a dramatic finish. While the Golden Sands palette is best suited for medium skin tones, there are two more palettes available for fair and rich skin tones so you’re bound to find something that works for you.
For those who love fuss-free reapplication on-the-go, try this handy highlighting balm. Made with botanical oils, it has an emollient texture that melts into skin for instantly hydration while adding a sheer veil of pearlescent colour. Thanks to the unique formula, it glides onto skin without leaving a sticky or greasy residue, yet keeps skin plump and moisturised. The slight purple tint also helps counter sallowness—perfect for those with dull skin.
One of the go-to products for professional makeup artists, this sheer highlighter powder is perfect for everyone looking to create a radiant complexion in just one stroke of the brush. Formulated with colour-true pigments, this helps reflect light for an enviable glow. A light dusting imparts a natural luminosity while multiple layers help intensity the effect that’s worthy of the most glamorous soirees.
Another fan favourite, this slow-baked face powder is versatile and can be used sparingly all over the face for a back-from-vacation glow or buffed onto skin on specific points to highlight your features. With a velvety smooth texture, it melds into skin seamlessly so it looks like you’re glowing from within, rather than an artificial cosmetic effect. Global Glow also adds warmth to sallow complexions and is best for medium to darker skin tones.
If you want to recreate that post-vacation glow, look no further. Infused with coconut water, this gel-cream highlighter not only imparts a healthy radiance to even the most sleep-deprived of skin but also ensures that your skin remains well-hydrated all day long. Use it directly onto the tops of your cheekbones, brow bones and cupid’s bow for instant luminosity or mix it with your primer or foundation for a sheerer, lit-from-within glow.
As its name suggests, this handy stick was originally formulated to be used all over the face, be it on the cheeks, lips or eyes. With a creamy formula that melts into skin for a natural, sheer wash of colour and shimmery effect, it sets into a silky finish that doesn’t slide or fade even in heat and humidity. Uniquely made to flatter all skin tones, it is also enriched with vitamin E and acai oil to give skin an antioxidant boost.
Made of a blend of plant-based oils, mica, and silica, this cream highlighter is a cult-favourite for those looking for a natural, dewy sheen. Tiny shimmery pigments reflect light optimally for a youthful, lit-from-within glow while botanical oils keep skin plump and nourished, further enhancing the luminous finish. All you have to do is dab the products on to the high planes of your face, like cheekbones and cupid’s bow.
Light as air, yet packed with pigments, this ultra-smooth cream formula goes on like a dream, imparting skin with a youthful, ethereal glow. Suitable to be used on the eyes, lips and cheeks, it can be easily layered over makeup for added radiance. Plus, once the super lightweight cream sets, it stays put for up to 12 hours!
One light sweep of this goes a long way so be sure to apply sparingly if you prefer a more subtle effect. Alternatively, use a fan brush to sweep off excess product if you accidentally overdo it. Though Champagne Pop is the most popular shade of the range, try Moonstone, for the same highlighting effect but with less warmth, making it perfect for complexions of all undertones. And thanks to its ultra-smooth texture, it can be easily applied even with your fingers if you need to add a touch of sparkle on the inner corners of your eyes.
If you’re a fan of sculpting makeup effects but find the techniques involved challenging and difficult to master, this is your best bet. Inspired by the immaculate look achieved via contouring and strobing, this two-in-one stick enables you to add warmth and dimension to your complexion. Use the richer shade as a blush or a bronzer to add a touch of colour onto your skin before topping it off with the highlighter shade on the tops of your cheekbones, forehead and down the nose bridge for a three-dimensional effect. Plus, we love that it also comes with a brush on the other end to make blending on-the-go a breeze.
Text: Joyce Cheo / Additional reporting: Arissa Ha