Like a ring light for the face, our pick of the best highlighters leaves skin looking naturally dewy and luminescent year-round
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When it comes to bathing skin in a soft-focus glow, highlighter is the most impactful product in your make-up bag. A more modern way of imparting dimension than contouring’s painterly stripes, it draws light to the high planes of the face and strategically adds an ethereal sheen. Better still, a new technique known as ‘soft sculpting’ is ushering in a more natural, whisper-light application for carving out chiselled cheekbones.
According to Susanne Manasi, make-up artist and founder of Manasi 7, highlighter applied this way mimics how sunlight or candlelight reflects off your bone structure. “You only want to apply highlighter to the areas of your face where light naturally falls to help lift and accentuate your features,” she says. “I like to focus on: cheekbones, the inner corner of the eyes, bridge of the nose, lower chin, brow bone and cupid’s bow, as well as the collarbone.”
You only want to apply highlighter to the areas of your face where light naturally falls to help lift and accentuate your featuresSusanne Manasi
Unlike the chrome strobing effects favoured by social media, highlighter should never appear too obvious or metallic. For a real-skin finish and to avoid any blunt stripes along the cheekbones, Manasi recommends “using the warmth of your fingers to soften a cream blusher when pressing it into the skin. A brush is best for blending powder and liquid highlighters.”
Another foolproof strategy is to add a cream or liquid highlighter to other complexion products. “I like to mix a little into a moisturiser for extra glow or dab a small amount on to the apple of each cheek after blusher and blend them together,” she adds. For a natural filter around the eyes, Manasi suggests tapping a small amount of highlighter on to the centre of each eyelid and blending it out with your fingers.
A good rule of thumb for choosing a highlighter is to look at your skin’s undertones and go one or two shades lighter. “Warm rose gold or bronze tones are best for darker skin tones, while warm pink, light gold or peach shades complement medium skin tones,” says Manasi. “For very pale skin, look to champagne or cool pearlescent highlighters.”
Fortunately, there are plenty of highlighter options to try at home. Manasi 7 has launched the Strobelighter, which comes in no less than six different shades to elevate all fatigued complexions. Kjaer Weis Cream Glow leaves skin beautifully dewy for a glass-like finish. Face Stockholm Nordic Notes Gullveig Illuminator has just the right amount of shimmer for a glow-up while Lumene Instant Illuminizer can be mixed with foundation for an all-over fresh-skin look. Oily skin should lean on La Bouche Rouge Paris Highlighter, a finely-milled powder that still makes skin look reflective. Meanwhile, Charlotte Tilbury Beauty Light Wand in Goldgasm is bursting with 3D pigments that flatter deeper skin tones. Finally, for a melt-in-the-skin balmy texture, look no further than Westman Atelier Lit Up Highlighter or Chanel Baume Essential Multi-Use Sculpting Glow Stick. As far as make-up goes, they’re almost imperceptible – and that surely is the secret to an effortlessly youthful glow.
Time to shine with the best highlighters for every skin tone
Beauty Light Wand
Lit Up Highlighter Stick
La Bouche Rouge