1. Expert reviews

Top 14 Best Highlighter of 2021

Katarina Stenskytt

Updated February 12, 2021

Top 14 Best Highlighter of 2021

How we did the test

Our tests are independently conducted and reflect the test editor's honest and objective opinions. Selection of products and test results are in no way influenced by manufacturers, retailers or other internal or external parties.

We carry out our tests ourselves and test products as they are intended to be used in reality. In our tests of highlighters, we asked someone who works professionally with makeup to use the products, both in their work and on their own face. An additional two people of different ages, with varying skin types and under various conditions, have also tested them. In this test we have focused on examining the following:

  • Use: What’s the consistency like? How easy or difficult is it to apply the highlighter? And how economical is it?

  • Result: What’s the colour like? What kind of lustre and finish does it provide? And which type of skin does it best suit? How durable are the results?

  • Format: How is the packaging designed, and how easy is it to use? Does it have extra functions, for example a mirror?

In addition to this, we have also taken into account how much the product contains, whether the formula has any ingredients that care for your skin, and how many colours are available in the range, compared to its price. We have then designated the test winner.

1. The Balm Mary-Lou Manizer – BEST CHOICE HIGHLIGHTER 2021

Soft pressed powder highlighter that’s easy to use and gives a fantastic finish.

The Balm Mary-Lou Manizer

The Balm’s products always come in great packaging, and Mary-Lou Manizer is no exception. The container is nice and heavy with an attractive retro inspired print on the lid that instantly makes you think there’ll be a good product on the inside. And you won’t be disappointed.

This highlighter consists of pressed powder that gives a kiss of golden shimmer on your face without being glittery. A highlighter is at its very best when the shimmery particles are finely ground and you don't end up looking like you were on your way to a junior school disco. Of course if you actually are on your way to a junior school disco, you can always supplement it with a proper glitter product, but with Mary-Lou Manizer you never feel the need to add much else.

The powder is pressed but still soft to use. And not so soft that it crumbles when you put your brush and it. The product gives a beautiful glow to your face and the compact contains a mirror, which makes touch ups much easier. The only problem with The Balm Mary-Lou Manizer is that it’s so good you tend to want to apply more, and sometimes there is a very fine line between a nice glow and overdoing the shine. But if you can resist the temptation, this is a real winner!

Fantastic finisheasy to use
No actual disadvantages

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Jomashop Logotype

The Balm / Mary-lou Manizer Bronzer 0.3 oz

£10.57
Roxie Cosmetics Logotype

The Balm Mary-Lou Manizer Highlighter face 9.06g

£12.78
Shopping4net UK Logotype

Mary Lou Manizer

£14.45

2. RMS Beauty Living Luminizer

RMS Beauty Living Luminizer Highlighter

RMS is a completely organic beauty brand, and the contents of this highlighter are just a few, mild ingredients such as coconut oil and mineral pigment – making it ideal for sensitive or allergy prone skin. The consistency is a firm cream, which melts in contact with the skin and is easy to apply. The lustre is subtle and realistic – a perfect illusion of moisturised, fresh skin. The shade can be described as mother-of-pearl with a hint of champagne, and because it’s so transparent it suits all skin colours. Most skin types will also benefit from it. Only people with the very shiniest of skin may think that the coconut oil base is a bit greasy and that the product “slides off”. On normal to dry skin it feels moisturising and lasts for at least five hours. Products in jars aren’t optimal given that you tend to apply them with your fingers and bacteria can easily develop, but the jar is glass and has a luxurious weight to it. At the same time it's small and relatively convenient to carry with you to touch-up your face. The jar contains 4.82 grams, and that seems like a small amount given the price, but it balances out as it’s incredibly economical.

Realistic lustreeconomicalallergy friendlymoisturising
Expensiveheavy jar

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3. MAKETHEMAKE Vitamin E Illuminating Balm + Hyaluronic Gloss Pot Duo

Two highlighters in one pack

MAKETHEMAKE Vitamin E & Hyaluronic Highlighter Duo

The best way to describe MAKETHEMAKE Vitamin E Illuminating Balm + Hyaluronic Gloss Pot Duo is two small containers screwed together to make a little tower shape. One contains a shimmering, pinkish solid cream. The other contains a translucent gloss. The aim of both is to maximise glow.

The pink cream, which isn’t at all pink when it’s on the skin, creates a nice, unobtrusive shimmer. The result isn’t entirely unlike what you get from the cult product from RMS, but this little pot from MAKETHEMAKE is much cheaper. This highlighter is the Vitamin E Illuminating Balm.

The translucent gloss is a product you can use to boost the shimmering cream with. Or use it on its own for a more discreet look. You can also really slap it on if you’re looking for a catwalk shine for the Christmas party. The contents of the Hyaluronic Gloss Pot aren’t entirely unlike lip gloss in appearance, but thicker.

Both products are extremely economical and are best applied using your fingers. You can say what you like about hygiene when it comes to products you have to fish out of the pot and apply with your fingers, but you definitely get an attractive result when you apply these glow enhancing products like that. The cream literally melts into your skin, give an incredibly good result and stay put for a long time. The gloss isn’t quite so durable as the shimmer, but it’s easy to top up.

These are products that are great used on both your cheekbones and brow bones, with perhaps a touch above the Cupid’s bow too. It’s actually just your imagination that sets the limits. And we give an extra point for it producing a shimmery effect rather than glitter – which anyone over the age of 12 will appreciate. If you feel that either the gloss or the shimmering balm is too much, you can buy each product separately.

Two products in oneextremely economicalvery attractive glow
The gloss fades a bit too quicklypackaging

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4. Lumene Invisible Illumination Instant Illuminizer

Plenty of glow completely without glitter from these highlighter drops

Lumene Invisible Illumination Nordic Light Instant Illuminizer Shimmering Dusk

If you’re looking for a highlighter that simply adds glow without any shimmer at all, Lumene Invisible Illumination Instant Illuminizer is the product for you. It’s available in several different colours, which means you can easily find the right glow for you.

This liquid highlighter comes in a bottle with a pipette. The liquid is economical and a couple of drops go a long way. When you apply it to you may first think that the product isn’t doing anything because it’s not particularly obvious in the mirror, but it’s all about how the light strikes your face.

And Lumene Invisible Illumination Instant Illuminizer is an expert at capturing the light. This is extra clear when you get out the selfie camera and see the glow on your photos. Poor bathroom lighting will never do this highlighter justice, but as soon as you get out in daylight you can see the results.

And with this highlighter from Lumene you never need to worry that you’re glittering like a contestant in the Eurovision Song Contest. In fact there is no glitter in sight. The formula is feathery light and the result fresh as a dewy morning.

This is a product without parabens. But it does contain perfume, and if you smell it from the bottle the scent is quite strong. Once on the skin the smell of perfume quickly fades but it doesn’t skimp on the gleam.

No glitterplenty of lustreattractive packaging
Pipette picks up a bit too much product

5. Nyx Born To Glow Illuminator

NYX Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator Gleam

Liquid highlighter packed in an easy to grip tube. This product has a creamy, easily worked consistency that can give you both a feathery glow and a more compact shimmer. You can apply it both under and over your make-up and it works on all kinds of base. Once it’s dried it stays put. One tip is to mix it with your foundation if you’d like a more subtle shimmer. Our tester used this highlighter as primer under their foundation, both on its own and mixed with a normal face cream to give an all-over lustre. It’s available in several different shades and you can choose the one that matches your skin colour best to produce as natural a result as possible. The mother of pearl shimmery shade “Sunbeam” is actually the only one that suits light skin – the other shades have a darker base colour which means they can look unnatural if they don’t match your skin tone. The “Pure Gold” shade is just too golden to look natural. In terms of price, Nyx products are really good, and this is the cheapest product in the test – 18 ml for less than ten quid!

Wide range of applicationsgood valuedurable and economical
Darker base colours which are difficult to match

6. Wet n Wild Mega Glo Hello Halo Liquid Highlighter

A very budget friendly highlighter with really great results.

Wet N Wild MegaGlo Hello Halo Liquid Highlighter 309B Goddess Glow

Wet n Wild is a budget brand that sometimes gets overshadowed by the wide range of make-up available in shops. And that’s a shame, because it has a number of really good products. Wet n Wild Mega Glo Liquid Highlighter is one of them.

This is a highlighter in liquid form that you apply with the applicator built into the cap. Given the price of this product, the packaging is surprisingly substantial and made of glass. It’s actually really nice. But the built-in applicator leaves something to be desired. For one thing, it picks up too much of the product. So this doesn’t feel optimal from an application viewpoint. But if you just dab the liquid where you want more glow and then work it in with your fingers or a brush, you get a really good result.

Mega Glo contains high pearl pigments and gives exactly the type of shimmer you want. No glitter, just a pleasant glow. The fact that it’s also available in four different colours makes it possible for everyone to find a glow product that they feel comfortable with in terms of shade.

Another nice thing about this one is that it doesn’t make your skin feel tight. On the contrary, it feels slightly moisturising. This is probably because it contains murumuru seed oil, grapeseed oil and vitamin E, all of which are ingredients that add moisture and make the skin soft.

Given the price this is a very good value and effective highlighter. The applicator isn’t the best, but you can easily work around and live with that when the price is this low. It’s a joy to use this highlighter, particularly in the morning when it really gives the illusion that your skin is fresh and alert.

Good pricegreat glowseveral shades
Clumsy applicator

7. Urban Decay Afterglow 8-Hour Powder Highlighter

Urban Decay Afterglow 8-Hour Powder Highlighter Fireball

A creamy powder highlighter with fine-grained pigments that makes it easy to apply and gives a soft and natural result. The consistency makes it ideal for using your fingers or a brush to apply it. This highlighter is available in three different shades, and “Sin”, the champagne coloured one is most usable and suits pretty much everyone. The other colours are pink and peach tones. Even if all of the variants are relatively sheer, the other shades work better than shimmering red. “Sin” blends in seamlessly and gives a beautiful, natural and warm lustre. You can even build it up if you want a lot of shimmer. The powder consistency means it lasts for a long time – in fact 8 hours, exactly as promised. Despite the powder consistency, it never feels dusty but effectively emphasises the face. It contains 6.8 grams, which lasts for ages. The compact is stable and convenient but unfortunately doesn’t have a mirror despite the fact that there’s space for one in the lid.

Wide range of applicationseconomicaldurable
No mirror

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8. NARS The Multiple

An incredibly economical highlighter in pen form

NARS The Multiple Orgasm

NARS The Multiple is a highlighter pen that, while it costs a fair bit, is simultaneously so economical that it lasts for absolutely ages.

This is a highlighter that’s available in a number of different shades. The best well-known, and the one we tested, is Orgasm. Orgasm doesn’t just give the skin lustre, but also a touch of colour – a light redness that makes you look as fresh as a wild rose. But you have to be quite sparse with how you apply it, as the pen is relatively high in pigment. It also contains a certain amount of glitter.

Even if this highlighter comes in pen form, the product lands on the skin like a creamy powder. The Multiple it is easy to work with – you simply apply it direct to the skin. After that, the easiest thing is to work the product in using your fingers, as this quickly gets rid of any edges.

The packaging is attractive and stylish, but gets a bit dirty after a while. Although of course that depends on how you store the pen. But one thing to remember is that The Multiple is so incredibly economical that the pan will perhaps last for longer than the contents stay fresh. If it starts to crack or smell weird, it’s time to say goodbye.

Good range of colourseconomicaleasy to use
Rather too generous packagingcontains some glitter

9. NYX High Glass Illuminating Powder

A highlighter that shines like a star in your make-up bag

NYX High Glass Illuminating Powder Moon Glow

High Glass is a collection of three products from NYX all aimed at maximising glow – primer, finishing powder and this NYX High Glass Illumination Powder. Of course you can use all three together, or simply choose one of the products.

NYX High Glass Illumination Powder is a traditional highlighter with a cream to powder formula. And it’s the formula that some of our testers found it difficult to get used to. Our top tip is to try out different brushes until you find the right one – we thought a fan brush gave the best results.

With three different shades to choose from, there’s a good chance you’ll find a colour that suits your skin. NYX High Glass Illumination Powder gives an attractive glow that shimmers beautifully without being too intense. If you want to build up the intensity, you can apply an extra layer and also use the other products in the series. If you first apply the primer and finish with the finishing powder, you’re ready for a party in the blink of an eye.

NYX products are always good value, and the High Glass collection is no exception. What’s nice about NYX is that they don’t only offer cheap make-up, but also high quality products and playful inspiration. In other words, it feels completely in character for them to release this collection that makes you shine like a glass after a go in the dishwasher.

Good priceattractive glowthree nice colours
You need to practice a bit with the formula before you achieve a perfect result

10. PerriconeMD No Highlighter Highlighter

Perricone MD No Makeup Highlighter 10ml

The rather contradictory name of this product refers to the fact that it’s intended to give a natural and realistic result – which is exactly what it delivers. Perricone was originally a skincare brand with inspiration from dermatology. Now the brand is producing make-up, they're still true to their aesthetic and the bottle is designed a little like an old-fashioned medicine bottle. But in the load is a modern applicator that helps you to get just the right amount of this thin cream. The highlighter is available in a single colour – a pale pink and champagne shade – which suits everyone except for those with the darkest of skins. The effect is very minimal. It gives more a feeling of healthy skin than a clear shimmer. The highlight also contains vitamins C, which has skin improving properties – including brightening and evening the skin. However, the quantity is so small that it won’t make much a big difference to your skin. But it’s nice to have all the same.

Naturalcares for the skin
Expensivetoo little effect

11. Ofra Cosmetics Highlighter

Very soft and easy to use highlighter with plenty of glow

Ofra Rodeo Drive Highlighter

At first glance, this looks like a real budget product. The compact is plasticky and has a boring design. Fortunately, the contents make up for the dull packaging. If you’re looking to give your face plenty of glow, Ofra Cosmetics Highlighter is definitely a product to try. The powder is pressed in the compact, but at the same time it’s so soft that you don’t need to struggle to pick up the product with your make-up brush. If anything, you have to be careful, because it’s easy to get far too much highlighter on your brush if you’re a bit heavy-handed with the powder.

This softness is actually both the big strength and the major weakness of Ofra Cosmetics Highlighter. Because while it makes it easy to apply and get an even result, the powder is very fragile. And this fragility combined with the fact that the compact is plastic and can’t resist impacts means that the powder tends to smash into hundreds of tiny pieces if you drop it in the sink or – God forbid – on the floor. There’s no way of saving this highlighter if it’s smashed, and having to throw away an otherwise really good highlighter because the packaging isn’t up to the job is upsetting both to your heart and your wallet.

Ofra have several different colours in their highlighter, so there’s a shade for everyone. With a gentle touch, Ofra Cosmetics Highlighter offers a glow that hard to beat, so it’s a real shame that the packaging isn’t the same quality.

Easy to use and lots of lustre
Very fragilepoor packaging

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12. BareMinerals Radiance

BareMinerals All Over Face Color Radiance Pure Radiance

A highlight in loose powder form consisting only of minerals. The powder is pale mother-of-pearl coloured and gives a good glow but is very sheer and volatile. According to the product’s marketing, it can be used over your entire face for a retouching effect and as a “rejuvenating filter for the skin”, but we felt the result was far too glittery. At the same time, it’s far too weak and superficial to work perfectly as highlighter. It flies off in all directions and it’s difficult to get it to concentrate on your cheekbones and other places where you want extra glow. The durability isn’t all that, and after a few hours most of it’s gone. But this highlighter is incredibly economical and it feels like a compact last forever. But it is one of the most expensive products in the entire test. Just like most of the other pure mineral products in bareMinerals’ range, it contains bismuth oxychloride, which many people find gives a prickling effect on the skin.

Naturaleconomical
Volatileexpensivecontains bismuth oxychloride

13. Benefit Cosmetics High Beam

Highlighter that gives a light and natural glow.

Benefit High Beam 13ml

Benefits High Beam was on the market many years before the concept of strobing appeared on social media. High Beam is a liquid highlighter that comes in a nail varnish-like bottle with a brush in the lid. This is a light pink product that gives a light and natural glow and works just as well on the cheekbones as under your eye bone. And if you want a more discreet lustre instead, you can apply it under foundation.

Despite the fact that High Beam is a classic, it leaves something to be desired. The product dries out very quickly, which is particularly obvious at the opening of the bottle, where the dried product collects and leaves clumps on the brush every time you use it. If you use the bottle every day, this probably won’t be a problem, but if you use a highlighter a bit more sporadically you’ll have to spend a few minutes picking off dry residues each time you use it.

The design of the bottle with a brush and the lid may be practical, but it isn’t optimal if you're the kind of person who worries about bacterial growth, as the brush is intended to be used directly on your face. Of course you can resolve this by washing it, but in real life washing your make-up tools probably isn’t top of your priority list during the morning rush.

Benefit High Beam is still a good product that gives a nice glow while it’s also very easy to use. But the question is whether you’ll have used up all the product before it completely dries out in the bottle.

Natural glow
Dries out quickly

14. Sensai Silky Highlighting Powder

Sensai Silky Highlighting Powder

Highlighter in compact powder form that gives a subtle lustre It comes in a substantial compact with a mirror in the lid and a usable brush. The powder is mother-of-pearl shimmery and very sheer. In fact, according to most of our testers, it’s a bit too sheer and they’d have liked more power in the lustre to emphasise their cheekbones. But it works well in the daylight when other highlighters can be too shimmery in strong sunlight. And one of our testers gave this product almost full marks because of the fact that it is so discreet and it works well on skin with larger pores and wrinkles where other highlighters tend to emphasise the problem. Because it’s so sheer you can use it over your whole face to give a general impression of glow. The texture is silky smooth and the formula economical – providing you don’t want much shimmer. It’s only available in one shade and because it’s mother-of-pearl with a white base, it’s primarily suitable for light skin. The durability is reasonable, but after a few hours it definitely needed to be topped up.

Sheer and natural
Only one colourexpensive

All about highlighter

Highlighter is a light-reflecting product available in different forms – liquid, cream, pen, pressed or loose powder. What they all do is give your skin a shimmery, fresh lustre and emphasise the area you've applied the highlighter to – for instance your cheekbones or eyelids. The shimmer should feel light and feathery in your skin, not cakey or sticky. So you should watch out for a highlighter that provides too much coverage, because it can easily look unnatural and heavy. Nor should the highlighted glitter too much – it should just glisten slightly when the light hits it. Apply to unmade-up skin or as the last step in your base make-up, after foundation, bronzer and blusher. If you have light skin, a feathery pearl coloured or faintly golden champagne colour is a perfect choice. Darker skin suits almost all colours – even a deeper bronze.

How to apply highlighter

Your fingers are an excellent tool when you’re applying highlighter, but if you want to work with brushes, we recommend a medium size that gives good control – for example a small blusher brush or a large eye shadow brush. A fluffy brush gives a more natural finish and a denser brush gives more coverage. Make sure you blend it so that there are no unnatural, sharp edges.

Contouring, strobing, draping – just now the internet is full of different words describing new techniques for using highlighter and contour to sculpt your face. But if you’re looking for a natural result, it needn’t be complicated. A touch of highlighter on your cheekbones and eyelids is all you need to give a nice glow to your face. If you’d like a bit more lustre, you can blend the highlighter on your cheekbones and up towards your temples. You can also apply it down the bridge of your nose to define the shape of your nose and above your Cupid’s bow to give yourself extra-pouty lips. A spot of highlighter in the inner corner of your eye gives brighter eyes in an instant, and extra lustre right under your eyebrow gives your entire eye a lift. Some highlighters also work well on dark circles, because they contain light reflecting pigments. But remember that they need to be a touch lighter than your skin colour, because otherwise you just look even tireder. And remember too that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Skin care products, primer and foundation often add shimmer, but don’t use only this type of product if you don’t want to look like a glittery disco ball. Sticking to one product that adds lustre to your make-up is the best approach.

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