From the best highlighters 2023 to the ones to avoid
The best highlighter makeup from the best cream highlighters to powder. A lot comes down to your skin type and application preference but these are the best and worst I’ve tried in all formats. Face highlighters are one of my favorite makeup products I can’t live without but I’ve been preferring highlighter creams to powders as I’ve got older as they settle in fine lines less. The issue is there are so many face highlighters, creams, drops and highlighter palettes it gets really confusing. Which is why I wanted to try as many as I could, including 3 Charlotte Tilbury highlighters, COVER FX, Iconic London, Lumene and Becca Cosmetics to find out what truly is the best highlighter makeup. So what are the best highlighters in 2023 for your face? Including the best highlighter over 40 or for more mature skin.
I only really got into highlighters back when Instagram started and the full contoured face beat became popular. I’ve been a fan of contouring and highlighting ever since, as you can create more definition and shape.
However I’ve got lighter with my highlighter application recently and started just using it more on the bridge of my nose and inner corner of my eyes and only creams or liquid on my cheeks to avoid it settling in my crows feet.
This best highlighter makeup post contains affiliate links.
What’s the best highlighter makeup for your face?
I’ve tried so many different cruelty-free highlighters over the last few years as I wanted to try as many as possible to see what the difference is between all of them. That way I’m able to compare and truly call something the best highlighter or at least my personal favorite. I’m also a fan of using Glowscreen SPF 40 as my primer which gives the most gorgeous bronzed coverage and SPF protection. Finished with Iconic London prep set glow hydrating setting spray for added glow.
Before I made the switch to 100% cruelty free makeup I was using Bobbi Brown Highlighting Powder in Sunset Glow (pink with a gold shimmer) back in 2017 as a blush and highlighter in 1 as its radiant enough. It’s too pink to be used just as a highlighter.
Which is better, cream, liquid or powder highlighter makeup?
When it comes to face highlighters I personally prefer liquid highlighters or powder as they don’t mess up my makeup underneath which creams can do, however lightly they are dabbed on.
I’m sharing the worst and best highlighters I’ve tried so far that are cruelty-free. I’ll keep adding to this list as I try more. Feel free to leave your best highlighter 2023 recommendations, as well as the ones to avoid, and your reason(s) why with me on instagram @glamourandgains.
Best Highlighters 2023 for Your Face and Body | The Good, The Bad & The Fabulous
These are my personal recommendations for the best highlighters 2023 along with the ones to give a miss. I’ve included the best best cream highlighter, liquids, powders and palettes so there’s a formula for whatever your preference.
Best Highlighter Makeup | Charlotte Tilbury Bronze and Glow sculpting and highlighter palette (light/medium).
This ends up on a lot of best highlighter makeup lists. The travel size of this bronzing and highlighter palette is great for throwing in your bag but the bronzer is a lighter shade than I’m used to. I’d order a darker shade next time since I contour and bronze with the same shade. Both the highlighter and bronzer in this palette blend really easily.
The highlighter is a light shimmery but not sparkly beige that was too light for me (and I’m pale) and very light and subtle. It’s probably best for Winter, paler skins and those who prefer more subtle makeup. Personally I prefer more of a golden rather than pale highlighter.
Charlotte Tilbury Highlighter Superstar Glow | Best highlighter palette powder
This is my favorite Charlotte Tilbury powder highlighter. It only comes in 1 shade which is a soft focus peachy gold. It’s a natural but buildable pressed powder highlighter and lasts well when used with a setting spray over the top. If you prefer a beaming face highlighter you’ll prefer a cream or liquid highlighter to this which is more natural especially when buffed and blended in. For me this is the best highlighter in powder form that I’ve tried so far.
This Charlotte Tilbury highlighter can also be used as a body highlighter over your collarbone, shoulders, décollatage and chins. It’s $55 but it’s a large compact and will last a long time if you don’t drop it like I did with my first one!
Highlighter application to make your eyes pop: spray a small makeup brush with setting spray to apply this highlighter to the inner corner of your eyes to make them pop.
Charlotte Tilbury Bar of Gold Highlighter Palette
I’d heard great things about Charlotte Tilbury Bar of Gold highlighter palette so I was expecting this to end up as one of the best highlighters for 2023. But none of the shades worked for me on their own. I feel like Goldilocks saying this but there’s 3 shades in this highlighter palette:
- The original bar of gold which is too yellow for me.
- A pink tinted rose gold which is too pink for my complexion.
- A deep shimmer bronze gold which is too orange and a little dark.
To get the right shade, I blended all 3 together. This Charlotte Tilbury face highlighter looked good going on (see the video) but decided I preferred the Superstar Highlighter as it was less warm. I think this might be better suited to olive and darker skin tones.
Which Charlotte Tilbury Highlighter is the best? Comparison review
Charlotte Tilbury has so many highlighters it’s confusing to know what to order. So which is her best highlighter makeup?
I promise the lighting’s better after the first clip (from about 1:35). Charlotte Tilbury highlighters review, comparison and my top pick.
The worst & best makeup highlighters 2023
The best highlighter for you will come down to your skin type and level of makeup skills. For example if you have dry skin, powders tend to be aging and sink into lines or flake versus a hydrating liquid or cream illuminator. These are the pros and cons of some of the best rated highlighters for your face and body. The ones I’m personally loving and the ones to skip.
I’ve got really into contouring and highlighting to fake a button nose recently. One of the fun things about highlighters is how much you can use them in combination with contouring powders or creams to create shape and ‘highlight’ features.
Iconic London Liquid Highlight
I love Iconic Prep Set Glow Hydrating Setting Spray. It’s one of my favorite primers and setting sprays for the glow it gives. I’d seen a few influencers say this was the best highlighter and they loved the ‘dolphin skin’ effect. I personally was disappointed in the Iconic highlighter drops which weren’t for me so it’s definitely in my worst not best highlighters for 2023 list.
I normally love liquid highlighters as they tend to be less aging than powders which settle in lines more. These liquid highlighter drops come in 3 shades: original, blush and glow and can be added to your primer, moisturizer or foundation or used on their own. Due to the highly pigmented color, they are super intense and hard to work with as they dry down too quickly before you have a chance to buff and blend them out.
The reviews on Sephora about the Iconic London liquid highlighter are very mixed so if you prefer liquid products and a high shine finish for your face highlighter then give it a go. If you don’t love it, it does work well at creating a lovely lit within glow when you mix a couple of drops with your primer. You can also mix it with your body lotion for an all over glow.
Best Liquid Highlighter | COVER FX Custom Enhancer Drops
These are the most beautiful, flattering and best highlighter makeup drops in my opinion. The liquid is so easy to blend, comes in 7 beautiful colors for all skin shades, are hydrating and multi-purpose. The color is ultra concentrated so a little goes a long way.
Use them under makeup mixed with your favorite beauty products, over makeup as a highlighter/bronzer, or on the eyes, lips and body for high-impact luminosity.
I sometimes find powder highlighters drying and aging, this liquid highlighter isn’t glittery and doesn’t settle in lines around the eyes but instead reflects light which is so much more flattering. Which is why it’s my top pick for the best best highlighter over 40 and for more mature skin. Although it’d be beautiful on any age skin to be fair.
Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops are ultra-concentrated illuminating drops that can be used to create a buildable highlight or all-over glow by mixing a few drops in with your moisturizer, primer or foundation. Obviously, the more drops you use, the more luminosity you’ll get. I’ve found mixing it with my primer works best as mixing it with my foundation can thin it out and give less coverage. You can also use it on your eyes, lips and body.
I use the shades candlelight or moonlight but I might try sunlight next. I need to stock up again as I haven’t been keeping track of what I have as well as normal as I haven’t been doing my makeup as often since the pandemic started.
A few other things I love about COVER FX makeup is that they’re vegan, cruelty-free, and formulated without talc, parabens, mineral oil, gluten, alkyl sulfates, phthalates and fragrance.
Lumene Invisible Illumination | Midnight Sun Liquid Highlighter
I wanted to love this liquid illuminator but I’m torn, it definitely has pros and cons. I love that it’s cruelty free, a liquid, the color is super pretty and it looks really natural. The downside is that I find it harder to blend than some other liquid highlighters and it dries fast. I use it with their liquid watercolor blush but you have to work quickly as it’s really hard to blend once dry.
BECCA Cosmetics Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed Powder Highlighter
These are my least favorite pressed powder highlighters, I don’t want to say they’re horrible but…I tried 5 of the 11 shades of this highlighter in a Christmas gift set of mini highlighters.
At first I thought the rose gold and pop of champagne would work until I saw myself in a photo with a flash! These face highlighters and super pigmented and look harsh on camera however much you blend them. I also found this formula drying and aging as it settles in the fine lines around eye. It’s definitely not a best highlighter over 40’s and more mature skin. It looks like cheap glitter when applied and isn’t finely milled like Charlotte Tilbury’s highlighters.
- Pop of champagne: a soft white gold highlighter with pinky peach undertones. This was the best shade for my skin but way too sparkly and overwhelming.
- Opal – golden opal pearl
- Moonstone – pale gold
- Rose Gold – soft gold infused with rose tones
- Vanilla Quartz – light gold infused with pink pearl. This was a yellowy white and way too light and sparkly.
Where’s the best place to highlight your face and body
Where to put your highlighter makeup on your face depends a lot on your face shape and the areas you want to bring forward. A quick tip for applying it is to highlight your face and body wherever the light would naturally hit or on any features you want to bring forward:
- Brow bones
- Bridge and/or end of your nose
- Cupids bow
- Collar bones
Highlighter application tips
One of the best highlighters can become one of the worst if you aren’t applying it right. To get the best highlighter makeup application I find using either a double ended makeup brush if I’m using powder face highlighters or my ring finger and fleshy part of my thumb for liquids works best.
The double ended brush I’m using in the video is my Tarte Cosmetics and has been discontinued but I’ve linked some alternatives. It’s so convenient for doing both highlighter and blending, travel and having less clutter in my makeup bag.
How to avoid highlighter settling in lines around the eyes and crows feet
I used to place my highlighter right at the top of my cheekbones towards the top half but it was settling in the lines around my eyes. So I’ve moved the placement to the apples of my cheeks and the start of the cheekbone to avoid that area. I also always really hydrate and prime then spritz my skin with a setting spray before using a liquid highlighter to dampen the skin. I find that helps it blend out more easily as it doesn’t try down as fast so that I have more time to work with it.
Shop the Best Highlighter Makeup Edit
These are the most highly rated powders, liquids and creams that always end up on all of the best highlighters list. I’ll add more reviews here as I try more of them. Let me know your favorites too.
More in Cruelty Free Beauty
My favorite cruelty free beauty products and makeup looks for glowing skin and faking a golden, bronzed summer glow.
Share your favorite highlighters, favorite Charlotte Tilbury highlighter if you’ve used it, best highlighter makeup looks and tips with me.
Fashion and Beauty tips, reels and style inspiration