Playing with highlighters can feel like you're playing a game of Risk: One wrong choice or swipe, and you could be left with a streak of blinding glitter reminiscent of a Studio 54 after-party. But rest assured that you don't need to spend a ton of money to find a subtle formula that flatters your skin tone; you just need some real reviews and a little bit of faith.
To save you the hassle of scrolling through hundreds of reviews, we did the recon work for you and rounded up the most popular drugstore highlighters real people all over the internet swear by. For an added bonus, there are a few extra beauty-editor-approved options for you to shop as well. Check them out, below, and get swirling.
“I really love the Essence Pure Nude Highlighter,” writes one reviewer. “It’s not overly intense, but perfect for [wearing] every day to work. Builds up decently enough too.” Another Redditor agrees: “I have really oily skin, [and] I use it all the time. Just gives a beautiful natural sheen for such a good price!”
“Without a doubt, Maybelline Master Chrome [is my favorite]. It was so good, my jaw dropped open when I first tried it,” wrote one Redditor, while another added, “The shade Molten Gold is sooo pigmented and not glittery at all.”
And, just in case you’re still not sold, listen to this reviewer, who sums up the highlighter’s pros perfectly: “It can be worn sheer and glowy, or built up to be very metallic. It's not glittery at all. Buildable, long-lasting, and inexpensive.”
Warm apricot to rose (light-to-medium skin)
“No chunky glitter, and can be used super intensely or subtly!” notes one Redditor. As for how to apply it? “I'll use the top two shades for a highlight,” writes another reviewer, “and then when I'm feeling super glow-y, I'll top off my bronzer with the bottom shades.”
Pearl (very fair skin), peach (light-to-medium skin), gold (medium-to-dark skin)
“I have Moonlight Pearls, and I think it performs really well. You have to kind of scrape off the top layer first, though, to get it to work,” explains one reviewer, while another chimes in in agreement: “They’re so gorgeous and cheap to boot. Just make sure to remove the top layer and you can really build it up to whatever opacity or ‘blindingness’ you want.”
[Editor’s note: Sometimes, baked powders are pressed so hard during manufacturing that their top layer needs to be gently scratched up a bit with your (clean) nail if you want more pigment.]
Pale pink and baby blue (fair and light skin), lavender (light-to-medium skin), rose (medium and dark skin), orange (deep skin)
“It blinds people with just one sweep, and it has the prettiest shimmer that shifts into a holographic-like color,” one Redditor effuses. Another reviewer adds, “I use them as highlighters on my cheek and eyelids! The containers stay closed nicely, so it's good to pop into my pack for mid-day touchups.”
Back in 2017, searches for this popular highlighter were up 46,000 percent. I can confirm the hype is real. In the midst of winter, I crave the sun-kissed glow this finely-milled powder imparts on my cheekbones. Even though I'm nowhere near an island, this leaves a radiance on my skin that leads me to believe I've been lounging on the beach with a margarita in hand for hours (a girl can dream).
Iridescent (fair skin), nude (medium-to-deep skin)
Creamy, liquid highlighters hug your skin with a light-reflecting glow. This illuminating highlighter literally looks gorgeous anywhere. From your cheeks to your décolletage, expect it to light up any area it's applied to with luminosity. When I want to take my skin's radiance up from like, 50 to 100, one of my favorite things to do is mix one drop of this into my foundation. It adds a sunshine-y look to my skin.
This line of wildly inexpensive highlighters offers two types of radiance: a pearlescent glow and metallic sheen. What I love most about this bronzer is how buildable the formula is. The pressed powder is lightweight enough for a daytime glow. But if I really want my face to catch the light, I can depend on this to do that too.