Despite being a beauty editor with an extensive stash of products at my disposal, when it comes to my daily beauty routine, I’m decidedly low-maintenance. In fact, my usual morning ritual before a work-from-home day consists of a lightning-fast shower, a quick blast of dry shampoo, and then some concealer, brow gel, lip balm and liquid highlighter. Yes, you read that right—liquid highlighter. I will admit that highlighter doesn’t sound like the most obvious of makeup choices when going for a pared-back look, but trust me when I say that a good liquid highlighter can make all the difference in transforming tired-looking skin into a complexion that rivals J.Lo’s level of glow.
So, because it’s one of the few makeup products that I wear on my face every single day, I always make it my mission to try every single liquid highlighter that lands on my doorstep. And at this point, I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say I’ve tried basically every liquid highlighter on the market and have worked out which ones truly provide radiant, glowy-looking skin
My criteria for the best liquid highlighters? They need to have a dewy rather than glittery finish. Shimmer is allowed, but only when almost undetectable on the skin. They should apply best with fingertips (I’m too lazy for brushes), work on all skin tones (or have a decent shade range if the product isn’t universal), and most importantly make skin look glowy rather than greasy or metallic.
Ahead, I’ve rounded up 12 of my favourite liquid highlighters that I’m confident will be universally adored.
Not only is this cult Charlotte Tilbury product my top liquid highlighter, but it’s possibly my favourite makeup product of all time. Seriously. Its beauty lies in its versatility. Wear it alone for fresh, dewy skin, layer it under foundation for a radiant complexion, or use it on the high points of your face to add targeted luminosity. I’ve used it all ways, but on a daily basis, I apply it straight to moisturised skin—focusing on my cheekbones, down my nose, and on my Cupid’s bow—to deliver a healthy glow like no other. It’s available in 12 shades, which is extensive for a liquid highlighter and means there’s one to suit all skin tones.
This is one of those liquid highlighters that you’ll spot in many a makeup artist’s kit backstage at fashion week and is a real radiance booster. I used this product religiously in my early 20s and rediscovered it recently having forgotten how truly brilliant it is. It has more of an intense iridescence to it (hence the strobe reference), so I prefer to use this as a straight-up highlighter and wouldn’t apply it all over, but it’s definitely moisturising enough to do so if you’re seeking an intense glow. This yellow-toned version works best for my skin, but there are peachy, pink, and silvery options to choose from depending on what your preference is.
Intensely glossy, glass-like skin has been a huge trend for 2021, and this liquid highlighter gives you exactly that kind of high-shine finish. I actually really like wearing this all over my face, like a dewy skin tint, but then bringing down the shine with powder in areas that I get particularly oily throughout the day, such as my forehead and chin. Although it doesn’t deliver in coverage (it’s a highlighter, after all), it is available in 10 skin-like shades to suit a wide array of tones. And best of all, there’s no glitter or shimmer in the formula so your skin just looks naturally glossy and well-hydrated.
This product was specifically intended to re-create the glow of Dior models on the runway, and it undoubtedly delivers. It has a pearly golden finish that can be applied directly to skin or mixed with your usual foundations and tinted moisturisers. Whenever I wear this, I get compliments on my skin because it somehow diffuses the appearance of pores and uneven texture while imparting a soft-focus radiance. So good.
At first glance, I thought that this was going to be a straight-up dupe of Charlotte Tilbury’s Flawless Filter, but Lisa Eldridge’s liquid highlighter offering has a much more classic highlighter finish. The formula contains lots of small, multicoloured shimmering pearls that lightly tint the skin and impart glow. And while a small amount provides a pleasingly subtle effect, you can really layer this stuff up for a megawatt shimmering shine—perfect to keep in your bag if you want to dial up the glow for a night out.
This liquid highlighter from Vieve is my favourite discovery of 2021. In fact, everything I’ve tried from Vieve has been brilliant. This gold liquid is infused with skin-friendly ingredients like hydrating squalane and inflammation-reducing sunflower seed oil, so it feels incredible on the skin. But its real beauty lies in the glossy, golden glow that it delivers—it’s mirror-like in its shine. I personally only wear this on my cheekbones, as it has quite an intense shine to it, but I swear by it for Zoom calls when I’m feeling a bit fatigued.
While my holy-grail Charlotte Tilbury highlighter is the one I’d recommend if you want a bit of an all-rounder makeup product, the Beauty Light Wands are perfect if you want a classic high-glow finish. The thing I love most about this product is the easy applicator. You just dab the sponge wherever you want to put the product, and then blend it out with your fingertips. They also have a unique gel-like texture that dries down, so there’s no tacky residue, without dialling down the luminosity.
Although Refy is best known for its brow products, the buzzy beauty brand has some notable makeup products—including its liquid highlighter. It’s a universal product in a sheer gold that I like to pat over my skin using my fingertips. It feels smooth and silky on the skin and has a natural, sheeny finish that looks kind of like you’ve just finished a quick power walk, in the best way.
There are so many good shades of this Anastasia Beverly Hills liquid highlighter to choose from, whether you prefer a bronzy, rosy or pearly finish. I love Oyster—a kind of opalescent pearl—which provides just the right amount of luminosity for an everyday makeup look for me. However, for evenings out, the streak-free formulations can be easily layered up for a more intense shine. If you loved the Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid Highlighters (RIP, Becca!), then you’ll love this.
A little of this liquid highlighter goes a long way—so be warned, as the first time I tried this, I ended up looking like the Tin Man. However, now my favourite way to use this is to mix a couple of tiny drops in with a tinted moisturiser or lightweight foundation on days that I want a little more coverage but don’t want to compromise on a sheeny skin finish. The pearly-pink Sunbeam shade is my favourite for autumn and winter, while the peachy-gold Gleam looks amazing during the summer months.
I think this product is actually a liquid blush, but this golden colour works perfectly as a highlighter. First, I love the teeny tube that it comes in—it doesn’t take up any space in my bag, and I thank it for that. At first glance, it looks like quite an intense gold colour, but once applied, this creamy formula meshes effortlessly with the skin to refresh and perk up a tired complexion. It’s so pretty.
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