The good news: Choosing the right highlighter isn’t nearly as difficult as, say, choosing the right foundation, insofar as it doesn’t entail slapping 10 different shades on your jawline in the poor lighting of a Sephora before sending out a distress signal to the nearest sales associate, who gives you 10 more to try. That process can be exhausting, so finding a highlighter you’ll want to wear every day ain’t no thang by comparison.
For their part, highlighters are intended to be universally flattering—or, rather, to “work” on every skin tone on the spectrum. But the universal nature of color can only go so far, and why wouldn’t you want a highlighter that truly works for you instead of just… “working”? Seems like a fair request.
Here, we—alone with help from real people (on Reddit) who really know what they’re talking about—culled a selection of the best highlighters for every skin tone, from the palest pale to the deepest deep, to make your decision that much easier.
A nude shimmer with just the slightest amount of warmth, this powder has a subtle yet stunning finish that adds highlight and a touch of color to fair skin.
Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Baked Powder in Highlight 01, $40; at Laura Mercier
This one's a winner on both fair and light skin, as a subtly sun-kissed bronzer, and deeper complexions for an unbelievably flattering I-summer-in-Ibiza hit of warmth.
theBalm Betty-Lou Manizer, $24; at theBalm
This rosy tone somehow manages to draw the eye to the things you want to highlight while distracting from imperfections, particularly on neutral complexions that don't lean particularly cool nor warm.
L'Oréal True Match Lumi Liquid Glow Illuminator in Rose, $12.99; at L'Oréal Paris
There's a shade for everyone in this lineup, but this neutral, almost beige shimmer gives medium and darker skin tones the most gorgeous natural glow.
BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Opal, $38; at Sephora
For lightweight luminosity that catches the light but keeps a safe distance from the drama of your typical shimmers, there is this shade, the perfect peachy-gold that looks incredible on medium and olive-toned complexions. Plus, the hydrating liquid formula makes it a sure fit for dry skin.
NYX Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator in Gleam, $7.50; at NYX
The pale champagne hue of this super wearable cream-to-powder stick is a foolproof classic for all skin tones, imparting a soft-focus finish that really works to enhance your bone structure.
Benefit Watt's Up!, $30; at Benefit Cosmetics
Not for the faint of heart (or cheekbone), the neutral, no-holds-barred shimmer of this intense strobing powder is so good on medium-to-dark complexions.
Hourglass Ambient Strobe Lighting Powder in Euphoric, $38; at Hourglass
When worn on dark skin, this unique highlighter, which looks almost yellowish in the pan, transforms into a gilded neutral without the undesirable warmth we've come to associate with gold.
e.l.f. Baked Highlighter in Moonlight Pearls, $4; at e.l.f.
As close to a universally beloved pick as it gets, this pale champagne shade is especially flattering on medium-to-dark skin tones, but it truly looks great on everybody.
Kevyn Aucoin The Celestial Powder in Starlight, $44; at Nordstrom
The selling point of this one is the sheer quality of the opalescent powder, since it offers a subtle highlight while still allowing your natural skin tone to shine through—perfect for all complexions.
NARS Highlighting Blush in Albatross, $30; at NARS Cosmetics