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While I’m certainly not a beauty historian, it’s safe to say that the best natural-looking highlighters have never been more popular than they are at the moment. From wet-looking glossy cheekbones to “blinding” glitter-infused strobing, over-the-top highlighting isn’t the only kind on every makeup junkie’s radar; even in the midst of another festival season. There’s also the Instagram-approved “sweat or highlight?” beauty trope, pointing to a natural-looking highlighted face that channels a more lit-from-within, post-workout glow rather than a shimmering, disco-ready makeup look.
Sure, some of us (myself, unapologetically included) are on board with the over-the-top strobing effect, favoring glitter-infused luminators and punchy chromatic pigments packed with reflective glitter. But if you’re just looking to fake a little bit of golden-hour sheen or recreate a flushed, no-makeup makeup glow, these cheekbone-bedazzling pigments are not going to do the trick.
Another downside to super-shimmering highlighters is that they often times illuminate the things on our skin that we don’t want to spotlight — fine lines, texture, and enlarged pores. In general, the less glitter and reflection the highlighter contains, the lower the risk emphasizing these skin problems will be. Fortunately, there are plenty of low-key, subtle highlighters with buildable pigment levels to give you that coveted, sweat-simulating sheen without looking like you’ve applied craft-store glitter to your high points.
Whether you’re into the understated wet look or are just in the market for something to (finally) help you feign a glitter-free healthy glow, these highlighters will give your cheekbones, forehead, and nose a natural, Instagram-filter-like glow, without the blinding, pixie dust effect.
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1. Essence Pure Highlighter
This silky powder is so finely milled, allowing you to layer up to your level of intensity. Its beige undertone also sets it apart from most opal or pink-based highlights giving you a super subtle sheen without a metallic shift.
2. Hourglass Ambient Light Highlighter
It’s formulated with “Photoluminescent Technology,” which works to diffuse harsh light obvious shimmer or color-shifting reflects, keeping you selfie-ready in every angle.
3. MAKE Face Gloss
If you prefer a translucent highlight with high shine and major editorial vibes, this face gloss gives your face a polished luster without looking greasy or downright crazy during the day.
4. Laura Gellar Baked Highlighter Powder
If you prefer baked powders, bronzers, and blushes, you’re going to love this subtle highlighter by Laura Gellar. As a bonus, it’s packaged in a travel-friendly compact for on-the-go touch-ups.
5. Coty Airspun Highlighter
Much like the original best-selling finishing powder, Coty’s Airspun highlighter also offers a velvety-smooth finish that diffuses texture and enlarged pores while also adding a subtle shine.