Try as we might, we can’t recall a time when highlighter wasn’t crucial to our daily beauty routines. After all, what does all that strategic concealer and perfectly executed eyeliner mean if your skin isn’t incandescent at the end of it?
If you’re as ride-or-die for your highlighter as we are, give these five non-highlighter brightening products a try too. Using something as both your eyeshadow and highlighter is a genius way to lighten your load and consolidate your makeup ritual, and our other finds may help you make do in a pinch. We guarantee that everything you need is already in your makeup bag—you probably just haven’t thought of using them to highlight. Isn’t it amazing what a little experimentation can do?
Balms are fair game too. Anything clear or shimmery is just as well-suited to highlighting as anything actually meant for highlighting. Dab a versatile balm, like the never-fail Rosebud Salve ($6), onto the tops of your cheekbones for a dimensional effect that positively glows when light hits it, or do the same with a pearly, reflective gloss like Chantecaille Galactic Lip Shine in Polaris ($34). Full disclosure: This technique is pretty much unrivaled in the quest for otherworldly radiance, but it can get a little sticky, so it’s best worn on those hair-up days.
What’s the difference between a powder or cream highlighter and an eyeshadow in the same shade? Um, nothing. If you just can’t seem to find the right highlighter shade for you, try delving into eyeshadow—there’s way more variety, so you can experiment with different tones and amounts of shimmer. MAKE UP FOR EVER Artist Shadow ($21) comes in a ridiculous number of colors, several of which work perfectly as highlighters. Pearl makes complexions look candlelit, and Crystalline Pink is gorgeous on cool-toned skin.
The wrong moisturizer can make your skin look shiny in all the wrong places. But when that same moisturizer is used sparingly on the high points of the face, it suddenly gets a second chance at life. You need only a tiny bit to create that sheen: As the last step in your makeup routine, top your foundation/concealer/what have you with a little moisturizer by tapping it onto your cheekbones and anywhere else you want dewiness. It should go without saying that this will give your skin a double dose of moisture too. Backstage favorite Embryolisse Lait-Crème Concentrè ($28) is perfect for this.
If you have a concealer on hand that’s just a little too light, don’t be so quick to toss it in the trash—you can actually make it work as a satiny matte highlighter. Even if they don’t contain shimmer, colors lighter than your skin tone but in the same family will draw the eye to the areas you want to highlight while still looking totally natural. Any concealer formula will do for this technique, but our current all-purpose top pick is bareMinerals bareSkin Complete Coverage Serum Concealer ($20), which is doubly effective since it’s intended to brighten the skin.
Layered on top of your makeup, a silicone-based primer will create a soft-focus glow that’s much more subtle than a traditional highlighter, which makes it the perfect touch for “no-makeup” looks. Try a primer that’s intended to enhance radiance, like the classic Laura Mercier Foundation Primer Radiance ($34). Just blend a bit into the usual areas—the high point of your cheekbones, the bridge of your nose—and revel in your pearly, lit-from-within complexion.