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The Best Powder Highlighter

Last updated on August 15, 2022

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Whether you’ve been playing around with beauty products or are a makeup pro, you may have noticed how much a good powder highlighter can completely change your look. Highlighters brighten skin by reflecting light strategically along your facial features.

Highlighting actually does the opposite of contouring, which creates the illusion of shadows. The goal of both highlighting and contouring is the same, however, which is to make your face look like it has more depth and dimension. Contouring requires using a shade of makeup one or two levels darker than your actual skin tone, while highlighting is best done with a hue that’s a touch lighter.

There are many different types of highlighters, but one common type is the powder highlighter. There are two types of powder available: pressed and loose. Pressed is compacted into a semi-solid, disc-shaped form, while loose powder is as it sounds, free-flowing as small particles. High-quality powder highlighters still have a creamy texture, which makes them easy to blend onto your skin. If the powder is chalky instead of creamy, then it will look dry and cakey on your skin. Other types of highlighters include liquid, cream, shimmer and strobing.

When applying powder highlighter to your face, it’s important to get it in the right spots so you can create a sophisticated, radiant effect. Highlighter should be applied to only the highest parts of your face — the areas that would naturally see light first. These are your cheekbones, your outer eyebrow, the brow bone, the bridge of your nose and your upper lip. Before you apply powder highlighter, take some time to examine your face to determine where exactly your high points are, as not everybody’s features are the same.

Choosing the right highlighter for your skin tone can be challenging, but it’s important to remember one major rule of thumb: highlighter should be a lighter shade than your skin and your foundation. For those with light or pale skin, go with highlighters that have a champagne or icy silver look. This way, you can add radiance to your skin without going too warm in tone. If you have medium or olive skin, opt for a highlighter that has golden or bronze tones, which will give you a lovely sun-kissed glow. For those with dark and deep skin tones, look for highlighters that have rose gold and bronze in them, which will have a lot of pigment and will glow on your skin.

Our Picks For The Top Powder Highlighters

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Baked Cruelty-Free Matte Powder Highlighter

This powder highlighter contains intense, sun-baked pigments and beautiful, shimmery properties. The formula blends and builds seamlessly and is designed to last all day. It's also cruelty-free and works on many skin tones.

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Pretty PigmentsThis baked powder highlighter takes illumination to the next level.

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This powder highlighter palette comes with four different colors. They're highly-pigmented with a silky soft texture that provides seamless coverage. The long-lasting, light-diffusing powders are waterproof and smudge-proof.

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Four Glowy OptionsThis glowy palette comes with four colors for powder highlighting.

What to Look For

  • There are different ways to apply powder highlighter to your face and it all depends on what you prefer and the type of product you’re using. For most people, it’s best to apply a powder highlighter using a small and fluffy makeup brush. This makes it easier to get the highlighter in precisely the right spots. Some people also prefer a fan brush, which is better for blending and less good for precision application.
  • While powder highlighter is typically used for your face, you can also apply it to certain parts of your body. Depending on what you’re wearing, adding a little bit of highlighter to your collarbone can help accentuate the area and draw more attention to your face.
  • Highlighter is one of those products where less is more. If you use too much highlighter or use it in the wrong places, you can end up looking overly shiny. Using too much product also takes away the effect of the light hitting the high points of your face and instead looks damp and greasy. Just use a small amount of powder highlighter to get the look you’re going for.
  • Always consider the lighting of where you’ll be before applying powder highlighter to your face. For example, if you’re going to be somewhere with dim lighting or atmospheric candlelight, apply a little extra highlighter to help your features pop. If you’re going to be out in the sun, go easy on the highlighter so it doesn’t look too harsh in the bright sunlight.

More to Explore

In classic Roman times around 100 C.E., people used face powders made with finely-ground orris root, while ancient Chinese makeup-wearers wore rice powder to whiten and smooth out complexions. A preference for pale faces continued into medieval times, during which women used flour and harsh natural bleaches, like lye, to whiten faces and get rid of freckles.

In Shakespeare’s time, Globe Theatre actors used a mixture of white lead and vinegar called ceruse before performances, even though it irritated the skin and was said to have ruined complexions and even killed women.

In the 20th century, a more modern approach to using powder came about, in part because makeup was evolving to enhance natural features rather than hide unwanted blemishes. Colored powders came about in the 1930s, and powders became popular to set makeup in the 1980s. Today, they are still used to reduce shine and mattify the face by absorbing oil.