As beauty editors, we know better than just about anyone the power of a good highlight. This glistening accent can breathe new life into a minimally made up face or be the cherry on top of a full beat, but either way, it's a can't-skip step in any routine. With a vast array of pressed powder, liquid, and cream options on the market, you'd think selecting the right highlighter would be as simple as plucking your formula of choice off the shelf at your favorite beauty haunt. But for those of us with deeper skin tones, the burden of choice is a heavy one, because a highlight can go all the way left if not handled properly.
We know a thing or two about a thing or two (you trust us, right?), but we thought it best to call in the experts on this one. That's why we tapped the most celebrated makeup artists in the game right now to weigh in on the best highlighters for darker skin tones. This talented lot work with black and brown stars from Lupita Nyong'o to America Ferrera, Gabrielle Union, and all our faves in between and they gave us all the intel on the highlighters that best compliment deeper complexions. And don't worry—they also spilled the tea on which ones we should avoid at all costs. Check out their tips and red-carpet approved picks ahead.
Celebrity Makeup Artist, Allan Avendaño
Celebrity clients: Jodie Turner-Smith,Kerry Washington, Liza Koshy, Maya Rudolph
Tom Ford Skin Illuminating Powder Duo in Flicker ($88)
"I love the Tom Ford Skin Illuminating Powder because it applies like butter. It almost gives the look of a liquid highlighter. It comes with a highlighter and bronzer, but depending on your skin tone, you can use both as highlighters. They give a natural glow, but can also be buildable without looking chalky."
Dior BackstageGlow Face Palette ($45)
"The Dior palette is also a staple in my kit, because it has a variety of colors and it’s a compact quad palette. You can apply a single shade or mix them to your liking. The highlighter gives a glossy wet look without looking unnatural. It’s a healthy glow without sparkle and glitter. I would say it’s a strong highlight but you can totally go super light handed if you want a subtle glow."
Marc Jacobs Beauty Dew Drops Coconut Gel Highlighter ($45)
"I like liquid highlighters because they are versatile. You can pump some of the product and mix it in with your foundation for a full dewy look, or you can just apply it on the high points of your face."
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector® Liquid Highlighter ($41)
"Liquid highlighter it gives off a very natural and radiant glow. It soaks into your skin and gives off an effortless lit from within look."
Celebrity Makeup Artist, Nick Barose
Celebrity clients: Lupita Nyong'o, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Willow Smith
Lancôme Click & Glow Highlighting Skin Fluid in Lumières Rosées ($23)
"Darker skin already has its own highlight, so anything too frosty or shimmery will just be too much. I prefer liquid highlighters that set to a velvety finish with gentle sheen. They make skin look luminous by reflecting light, but without being frosty or metallic, which is extra obvious on darker skin and makes it look dry, not glossy."
Kevyn Aucoin Glass Glow Face Liquid Highlighter ($32)
"Avoid highlighters that are too light. Pick it according to your undertone, so it matches your foundation. People tend to pick ones that are too light, because it looks obvious, but a good highlight is more gentle and don’t scream frosty from across the room."
Celebrity Makeup Artist, Tasha Reiko Brown
Celebrity clients: Logan Browning, Alicia Keys, Regina Hall, Letitia Wright, Tracee Ellis Ross
"For extra deep skin tones, this is my go-to. The color has a touch of red-bronze to really pull out and showcase the warmth in the red undertones. The texture is so smooth you can skip a brush and use your fingers pressed right into the powder."
Ilia Illuminator in Summertime ($34)
"This color is ideal for true medium brown shades. It’s the perfect bronze tone. The stick texture is smooth and buttery, so blending is easy—even for unsure hands."
Lancôme Dual Finish Highlighter in Radiant Rose Gold ($41)
"For lighter caramel tones, this one gives you a sunkissed glow that’s believable. It’s the perfect pinkish-gold that’s bright, yet doesn’t tip over into a frosty, unflattering pearl. This powder can be applied dry for a subtle glow or applied wet for an amped up sheen."
Chanel Makeup Artist, Nina Park
Celebrity clients: Laura Harrier, Naomi Scott, Lily-Rose Depp
Flesh Ripe Flesh Glisten Drops in Candleglow ($14)
"When I want to create a lit-within-glow on my clients, I like to use this Flesh Beauty liquid highlighter on the highpoints under foundation. The reason I do this is once foundation is blended on top, there is a subtle hint of radiance that peaks through without being overpowering. I also love to mix a few drops into the foundation if I want an all-over glow to the face or body."
Chanel Baume Essentiel in Transparent ($45)
"When I want the skin to have a dewy sheen, I always reach for Chanel Baume Essentiel in Transparent. Many times, highlighters can be too metallic or bright. I love this particular one ,as it subtly highlights to mimic skin."
Chanel Baume Essentiel in Golden Light ($45)
"If I want to create a bronzy glow, the shade Golden Light is the perfect warm highlighter for a radiant sun-kissed effect. I place this balm on the tops of the cheeks, above the arch of the brow and bridge of the nose with my fingers. This is usually my last step when applying makeup so I can accentuate certain features like the cheekbones or eyelids."
Make Up For Ever Pro Light Fusion Highlighter ($39)
"If I want a subdued, diffused highlight, I reach for a powder highlighter. Recently, I’ve been loving the Makeup Forever Pro Light Fusion Highlighter in Golden. I like to use a tapered blending face brush and lightly sweep this across the sides of forehead, cheekbones and chin. For a more concentrated glow, I use a small tapered eyeshadow blending brush and build the intensity. This powder highlighter also looks amazing on the collarbone, wrists and forearms for any red carpet."
Celebrity Makeup Artist, Neil Scibelli
Celebrity clients: Yvette Noel-Schure, Teni Panosian, Elle Macpherson, Larsen Thompson
Milani Baked Highlighter in Bronze Splendore ($10)
"For those with deeper skin tones, I would recommend looking for highlighters that contain warm undertones, like golds and deep orange to red tones. I would suggest steering away from any highlighters that are too icy or frosty, which can often times cast a grey finish on deeper skin. I really love Milani’s Baked Highlighters, because they’re all warm toned, and they offer a range of deep tones. They’re also super finely milled so there’s no chalky, powdery buildup on the skin."
Celebrity Makeup Artist, Fiona Stiles
Celebrity clients: Gabrielle Union, America Ferrera, Lilly Singh, Katherine Langford
Beautycounter Illuminating Cream Highlighter in Bronze Glow ($32)
"Highlighters on darker skin tones should have a gold or bronze tone to them, anything cool toned will look ashy on the skin. I prefer my highlighters to either have a satiny sheen or to be a very smooth highlighter, anything with big obvious particles of shine or glitter make me crazy as they don’t feel seamless on the skin. Even if makeup is bold or even borderline theatrical, it should still feel integrated into the skin and like a part of the face."
Beautycounter Luminous Powder Highlighter in Halo ($39)
When going in with powder highlighters, Stiles notes that placement is key. She suggests sweeping this Beautycounter highlighter along the tops of the cheekbones to catch the light.
More editor-approved highlighters:
Physician's Formula Murumuru Butter Highlighter in Rose Gold ($11)
Barose told us he stays away from any metallic, frosty powders when working with darker skin, since they look to harsh and not at all like real skin. We love that is soft option is deep in tone and soft in texture, so it blends right into the skin.
e.l.f. Jelly Highlighter in Cloud ($6)
This champagne-hued highlighting gel is on the lighter end of the highlighting spectrum, but it's the soft, golden undertone that make it a match for darker skin tones. As Brown puts it, "I avoid highlighters with opal or pearl sheens, as it’s not a natural or complimentary shade that appears in deeper tones and can read very false. It’s literally on the opposite end of the color wheel."
Juvia's Place The Nubian Loose Highlighter ($14)
Avendaño warns against powder highlighters with any dense glitter in them. Not only does he say they're unnatural looking, but they also tend to have "fallout" throughout the day. Brown agrees, stating that, "The perfect texture of the product to me is when the pearl particles are finely milled, so it’s an elegant sheen and not a glittery one."
NYX Born to Glow ($8)
"In general the perfect highlighter for deep tones should have golden and warm undertones. Shades of caramel, bronze, and chocolate with a gold pearl are ideal," Brown told us. This liquid highlighter by NYX hits all the marks.
Nudestix Nudies Glow Bronzer & Highlighter Stick ($32)
This fool-proof highlighter stick can be applied anywhere, any time. Simply stamp the smooth, glossy sheen onto your skin and blend with the attached brush, or your fingers. This shade is truly stunning on brown girls.
This article originally appeared on Who What Wear
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