Welcome to summer. In these days of heat and humidity, shiny faces abound. When that summer sheen is inevitable, why not lean into it by embracing dewy makeup? Using a highlighter takes seconds and always makes me feel like I have my own personal lighting crew. To that end, I tested five popular ones. Here’s how they stacked up…
In our last installment of The Face Off, you asked for photos to accompany each product, and we were happy to oblige. So without further ado, here are our contenders:
RMS Living Luminizer, $38
Let’s start with the only negative: This product comes in a pot. The germs! The cross-contamination! Do you need to use a brush? Valid concerns, all. If you are staunchly anti-pot, then this product isn’t for you. That said, if you can look past it, Living Luminizer is a cult product for a reason. The lightweight formula pats on for a dewy, not-at-all-sparkly glow. The pearl color gives your face an immediate pick-me-up, like you just ran for approximately four minutes and then someone decided to follow you around with a spotlight.
Verdict: Amazing, if you can embrace the pot.
Glossier Haloscope in Quartz, $22
When this product first launched, I recall reading somewhere that it makes your face look like a glazed doughnut (my favorite thing). The easy-to-transport highlighter stick glides on smoothly and blends like a dream, brightening your whole face. The overall effect is neither sparkly nor metallic, just a straight-up sheen. You just look, well, sort of like a glazed doughnut, in the best possible way.
Verdict: Pretty much foolproof.
W3LL PEOPLE Bio Brightener Stick in Universal Glow, $24
The subtlest of the bunch, this is an excellent choice if you secretly like glitter but harbor a fear of glitter flecks becoming permanently trapped on everything in your life. The pearlescent formula leaves teeny tiny shimmery flecks — but only where you want them. The ingredients are as clean as they come, and the tiny packaging (a mere two inches tall!) easily stows away in your makeup bag.
Verdict: Sparkly, yet subtle.
Juice Beauty Flash Luminizer in Golden Bronze, $32
This nifty little stick has two different sides: one light golden, one dark bronze, so it’s like getting multiple products in one. Use the gold side on your cheekbones, to highlight, then flip it around and use the bronze side on your cheeks, as blush or contour. OR, mix both shades together to create a shimmery golden bronzer. Bonus: The formula is organic, vegan and cruelty-free.
Verdict: Packs a one-two-three-four punch.
NARS Illuminator in Orgasm, $30
Spoiler alert: This one is my all-around favorite. Like the cult blush from whence it came, this liquid has a peachy-pink tint. Take a tiny dollop and blend blend blend. You can even mix it into foundation for an all-over glow. Every time I’ve worn this, someone has asked: a) if I’m drinking ungodly amounts of water, b) if I’ve started working out more, or c) what I’m wearing on my face. It’s that good.
Verdict: All your dewy water nymph unicorn dreams come true.
Because highlighters are a subtle bunch, here is a photo that looks like a severed arm in a salad, so you can easily see the difference. (Pictured, from left to right: NARS, W3LL PEOPLE, Glossier, Juice Beauty, RMS.)
Also! For those asking, my lipstick is Pillow Talk from Charlotte Tilbury.
Do you have any other favorite illuminators? Or tricks for applying them? Would love to hear!
(Photos by Heather Moore for Cup of Jo. Except the arm in the salad. That was me.)