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Get a Gorgeous Glow with these 15 Best Highlighters for Dark Skin Tones

Photo by Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images

When it comes to enhancing your glow, nothing compares to perfectly placed highlighter. That beaming pop of shimmer swiped right where the light hits your face is not just an instant confidence-booster, it makes you look and feel lit up like it’s golden hour, every hour. Highlighter can be pure magic and enhance your best features (hello, cheekbones). And while all skin tones benefit from the allure of a gorgeous highlight, for women with darker skin tones, finding the right formulas and shade (just like finding the right foundation) can be—well—frustrating. 

We know the struggle. If you’re a woman of color you’ve likely been there—searching the makeup aisle for your perfect shade, only to be disheartened by the “all inclusive” array of products that just don’t fit your skin tone. Over time you’ve almost become your own beauty chemist (blending multiple shades and textures to achieve your look). It’s an all too familiar scene that can be downright disheartening. Besides, who has time for that? Luckily, brands have taken notice. With the call-to-attention to some amazing Black-owned beauty brands (finally!) and products that promise skin-tone inclusivity—and actually deliver—the path to finding your perfect match just got clearer. We talked to Nick Lujan, celebrity makeup artist and Global Director of Artistry & Education at Kevyn Aucoin Beauty for some foolproof tips on finding the perfect highlighter for your beautiful dark skin.

About the Expert:

Nick Lujan is Global Director of Artistry & Education at Kevyn Aucoin Beauty.

Ready to own your glow? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Consider golden, bronze, copper and amber shades your go-tos.”When working with my clients, I analyze how the light naturally hits their bone structure. Choose a highlighter that’s closest to the natural tones that you see. If you see tones that are golden, opt for a golden toned highlighter. Shades that are too silvery, ultra pale, or overly pearly can show up looking greyish or chalky,” says Lujan.

  • Swatching shades along your forearm may be fun for the ‘gram, but the right way to do it is to be more specific. It’s not uncommon for brown-skinned beauties to have slightly different skin tones in different areas, so go right to where you want to apply for the best match. “A good makeup application should incorporate all the colors of your skin,” Lujan recommends. This is the best way to consider them all.

  • Don’t forget to highlight all your assets (you’d be surprised how many of us skip this step!). “Applying highlighter is all about making your features voluminous and radiant. Besides hitting the high points on your face, be sure to apply highlighter to your chest, décolleté and front of your legs to make them appear longer and leaner,” Lujan suggests.

  • Blending your highlighter can be tricky, especially if you’re using a powder formula. For a seamless shimmer, Lujan recommends working the powder into the back of your hand before applying. This will warm it up so it spreads more easily for a smooth, air-brushed look. Then, layer gradually until you’ve achieved your desired level of glow. 

Now that you’re armed with some helpful highlighter tips, here are some of our favorite formulas to get you glowing.

15 Gorgeous Highlighters to Glow All Over

1. Best highlighter for blending: Saint Luxe Gold Cream Glow

Saint Luxe Gold Cream Glow
Courtesy of SAINT LUXE

Remember when we said “golden hour?” This is it. Everything this Black, female-owned beauty brand does is made with inclusivity in mind—and their formulas show it. Mix a few drops of this silky, liquid highlighter in with your foundation or dot it onto your cheekbones and blend for a seamless, lit-from-within glow. 

2. Best longwear highlighter: FENTY BEAUTY Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Trophy Wife

FENTY BEAUTY Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Trophy Wife
Courtesy of FENTY BEAUTY

High-pigment formula? Check. Swipes on skin like buttah? Check. Riri’s actual favorite highlighter? Big check. We love that this highlighter comes in an easily blendable cream-powder formula that’s light, airy and promises to last all day. The shimmer in each shade is super fine, meaning no chunky glitter or cakey residue. Swipe it anywhere and everywhere you want to glow.

3. Best liquid highlighter: ILLAMASQUA Beyond Liquid Highlighter in Epic

ILLAMASQUA Beyond Liquid Highlighter in Epic
Courtesy of ILLAMASQUA

Made with their best-selling powder highlighter in mind, this smooth liquid potion makes strobing super easy. Just dot in on high points for a radiant, dewy finish. It layers on a seamless deep bronze finish that brings out the best in medium and dark skin tones. 

4. Best buildable formula: Huda Beauty 3D Highlighter Palette in Bronze Sands

Huda Beauty 3D Highlighter Palette in Bronze Sands
Courtesy of HUDA BEAUTY

Loved by beauty editors, celebs, and influencers, this do-it-all highlighter makes you want to swipe on, snap a pic, and hit post. Huda Kattan created it out of her love for layering oil with powder highlighter for a custom dewy glow. And for dark-skinned beauties, something easily customizable sounds like a dream. Swipe the buttery smooth strobe cream as a base. Then, build your glow by layering one, two, or all 3 powder highlighters.

5. Best highlighter for oily skin: ANASTASIA BEVERLY HILLS Liquid Glow in Amber Gold


Whether you’re naturally oily or the thought of layering on makeup in summer heat just makes you sweat, this radiance-booster provides all the shimmer without the slick. The full-pigment formula is made out of a gel-like consistency that dries to a layerable lightweight finish. Plus, it comes in seven (yup, seven!) gorgeous shades.  

6. Best highlighter for dry skin: Morphe Highlighter in Meteor

Morphe Highlighter in Meteor
Courtesy of MORPHE

Sometimes layering a highlighter on top of dry skin (no matter how well you moisturize) can leave you with a look that’s more dull than dewy. Luckily Morphe’s uber creamy formula glides on like butter without the greasy feel. Hit your high points with this ultra-gold highlight—even swipe it all over your body for a sunkissed glow.

7. Best highlighter with benefits: Wander Beauty Wanderess Glow

Wander Beauty Wanderess Glow

We love a multi-tasker, especially when it’s packed with good-for-skin ingredients. This silky shimmery formula is infused with edelweiss extract, sunflower seed oil, and camellia seed oil, which helps to reduce fine lines and wrinkles, protect from free radicals and soothe skin. 

8. Best pigment payoff: PAT McGRATH LABS Skin Fetish Ulta Glow Highlighter 

PAT McGRATH LABS Skin Fetish Ulta Glow Highlighter
Courtesy of PAT McGRATH LABS

Metallic, iridescent, prismatic—this glow maker has it all. And it works magic on all skin tones without the chalky look and feel. It’s made with crystalline pigments that leave behind a wet effect, no water needed. Plus, its gel-powder formula lets you layer it on smoothly over makeup. 

9. Best powder palette: Kevyn Aucoin The Neo Highlighter

Kevyn Aucoin The Neo Highlighter
Courtesy of KEVYN AUCOIN

Love options? We sure do! The trio of highlighters (a soft champagne, gilded rose, and sheer golden powder) in this multi-dimensional palette are a go-to for Lujan. Each lets you achieve a buildable radiant glow that’s flattering on all skin tones. Pick it up with your fingertips or fluff on with a brush to apply with ease. 

10. Best multitasking highlighter: UOMA BEAUTY Black Magic Carnival Bronzing Highlighter 

UOMA BEAUTY Black Magic Carnival Bronzing Highlighter
Courtesy of UOMA BEAUTY

Founded by Nigerian born beauty exec (and founder of the #PullUpForChange movement) Sharon Chuter, Uoma Beauty strives for true inclusivity and diversity. One look at their expansive foundation line made for all skin tones and types proves it. Not only does this bronzer + highlighter hybrid deliver an “I’ve been basking on the sand all day” glow, it lets you sculpt, strobe, and shimmer all at once. Bonus: It’s light coconut scent channels beach babe vibes.

11. Best balm highlighter: Flesh Touch Flesh Highlighting Balm 

Flesh Touch Flesh Highlighting Balm
Courtesy of FLESH

This silky smooth twist-up lays down a warm, lit-from-within glow. It’s made out of a buildable, lightweight formula that works just as well on bare skin as it does layered over your makeup. Swipe on Twitch, a luminous coppery shade or Squeeze, a deep bronze on to your cheekbones, collarbones, Cupid’s bow—wherever the light naturally hits.

12. Best wet-to-dry highlighter: Basic Beauty Trust Fund Highlight in Trust Fund

Basic Beauty Trust Fund Highlight in Trust Fund
Courtesy of BASIC BEAUTY

Just when you thought you’ve tried and tested every formula under the sun, enter: Basic Beauty. The Black-owned indie brand calls their ultra blinding highlighter a “jelly glow” (so fun!). The formula starts off wet and dries to a silky smooth finish that holds in place all day and leaves you beaming. Even better, it comes in an array of brown beauty focused shades.

13. Best drugstore buy: Essence Cosmetics Pure Nude Highlighter in Popping Champagne

Essence Cosmetics Pure Nude Highlighter in Popping Champagne

Wish you could just waltz down the beauty aisle, grab the right shade,and go? Try this comfy-on-skin highlighter. It comes in a universally flattering champagne shade, swipes on smooth, and doesn’t leave behind streaks. We love the luxe look without the high-end price tag. 

14. Best reusable compact: OFRA Glow Goals Highlighter in Rodeo Drive

OFRA Glow Goals Highlighter in Rodeo Drive
Courtesy of OFRA

The rich pigment in this compact serves up a subtle glow with the perfect level of shimmer. The best part? When you hit the bottom, you don’t have to toss it. It’s magnetic base lets you refill with your other OFRA faves. 

15. Best travel size highlighter: IBY Beauty Mini Highlighter in 24K Magic

 IBY Beauty Mini Highlighter in 24K Magic
Courtesy of IBY BEAUTY

This clutch-friendly find swipes on in a beautiful bronzy shimmer for subtle, sunkissed results. It’s made from finely-milled powders that easily melt into skin, not just sit on top. Travel-friendly tip: It doubles as the perfect shimmery eyeshadow.

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About the author
Runa Rhattacharya
Runa Bhattacharya
Runa is an NYC-based writer and Registered Nurse with over 8 years of experience covering beauty and wellness. She’s worked for publications like SELF, Cosmopolitan, and more. She’s passionate about beauty, science, and two careers that she loves!
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Article Last Updated May 31, 2021 12:00 AM