Best Highlighter Palettes

Updated June 2021
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Buying guide for best highlighter palettes

Highlighter can be a serious game changer for your makeup routine. It catches the light to illuminate your complexion and give you a healthy glow. If you want highlighters in several shades to complement a range of makeup looks, investing in a highlighter palette is your best bet.

Highlighter is applied to the high points of your face to draw attention to those areas and help shape your face. It’s available in a variety of formulas, shades, and finishes. A highlighter palette contains multiple options so you can change your glow depending on the other makeup you’re wearing.

But with so many highlighter palettes on the market, it can be difficult to find the right one for your makeup bag. Luckily, our helpful shopping guide has everything you need to know. To make shopping even easier, we’ve narrowed down our favorite highlighter palettes to just five, which you can find in the matrix above.

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For the most versatility, choose a highlighter palette that offers both subtle and intense highlighter shades.

Key considerations


When you’re shopping for a highlighter palette, you have two main highlighter formulas to choose from: powder and cream.

Powder highlighters are similar to pressed powder blushes or bronzers in texture. They offer the most pigmentation, so they usually provide a more intense look on the skin. Powder highlighters often contain more shimmer or glitter, too, which can highlight skin texture or fine lines. A power highlighter is best applied with a brush to allow you to blend it in for the most flattering look.

Powder highlighter is usually the best option if you have oily skin because it’s more likely to stay in place. It can work for dry skin, too, but you should moisturize well and use a light hand to avoid accentuating flaky patches.

Cream highlighters usually have less shimmer and glitter and instead give the skin a subtle, dewy look. They usually aren’t as pigmented as powder options, and their sheerness provides a sheen that looks more natural on the skin.

Cream highlighter typically works best for dry skin because of its creamy consistency. If you have oily skin, cream highlighter can fade or melt off easily, particularly in hot weather. You can apply it with a synthetic brush, but it usually works best when blended over the skin with clean fingers or a beauty sponge.

Most highlighter palettes contain all powder highlighters, though you can find some with all cream options. A few palettes have both powder and cream highlighters. These palettes are the most versatile because you can alternate between the two formulas based on your preference or the season. You can also layer a powder highlighter over a cream option to intensify shine. If you have oily skin, setting a cream highlighter with a powder highlighter is the best way to keep it on your skin.


You’ll want to choose a highlighter palette with shades that flatter your skin tone. If a highlighter is too dark for your skin, you will be able to see a dark stripe at certain angles. If a highlighter is too light, it will look chalky on your skin.

Fair to light skin tones look best in pearl, silver, pink, or lilac highlighters. Light to medium skin tones look best in champagne, peach, or rose gold highlighters. Medium and olive skin tones look best in champagne, gold, or peach highlighters. Deep skin tones look best in gold, peach, rose gold, or bronze highlighters.


While all highlighters are shiny, they come with a few different finishes. Most highlighters have a shimmer finish, which means they have very finely milled light-reflecting or glitter particles. They work well on most skin types, though the shimmer can sometimes emphasize fine lines, enlarged pores, or other skin texture issues.

Some highlighters have a glitter finish, which means they contain large, visible pieces of glitter. These highlighters offer a highly dramatic look, so they’re best saved for a night out or a special occasion. They’re not the best option for mature skin, though, because they can draw attention to fine lines and wrinkles.

Highlighters with a metallic finish also offer an intense look on the skin. In fact, they are so reflective that they often have a wet, glossy, or foiled appearance on the skin. They can sometimes look a little too shiny on oily skin, though.

Highlighters with a satin finish provide a more natural look because they only add a soft sheen to the skin. They work well for all skin types and don’t usually emphasize skin texture. Because of their softer look, they’re an ideal option for everyday highlighting and mature skin.

Some highlighter palettes contain highlighters with the same finish, while others include a variety of finishes. The more finishes that a palette offers, the more versatility you’ll have in terms of the intensity of your highlight.


Number of shades

The majority of highlighter palettes have three to four shades, which tends to be enough for the average makeup user. However, if you like to change up your highlighter regularly (or you’re a makeup artist), you may want a palette that offers as many as six highlighter shades.

With smaller palettes, make sure that all the highlighter shades work for your skin tone or the palette may not be a good value. For example, if you opt for a three-shade palette that contains one shade you likely won’t use, you may be wasting your money. In a six-pan palette, however, having one shade that you don’t like may not be a deal breaker. And you can always use a highlighter shade that’s not right for your face as an eyeshadow.


Highlighter palettes are typically square or rectangular compacts, depending on how many shades are included. However, some palettes are plastic, while others are made of sturdy cardboard. For everyday use at home, the compact’s material usually doesn’t matter. If you plan to travel with the palette, though, a plastic compact offers better protection for powder highlighters. With cardboard packaging, you may arrive at your destination with shattered powders.


Some highlighter palettes include a mirror on the inside of the compact that you can use when you’re applying your makeup. If you plan to use the palette mainly at home, a mirror likely isn’t important because you can use a bathroom or vanity mirror. However, if you plan to travel with your palette or take it with you to work, a mirror may be useful.

Highlighter palette prices

Highlighter palettes vary in price based on the quality of their ingredients and packaging. Most three- to four-pan highlighter palettes cost between $5 and $64.

The most affordable highlighter palettes are those with lower-quality ingredients, and they are often found at the drugstore. They usually have cardboard or lower-quality plastic packaging and may not offer a mirror. They typically cost between $5 and $22.

Mid-range highlighter palettes usually feature good-quality ingredients. They may come in sturdy cardboard packaging or durable plastic compacts and typically include a mirror. They usually cost between $22 and $38.

The most expensive highlighter palettes contain high-quality ingredients, and their formulas are usually free of parabens and talc. They typically come in durable plastic compacts that include a mirror. They generally cost between $38 and $64.


  • If you’re using a powder highlight, apply it after your setting powder. If you’re using a cream highlight, apply it before any powder.

  • Highlighter is traditionally applied to the high points of the face, particularly the tops of the cheekbones, the bridge of the nose, the brow bones, and the cupid’s bow.

  • For powder highlighter, a small powder brush or fan brush works well for application. Use a brush that is small enough to apply highlighter to a targeted area but fluffy enough to not apply too much for a natural look.

  • Applying a small amount of highlighter to the inner corners of your eyes can make your eyes appear wider and brighter.

  • If you’re using a matte blush, you can dust a small amount of highlighter over the apples of your cheeks as a blush topper to give your face a healthy glow.
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Less is usually more with highlighter – if you apply too much, it can be extremely unflattering.


Q. Can some highlighter shades be used as blush?
Some highlighter palettes may include shades that can double as blush. Peach, pink, or rose gold highlighters can work as blush on fair to medium skin tones, though they may be too light for medium to deep skin tones. Highlighters typically aren’t as pigmented as blushes, so you may not get the color payoff that you want. If the highlighters in your palette are metallic or glittery, they can also accentuate enlarged pores on your cheeks and any other texture.

Q. Can I use a highlighter palette as eyeshadow?
Shades from your highlighter palette can double as eyeshadow, and in fact that’s a great way to utilize a highlighter that’s too dark or light for your skin. Because highlighters have a shimmery finish, though, they’re best used on your eyelids or inner corners because they can be unflattering in the crease.

Q. Can I only use a highlighter palette on my face?
You can apply highlighter to your body, too. Dust highlighter over your shoulders, collarbones, and décolletage for a gorgeous glow. You can even apply highlighter down the center of your shins to make your legs appear longer.

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