This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Which highlighter palettes are best?

Highlighter is a great addition to your makeup routine. It calls attention to the highest and most flattering parts of your face, leaving you bright and glowing. If you’re looking to get several new highlighters but aren’t sure what you should get, a highlighter palette may be the best way to start. 

If you’re just beginning, you may want to go with a more neutral shade range. The Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette is the best choice available for both amateurs and experts. 

What to know before you buy a highlighter palette 

Shade range

The best shade range for you will often come down to your skin’s undertone. If you have warm yellow or olive undertones, bronze shades will look best on you. If you have a cool undertone, silvers and pinks will suit you better. Neutral undertones are balanced enough to work with just about any highlighter. The best shades for you will also rely on your color preference. Some palettes include pink, blue, purple or bronze shades. If you like to play around with different looks, you may want to look for a palette that has a wide range of colors. If you like to go for a specific style, try going for a palette that will enhance your established colors. 

Cream or powder

While powders are incredibly bright and pigmented, they may appear too creased and chalky on dryer skin. If you wear moisturizing makeup or have oilier skin, you likely won’t have to worry about this issue. 

Creams don’t show up as much as powders, but they are soft and subtle. They’re great for more natural glows and are perfect for dry skin. Creams usually come in sticks rather than palettes, though you can find powder palettes on the creamier side. 

Your supplies

The palette you choose should complement the other pigments you already have. For example, if you already have several blushes, you should avoid highlighter palettes with blush tones. If you have a contour palette, you’ll likely get more value out of a palette with fewer neutrals. 

What to look for in a quality highlighter palette 


Highlighters usually have either glitter or shimmer finishes. Some palettes have both, while most tend to stick to one type or the other. If you prefer one finish, go with a palette made up of mostly what you like. If you’re new to highlight and want to try different things, go with a palette that has a mix of finishes. 

Variety of shades

A large palette may not give you every shade, but it will give you many options for creating a variety of looks. You can go with a smaller palette with a more limited shade range if you have specific highlight colors you prefer or want a consistent look. If you’re a makeup artist, a wider variety of shades will likely suit you best. 

Collaborations and limited editions

Some palettes are only released for a limited amount of time. These are often specially designed by collaborating makeup artists and include extras such as mirrors or brushes. Some specialty highlight palettes may also include a short-range of blushes and bronzer, and they often have designs embedded in the pigment. Limited editions and collaborative palettes will often cost slightly more. 

How much you can expect to spend on a highlighter palette 

Drugstore brand highlighter palettes usually cost between $5-$20, while higher-end ones can cost anywhere between $40-$80. Palettes with many shades or collaborative editions may cost even more. 

Highlighter palette FAQ

Can you use a highlighter in place of other makeup?

A. Highlighter looks great as an eyeshadow, as long as it’s lighter or darker than your skin tone. Be sure that it’s safe to apply to your eyes before you try it. You can also use it as a blush if it’s pink enough. 

Should you use a brush to apply highlighter?

A. You can use your fingertips, a brush or even a damp blending sponge to apply and blend highlights. Wide and curved face brushes are good options if you prefer brushes. 

What’s the best highlighter palette to buy?

Top highlighter palette

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Palette

What you need to know: This subtle and radiant palette is designed to give you the natural glow of ambient light. 

What you’ll love: This palette contains three shiny complementing shades you can layer or use alone. The smooth pigment flatters all skin tones and enhances them in all lighting, even flash-bulbs. It’s cruelty-free and includes a mirror for convenient touch-ups. 

What you should consider: It doesn’t show up as much as some customers expected. It’s on the more expensive side. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Ulta

Top highlighter palette for the money

NYX Born to Glow Palette

NYX Born to Glow Palette 

What you need to know: This versatile and affordable palette includes color correctors and highlighters for the perfect finish. 

What you’ll love: The pigments are smooth and creamy with embedded illuminating pearls. You can use it anywhere on your face for a balanced glow. The six shades can be layered or applied on their own. 

What you should consider: Many customers found the number of shades unnecessary, and some received broken products. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Ulta

Worth checking out

Smashbox Spotlight Palette

Smashbox Spotlight Palette

What you need to know: This palette contains three complementing gold or pearl shades in different finishes for a dynamic layered glow. 

What you’ll love: The pigments are incredibly blendable and smooth. The three shades build from subtle to sparkly so you can create the exact look you want. It’s cruelty-free, soft and customizable. 

What you should consider: It blends out a little rough and wasn’t as subtle as some customers expected. 

Where to buy: Amazon


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Annabelle Weissinger writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.