5 Best Highlighters

Published in: Becca, Face, Hourglass, MAC Makeup, Makeup, Smashbox

my five best highlighters

The Tragedy of Tabby, Prince of Novato

Act III, Scene I

Enter Prince Tabby, Queen Karen, Left Turn the Black Cat, Thug the Russian Blue and Lords.

TABS: To highlight or not to highlight — that is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the condo to suffer the humiliating pets and chin scratches of outrageous fortune, or to raise paws against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them. To eat, to nap — perchance to dream; ay, there’s the tummy rub.

Wait, what the heck is Prince Tabby talking about!? I don’t know about him, but speaking for myself, there is absolutely NO question about it. I am always, ALWAYS down for highlighting, and here are my five top picks for “Best Highlighter.” These are the ones I wear the most. πŸ™‚


Best Everyday Highlighter: Hourglass Ambient Powder in Luminous Light ($45)

houglass luminous light

It’s amazing to me how this champagne pearl pressed powder barely looks like I’ve made a dent in it, when I’ve been wearing it pretty consistently — sometimes for weeks on end — for the past few years.

That’s a pretty good thing to know, that a single pan of anything could last until forever, or until Skynet eventually takes over (whichever comes first).

What I love about Luminous Light — I mean, other than the name, because don’t most gals like the idea of being bathed in luminous light? — is the finish. On the skin it looks like expensive, plush velvet bathed in the light of a buttery late summer afternoon.


The sheen is unlike anything else I’ve seen before. Soft and subtle, yet still noticeable, and it’s oh, so forgiving of large pores and fine lines (hallelujah!).

All told, this one’s my favorite everyday, all-occasion highlighter in the world!

$45; available now at Hourglass counters and online.

Best Highlighter for a Dewy Finish: MAC Cream Colour Base in Hush ($22)

mac hush


No, you can talk. I was referring to MAC Hush, which I love for its flexibility. It’s a soft peach with subtle shimmer, and I like it just about any which way/any how — on bare skin, on top of tinted moisturizer, foundation, even on top of powder. Whenever I’m aiming for more of a dewy, wet look, out comes Hush.

All I do is use my fingers to apply and blend it, usually on my upper cheekbones, down the bridge of my nose and on my Cupid’s bow, and it takes all but a minute to use.

I also think it looks amazer-ing in pics.

Oh! — and you can also use it as an eyeshadow base. Score! πŸ™‚

$22; available now at MAC counters and online.

Best Highlighter for Dramatic Looks: BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Opal ($38)

becca opal

Good ol’ Opal. How many pans of it have I gone through over the years?

Three? Four…? I’ve lost count.

BECCA has many marvelous Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed options, but Opal is the one I wear most, by far. It’s a super shiny golden opal pearl, and for dramatic highlights, it’s unbeatable. Unlike standard-issue high-shine highlighters, of which there are many, it’s the very definition of luminous, and the complete antithesis of harsh and metallic, so skin glows seemingly from within with magical eldritch power without appearing oily.

It’s so friggin’ good that when I had to pick a single highlighter to wear on the red carpet to the Emmy’s last year, I went with Opal. There was no question about it.

Fun tip: to open up the eyes and make them look as big, bright and wide as possible, lightly apply Opal in the inner corners of the eyes, and just above and below the highest point in the arch of your brows.

$38; available now at Ulta, BECCA counters and online.

Best Highlighter to Wear With Pink Blush: Smashbox Fusion Soft Lights in Baked Starblush ($32)

smashbox fusion soft lights

This quiet, subtle pearlescent pink powder is my “halfway” highlighter. Shinier than Hourglass Luminous Light but less shiny than BECCA Opal, Baked Starblush comes out whenever I wear a pink blush, because I think it looks amazing with warm, cool and neutral pink blushes.

$32; available now at Ulta, Smashbox counters and online.

Best Highlighter for Multitasking MAC Iridescent Powder/Loose in Golden Bronze and Silver Dusk ($23 each)

mac silver dusk

Sadly (horrifically), these were discontinued here in the US (WHY, MAC, WHY?!?!), but I had to give them a shout-out anyway because I think they’re so damn good.

You may still be able to find them outside the United States (or, perhaps be able to track them down on eBay), and if you do, consider yourself lucky, because these powders are epically wonderful.

I found out about them from MAC senior artist and all-around awesome cat lady Keri Blair, who mentioned one day that she used them all the time for bridal looks. She called them her unsung heroes from the line.

Soooooo, the next day I went out and bought both of them, LOL! πŸ™‚ Silver Dusk is a shimmery, silvery pinkish beige (great for cooler skin tones), and Golden Bronze is a peachy golden bronze (looks amaze-balls on warm skin). Basically, these are like loose powder versions of the BECCA Shimmering Skin Perfectors, but with an even more nuanced pearlescent finish.

A teeny, tiny bit goes a long way! I like to apply them with a tapered eyeshadow blending brush like the MAC 224, for precision.

mac golden bronze


These are mighty multitaskers, too! For dewy skin, just mix a little with your foundation or tinted moisturizer. Or, for a beautiful sheen on your arms and legs, sprinkle a little on a dollop of body moisturizer or body oil, and then massage directly on the skin.

5 best highlighter swatches

Swatches from the left: Hourglass Luminous Light, MAC Hush, BECCA Opal, MAC Silver Dusk and MAC Golden Bronze

smashbox fusion soft lights

Smashbox Fusion Soft Lights in Baked Starblush

Quick (non-makeup) question for ya…

Have you ever used airbnb.com, and if you have, did you have a good or a bad experience? I haven’t used it before, but I’m thinking about it for an upcoming trip because, OMG, hotel prices? They are out of freakin’ control!

Some of the places I’m seeing on airbnb look really nice. I’m just nervous about renting a place that looks great in pics but having it turn out to be sketchy in real life, you know? Please help a cat lady out! I need a short vacation here pretty soon.

Your friendly neighborhood beauty addict,



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  1. Kiran says:

    I’m surprised Mary Loumanizer from The Balm wasn’t mentioned, but brilliant post. The Hourglass highlighters look so dreamy.

    Kiran | http://www.alittlekiran.co.uk

  2. ellie says:

    Lovely post, I am in love with highlighters and must give Becca a try. You just reminded me I have a huge pot of that MAC Iridescent Powder I got a swap that I barely touched. I should give it another go. I have recently fallen in love with Whisper of Gilt, I finally understand what the hype is all about, after having it for over 2 years sitting in my blush drawer.
    As for airbnb I loved my experience with them, I used it abroad (Turkey) and can’t recommend it enough.

  3. dorit says:

    Next item on the never-ending makeup wishlist: Luminous Light. My go-to highlighter is Mac’s Lightscapade, and I swear it’s the never-ending highlighter! I’ve worn it nearly daily for years and the dome is barely flattened.

    I’ve got friends who use Airbnb a lot, and from what they tell it’s a lot like hotels in that regard – sometimes the actual experience match the description and the pictures, and sometimes – not that much. Overall their experiences have been good so far, though!
    dorit recently posted … Bioderma Hydrabio Eau de Soin SPF30 Moisturising anti-UV mist – a review + giveaway

  4. Quynh says:

    Karen! I love highlighters as much as I love my weekly peruse on your blog ^-^ Guilty pleasures of a final-year highschooler. Have you tried the Laura Mercier Matte Baked Radiance Highlighter 01? I’m thinking of investing…

  5. Divya says:

    Hey karen!
    Let me address your airbnb question first! Yes I have used it in the past and I am in fact going to Europe with three different apartments in three different countries booked through airbnb. The reviews and ratings are very important, you need to look through them, get in touch with the host, get to know them and then book. Once thats sorted the experience is great, we have never had problems and the hosts usually turn out to be super cool people who help you in every way possible!

    I’d highly recommend it!

    On another note, which Becca opal (liquid or powder) would you recommend for a MAC NC-40 girl who’s scared of highlights but loves to look luminous? Thats me btw! πŸ˜›
    Divya recently posted … End To My Sunscreen Search

  6. I never used airbnb, but friends of mine who did stress that it is very important to read the reviews other people wrote.
    LindaLibraLoca recently posted … Precious stones – line n grow Tinted lash Enhancers

  7. Agata says:

    To highlight or not to highlight? It’s easy, I always highlight as well. And if I could use only one highlighter for the rest of my life it would also be Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Opal, there is no other highlighter that looks as gorgeous and is easier to apply. Mac Extra Dimension Skinfinish in Superb would be my second pick.
    Agata recently posted … Fall Prelude- A Makeup Look Feat. UD Naked 3 Palette

  8. Shannon says:

    Love the highlighters! I’m all about the Hourglass ones, though <3 major love!

    Airbnb-wise: I've used it several times in/around the NYC area, and I've always had a great experience. Just use your best judgment re: the host, or the person who's renting the place out. You wanna make sure they have good reviews (or at least have a good response rate) and look like a real person. That being said, I've stayed in places that had no reviews, and have been totally fine. You can also contact the host ahead of time with any questions and have an email conversation, which can be nice. I basically use it whenever it's convenient and less expensive than a hotel!

  9. Ruchita says:

    Thanks for all the swatches and comparisons! I have the Ambient Lighting Trio (I think that’s what it’s called?) but that Becca one looks really pretty.

    Haven’t tried Airbnb myself, but my sister-in-law had a good experience when she tried it in Oregon. The listing even include a cat who was an “aggressive snuggler”! Good luck and hope you get to go on vacation soon!

  10. Kris says:

    LOVE your blog – the great tips, reviews and the way your personality shines through! Tabs is a delight (I’m a fellow cat lover with 3 of my own). And congratulations on impending motherhood!

    Re highlighters: I’m experimenting with Clinique’s chubby stick highlighter on my – ahem – mature skin. I think I like it.

  11. Jessica says:

    Tabs you wax so philosophical!

    I never highlight; nor have I ever been in a philosophical quandary about it.
    Jessica recently posted … Quick!

  12. angie says:

    hi Karen!

    Can you please also share your most favourite brush to use with your fav hilighter above?
    I only have 2 hilighter, The Balm Marylou & Colourpop Wisp, my fav is Mary Lou! on my wish list right now is Hourglass, thanks for your review ::)

  13. Cherie says:

    Yes! I used airbnb for a trip out in Napa (I’m in Austin, TX). It was a good experience and my hostess was super nice and even had fresh cream, strawberries, and a bottle of champagne waiting for us when my hubby and I got there. I do really think the reader reviews do make a difference as well as response from the owners – I had pretty quick response and we were late and the owner was great in being flexible and had someone there help us get settled. I did inquire about one where reviews were good but I never got any kind of response from the owners so I axed it on my list, but overall, I’ve had good experience with airbnb. I used a similar service for my upcoming trip to Europe.

    As for highlighters – I just bought the Tom Ford Moodlight duo and am eager to try it. I’ve gotten a little highlighter addicted and I really like Cindy-Lou Manizer, Becca Rose Gold and Becca Topaz (loved the gold for summer). What do you think of the Becca poured highlighters?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Cherie,

      I think they’re pretty. I prefer their powder ones though because I feel like they’re more flexible in terms of how strong or how subtle you want to do the highlight.

  14. Lauren Sutherland says:

    Karen, we’ve used airbnb 3 times, including for our honeymoon, and it has been fantastic everytime!

  15. Kim says:

    So many lovely highlighters. I tell myself that I’ll take more time with my makeup now that we’re transitioning out of summer but we’ll see if I actually do. πŸ™‚

    I’ve never used airbnb but hope you have a great experience. Where are you off to?

    • Karen says:

      We’re hoping Hawaii! I want to take one last trip with just the two of us before Baby Girl comes in March. Plus I miss the ocean!

      How have you been?

      • Kim says:

        I’m very jealous. I keep saying I’ll get there *next year*. I’m still kind of shrieking about Baby Girl. I’m just so excited and happy for you!!!

        Honestly, pretty overwhelmed. It’s been completely insane here at work and we’ve been really busy at home. Both boys made the school soccer team, which was great, and we’ve hiked 5 more High Peaks so far. It feels like there’s not enough time in the day (I know you relate).

        My “gem” of the day: Take pics constantly and write everything down with Baby Girl, even when you’re tired. You’ll be so glad you did. They grow up so fast. πŸ™‚

        • Karen says:

          Oh congrats to the boys! And congrats to you…It’s my dream to be a Baby Girl’s chauffeur to her soccer games, LOL!

          I love your gem of the day. I’m thinking of keeping a diary for her that I can gift to her when she’s older. πŸ™‚

  16. Kalli says:

    I just bought my first Becca highlighter about a month ago (the Jaclyn Hill Champagne Pop) and I love it! A little bit goes a long way for sure. And I managed to snag both Silver Dusk and Golden Bronze before they were discontinued! NYX Illuminator’s are another great, budget-friendly option in lots of colors.

    Airbnb is a nice alternative to hotels. My mom and I used it last year in Austin for ACL Fest. The prices were still jacked up because it was an event weekend, but the room was nice. It was a private guest house in this lady’s backyard, so we had two beds, a bathroom, a kitchen and a TV with cable and Netflix in a pretty large room with a lot of privacy. Other than the day we checked in, we didn’t see the homeowner at all. I still prefer hotels (I have a family member that works for a national chain, so we get F&F discounts) but it’s a nice option if you want something different. I would suggest picking one with lots of positive reviews!
    Kalli recently posted … Influenster Review: Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs Lotion

  17. Kuz says:

    Hi Karen and Tabs!

    My coworkers and I have used airbnb.com to book lodgings in Canada for out-of-town guests and it’s worked out pretty well so far. We’ve found it’s always helpful to read the comments and reviews that are posted for each place – the previous vacationers seem to be pretty honest. Hope this helps! πŸ™‚

  18. Jacklyn says:

    I’m a combo-oily skin gal so I’m quite conservative about highlighting! Lately I’ve been pinpointing the tops of my cheeks with my MAC 224 and Cheeky Bronze MSF. I’d love to try that Hourglass powder sometime…do you set your entire face with it or just the regular highlight areas?

    Airbnb is such a godsend! My friends and I have all had great experiences with the site. I love that you can stay in a “home away from home”! Also super convenient to have your own kitchen and cook some of your own meals to save money (for more shopping, perhaps? :P)

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jacklyn,

      It depends on the shade. I can set my makeup with certain shades like Dim Light, which is what I do sometimes. With shades like Luminous Light, Radiant Light, or Mood I use a them as a straight up highlighter.

      If you like conservative highlights I think you will LOVE Luminous Light. It’s expensive but a little goes a long way and it’ll last you until forever.

      And thank you for the input about Airbnb!

  19. Alexis says:

    We rented a house in Palm Springs, via AirBnb. I highly recommend it.

    I love your highlighter list – do I really need another one? I may have to pick up the Becca for my kit. How do you feel about the Kevin Aucoin Celestial highlighter? I love Candlelight and I still love NARS Albatross.

    • Karen says:

      I haven’t yet! I’ve heard good things about it though. Have you tried it?

      Oh, and NARS Albatross is great. I ordered a pan for my NARS palette, wheee!

  20. Erin says:

    I love a good highlighter and I’m all over the strobing trend. I have my own take on it though where I use a concealer about a shade lighter than my skin so I don’t look like a disco ball everywhere.

    BTW, I’m not sure we can take you advice on highlighter for the next 6 months! πŸ™‚

    I’ve had EXCELLENT success with VBRO. I’ve rented several places in Europe and the states with them and never had any problems at all. I have not used AIRB&B.
    Erin recently posted … La Promenade 2014 RosΓ©

  21. judi m says:

    Thank you for all of your hard work. I love your reviews!

  22. Kwmechelle says:

    Airbnb answer: I’ve never used it but my friends use it All. The. Time. In fact, they love it so much that for their latest stay (in Romania) they found a place on airbnb & they listed their own home here in the States on airbnb. They rave about it. Aside from its cost-saving measures, they describe it as a wonderful way to get to know the culture where they’re visiting & to truly experience the comforts of “home”. I can forward you her blog post if you’re interested in reading it.

  23. Crystal says:

    I cleared out my stash of makeup and got rid of anything older than my youngest child. I’m a germaphobe so I can’t help it! I purchased Becca x Jaclyn Hill’s Champagne Pop and I love it. I just really love that highlighting is having its shining moment (pun totally intended!). I’ve loved it for years now and I do it every day. I love this top 5 makeup idea though. You should definitely do top 5 glosses next! Not just formula but too 5 ride or die glosses of any shade or formula. Or both 😁 And then lipsticks. And then blushes. Oh and I don’t have any input for Airbnb either but I’ve heard nothing but good news. You’re pretty good at researching so I think you’d have a good experience with it.

  24. Chelsea says:

    We used AirBnB for a trip to Chicago, and the apartment was really nice and had cats, which was a definite bonus!

  25. Fancie says:

    I have like a million highlighters but none of these surprisingly. It’s a little tempting lol. The Hourglass one is very petty and the MAC Golden Bronze is to die for. I may have to track that one down!
    Fancie recently posted … On Wednesdays We Wear Pink!

  26. Wina says:

    I used airbnb because it was much roomier since we had 4 adults in our group. I would still choose a hotel over airbnb.

    I rented a place in london and paris. In london we were too early and we had to wait on the streets. In Paris, our homeowner was late because of traffic. The london area was okay since it was a residential area however the place in paris was in a city area and the apartment was right next to bars and restaurants. Good part is after a long day, we can just walk around the neighborhood and get dinner but when we first got there, we looked like homeless people standing on the streets.

    It was also difficult to contact the person since we had to find pay phones or borrow ones from restaurants. And it was also difficult to find the places since we had no GPS. I think if you are renting a place in the US where you have access to phone, wifi, GPS, it’s a lot easier. But for us, we were in a foreign land, no phone, did not know french and only had a paper map in hand.

    It was much more hassle and less convenient for the “check-in” process but once we got settled in since both places were close to the metro, it was easy access to all the places.

    However even though I wouldn’t say the apartment was dirty, compared to any of the 2star hotel, like La Quinta or Holiday Inn, the hotel feels much cleaner. The bed spread and sheets weren’t dirty but like home, once you wash it, they look used and it just didn’t feel quite nice sleeping in it. Both places I chose looked quite nice in the picture, but once you got there, there was a bit of age to the place. And don’t bother cooking, both places had a kitchen, but pots, pans, and cups were dirty. My mom had to wash the cups and clean the countertop before proceeding to drink from it.

    I would not do airbnb if you go to a foreign place but it you are going for an extended period of time like 2 weeks or even longer, it’s definitely much cheaper with airbnb. Don’t choose airbnb if you are not saving atleast more than 100 a night. It’s just not worth it.

    Both places we got was around $200 a night. The place in london had 3 room and a living room (3 full beds) . The place in paris had 1 room and a living room (1 bed and 1 sofabed) . When I looked at the hotel/motel prices they were about the same price but the apartment were much more spacious since places like paris are know for their tiny hotel rooms.

    If you need privacy and prefer a spacious area or can’t sleep next to someone that snore, go with airbnb.

    If I had to choose again, I would have chosen a hotel over airbnb. Even with places like La Quinta or Holiday Inn which aren’t top hotels, it just felt more relaxed, less hassle, and cleaner.

    When I went to LA with my friends, we got there early and the hotel wouldn’t let us check in early but at least the staff let us know we were at the right place and we had the option to leave our luggages with them and started exploring instead of waiting.

    That said, I did not regret booking with Airbnb because it was a new experience. You get to feel how it’s like to live in the area and my sister and I was so glad we got our own room so we didn’t have to listen to my father snoring.

    Enjoy your vacation

  27. Rebecca says:

    My favorite highlighters are both from Too Face. I love love love Candlelight Glow Duo and Inner Light. They also give the most amazing glow in pictures. Makes a person look truly beautiful

  28. Rachel R. says:

    These are all so pretty. I don’t have a lot of high end highlighters. I love The Balm’s Mary-Loumanizer, Too Faced Candlight, and Laura Geller French Vanilla. Notoriously Morbid Osteomancy is my favorite indie highlighter: It’s amazing on fair skin.

    I adore a lot of drug store highlighters: E.l.f. Studio Blush in Gotta Glow (TF Candlelight dupe), ColourPop, e.l.f. Studio Baked Highlighters, City Color Cosmetics Intense Exposure Highlighting Powder (amazing!), and Wet n Wild Fergie To Reflect Shimmer Palette in Hollywood Boulevard.

  29. Natalye says:

    thank you for posting this! I have been trying to find a great highlighter and I think I’m going with Becca’s Moonstone

    Natalye recently posted … Philosophy: Amazing Grace Firming Body Emulsion Review

  30. Jane says:

    Karen, is the Smashbox highlighter you have in the photo really the Baked Starburst version? I ask because it really looks more like the “regular” Starburst. The Baked Starburst has a more distinct bronzer look to it.

  31. Nicole says:

    Highlighter heaven! I have used airbnb and it was great and really affordable. The only minor issue was that the dΓ©cor in the condo was pretty out dated. So, I guess if that kind of stuff is an issue, just make sure to check the photos really well. I would check the photos really well anyway. Make sure the person you are renting from is easily accessible. Hope you find somewhere nice to go! πŸ™‚

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