From Subtle to Stunning: Our top 15 highlighters for morena skin
Hello, brown people of the Philippines! I know. I know the culture loves our tisay sisters, but I also know we’re headed towards a beautiful, bronzy future where brown (and dark!) people are also appreciated. Anyway, if you want to be in the forefront (wow) with me and have been yearning for products that cater to your coloring, then this list is for you. I’ve tried around twenty plus highlighters and reviewed fourteen of the best products for morenas so you have something for every purpose and price point.
For reference: I am a MAC NC35 at my lightest and NC42 at my darkest, 300 at Fenty Beauty, Cashew in Estee Lauder Double Wear, W6/Sun Beige in L’Oreal, and can never wear any Korean bases at this point. Quality for me is a highlighter that (1) doesn’t disturb foundation, (2) doesn’t make face texture look horrible, and (3) serves my purpose depending on mood (aka, subtle or stunning). My favorite way of application is by brush and then by fingers (almost always) to get the smoothest finish possible, or blended lightly with a quality sponge for liquid and cream highlights.
Ellana Multipurpose Pigment in Inspiration (P269 for 13g)
As the name suggests, Ellana’s pigments can be used anywhere on the face (and body). True to its brand, they carry a multitude of shades for many a Filipina skin tone, with Inspiration suitable for light-medium, and Brilliance for medium-dark.
The loose powders don’t typically emphasize skin texture, and also work great as eyeshadow. I wished they came in more secure packaging though, as the sifter tends to get messy, with pigments migrating to the screw lid. Apply with a fluffy brush for a subtle sheen, and build (to a degree) with fingers. This product is perfect for pigment beginners and experimental artists who do not want to spend too much.
blk Ultra Glow Highlighter in Bronze (P349 for 3.5ml)
Okay, this one is absolutely gorgeous. Cream highlighters can be scary for some but the blk Ultra Glow Highlighter doesn’t disturb the foundation underneath, and is easy to blend with fingers (fastest), brushes, or sponges (slowest). Perfect for people who want a glow-from-within, but not so sheer that it can’t be built up.
The Bronze shade actually bronzes the skin (but the copper-ness diffuses into your skin color after a while), which is also perfect for that beach-y look. This one is an instabuy for me, especially at that price point.
MAC Strobe Cream (P600 for 30ml)
The classic, my MAC Strobe Cream has lasted me a year (and more). The best part is that although there are many shades available, the original cream shade is never ashy, as it just diffuses to a gloss. It can be worn as a moisturizer or highlighter beneath or above foundation, and can be built from subtle to photoshoot levels of glow.
One needs to test blending over certain foundations, and I’ve found that it works best with sponges or duo-fiber brushes. If you’re a working artist, the 50ml might be a more prudent purchase (as it works great on bodies as well), but the mini is just fine by me. (Edit: The full size costs more per ml for some reason, as pointed by the commenter below.) I’ve taken this tube to the beach and through snow, and it never fails.
H&M Beauty Illumination Luster Powder in Sunlit Gold (P799 for 7.9g)
This one is what I like to call a “mature” glow. It’s a nice alternative to the now-defunct Essence Pure Nude highlighter, as it delivers a silky sheen to the cheeks.
I’ve tried to build this up, but it really just delivers a non-glittery sheen. What I like about H&M is that it has a lot lot lot of shades for those even darker than NC42, which is not something you typically find in this country. Honestly, this is perfect for everyone asking what highlighter they can use in the office! I’d also like to get my hands on their bronzing drops (they have this gorgeous molten bronze) but they’re kinda expensive.
The slightly peachy-gold works better for medium-yellow skin tones, and is best applied with a brush to deliver a super smooth highlight. This one is great for those who contour and highlight often and want something pretty and dainty.
Inglot AMC Face and Body Illuminator in #69 (P1,195 for 15ml)
One only needs a small amount of the Inglot illuminator to create a skin-like glow. I wore this for a low-maintenance day (read: pimple patches and almost zero foundation), and the glow just looks expensive.
You don’t necessarily see the color in daylight (these were made for a makeup artist’s kit and therefore works in flash photography, where colors are more distinct), and that’s a plus for morenas who are allergic to silvery whites. The best part is the pump packaging that’s travel friendly, efficient, and easy to control. They even have liquid blushes! The highlighter is best blended with a sponge and doesn’t take much effort to blend in. A nice alternative is the ArtDeco liquid highlighter (I buy mine on sale and it lasts for YEARS) if you find Inglot to be inaccessible.
Vice Cosmetics Aura Glow in Shining (P145 for 3.5g)
This one was hard to find! Multiple branches are sold out, and with good reason. The Vice Cosmetics Aura Glow is super affordable and just beaming. We’ve reviewed the full line before, but it bears repeating that this is great value for money and offers amazing quality.
Aura Glow honestly rivals the high end options in this article. Splendid is your typical golden highlighter but not too glittery like Ever Bilena’s baked highlighters. Pang awra talaga, bes.
Maybelline Facestudio Master Chrome Metallic Highlighter Makeup in Molten Gold (P499)
I must admit that I didn’t want to believe the hype (as I am always turned off by hype) when everyone and their mom was raving about this product but damn. This is one of the few products in this list that is visible both in daylight and terrible elevator lighting. The name wasn’t lying; the product is metallic and looks like molten gold without the glitter.
The Master Chromes are a nice alternative to Becca’s powder highlighters (Champagne Pop comes to mind, and gets an honorable mention on this list) but for a fraction of the price. Diffuse with fingers to smoothen the finish, and be careful not to go overboard. Or go off - I’m not your cranky principal.
Wet N Wild MegaGlo Highlighting Powder in Precious Petals (P499 for 5.4g)
Wet N Wild highlighting powders are akin to the Master Chrome and Bobbi Brown Highlighting Powders but is unique in that you can actually see the different undertones with the naked eye. It’s one of Angeli’s picks for WnW must-haves!
Precious Petals is more peachy (but still a gold peach), and is nice to have when you’re tired of your gold stuff. Also, the embossed design on the powder is pretty, which enhances the experience.
Colourette Face Gloss in Northern Beam (P799 for 14g)
Okay, I’m going to say it out loud: I stan this product… hard. My second favorite of all in this list, Face Gloss is a powder product that looks liquid. It is soooo shiny (again without being glittery) and looks expensive. A+. I am a beam of light. I can pretend that my skin is healthy and I am of sound mind.
My only complaint is that the powder isn’t packed tightly so a lot of product is wasted when the brush is dipped (lightly, I might add). Take a brush and swipe lightly and diffuse with fingers to make it smooth. I am actually sad to return the product to its owner and will save up to purchase my own. Or y’all can gift me one, thank you.
(Editor’s Note: Dear Sam, please keep this! It looks amazing on you! - Liz)
Sleek Makeup Highlighting Palette in Solstice (P875 for 9g)
We reviewed this product in 2016 but the quality is worth the mention in 2019. This palette is suitable for light-medium complexions, and they’ve since come out with Cleopatra’s Kiss for medium-dark people.
There are four shades (one cream and three powder), and the cream actually smoothens the skin unlike others that tend emphasize texture. I almost didn’t include this palette on the list but this aspect of it is unique. My NC37-40 skin will work better with that Cleopatra palette, but I’m not complaining. Plus, no need to smoothen with fingers since the first deposit with brush is already smooth.
Clio Prism Air Shadow Highlighter in Gold Sheer (P1,400)
Please just look at it for a second. Zamn. Okay, now that we’re done ogling it, I’m also happy to report that despite it being of Korean origin, it’s not an ashy silver meant for pale people. Although Gold Sheer is a lighter gold than your typical champagne, it’s cooler in tone but not off-putting for medium-yellow people.
It looks expensive from component, to engraving, to actual payoff, and well, it’s kinda expensive as well. This one also doesn’t really need finger blending to get a smooth finish, which is a plus if you’re averse to finger painting.
Fenty Beauty Freestyle Highlighter Duo in Mean Money/Hu$tla Baby (P1,950 for two 3.5g pans)
I’ve talked about how Hu$tla Baby is my favorite product of 2018 due to its gorgeous payoff that you can see even in the dullest fluorescent lighting. The mini is actually the perfect size for me because I’ve been using it for months and haven’t even made a dent. It’s perfect for travel, but the regular size duo is also nice (since duh you get two) and complement each other in terms of payoff.
Hu$tla Baby is the more exag sister - perfect for night outs, for when you want to announce your arrival without the usage of words. I didn’t even use flash in my photo.
Bobbi Brown Highlighting Powder in Bronze Glow (about P2,500 for 8g)
Bobbi Brown was my first foray into bronzy highlighters, and I was right to come to them first. It delivers a bronzy sheen that exudes richness (in payoff and in life). I’d like for the component to be a little smaller to fit better in my storage bins and bags, but I guess the extra space protects the product.
Using this product is what actually taught me to use my fingers, as it looks grainy at first swipe but liquid when blended in with fingers. People have literally mistaken my glow for a cream, and my doctor once mistook my then-glass skin for a totally fresher aura. Is it expensive? Yes, but it will also last you years and years of goodness.
Pink Sugar Sweet Cheeks HD Cheek Color in Sin (P299)
I wasn’t able to swatch this, but our editor Liz swears by this super affordable highlighter from Pink Sugar. Sin looks white in the pan, but swatches as a beautiful AND intense gold on the skin! It’s very similar to NARS’ iconic highlighter, Albatross, at only a fraction of the price. This is lovely on morena skin because it’s all about that flash of warm gold.
Overall, my favorites have to be the Fenty Beauty, Bobbi Brown, Colourette, and Maybelline highlighters for that papansin glow, and the blk liquid highlighter if I want something that will make me look lit from within.
What are your favorite highlighters, morenas? Anything we missed? What application tricks do you have up your sleeve? Let’s discuss.