Best Drugstore Powder Highlighter

Best Drugstore Powder HighlighterYou are just about to walk out the door when you take one final look at yourself and realize something is off. You cannot quite put your finger on it, but something seems different today and not in a good way.

You are not sure what it is, but for some reason, you look a bit flat, drab, rundown. If this is the case, then chances are you might want to start including a powder highlighter as part of your makeup routine.

Though there are many different kinds, the basis of a powder highlighter is to accentuate the makeup that you are already wearing often by providing a soft glow.

What is the Best Drugstore Powder Highlighter in 2020?

Still, figuring out which powder highlighter is the top powder highlighter for you can be a difficult and confusing task. That is why we have put together a list of the 7 best powder highlighters, highlighting what each one does best. Then we provide a helpful buyer’s guide, so you can find the best powder highlighter to suit your skin’s needs.

Maybelline New York
(Editor’s Choice)
PressedSheenNormal to Dry
(People’s Choice)
HybridSheerNormal to Dry
(Best Price)
HybridDeweyOily to Normal
KnownDeweyOily to Normal

1. Maybelline New York – Best Drugstore Powder Highlighter (Editor’s Choice)

Maybelline Makeup Master Chrome by Facestudio reviewEveryone in the world knows who Maybelline is as their size and market share continue to allow them to be one of the most dominant players at all levels and for all niches.

That said, the point of a powder highlighter is to provide that final touch, that little something to make everything else pop. While many people may prefer to go with something a little subtler, we fell that powder highlighter will provide the most pop.

As such, the Maybelline Makeup Master Chrome by Facestudio is by far the Best Drugstore Powder Highlighter that we reviewed.

Brighter than Others

One of the best qualities of the Maybelline Master Chrome is the fact that it provides by far one of the most striking and dramatic finishes that we saw. In fact, this is the only powder highlight on our list that we would consider having a sheen finish, also known as a high-shine.
This is accomplished twofold: first, the color itself is held within pearl pigments that naturally reflect light while it is then reinforced with a chrome sheen providing the same kind of effect that models use for professional photo shoots.

Obviously, this means that the Maybelline Master Chrome is not for every occasion, but it will definitely make a statement when called for.

A Fairly

Outside of the blistering luster, the Maybelline Master Chrome presents some solid options, but it also comes with some other restrictions beyond the setting. For example, the powder highlighter is meant to be worn by people with dry to normal skin as the powder itself is finely milled.

Still, this does not stop Maybelline Master Chrome from going the extra mile and ensuring that there are no oils used in the formula of this powder highlighter either. That said, there are 4 different colors to choose from, and there is an option for every skin tone.

  • Is a less expensive powder highlighter
  • Features a sheen finish
  • Is a pressed powder
  • Comes in 4 different colors
  • Brightens the complexion
  • Is oil free
  • Is for normal to dry skin
  • For any skin tone
  • Perfect for events
  • Not for oily skin
  • Powder prone to breaking

2. NARS – Gives Skin a Light-Reflecting Luminous Glow (People’s Choice)

NARS Highlighting Blush review

NARS is an interesting brand in that it was a direct response to the founder, François Nars, not being satisfied with the tools of his trade as a top-tier makeup artist.

As such, he initially developed 12 different lipsticks before quickly expanding into all categories of makeup once the public soon caught on to how high-quality the products were.

That said, NARS is definitely a makeup brand for a specific type of person namely, those whose skin type and complexion most closely resemble Nars preferred to work on. In this case, that happens to be women with dry to normal skin who are fairer in complexion.

The Everything Highlighter

By far the best thing about the NARS Highlighting Blush is that it does not need to be used at the general contours of the face. Instead, this powder highlighter was actually designed to be versatile enough that it can serve in numerous contexts.
For example, this is one of the few powder highlighters that was made explicitly to be used around the eyes in terms of the aesthetic effect. On top of that, this can actually be used as either strictly a finish powder highlighter, or it can be layered to provide buildable coverage that will get richer and richer the more you apply.

Smooth as Butter

Another great thing about the NARS Highlighting Blush is that its formula and form allow it to be applied far more easily than some of the other powder highlighters that we saw.

There are actually a couple of factors working together to accomplish this but one of the first is that this is a hybrid powder highlighter in that once you apply it, the heat from your body allows it to act similarly to a cream.

On top of that, the powder itself is extremely finely milled, which not only makes applying it to your brush easier, but it further facilitates the “melting” process once applied.

  • Is a hybrid powder
  • Has a sheer finish
  • Is for normal to dry skin
  • Made with transparent pigments
  • The powder is finely milled
  • Can be used as a finish powder
  • Comes in 3 different colors
  • Has reflective ingredients
  • Can be used around eyes
  • Is a more expensive powder highlighter
  • Not for oily skin

3. essence  – Provides a Natural and Subtle Glow (Best Price)

essence Pure NUDE Highlighter review

An essence is a great option when you are looking for something that is significantly less expensive than the some of the more prestigious brands on our list.

That said, the brand was started almost 2 decades ago by an enterprising entrepreneur who quickly grew it into a multinational corporation.

On top of that, the essence brand has a tendency to try to provide their products as conscientiously as possible though, like many other brands who do this, it is largely dependent on the product and the region in question.

Something for Everyone

Easily the best thing about the essence Pure NUDE Highlighter is that it can work for every person in the world though it definitely works for darker tones better than lighter ones. Still, if you have some skill with makeup, this is a great option that also works for every skin type as well.

This goes hand in hand with the manufacturing of the conscientious product mentioned prior as the essence Pure NUDE Highlighter is not only a cruelty-free powder highlighter, it is also a vegan powder highlighter the only one that we reviewed. That said, the necessary substitutions of ingredients do leave this powder highlighter a bit stiff and more difficult to apply.

A Solid Formula

To be clear: when the product has the word ‘nude’ in its name, you should not expect an overly dramatic result. Still, there are a number of people who were disappointed that the essence Pure NUDE Highlighter is a bit subtler than most and does not provide a glittery shine though this is intended to be the point.

Instead, the essence Pure NUDE Highlighter provides a smooth, satin finish from a surprisingly well-made baked powder given its low cost. Even better than that, this is one of the few powder highlighters that can genuinely blend with the rest of your makeup instead of simply sit overtop.

Essence Pure Nude Highlighter Collection

  • Is the least expensive powder highlighter reviewed
  • Good for any skin tone
  • Good for any skin type
  • Is a baked powder
  • Has a satin finish
  • Is cruelty-free
  • Is vegan compliant
  • Is not glittery
  • Blends easier than some
  • Difficult to apply
  • Not that dramatic

4. NYX  – Complements the Structure of the Face with a Touch of Luminosity


NYX definitely bucks the trend of what most consumers have come to expect in that they are one of the few brands almost synonymous with drugstore makeup as that is quite literally where they got their start.

Still, the company has not actually been around all that long considering how popular they have become already, but this is largely due to their providing a slightly better product than their genuine competitors and sincerely producing high-end makeup for their more expensive lines.

That said, do not let the name fool you as the NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP Illuminator is easily, and still, the best drugstore powder highlighter.

Under the Hood

The way that the NYX PROFESSIONAL MAKEUP Illuminator can both provide a shimmer, as well as a sheer finish, is through the inclusion of gold glitter. That said, the mica of this powder highlighter is exceedingly fine, allowing it provide a soft glow without actually being obvious to the eye.

This also has the additional effect of making it suitable for all skin types as it is not actually noted for clogging the pores. Of course, the fact that it is both phthalate-free and sulfate-free probably goes a long way in ensuring that those with delicate skin are less at risk.

Good and Bad

Whenever you are looking for a drugstore powder highlighter, the important thing is to get one that will ultimately provide a good final result. Granted, there may be some inconveniences that you have to deal with to get there, but that is the price you pay for powder highlighter that is more than half of what the more expensive options are.

Still, this presents you with everything you need as you can actually build the coverage of this powder highlighter up--though it is not terribly saturated in the first place, so you will almost by necessity have to use the layering method. Still, the final result presents a sheen finish that still offers a subtle shimmer.

Review & Swatches: NYX Illuminators | Drugstore Highlighter + Dupes!

  • Is a less expensive powder highlighter
  • Is a pressed powder
  • Has a sheen finish
  • Good for any skin type
  • Comes in 5 different colors
  • Has golden glitter
  • Has a subtle shimmer
  • Is phthalate-free and sulfate-free
  • Has buildable coverage
  • Not easy to apply
  • Not that saturated

5. Physicians Formula – Provides Soft, Natural Color Without a Harsh Monotone Cast

Physicians Formula Corrective Face Enhancer review

Physicians Formula may not be the most well-known brand, and it certainly may not inspire confidence, but this company has been quietly chugging along for over 80 years by providing some of the most effective makeup products to people who have extremely delicate skin.

While this does not necessarily mean that Physicians Formula make a cruelty-free or other conscientious product, it does at least ensure that you will not have to worry about any issues.

That said, we personally think that its light tough and subtle effect is great for fairer complexions, which is why we ranked it our Best Drugstore Powder Highlighter for fair skin.

Extremely Safe

Regardless your skin tone as they do have one that is technically geared towards darker skin tones, though the efficacy is questionable one thing that you will not have to worry about with the Physicians Formula Corrective Face Enhancer is adverse reactions to the powder highlighter.

In fact, there are so many steps taken to ensure its purity that it is both hypoallergenic as well as non-comedogenic which means that it is explicitly designed to not block pores. As you would expect, this naturally lends the Physicians Formula Corrective Face Enhancer to be apt for all types of skin.

Somewhat Limited

Despite all of the great things regarding the Physicians Formula Corrective Face Enhancer, the fact remains that it has a bit more narrow of an indication than some of the other powder highlighters that we reviewed.

For example, this is technically a finishing powder which while technically all highlighters are, this is the absolute last layer.

As such, the actual coverage and color saturation are not the best and this is not at all aided by the sheer finish, which simply further makes it difficult to see. That said, it offers a wide range of colors within the single pressed powder.

  • Is a hypoallergenic powder highlighter
  • Is fragrance-free
  • Is oil free
  • Is a non-comedogenic powder highlighter
  • Is good for all skin types
  • Is a finishing powder highlighter
  • Has a sheer finish
  • Comes in 2 different colors
  • Features a multi-color palette
  • Is a more expensive powder highlighter
  • Not the finest mill

6. Laura Geller New York – Applies Like a Sheer Powder but Feels Like a Cream

Laura Geller New York Swirl Illuminator review

Laura Geller New York is the brainchild of the titular company who actually has a background similar to other brands in that she found her tools of the trade lacking.

That said, Laura Geller New York is actually focused on the mid-tier market in that they aim to provide a solid product whose focus is a bit more on convenience than perhaps it is on results.

As such, this makes the Laura Geller New York lines exceptionally easy to use and can accomplish some genuinely impressive results, but it will require skill and patience.

A Good Formula

When it comes to the Laura Geller New York Swirl Illuminator, the proof is in the powder as this offers some of the best choices that we saw.

It is surely a trade secret, but Laura Geller New York managed to provide a powder highlighter which is simultaneously a hybrid type as well as baked. While you might think this would affect how it applies, the two approaches seemingly balance each other out whereby it is easy enough to get onto your brush and goes on smooth. That said, this is a powder highlighter meant more for oily to normal skin than drier skin.

Cost Over Time

While the Laura Geller New York Swirl Illuminator is the most expensive powder highlighter that we reviewed, the real kick in the teeth comes from the fact that the color is not even saturated. On the plus side, it seems as though Laura Geller New York is aware of this as they made the Laura Geller New York Swirl Illuminator to be buildable in its coverage.

Of course, the fact that you pretty much have to do that makes it less of a feature. Still, the Laura Geller New York Swirl Illuminator leaves a soft, dewy finish and is oil free as well as multi-toned.

Laura Geller - Baked Gelato Swirl Illuminator Review!

  • Is a hybrid powder highlighter
  • Is for oily to normal skin
  • Has a dewy finish
  • Is easy to apply
  • Comes in 4 different colors
  • Is oil free
  • Has buildable coverage
  • Powder is baked
  • Has blended palette
  • Is the most expensive powder highlighter reviewed
  • Not that saturated

7. Revlon – Complementary Shimmer Shades Blend to Enhance the Complexion for a Radiant

Revlon Highlighting Palette review

Right along with Maybelline and some of the other big names in consumer makeup, Revlon has a history stretching back to early 20th century.

That said, these days Revlon is far more known for high-street than they are the catwalk though there are professional lines made for that purpose, they just differ significantly from the consumer-grade.

Still, the company does understand what it takes to provide a product that can satisfy a wide variety of people. Though, due to the color palette, this is actually powder highlighter for light skin.

A Versatile Highlighter

While some of the powder highlighters on our list can serve double duty for highlighting both the face in general as well as some of the darker areas around the eyes and nose, none of them offer the versatility of the Revlon Highlighting Palette.

While this powder highlighter may only come in 2 colors, each type comes with a palette of 5 pressed powder pads. These pads differ not only in color but also in finish and consistency, providing you with a complete powder highlighter beginners kit.

Finish and Trouble

The Revlon Highlighting Palette has a tendency to be difficult to apply due to a drier and harder than normal pressed powder and it is not all that saturated on top of it.

However, the different colors perform more different than one would expect where the peach glow has more of a coloring effect whereas the rose glow is more translucent. That said, they both provide a subtle dewy finish but is more suitable for.

Review: Revlon Highlighting Palettes

  • Is a less expensive powder highlighter
  • Is a pressed powder
  • Comes in 2 different colors
  • Has a 5-color palette
  • Has a dewy finish
  • Is for oily to normal skin
  • Has different finishes
  • Has a subtle shimmer
  • Not that saturated
  • Difficult to apply

Best Drugstore Powder Highlighter Review – Buyer’s Guide


TypesWhen it comes to a powder highlighter, the type is not the end all be all, but it will give you an idea of what you can expect in terms of application and can even present a potential explanation for why it is effective or ineffective in a given setting.

That said, the type will often also impact the skin type that it is best-suited for, though companies can get around this they simply charge considerably more for products which do. Still, this is the most functional quality of powder makeup with the expectation you know what kind of look you want.


This is not nearly as common in terms of consumer-grade powder highlighter but most of the professional-grade powder highlighter will be loose powder. Aside from the fact that this makes applying it to the brush and your face easier, it also allows you to play around with mixing different types or colors.

In fact, with high-enough quality powder highlighter, you could likely form your own personal formula that accomplishes things no other can. Granted, that requires a fair degree of knowledge, effort, and investment with razor thin margins for error, but it is an option.


This is the most common type of powder highlighter and is likely one of the most common kinds found in drugstores.

Types PressedThe compact powder highlighters are also generally pressed powders as this makes carrying the makeup much easier and pretty much removes the chance of spilling it.

Of course, depending on the brittleness of the formula, pressed powder highlighters can actually crack and break into smaller piece and powder. Still, this is generally the least expensive as well as the most convenient type of powder highlighter even it is also the most difficult.


Despite what the trend may seem, a hybrid powder highlighter is not actually some alchemical mixture of loose and pressed powder highlighters but is instead a mixture of powder and cream highlighters.

This is generally accomplished with a formula that is a powder at room temperature but will almost melt when exposed to hotter temperatures. This provides the powder highlighter with an incredibly creamy and smooth application, but it can also lead to clumpy powder if it is not properly cared for.


Types BakedThis is actually a response to the hybrid powder highlighters not being too great when exposed to hotter temperatures something that is likely even when not worn in many parts of the world. As such, the solution seems to be to dehydrate and reduce highlighter cream into a powder.

This powder can then be pressed or loose, but it will still retain some of the textural qualities of the cream when applied. This allows the application to be as smooth as the hybrid without the potential clumping issues.


This may seem a bit odd considering powder highlighters are themselves supposed to be a finishing powder, but there are still plenty of layers to go depending on how advanced your makeup skills.

On the other hand, finishing powder highlighter can often be used to provide a nigh-ineffable effect such that you cannot identify it under observation but are immediately aware of its absence with a general “something is missing” feeling. As such, this type of powder highlighter often has the least dramatic or noticeable effect unless it is little more than glitter.


conclusionAs we can see, there are simply too many different types of skin not to mention their different complexions for a single powder highlighter to be the best one.

Even beyond the biological differences, there are still plenty of variations from the finish to the type and any number of other idiosyncratic features. That said, there are still some products, which have a tendency to stand out above their competition.

If you are really looking to make a statement, then we recommend going with the Maybelline Master Chrome, which is the only powder highlighter that we reviewed which provides a genuine sheen or high-shine finish.

While this may not be for everyone especially those with oily skin it is reasonably priced and suitable for any skin tone.

Of course, if you want the best performance, you will often have to pay for it, and the NARS Highlighting Blush is our recommendation for those who know what they are doing. Specifically, the fine mill, hybrid type, and buildable coverage all make this the perfect powder highlighter for the amateur makeup artist or even the pros.

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