Highlighter Sticks: Stick ‘Em Where Your Cheeks Don’t Shine

I prefer not having to stick my fingers in a thing.

Has there ever been a single makeup product that's gotten the meme-treatment more than highlighter? Sure, it piggybacks off of the ubiquitous-to-the-point-of-annoyance contouring, but kind of like how Kim Kardashian used to be Paris Hilton's assistant and is now leagues more famous past the point of oversaturation, highlighters have quite literally stolen the spotlight. (This analogy is a bit ironic because the Kardashians like "invented" contouring).


Anyway, highlighter. People feel very strongly about highlighter. I feel pretty strongly about highlighter. It's the one thing that would be my "desert island" product (second to sunscreen, though it's possible I could refract UV rays with enough highlighter, maybe?). If I'm doing "no-makeup today," I'll likely reach for highlighter once I reach the point of "OK, maybe just one little makeup..."

But in order for it to champion all the other technically harder-working makeup products, a great highlighter needs to be easy to use, not requiring of many/any other tools, and not glittery (the cardinal sin of highlighter is to masquerade itself as just a stick of clumsy glitter shavings).

I prefer cream highlighters to powder since it helps with the whole shine/dew factor from the get-go, and most of my face makeup is cream anyway, so it makes sense. If I don't have to stick my finger in a thing, though, I'd prefer it, so highlighter sticks are where it's at. They can look like mini-deodorants which I find amusing, but it makes it easy to swipe it on, too.

Behold — some of my favorites!

Sonia Kashuk Chic Luminosity Highlighter Stick

Sonia Kashuk's chic highlighting sticks are great, inexpensive picks if you prefer your highlighter to announce itself without a sticky feel. It has more of a silicone slip to it, but it's super-pigmented and creamy-feeling. The stick is sized slightly bigger than a typical concealer stick, so it's easy to not go overboard on application.

Once applied, the results are shimmery without dew. So if you hate dew but still want to shine, just lacquer yourself up with one of these.

Milk Makeup Highlighter

I've covered Milk Makeup before, and this highlighter is still in regular rotation for me. It's got a good balance between creamy, dewy texture with shimmery-but-not-glittery pigment. The sheer champagne color is on the neutral side, so it works on pretty much every skin tone, I dare say.

The fat shape of it is fun, but the domed top gives you a bit more control with application. I do tend to use my finger to smear the stick and then tap on my brow bone because maybe the area from below my brows to my eyelids is really narrow or something, but this chunky dude goes a bit HAM on placement there.

Also, this is a buildable cream, so feel free to glob it on.

Milk Makeup Holographic Stick

If you're queen of the highlighter and are super-bored with subtlety, Milk Makeup just released this celestial-looking alternative: the Holographic Stick. It's a form of highlighter, but it's kind of like a shade of iridescence not unlike that glass-shard nail look that was trending a little while ago.

It's a sheer lavender-silver shade that can go on eyes and lips, too, but gives you a raver-alien sheen that isn't exactly a highlighter in the traditional sense, but damn — does it highlight!

Maybelline Master Strobing Stick Illuminating Highlighter

Maybelline's new Master Strobing sticks come in two shades: a pinky cool tone and a warm shimmery beige. Dude, these are awesome. The formula is really sophisticated in that it's light, velvety (it doesn't slide your foundation off as you apply), and it's easily blendable and buildable. I'd say it's the most "powder finish" of all these cream sticks.

I think that since the formula is pretty mutable, you can probably work either shade no matter your skin tone, but that's a personal-preference thing. I have a warm skin tone but sometimes prefer cool-toned highlighters for that wet look.

Marc Jacobs Glowstick Glistening Illuminator

The first cool thing with this highlighter is that the almond shape makes it great for stamping it on your cheekbones for an instant placement. You're welcome. Otherwise, this is a thick but sheerly shimmery highlighter with a dewy finish. It's pretty concentrated, so one stamp goes a long way; just blend in with your digits and you will indeed invoke its namesake, glowstick.

Dubbed as the Krispy-Kreme-effect of dewiness, these core-nourishing highlighters are pretty damn neat, for lack of better sentiment. My first instinct when trying Quartz, the lighter shade of the two, was that it smells and looks just like RMS Living Luminizer (but for $12 less).

The Topaz shade is like a super light bronzer on my skin tone, giving me a bit of a sun-baked flush.The core has vitamin-y moisturizers to amp up the dew while the shimmery ring imparts a lovely angelic shimmer.

I love the slight tack of these because you can stamp/dab them on and just blend with your fingers, or your can drag it for mega-glow. Draggers be warned, though: if you wear medium-to-heavy foundation, it's gonna fuck your shit up. I figure these are the "I don't have time to blend concealer properly — here's my perfect no-makeup angel face" kind of a highlighter.

Clinique Chubby Stick Sculpting Highlight

Clinique's big stick highlighter does not waste its time trying to blend in, necessarily. While the stick glides on silkily, there is a super-fine glitter-particle situation that errs a bit in the early 2000s. No matter how much you blend the shimmer, there's still going to be glitter, so highlight it does — oh yes, does it highlight. I wanna say, "Yes, I see you raising your hand. You can please have a seat now" at its over-eager highlighting, but there's a time and place for visible micro-specks of glitter. It could work if you hang out in low-lit areas like French restaurants at night, under boardwalks, and club bathrooms.

I know people who are more into wearing an expertly blended foundation/contour situation probably prefer powder for the control in application, but is there some sort of cream-vs-powder highlighter war I am fairly unaware of? Did I just start it? Oh no...