Should You Use Liquid, Cream, Or Powder Highlighter? Here's The Difference

Highlighting has been having a moment ever since Kim Kardashian first stepped onto the scene with her incredibly contoured and highlighted face. Since then, strobing has skyrocketed in popularity, and everyone seems to be scrambling for the best highlighter. But what is the difference between a cream and powder highlighter, and which one should you be using? Liquids, creams, and powder highlights all have different perks, and sometimes figuring out the difference between them — other than their obvious formulations — can get tricky.

Highlighting can come in many different forms. Whether it's a simple dusting of powder highlight in the tear duct and on the cupid's bow or a full-blown gorgeous under-eye highlight, your technique options are endless. YouTube gurus are pros at teaching you how to get an incredible contour, and while some criticize the technique for being over-the-top, it doesn't matter if you love the bright look.

While it's true that the Kardashians are often known as the progenitors of the highlighted and contoured look, in my opinion, strobing and the advent of the YouTube beauty guru are what has made the products so popular. With mega-star YouTubers like Jaclyn Hill and NikkieTutorials always rocking some on fleek highlight and celebrities like Gigi Hadid strobing until their heart's content, the need for a great highlight became tantamount.

NikkieTutorials on YouTube

So what's the different in highlight products and which should you be using to get that bright, fresh look?


Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector, $41, Sephora

Liquid highlighters, much like you'd expect, have a consistency that can be problematic for oily skin as they can begin to slip as the day goes on. For those with dry skin though, liquid highlight is best. Plus, unlike other formulations, they aren't as concentrated, and thus, they can be used in multiple ways.

Josie Maran Argan Enlightenment Illuminizer, $27, Amazon

Liquid is perfect for achieving a natural, dewy finish, and it's incredibly versatile. By mixing in a bit of highlight into your foundation, you can create a beautiful all-over glow. If you want a more concentrated glow, small dabs of products along the high points of the face are best.


Anastasia Beverly Hills Contour Cream Kit, $40, Sephora

Cream highlight differs pretty greatly from powder and liquid formulations. Unlike its more shimmering cousins, cream tends more toward the matte side. That's why many use a concealer a few shades lighter than their skin tone to achieve the highlight to match their contour. Application differs as well. I doubt anyone is going to advocate for applying a powder highlight under your eyes. Cream contours aren't about a glow so much as a complement to your contour.

It Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye, $24, Amazon

Cream highlight is best for those looking to get a sculpted look or those who want to avoid any sort of dewiness. Here's looking at you oily ladies! If you're terrified of looking shiny, using cream highlight will be your jam.


Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed, $38, Sephora

Powder highlights are arguably the most potent formulation. They have a strong concentration of shimmer, and it's easy to overdo it. However, powder is also the most suitable formulation for oily skin. With a light hand, it can blend into your foundation seamlessly and unlike a liquid highlight, it's far less likely to slip or become greasy.

The Balm Mary Lou Manizer, $25, Amazon

Unlike creams, powder highlights are meant to be used only on the high points of the face. Don't try to contour and highlight with shimmer. If you're into strobing, a powder may be perfect for you as it's easily controllable as long as you don't pack your brush full of product.

Basically, all forms of highlighter have their ups and downs. When wondering how powder and cream contours are different, make sure you keep your skin and preferences in mind.

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