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What Color Highlighter Should I Get? Depends on Your Undertone

So, you want to know what color highlighter will flatter your skin? No problem!

In this post, we’ll talk about how you can identify what undertone your skin is in the first place. Then, we’ll get into the colors that will flatter you most according to whether you’re cool, warm, or neutral.

How to Find Your Undertone

There are three undertones: warm, cool, and neutral.

Warm undertones mean you have a golden hue to your skin. Cool means your skin pulls a little pink or blue, compared to warm skin tones. Neutral means you’re equal parts cool and warm.

If you don’t know what undertone you are, there are a few ways to find out.

My favorite way to determine your undertone is to break out some gold and silver earrings and try them on, really concentrating on if the gold or the silver flatters your face coloring the most. If silver makes you look fantastic, you’re cool-toned. If gold lights up your face, you’re warm-toned. And if you look equally good in both, you’re neutral.

Picture of gold and silver jewelry
Are you a gold or silver person? Source: @alexchambers on Unsplash.

Another way is to put on a white and an off-white shirt on and see which suits you most. If white looks fabulous on your skin, you’re cool-toned. If the off-white shirt suits you better, you’re probably warm. And if both flatter you equally, you’re neutral.

I think a particularly fun way to narrow things down is to picture yourself in a Dior J’adore commercial with Charlize Theron or the Jacyln Hill (doomed) brand announcement video. Would you look best in the gold-dripping Dior world or in the platinum-coated video from Jacyln?

Now that you have an idea of your undertone, you can check for highlighter shades that most flatter that.

If Your Undertone is Warm, Get Warm Highlighters

If you’ve determined you’re a warm girl or guy, it’s pretty easy to find a flattering highlighter shade. You want warm highlighters, which are plentiful on the market. We’re talking golds and gold-leaning champagnes.

Here are some warm toned highlighters I recommend checking out.

  • Becca’s famous Shimmering Skin Perfectors. Almost every one of these lean gold.
  • Wet n Wild’s excellent MegaGlo Highlighting Powders. These baked gelee (pronounced “jeh-LAY”) highlighters go on beautifully and are tres affordable. There are good options for deeper skin as well.
  • Milk Makeup’s Flex Highlighters in Glazed or Iced. I’ve never tried these, but practically every YouTuber I watch has recommended them.
  • JD Glow’s highlighters. As a black-owned brand, JD Glow knows how to do shine for deep-skinned beauties. And since so many silvery colors pull ashy on deep skin, most of their highlighters are warm-toned. Plus, they come in stunning compacts.
  • Kaleidos’ Space Age Highlighters in Ray Rider or Solar Sailor. Also quite beloved, the Space Age Highlighters come in a variety of neutrals and more unconventional colors. If you hate glitter, make sure to check swatches before you buy—some of them have some sparkle.
A light gold highlight in a tin and on a warm model
Here’s Ray Rider from Kaleidos in its cute tin packaging and on a warm-toned model. Source.

What About Colorful Highlights?

I wouldn’t recommend you go for blue- or purple-leaning highlighters unless you try them and find you look good in them. You’ll run the risk of looking sick. Instead, head for the red- or peach- leaning colors. Warm purples may work for you—try ones that lean more red than blue.

Consider Mars Melter from Kaleidos, Slay from Bitter Lace Beauty (very cool looking highlight—see below), or Peach-ella from Miliani’s Ludicrous Lights Duochrome Highlighter collection.

A gold highlight with bright red spatter patterns.
Here’s Slay from Bitter Lace Beauty. Look at that third finger swatch—what a lovely combo. Source.

If Your Undertone Is Cool, Get Cool Highlighters

You may have a little more trouble finding a perfect highlighter if you’re cooler-toned. I’m neutral but lean cool, and I find most highlighters pull too gold on me. True neutrals will work okay for you, but often icier champagnes and pinks are what you need to really get that flattering look.

I’ve got some great recommendations for you, cool girl!

  • Dior’s Backstage Glow Face Palette in 001—Universal. The pink and the white in this palette are some of the best highlighting shades I’ve ever used. Even with textured skin, they go on smooth and wet looking.
  • Colourpop’s Super Shock Cheeks in Flexitarian. Many people love this white champagne highlighter for its ability to blind people with its shine. But if you apply a few light layers with a sponge, you get the most natural, glowing, healthy skin. It’s so versatile and lovely for cool-toned folks.
  • Natasha Denona Super Glow highlight in fair or (maybe) light-medium. This is a pricey one, but it’s a universally raved-about formula. The shade fair is certainly cool-to-neutral in shade, so you’re safe there. The light-medium seems neutral but may pull warm on you—always a good idea to try before you buy.
Here’s the Dior palette. Even though I most love this for the white and pink, the bronzer shade is beautiful and not too warm. Source.

What About Colorful Highlights?

Cool cats, this is where you’re blessed. If you like colorful highlights, you were born with the right undertone. So much looks good on you!

Try blues like Kaleidos’ Sky Walker or Cliondah’s Current (love this one). Get after purples like Wet n Wild’s Royal Calyx. If you’re in the medium skin tone range, try like Fenty’s Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in the very, very pink Wattabrat or the minty Chillz. If you’re willing to take a risk on slightly warmer highlights, look for one with a bright pinky-peach reflect, like Kaleidos’ original Mars Melter or Cliondah’s Fuse. There’s so much you can try!

A purple highlight with blue glitter from Wet n Wild
Wet n Wild’s Royal Calyx is a great color for cool-toned color lovers. Source.

If Your Undertone Is Neutral, Wear Whatever You Like!

Neutrals, rejoice! You can pull off whatever you like! Gold, peach, champagne, icy pink, white…it’s all yours for the wearing.

What About Colorful Highlights?

Being neutral means that not only can you wear the goldies, icies, and all colors of the rainbow but you can also wear unique highlights that shift from warm to cool, like Give Me Glow’s highlighter in Halo. Check out the gold-to-periwinkle shift in this post from Give Me Glow’s Instagram page!

A bright gold with a periwinkle shift.
Halo is not just a novelty highlighter, either—people say this looks fantastic on the skin. Source.

You’re also primed for the groundbreaking Space Age Prophecy highlighter from Kaleidos. It’s a multichrome with a green to fuchsia shift, and it looks amazing on the right undertones.

A multicolored highlighter from Kaleidos on a neutral undertoned model.
Look how the Space Age Prophecy reflects different colors on the model. Can you see the green and the fuchsia? Source.

A Few Last Notes

I can’t close out here until I cover a few things that didn’t neatly fit into the categories above.

Some Universal Don’ts of Highlight Buying

We talked a lot about undertones here but not as much about actual skin tone.

Keep in mind that you don’t want, say, a white highlighter if you have deep skin. Going too light for your tone or using highlighters with a white cast will look, well, like you’re wearing a stripe of white—not like you’re glowing.

And the flip side is true, too. Lighter skinned ladies and gents, you never want to pick a highlighter that’s darker than your natural skin tone and use it where one would normally place a highlighter. It will look either dirty or like you messed up the placement of your weirdly shiny blush. Especially be on the lookout for things like darker silvers or purples, which can absolutely make you look like a maniac—and not in a cool way. Ask me how I know.

In Praise of Trying Before You Buy

If you can’t tell whether a neutral looking highlighter will pull warm or cool on you, it’s worth trying out and seeing. Right now, we’re in the time of COVID, so Ulta and Sephora won’t let you test things. But if you’re reading this when restrictions have lessened, this is definitely the best option for trying out a highlighter.

I normally don’t like suggesting that you buy a highlighter that you intend to take back if it doesn’t work for you, but if that’s your only option right now, go for it.

In Summary…

We talked about a truly joyus subject today—highlighters and how to find the perfect one for you. Here’s a quick summary of what we went over.

What highlight should I wear, you asked? Here are your answers:

  • If your undertone is warm, golds, champagnes, and peaches will flatter you. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try a red.
  • If your undertone is cool, icy champagnes, whites, and pinks will flatter you. For colorful highlights, you can go with blues, purples, fuchsia- or bright peach-shifting highlights, and more.
  • If your undertone is neutral, all of the above highlight colors will flatter you, plus you can pull off colorful shades that shift from warm to cool.

That’s it for today! Go forth and glow, beauties.