Why everyone stopped wearing powdered highlighter.

Last week, there was an article written by Samantha Holender from Marie Claire titled, 'What Happened to All the Glitter Highlighters?' And it got me thinking — when was the last time I actually used powdered highlighter? I couldn't even remember. 

Powdered highlighter doesn't feel 'me' anymore. 

This morning, I was in the elevator with some of my Mamamia colleagues when I asked if anyone else wore powdered highlighter. And it was clear the feeling was mutual. 

One person said it always accentuated her dry skin. Another said she found the finish looked 'too much' for every day. Someone else said the thought of highlighter just reminded her of YouTube and Patrick Starrr.

I found myself realising that powdered highlighter is in fact really, truly... dead.

Watch: Speaking of makeup, remember when our beauty editor applied 10 pumps of foundation to her face? We do. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

Just take a look at the beauty shelves. In your makeup bag. The sheer amount of cream and liquid products that have launched in the last year or so.

From what I've observed coming across my desk, sparkly and glittery powders are taking a spot on the bench and will be replaced by all-over glow drops and dewy primers that give that natural lit-from-within radiance.

Gone are the days of strobing and that YouTube-level illuminance on the cheekbones and brow bones. 


Enter: A less is more look that champions skin over heavy makeup.

Is powdered highlighter really dead?

In my opinion, yes. For example, I used to wear BECCA's famous Champagne Pop (a right of passage, to be honest) and M.A.C's Mineralize Skinfinish, before venturing over to a bougie Hourglass palette. These days, however, the types of highlighter formulas I wear today (and how I apply them) are vastly different to what I was doing 10 years ago.

The sparkle and glitter has scaled back to make way for 'luminisers' and 'drops' that aim to add a subtle glow to the skin. Think, that less is more, 'clean girl' beauty approach.

Just for the record, this doesn't mean you can't wear powdered highlighter. Don't be silly! Powdered highlighter will always be a makeup bag staple for lots of people — and we'd never tell you what you can and can't put on your face!

I'm simply pointing out that other formulas are just way more popular right now — and highlighter is still very much a thing. Like most trends, powdered highlighter will probably come back around — however, while it all comes down to personal choice, it's not what it once was.

The cream and liquid formulas have burst onto the market with some very big differences: They're lightweight. Quick. Dewy. Minimalistic. Easy to wear. 

You apply them to your entire face and either wear them as is (a boosted glow to natural skin), mix them with foundation or layer foundation over the top. They offer a hint of radiance, while still allowing your skin to appear authentically 'you'.  

The result? That natural, I-do-Pilates-and-drink-lots-of-water look.

What's replacing it?

In 2024, highlighter products stretch across many different categories — from complexion drops to primers and multi-purpose sticks. However, whatever the category, you'll notice one very obvious thing: shimmer and glitter has been replaced by a creamy, subtle sheen.


For example, you can opt for an all-over 'light bulb in a bottle' glow with lightweight serums like Drunk Elephant D-Bronzi Drops, $65, Revlon Skinlights Face Glow Illuminator, $27.95, Ultra Violette Queen Screen SPF 50 Super Glow Drops, $45 and affordable dupes like MCoBeauty SuperGlow Bonzer Drops, $31.95.

Off the back of the cult Charlotte Tilbury Hollywood Flawless Fliter, $65, there's also savey versions like Rimmel Multi Tasker Better Than Filters.

For a targeted pop of radiance to the high points of your face, there's also easy-to-use multi-purpose cream sticks like Mecca Max Off Duty Gloss Stick, $20, Nude by Nature Touch of Glow Highlighter Stick, $24.95 and my personal favourite luxe Chanel BAUME ESSENTIEL Multi-Use Glow Stick, $74.

Overall, the look is softer, more natural and less in-your-face than the sculpted, statement strips of highlighter a lot of us used (and loved!) in the past.

Again, a reminder that it's not to say wearing powdered highlighter is 'wrong', yeah?

If anything, the shift is a reminder of how often beauty trends change shape over the years. Also, how important it is to stick with what suits you and what makes you feel great. And if that means wearing powdered highlighter that's strobed to the high heavens, you do you! There's no right or wrong. 

After all, that's what beauty should be all about, right? 

If you'd like to hear more from Erin, follow her on Instagram.

Are you a fan of powdered highlighter? Why/why not? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Feature Image: Canva.

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