What Is a Highlighting Serum, Exactly?

Some skincare products, like moisturizer, are as straightforward as it gets. Moisturizer moisturizes, sunscreen defends against sun damage, you see where we’re going with this. But with Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops, our new highlighting serum, it’s not quite as straightforward. For one, is it a highlighter or a serum? And why would you want your serum to have highlighting benefits, anyway? Good news: We’ve got answers to this up-and-coming hybrid — plus, how (and why) you’ll want to use it.

What’s a highlighting serum?

A highlighting serum is a skincare and makeup hybrid that offers both long-term benefits of a face serum (that’s your skincare) as well as instant dewiness of a highlighter (the magic of makeup). It has its root in K-beauty, where makeup artists hack highlighting serums using other products, which isn’t always great for skin. And while some of these hybrids tend to be heavy on the highlighter, leaving behind a shimmer or shiny finish on skin, the Glow Recipe interpretation is a little subtler than that. Not only did we want a better highlighter — one that wouldn’t leave some skin tones with a gray cast, for one — but ours is also brimming with powerful skincare ingredients.

The skincare benefits of highlighting serum

With “serum” in the name, you can expect a highlighting serum to offer some skincare benefits. In many cases, that could just mean straightforward moisture, particularly in oil-based formulas intended to soften skin. In Dew Drops, we’ve leveled it up with hardworking actives that actually work over time to hydrate, brighten, and even out skin tone, in addition to giving skin an instant strobing effect. At the same time, we’ve taken out any greasy or heavy ingredients that could make skin look too shiny (more on that below!).

Wondering what, exactly, a face serum does? Don’t miss our explainer on why it’s a must-have.

Niacinamide, for one, is an antioxidant that also happens to interfere with the pigment production process in skin, thus tamping down excess pigment that otherwise contributes to dark spots and patches. It also contains — what else? — hyaluronic acid for a hit of hydration and instant plumping, as well as watermelon extract for those key vitamins and amino acids. Like traditional serums, you can layer Dew Drops with other serums, such as Plum Plump Hyaluronic Serum, to target specific concerns (a K-beauty trick called the double serum). It’s pretty potent as a serum alone, but as a highlighting serum, it’s that much better.

The makeup benefits of highlighting serum

The biggest perk of a highlighting serum, in terms of your makeup, is that it’s so incredibly versatile. You can use it as a classic highlighter to accentuate the contours of the face — think on the brow bones (just beneath the brows), on the tops of the cheeks, and on the cupid’s bow.

Since Dew Drops is ophthalmologist-tested for safety, you can use ours on the eyes, too; try dabbing it onto the center of the lid for a subtle shine. Other ideas: Mix it with complexion products, like foundation, for a radiance boost, or layer it under your makeup as a brightening primer.

You could also wear it without makeup at all for a more casual, dressed-down glow. It acts as your finisher, helping you add polish sans makeup (ideal for, say, wearing a mask when running errands). It can also give skin dimension and an extra glow before your next video call. That’s the beauty of a highlighting serum: There’s really no wrong way to use it.

While other highlighting formulas — both traditional and hybrid alike — tend to contain mica, glitter, sparkles, or light-reflecting minerals to add luminosity, ours leaves that out in favor of skincare. For that reason, it never looks greasy or shiny on skin, nor will it ever give skin a gray cast. That makes it ideal for every skin tone and skin type. 

Speaking of: Since we’re working with a lightweight, fast-absorbing formula that won’t sit on top of skin, Dew Drops make it especially easy for those with oily or breakout-prone skin to glow without greasiness. Usually, highlighters pile on the shine in order to lend skin a dewy glow — which isn’t something those with naturally oily skin necessarily want. Ours dries down quickly and gives skin more of a lit-from-within gleam than a slick sheen.

Got excess oil? Learn the right way to moisturize oily skin.

The bottom line

Ultimately, our highlighting serum gives you the best of both worlds: an immediate dewy glow, as well as long-term skin benefits. For our innovative version, shimmer and shine need not apply — rather, we rely on skincare ingredients only to both benefit skin and make it look really good in the process. Now, anyone and everyone can (finally!) get a dewy glow.

Keep reading about the power of highlighting serum:

SHOP THE LOOK

Glow Recipe

Watermelon Glow Niacinamide Dew Drops

$34

https://www.glowrecipe.com/products/watermelon-glow-niacinamide-dew-drops

Glow Recipe

Plum Plump Hyaluronic Serum

$42

https://www.glowrecipe.com/products/plum-plump-hyaluronic-serum