I was editing images for a cream highlighter review I'm working on and it came to my mind I should do a quick basic post on how to highlight. I've been asked to do posts on how to do a perfect base, so I imagine this also would be helpful. Today I'm focusing on glow enhancing products instead of highlighting techniques with a foundation/concealer. I hope you enjoy this post even if you're already a glowing goddess or totally newbie to the highlighter bandwagon!
Highlighting in a nut shell
Highlighting and contouring are techniques to emphasise and define your features - all the way to alternating your face shape (think about drag queens). In everyday occasions highlighters are excellent for bringing forward your favorite features and give a healthy sheen to the skin. The beauty market is nowadays saturated with highlighter products so there's a formula, color and texture for every preference and skin type. So don't fear to try it highlighting even if you're bone-dry or having oily skin!
Some common highlighter types + Products
Subtle "no-highlighter" highlighters
This is the category of highlighters before the market became over-saturated with products, as well as more subtle skin perfectors and slightly illuminating primers.
To my understanding many makeup artists still rely on the Weleda Skin Food*, which is basically a thick cream for dry skin (cuticles, chapped lips, elbows etc.) as it gives a natural sheen for "no-makeup" makeup looks. Like Vaseline, but more elegant. Laura Mercier's classic Radiance primer gives a very slight sheen on the skin, but personally I'm bigger fan of the Lumene's new Invisible Illuminizer* drops, which give the perfect lit from within type of glow. Lumene also comes in variety of tones for different skin tones.
Cream highlighters for a seamless finish
I love cream highlighters as they blend seamlessly to but still pack a punch when it comes to adding light or pure shimmer to the skin. The THREE Shimmering Glow Duo in 01 (review here) is a must-have for me as it's quick and easy to apply with fingers, but lasts long. I use either of the two shades or mix them together depending on the blush shade I'm wearing. Some eco brands (RMS, Kora, Tata Harper) also make wonderful cream highlighters that look almost wet on the skin.
Powder highlighters for every occasion
Nowadays there is a powder highlighter for every situation with many textures, shades and finishes: from the barely there Rouge Bunny Rouge Highlighting Powder (mine is in the shade Goddess) to medium intensity such as Tom Ford's Skin Illuminating Powder Duo in Moodlight to the very frosty and glittery finishes. Powder highlighters are easy to use, great value for money and they don't go bad too quickly.
If you like to look like a "sexy robot" (a term standardiszed by the amazing Full Coverage -podcast) or to be seen from the space, I've heard that Becca do excellent ones. I personally prefer natural to buildable highlighters and classics such as Kevyn Aucoin Celestial Powder in Candlelight or the Laura Mercier Matte Radiance Baked Powder in Highlighter 01 (ignore the name, it's not matte!!). If I feel like having more visible glitter, Chanel's Camélia de Chanel (limited edition) gives it to me in a sophisticated way. Keep an eye on Chanel's Illuminating Powders - they often bring out amazing ones! Same with Burberry, I've seen their powder highlighters with beautiful embossings being listed as LE, but they have been on the site for a while.
Liquid Highlighters for the intense sheen
As much as I love to collect powder highlighters and play with creams, liquids are wonderful as you often need only the tiniest bit and get the most intense results. Rouge Bunny Rouge does the most incredible highlighting liquids in several shades, but I've seen Charlotte Tilbury and Cover FX do similar ones as well. With a liquid highlight you can achieve either a very metallic or wet effect, depending on the product. I love to pump some on my hand and use my fingertips or a brush to stipple the product on the high points of my face and eyes too!
My best tip is to always go always for a color that you love. If unicorn tears and rainbows on your cheekbones make you happy, you do you! Now every shade under the sun has been made into a highlighter, but the basic rule is to compliment a) your undertone b) how light/dark your skin is. Let's say you're fair with cool undertones - iridescent pinks could look fabulous on you. Or perhaps you are a medium with strong yellow or olive undertones? How about trying champagnes and golds. Deeper skins can pull off most colors in my opinion, but golds, coppers with a reddish undertone would be my first choice. I personally feel I'm too fair (MAC NC15-NW13) to wear copper highlighters, so I like to stick with whites, pinks and pale champagnes, but these shades work also for deeper skin tones - they just have a stronger effect on you.
How to highlight your face
Basically, highlighting is used to emphasis and bring your features forward while contouring is to cast a shadow and push back certain features. Try highlighting your cheekbones, cupid's bow, brow bone, tear dot, forehead, nose bridge and chin. I like to make my lips appear plump and cheekbones tall, but my eyes are pretty hooded so I avoid putting an emphasis on my brow bone. By testing and playing you'll find the placements that suit your features, but inner corners of the eyes, cupid's bow and cheekbones are easy and 'safe' to start with.
- When you pick up powder highlighter with a brush, tap off the excess glitter so you won't have unwanted fall down. Apply with a slim brush, such as a fan or a tapered big eyeshadow brush.
- Apply cream highlighters by first dotting them with your ring finger, then blend with your index/middle finger for a seamless finish. You can also warm the highlighter between your fingers before applying.
- Pump liquid highlighter on the back of your hand and apply similarly to creams with fingers or use a buffing brush (goat hair or synthetic) to blend the product
- You can also highlight your face with a concealer or a highlighter 1-2 shades lighter than your skin tone. Also fair matte eyeshadows work as a brow bone highlighter if you want a more subtle effect.
In the image above there are some suggested areas where to place product, but obviously you can also subtly highlight your forehead, collarbones, elbows, some like to even highlight the tip of their nose. For most faces the so called 'C' shape aka from cheekbones to temples looks very beautiful. Try experimenting and get to know your face shape! As long as you're focusing on the highest points of the face you want to emphasis, you're doing good!
Some Highlighter brushes
A large flat eyeshadow brush, a slim blush brush, anything tapered - they all work for highlighting. I believe there's no limitation how you can use a brush; even if the manufacturer has designed and named it for other purposes. Quite often I reserve the tapered candle brushes for precise powdering (such as Chikuhodo Z-2 featured here) and use other shapes to apply highlighters.
Tanseido's large eyeshadow brush YWS-12 has an angled shape, which makes it excellent for controlled and precise application. I wouldn't use any of these brushes for buffing, but a denser and more short haired foundation brush. Sonia G's Sculpt Three picks up powder beautifully and is great for smooth and even dusting of powder. You're also able to pick your wished color from compacts that are striped with highlighter/blusher/bronzer. Wayne Goss' old 14 is less precise, but picks a generous amount of product and is excellent for sheer powder highlighters and sculpting the cheekbones, adding some light finishing powder on the chin and perhaps forehead. Last but not least Tanseido YAQ-17 is my go-to for very intense or glittery highlighters as it's the least dense. One could say it's borderline "floppy", but YAQ-17 is a beautiful brush. It's flat but slightly tapered for beautifully diffusing intense products.
Thank you for reading! Phew, I can't imagine how many times I typed a 'highlighter' haha. Now I can finally get on with my next review - there's a sneak peek in the image above. I'm curious to hear if you're still loving the highlighting craze? What's you favorite product or formula? I must know!
* Marked items are PR samples kindly offered for consideration. My thoughts are my honest and my own.