Guess what, again I’m on a train, and again I’m judging the makeup I see around me. I’ve really become quite the strange Londoner on the trains staring at everyone’s faces, but it’s actually quite good inspiration for these little posts. And today, we’re going to chat a bit about highlighter, because what on earth is going on there… I was never really a big highlighter fan, especially back three years ago when we had the “how much highlighter can you physically put on your face” era. I never thought it looked cute and I never used it on my clients, avoiding it even when they really wanted it. But, there are beautiful ways to use highlighters that really do elevate your makeup.
Let’s chat about what highlighter does first. Unlike contouring, which pushes areas of the face inwards using shadow (see my post on contouring here), highlighter brings light to the face and brings areas forward. That’s why people plaster it all over their cheekbones, hoping to bring them forward and make them more prominent. And, if not used incorrectly, highlighter really can make the skin beautiful and accentuate the best parts of your face’s architecture.
One thing to always consider with highlighter though is that, especially in powder form, it tends to bring all parts of the skin forward, especially the skin’s texture. So acne scarring, dry skin, uneven texture, bumps and wrinkles – all of these are accentuated when highlighting the face with powders. However, that does not mean that people with any of the above skin concerns can’t use highlighters, it just means that one has to be careful using powders. As a matter of fact, there are very few instances (even with people who have seemingly perfect skin) where I don’t prefer using liquid highlighter as at least a base for whatever powder I apply to it. To use the favourite word of the iconic John Maclean, it allows a completely seamless light diffusion over the face.
So here’s my advice on using highlighter –
Get to know your face
Similar to my advice when contouring, get to know your face. Work out what parts of the face you want to draw attention to. Normally that is the cheekbones, the brow ridge (above and below the eyebrow), the cupid’s bow, and then sometimes the bridge of the nose. You’ll often have seen charts like this –
While this is generally correct, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right for you. If you’ve already got a large forehead or a wide bridge of the nose, you don’t necessarily want to highlight it. If you’ve got very arched brows already, you may not want to build that up even more. So don’t just blindly follow the chart! Think about how you want to accent and shape your face and apply the highlighter accordingly.
Use a liquid highlighter
The best way to avoid texture is to use a liquid highlighter, and there are some truly beautiful products, some of which I will recommend below. You can apply the highlighter just after you apply your foundation, and use your foundation sponge/brush to work that highlighter into your skin and blend it with your foundation. Unless you’re applying a lot of powder on top of that foundation, it will definitely shine through when the light hits your face. Certain liquid highlighters, like the Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector, can be applied on top of powders. But do be careful as this could start to break up the products underneath if the formulas don’t work well together. But experiment! You can even mix some of that liquid highlighter into your foundation itself, giving you an all over glow.
Build and move
Don’t go ham straight away. Build up highlighter in layers and blend it out to try make sure you’re not over-applying. And then, move your face to try catch the light. See how the highlighter is interacting with the lights, and how the pearls and glitter are sparkling on that pretty face of yours.
Be careful not to blend too wildly though (I know I can’t believe I’m saying that). Especially when using product with glitter, you do want to keep the product quite well concentrated in the area you applied it, and not have glitter spreading all over your face. Glitter gets all around… you know you’ve woken up a few days after a night out shocked to still find glitter in unseemly places where you definitely didn’t put it (or perhaps you did). Keep the blending focused on the edges of your application, trying to ensure it is seamless but still focused on the area you want to accent. This way you’ll still get the blended look, but without getting glitter everywhere and actually losing the effect of highlighting.
Application is everything
As always, the way you apply the highlighter is integral to making it look seamless. If you’re using a liquid highlighter integrated with your foundation application, I definitely advise using the same brush or sponge to blend the highlighter into the skin, after applying it with another brush or your finger. But using powders can be a bit more complicated. I advise a brush that is not too compact, but that has the ability to really focus product on the skin. Something with a rounded front or with a focused point that still allows diffusion, but focuses the product correctly.
Shade of course matters even with highlighters. General rule of thumb is, the lighter you are, the more cool tones a highlighter you should use, and the darker you are, the more golden and warm your highlighter should be. But that’s not always correct so just make sure to try the shades out on your skin tone. If you’re lucky enough to be a deeply melanin infused, you can pretty much wear whatever shade you’d like!!
Sadly not a reference to the hilarious Gogol short story, just be careful when highlighting the nose. Make sure not to apply too much highlighter to the bridge of the nose as if you add too much, you’ll actually end up widening your nose rather than thinning it. People also love to steal the drag trick, applying a Raven-esque highlighter dot to the tip of the nose to pinch it. However, that doesn’t always work and again can end up enlarging the nose. If you have a bulbous nose or apply it in the wrong place/too heavily, you’ll end up with the opposite effect. Really think about where your nose needs to be brought forward…
And as always, finally, live your own personal life and highlight however you’d like. If you love that extremely reflective look, go ham!
Here are some great product recommendations –
ELF Highlighting Brush – Only a £5!
Zoeva Luxe Highlight Brush – All the Zoeva brushes are very lit
Morphe Pro Pointed Blended Brush – Perfect for the nose and brow bone
Sigma Strobing Fan Brush – Allows a really light finish just make sure to keep it focused
May your day be as bright as your highlight!