April 21, 2022

How To Apply Highlighter

Photography: Lucy Alcorn / Makeup: Jessica Yang / Hair: Jonathan Mason / Talent: Anna Kedzior via Chic Management

Time to glow.

It’s hard to remember a time before highlighting. While beauty trends come and go, highlighting—which uses shimmery makeup to achieve a dewy glow—is here to stay. So says makeup artist Jessica Yang, who helped us put together this essential guide to highlighting—what it is, how to do it and the best products for achieving this all-over glowy look.

What is highlighting and what is it designed to do?

Highlighting is basically bringing the light to the high point of your face and areas you want to pop or stand out more,” explains Yang. “Highlighting can help add dimension to your face, giving you the 3D effects when you move your face around.” When highlighter is applied correctly with the right products for your skintone, it gives you that your-skin-but-butter glow.

Should highlighter be applied before foundation?

No.Highlighting should be the final step of your base makeup routine,” says Yang. 

How do you highlight makeup properly?

“I would suggest beginners apply a small amount of highlighter to the high points of your face where the light would naturally hit to get the most natural-looking glow.” That means your area of focus is the top of the cheekbones.In my opinion, cream highlighter is easier to use for beginners, you can simply pat cream highlighter on with your fingertips to larger areas like the tops of cheekbones and down the bridge of the nose for a seamless, lit-from-within glow.”

Where do you put highlighter when doing makeup?

Aside from the cheekbones and bridge of the nose, Yang suggests the following: “If you want to take a step further to apply minor highlights, I suggest using a small pencil brush instead of your finger to precisely apply highlighter to your Cupid’s bow, below the arch of your brows and the inner corner of your eyes.” 

Is there a wrong way to use highlighter?

“I would say avoid applying too much highlighter in the wrong places, always keep in mind less is more when it comes to highlighter. If you overdo it, you may end up looking very shiny and oily, unless that’s the look you’re looking for.” To avoid that disco ball look, Yang insists it’s best to consider your own facial features and “not just follow the trend or steps everyone else is doing”. She adds: “For example, if you have a lot of textures or large pores on your cheeks, you should skip highlighting in that area.” 

How do you select the right highlighter for your skin tone?

“It is very important to choose a formula and shade that suits your skin type and skin tone. Using the wrong shade can give you the ghost looking sometimes,” says Yang. She recommends picking a highlighter shade that’s slightly lighter than your actual skin tone and most importantly flattering to your skin undertone. How?

For fair to light skin tones: “I suggest looking for highlighters with a pearl, silver, soft pink or champagne sheen. You should avoid using shades that are too warm.”

For medium, tan and olive skin tones: “Opt for highlighters with a warm peach, rose gold, bronze or copper undertones.”

For deep skin tones: “Rich bronze or yellow golden undertone highlighters would look the best on you, you should avoid using shades that are too light or cool to keep you from looking too frosty or ashy.”


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