Healthy skin has a radiance to it that sometimes gets hidden beneath foundation and concealer. Highlighter restores that luminous look with a subtle gleam that gives the skin a smooth, soft finish. A relatively new cosmetic invention, highlighter contains tiny flecks of pearly material that glow like healthy skin when the light strikes them. Although other shimmering creams and powders have been popular in the past, highlighters are not quite the same as older frosted products; they have a much subtler finish. The overall effect of highlighting the face should be one of dewy, smooth skin rather than a frosted or metallic shine.
Highlighters do more than give skin a soft, luminous finish. They also emphasise facial contours and minimize certain features, creating greater balance and symmetry through a few clever optical illusions. Makeup artists use highlighter to make cheekbones more prominent, refine the nose, and make eyes look luminous. These same techniques also work at home.
1. Choose the Right Highlighter Type
Manufacturers produce highlighters in a variety of different formulas. While highlighter types are largely a matter of preference, some products are easier to use for some highlighting tasks than others. Makeup artists typically keep a range of formulas on hand to achieve a wider range of special effects, and home users can follow suit. As a rule, confine more richly pigmented or sparkly highlighting products to the eyes and save makeup with a soft gleam to highlight other parts of the face.
Highlighters in liquid form are the easiest to blend and cover the largest surface area. Liquids can also be mixed with moisturiser to create a sheer veil of subtle shine or with matte foundation to give it a dewy finish. Used alone over bare skin, liquid highlighter counteracts dullness; over foundation, it adds dimension.
Cream highlighters are generally more strongly pigmented and shimmering than liquid highlighters. These concentrated formulas also have more staying power, particularly in dense stick forms. They are easy to apply and blend, but they are so concentrated that it is also easy to overdo them and go from soft shimmer to all-over shine. Professional makeup artists recommend working with cream and stick highlighters a layer at a time, stepping back often to assess the overall effect in the mirror.
Creams are a good choice for highlighting near the eyes because these thicker blends stay where they are applied instead of migrating or fading over time. Choose a highlighter designed for application near the eyes to prevent any irritation.
Any shimmering powder that is close to the natural skin tone can also work as a highlighter. Powder highlighters are versatile, inexpensive, and widely available, so they are often a novice user's first highlighting option. They are also a favorite tool for experts, particularly for creating a soft glow on cheekbones. When using a powder highlighter, test the product on the hand first; some powders have a more intense sparkle to them that can work for the eyes but looks too shiny for use elsewhere on the face.
2. Pick the Highlighter Colour
Highlighters are translucent but not transparent. Most of them contain a small amount of pigment as well as reflective particles so that they look less stark against the skin. Light colours appear more prominent, so choose a highlighter that is a shade or two lighter than the natural skin tone. Soft bisque and champagne tones work well for most light skin tones. More intense peach and cafe au lait colors are a good choice for darker complexions. Avoid going too pale with darker skin to keep highlighter from looking chalky or ashy.
The color of the highlighter should enhance the skin tone without radically changing it, so avoid heavily tinted highlighters in favor of subtler hues. Consider where the product will be worn when picking shades, too; a cheek highlighter might have a peachier undertone than one worn near the eyes.
3. Look for the Right Highlighter Finish
Makeup near the eyes can have more sparkle and still look natural, but highlighters meant to go on the cheeks, nose, and chin should have a dewy gleam instead of a noticeable shimmer. Products for skin typically have a pearly finish in the container. A highlighter with a metallic or sparkly finish can create beautiful special effects for eyes, but they leave the skin looking shiny or slick instead of dewy.
In addition to the base colour of the highlighter, the shimmer itself can have a colour cast. Warm golden or ivory tints are most appropriate for skin tones. Products with a green or blue iridescence should be kept near the eyes and never used on the cheeks. Their colorful glow can illuminate eye makeup but would make cheeks look ghostly instead of glowing.
4. Highlight Eyes
When applying highlighter near the eyes, look for prominent areas that could become even more noticeable with a dot of well-blended highlighting cream. Dusting highlighting powder under the eyebrows visually expands the eye area, creating the illusion of larger eyes. Makeup artists sometimes apply a dab of highlighter just above the iris to add more dimension to the eyelids. This technique is especially effective with darker matte eyeshadow in the eyelid creases. Covering the entire lid with a light veil of powder highlighter produces a soft, ethereal effect.
5. Minimise Dark Under-Eye Circles with Highlighter
A favorite place for makeup artists to highlight is the inner corner of the eyes. Not only does a dab of highlighter there illuminate the eyes, it also minimises under-eye circles. Concealer can hide circles, but it has a flat, matte finish that looks unnatural on an otherwise fresh and dewy face. Applying a light layer of highlighter just on the innermost corners of the eyes lightens dark shadows and creates a more natural finish.
Using a small brush or a fingertip, dot a small amount of highlighter just below the inner corner of each eye. Pat the area with a clean fingertip to blend the highlighter thoroughly. The overall effect minimises shadows without changing the color of the under-eye area or looking artificial.
6. Create More Dramatic Cheekbones with Highlighter
High, prominent cheekbones slim the face, but contouring too heavily with dark blush below the cheekbones can look harsh. Highlight the ridges of the cheekbones for a more natural way to emphasise elegant bone structure. Apply cream or liquid highlighter just above the most prominent point of the cheekbones below the outer corners of the eyes. Blend the highlighter up and toward the temples until it looks seamless and even.
Although illuminating the cheeks with highlighter can impart a fresh-faced, pearly gleam to the skin, adding too much of it can make the skin look damp instead of dewy. Use just a small amount of highlighter at a time, adding more in small stages until the desired effect is achieved. Do not bring highlighter closer to the nose than the outer corner of the eye to avoid an overall impression of shininess.
7. Use Highlighter on the Nose
For photo shoots, makeup artists often make subtle changes to models' noses with highlighter. Pearly powder or cream formulas applied in a well-blended line down the center of the nose make it look longer and narrower. A circle of highlighter at its tip makes the nose appear broader and shorter. Applying the cream on the nose bridge makes it look higher and more prominent.
As with highlighting the cheeks, adding highlighter to the nose requires thorough blending and small amounts of the product. Too much highlighter gives the impression of an oily complexion rather than a subtly flattering touch of highlighter.
8. Pick Only a Few Spots to Highlight
Highlighter only works in contrast to other areas of the skin that are left free of highlighter. Applying the product everywhere results not in an all-over dewy gleam, but a hard, slick shine. Overusing highlighter spoils its impact, so think of it as a spotlight and shine it on only one or two features at a time.