By now, we’re all well aware of the strobing trend that swept the beauty world last year and continues to dominate our Pinterest and Instagram feeds. And with all-over dewy, radiant skin an official year-round staple in the makeup category, highlighter is becoming as classic and essential as blush or eyeliner. Heck, it seems every five minutes there’s a new highlighting stick, liquid, or powder on the market promising to make our faces light up like the night sky.
But with the endless number of shimmery options out there, how do you know which one is right for you? And, as we see with all these options and shades at our fingertips, highlighters are not exactly a one-size-fits-all product (or even a one-size-fits-most, for that matter). No, just like foundation and nude lipstick, certain shimmery shades work better with certain skin tones. But how does one go about finding the perfect match? We tapped makeup artist and author of MakeupCloudBlog Mo Pear to help us figure out this piece to the highlighter puzzle. Check it out …
Fair Skin Tones
Those with pale to light skin tones should opt for highlighters with a pearlescent, icy-silver or champagne sheen. The light pigment adds just enough radiance to your complexion without making you look ghostly. “I always go for a bright ivory/white shade—it looks amazing on fair skin,” says Pear. Try YSL Touche Éclat White Strobing Pen. “NYX Bright Idea Illuminating Stick in the Lavender Lust shade is great for a subtle sheen on its own.”
Avoid going with shades that are too warm or contain red undertones. Anything darker and the product can come off as a little less “glow” and a little more “faux.” If you feel like you want a little color to warm up the face, try applying a cream-based peach or soft pink blush or a light tan bronzer to the cheeks prior to swiping on your highlighter. This will give your face that nice post-run glow that’s natural and not overdone.
Product Recommendations: Urban Decay Naked Skin Highlighting Fluid, L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Powder Glow Illuminator in C 302 Ice,
Medium-to-Olive Skin Tones
To keep your complexion from looking too frosty, warmer skin tones pair well with highlighters that have peach or gold undertones. The hint of color is just enough to give you that sun-kissed glow! “For olive or medium skin tones, NYX Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator in the Sunbeam shade works well on cooler undertones,” says Pear. You can also go the gold route, for warmer skin tones, with a product like L'Oréal True Match Lumi Powder in Golden.
Since your skin tone naturally accommodates a bronzed look, try going a step further. Add a bronze or gold eye shadow and earthy metallic lipstick to make you look like a golden goddess. It’s perfect for the warmer spring and summer months when you want to look like you spent hours sunning yourself at the beach without actually exposing yourself to harmful UV rays. If you need tips on how to achieve this, check out this tutorial.
Dark Skin Tones
Rich variations of rose gold or bronze work wonders on darker complexions. Just be sure to look for options that pack a ton of pigment and steer clear of frosty, opalescent shades, as they can cause the skin to look gray instead of lit-from-within. Keep your focus on warm hues.
Also, since your highlighter match goes hand-in-hand with bronzer, try mixing it in with your foundation to give you an all-over glow that’s totally natural and stunning.
Apply a deep rose cream blush after your highlighter and buff it out so it blends with the illuminating shade. Top it off with a rich red lip and you’ve got yourself a head-turning look. For tips on how to mix your highlighter with your foundation, check out our tip box below.
Product Recommendations: Lancôme Click & Glow Liquid Highlighter in Lumières D’Or Rose, YSL Touche Éclat Glow Shot Highlighter in Sunset, L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Liquid Glow Illuminator in Golden, Giorgio Armani Fluid Sheer in #12
Applying highlighter is not simply a matter of swiping the stuff on the cheeks and forehead and going about your business. In fact, if you’re not strategic and careful in your application, you could end up looking a bit disco ball-esque (not a great look). Choose the radiant, sun-kissed skin route by following these application tips from Pear.
Choose the right tools. “I use a medium tapered brush (or setting brush) when applying highlighter to my cheekbones,” says Pear. “If I'm layering products, I use a fan brush to apply the accent highlighter on top.”
Smaller areas need smaller tools. For more detailed areas that cover smaller real estate (corners of the eyes, center of the nose, and brow bone), Pear relies on the NYX Pro Smudger Brush as it’s “small, but fluffy.” Put a pea-sized amount on the back of your hand, then dip the brush into it and blend lightly on each small area of the face. Reapply as desired.
Cream products like sponges. For cream products, try mini cosmetic sponges to ensure precise blending. “I always wet the sponge first, then give it a good squeeze to release most of the water,” instructs Pear. “With cream stick illuminators, apply foundation after highlighter. Sticks tend to lift the foundation off. But if you prefer to apply your foundation first, then use a sponge to apply it so it goes on more gently and doesn’t disturb your makeup.”
Use a light hand. Another thing to consider when applying highlighter is how much you’re applying. “It's easier to build up, than to remove. And with powder formulas I always tap the excess off my brush before I apply any powder product, it prevents the powder from straying into other areas and minimizes fallout,” say Pear.
Mix It Up!
A great way to add highlighter into your daily routine is to play mixologist. All you have to do is blend it into your foundation, pre-application. Doing this will lend your face a natural, subtle radiance that leans more on the dewy-look side (as opposed to full-on strobing). Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Blend equal parts. After you’ve settled on the right liquid highlighter shade for your tone, drop equal parts highlighter and liquid foundation onto the back of your hand. Make sure the highlighter formula you go with has a nice sheer finish to it and isn’t super sparkly or glittery. Remember — this is going all over your face, so you want more sheen and less shimmer. The total amount of product should be about a dime-sized amount.
Step 2: Smooth over skin. Dot the mixture on your forehead, cheeks, nose and neck. Blend it all in with a foundation brush or damp cosmetic sponge or blender. Make sure it’s evenly distributed (even the neck!), and check the edges to ensure there are no harsh lines.
Let’s be real, our faces aren’t the only things we want to be shining, right? But, these days it seems most talk is around highlighters that focus on our marvelous mugs. So how do we go about making the rest of us radiant? “I think that highlighters used on the body do not need to be the same as the ones used on the face,” says Pear. The makeup guru explains that, while it’s all about personal preference, the purpose of a body highlighter is to define certain areas. “I find cream and stick highlighters work really well on the shoulders and collarbone areas,” says Pear. “They're easy to apply, especially the sticks. I usually just blend out harsh edges with my fingers.” Try Maybelline New York Master Strobing Stick Illuminating Highlighter or It Cosmetics Hello Light Anti-Aging Luminizing Crème Stick.
For larger areas to cover, like the legs and arms, Pear recommends a body-specific glow-inducing cream. Make sure, when working on larger body parts, you spread it evenly and completely, so you don’t get weird streaks or patches on the body. Try The Body Shop Honey Bronze Shimmering Dry Oil, Urban Decay Naked Illuminated Shimmering Powder for Face and Body Powder