Highlighting Tips For Women Of Color

Strobing, or — as we like to call it — highlighting overload, is poised to take over contouring in the beauty space. And with its rise in popularity has come an avalanche of highlighter products — including powders, creams, and liquids. But many of these pearly-pink and Champagne shades are geared toward fairer complexions, and they can appear chalky or overly sparkly on women with dark skin. (Not exactly the luminous, lit-from-within glow we're aiming for.)

Thankfully, brands are getting privy to the dilemma and releasing illuminating products that look amazing on ladies of color. When it comes to choosing the highlighter of your dreams, you should stray from pinks and frosty whites if you have a dark complexion. “You want to pick a highlighter almost the same way that you would pick a foundation — it should look like a part of your skin, as opposed to, like, a disco ball," says makeup artist Nick Barose. "If you’re darker, then I would go for a bronzy gold, and if you’re deep-dark, like Lupita [Nyong'o], for example, I would go for a copper shade. That way it adds a highlight, but it doesn’t add too much of a contrast, because it’s similar to your skin tone."

Click through to check out the newest highlighters on the market, as well as Barose's tips for wearing them. Then strobe on, pretties.

Read More:
The Best Concealers For Dark Skin Tones
This Eye-Makeup Trend Is Going To Be Huge — & It's SO Easy To Copy
The Difference Between Cornrows, Dutch Braids, & More

In the pan, this mosaic highlighter looks bronze but when the colors are swirled together, they create a gorgeous rose-gold hue that's so flattering on.

ColourPop SuperShock Highlighter in Iced, $8, available at ColourPop.
This buttery powder highlighter from Dose Of Colors can go two ways. A sheer layer catches the light in a pretty, subtle way — but layer on two or three swipes and you get a mega-watt glow all your favorite Instagrammers would be proud of.

Dose Of Colors Supreme Glow Highlighter in Royal Hotness, $28, available at Dose Of Colors.
According to celebrity makeup artist Carola Gonzalez, who works with Kerry Washington, Uzo Aduba, Leona Lewis, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, this highlighter is amazing for dark complexions.

"This liquid illuminator is the bomb!" Gonzalez says. "It comes in three colors, but I recommend the Golden shade because it reflects very nicely on dark skin."

For the perfect application, heed her advice: "After makeup application, at the very end, rub a bit between your fingertips then dab it on cheekbones, the bridge of the nose, the center of the forehead, and center of the chin."

L’Oreal True Match Lumi Liquid Glow Illuminator in Golden, $12.99, available at Ulta Beauty.
This baked powder gives a radiant glow that doesn't leave specks of glitter on your cheekbones.

Urban Decay Naked Illuminated Shimmering Powder for Face and Body, $32, available at Sephora.
According to our senior beauty editor, this stick is "idiot-proof." "Just swipe a line above your blush and tap, tap, tap it in," she says. The result is a luminous glow that never looks chalky or sparkly.

Glossier Haloscope Highlighter in Topaz, $22, available at Glossier.
This shimmering tangerine hue looks flattering on the cheekbones, but even better to strobe your eyelids.

NARS The Multiple in Puerto Vallarta, $39, available at Sephora.
If you're a strobing amateur, this golden highlighter is for you. Even if you use too heavy a hand, your cheekbones won't shine as brightly as Jaclyn Hill's.

Make Up For Ever Pro Light Fusion Highlighter in Golden, $39, available at Sephora.
For those of you looking for cheekbones that send messages to space, this golden highlighter will be right up your alley.

Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector Pressed in Topaz, $38, available at Sephora.
Flower Beauty's creamy highlighter in Gold Coaster has been dubbed a perfect dupe for Becca's formula by a few beauty vloggers — making it's affordable price tag even more alluring.

Flower Beauty Glisten Up Highlighter Chubby in Gold Coaster, $9.98, available at Walmart.
Those with dark skin should simply enhance the glow they already have, Barose says. "Sometimes people go crazy on the browbone, the nose, and on the upper lids — but on darker skin, it’s definitely not necessary... It can make you look greasy, which isn't what we want."

Hourglass Ambient Lighting Powder in Radiant Light, $45, available at Sephora.com.
This bronze-colored powder from Jay Manuel Beauty doesn't add additional oil and comes with a super-soft brush for a nice, even dusting on the cheekbones.
Jay Manuel Beauty Skin Face Lift in Gold, $32.00 Buy
Makeup artist Charlotte Tilbury took her beloved Filmstar Bronze & Glow compact and tailored it to those with medium to dark skin. In addition to a darker bronzer, the highlighter has a golden-peachy base (rather than a Champagne one).

Its superfine light reflectors are also key, Barose says. “Avoid anything that has detectable signs of shimmer because, on darker skin, it will show up more. So you want ones that look luminous,” he says. “Sparkly is okay as an eyeshadow, but on the skin it gets tricky.”
Charlotte Tilbury Filmstar Bronze & Glow in Medium To Dark, $68.00 Buy
Barose — along with many other beauty pros — loves Armani Fluid Sheer liquid highlighters because they come in a range of different shades. For dark skin, he advises picking up gold (14) or copper (18) and buffing it onto the skin with a Beautyblender.
Giorgio Armani Fluid Sheer in 18, $62.00 Buy
For those with oily skin, though, Barose always recommends powders over creams. “You should really pick [a highlighter] based on your skin type," he stresses. "If you’re oily, then you might not want to use a cream formula because it will just end up making you look greasy.”
Make Up For Ever Pro Sculpting Duo in 2 Golden, $39.00 Buy
As a woman of color herself, Jessica Alba knows the highlighter struggle well. Her brand Honest Beauty's new luminizers come in three different shades for that exact reason. Dusk Reflection (a soft bronze) is the best bet for those with darker skin tones.
Honest Beauty Luminizing Powder in Dusk Reflection, $25.00 Buy
SheaMoisture has an especially impressive range of highlighter shades, including Ceylon Cinnamon (a bronzy brown), Boracay Hibiscus (a light chocolate), and Tortola Tan (a golden peach).

Shea Moisture Illuminating Mineral Bronzer, $14.99, available online only at Ulta Beauty.
Bobbi Brown's new highlighting powder might look a little intimidating, but Barose has a trick for keeping it subtle: Apply it before you sweep on powder foundation. This will give you a pretty sheen without overpowering your face.
Bobbi Brown Highlighting Powder in Bronze Glow, $46.00 Buy
You can use that same strategy with a chubby, creamy pencil. Simple buff into the high points of the face before foundation for a lit-from-within glow that is soft and subtle.

Nyx Hydra Touch Brightener, $9, available at Nyx.
Barose loves to sweep this highlighter-and-contour stick on the queen herself, Lupita Nyong'o. It's both compact and easy to use — great for highlighting rookies.
Lancôme Le Duo Stick in Dore, $36.00 Buy
This gilded shade buffs into a muted golden, with no shimmer, so it looks natural, yet dewy, on a wide variety of darker skin tones.

Cover FX Enhance Click Highlighter in Gilded, $18, available at Sephora.
R29 staffers swatched the entire collection of glow-getters from this Black-owned brand — and a favorite of the crew's was Heir, a rose gold.

Koyvoca The HiLife Highlighter in Heir, $12, available at Koyvoca.
"This palette has three luminous shades that can be worn across the board," Tinashe's makeup artist Clarissa Luna says. "The blush is subtle and sweet, while the highlight and contour colors can be used as eye shadows as well. The cherry on top is the yummy peach scent!"

Too Faced Sweet Peach Glow Peach-Infused Highlighting Palette, $42, available at Sephora.
"Highlighter is very big right now and Nars has a stunning palette," says Anthony Merante, who works with Grace Byers. "The Band De Sable Highlighter Palette is perfection. Three nude shades to flatter any skin tone with a metallic finish. Layer this highlighter over [cream] illuminator for intense shine."

NARS Banc De Sable Highlighter Palette, $49, available at Sephora.
Barose says to try this formula in Gold (14) or Copper (18) — and apply it with a damp Beautyblender for perfect results.

Giorgio Armani Beauty Fluid Sheer, $62, available at Sephora.
"You want to look like you effortlessly have God's favor — that's the goal," Sir John once told us. To achieve that, he likes sweeping this bronzer on the apples of his clients' cheeks.

Tom Ford Bronzing Powder, $68, available at Sephora.
"This is my little jam," Sir John reveals. He applies this formula on top of his clients' cheekbones for the perfect glow.

Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops in Candlelight, $42, available at Sephora.
Shimmery formulas that offer a copper sheen are a surefire win to slay your look.

Anastasia Beverly Hills Liquid Glow Highlighter, $25, available at Sephora.
If you want to take a break from your powder formulas, try squeezing this into your foundation... or just buff it into the parts of your face where you'd usually highlight.

NARS Illuminator in Laguna, $30, available at Neiman Marcus.
Normally, we don't place too much weight in celeb endorsements of their own products, but having tried the Fenty Beauty line, we can confidently say that Rihanna's quote on Sephora's site gets it exactly right: "You can use this on any part of your face—your eyes, your cheeks, your nose bridge, your collarbone. I like to use it on my body as well because it's such a high sheen. You look at it and think, ‘is it going to deliver? … is it going to deliver?’ Then—BAM!—it delivers!"

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Trophy Wife, $34, available at Fenty Beauty.
Not only did Fenty kill the game with the revolutionary bright yellow Trophy Wife highlighter that looks amazing on darker skin tones, but they layer, too. Victoria's Secret model Jasmine Tookes uses the white, opalescent Metal Moon shade to get her "extra, extra" glow.

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter in Metal Moon, $34, available at Fenty Beauty.
Celebrity makeup artist Carissa Ferreri reports that this universally-flattering stick works like magic on all skin tones — especially medium and dark. Simply draw directly onto the high points of the face and buff any harsh edges with your fingers.

Maybelline Face Studio Master Strobe in Medium Nude Glow, $7.99, available at Target.
These powder highlighters melt into skin the moment you apply it, and with three shades in varying depths to choose from, you can't go wrong.

ColourPop Legit AF Super Shock Highlighter Trio, $24, available at Sephora.
"It's super creamy, so you can really blend it in," celebrity makeup artist Carissa Ferreri says.

Jordana Glow N Go Creamy Strobe Stick in Bronze Glow, 4.99, available at Walgreens.
Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page. Like us on Facebook — we'll see you there!
Show More Comments...