The Complete Guide To Highlighting Your Face

If you have any type of social media account, you've probably noticed that highlighting (or the newly-coined term strobing) has been generating a lot of buzz lately — and for good reason. Illuminating products can help you fake that coveted dewy glow, while also enhancing your features. Some makeup artists even think the light-attracting products will eclipse bronzers. "It's perhaps even more subtle of a way to emphasize the planes or contours of the face than traditional shading," says makeup artist Troy Surratt.

But before you get cracking into all that luminous goodness, you have to figure out the kind of highlighter that best suits you. Cream? Liquid? Powder? The options are about as extensive as a menu at The Cheesecake Factory. No need to panic. Ahead, we break down six different types of glow-givers and exactly how to use 'em — so you can get your shine on, ASAP.

Luminizing Primer

What it does: Blurs imperfections, prolongs the wear of your foundation, and gives the skin an all-over radiance.

How to use it: Prior to base makeup, smooth it over your entire face with your fingers or a sponge. "You can also mix it with your foundation like you would a liquid highlighter," says Surratt.

Pro favorite: Surratt recommends Laura Mercier's Radiance Foundation Primer. "It gives an added dewiness and light reflection to the skin," he says.
Laura Mercier Radiance Foundation Primer, $34.00 Buy
Highlighting Pen

What it does:
Reflects light in small areas, like undereyes and around lips.

How to use it: "Sweep this product on straight from the pen and blend with your fingers or a fluffy brush," says makeup artist Katie Mellinger. Surratt recommends sweeping it under the eyes and along the inner corners where most people have darkness and blue tones. "I'll also put it on the outer corners of the eyes, around the nose, and down the sides of the mouth to brighten and diminish any shadows in those areas," he says.

While these products tend to be tinted, you're going to need a concealer for real coverage. If you use one, make sure to layer this product on last, or you'll dull the effect.

Pro favorite: Mellinger and Surratt both recommend Yves Saint Laurent's Touch Éclat, which, according to Mellinger, is "a classic favorite."
Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat in 3, $42.00 Buy
Highlighting Powder

What it does: Subtly defines the high points of the face, including the cheekbones, bridge of the nose, cupid's bow, and middle of the forehead.

How to use it: According to Surratt, powder highlighters are the easiest to master. Swirl your brush (you can use a blush brush for large areas and an eyeshadow brush for smaller ones) in powder and tap it over any area that you want to highlight. "Sweeping a [powder highlighter] down the bridge of the nose can give it a thinner appearance," says Surratt. "And [tapping it] on the cupid's bow of the mouth gives the illusion of a poutier upper lip."

If you're oily, Surratt suggests avoiding application near the chin and forehead as it can make those areas "look like a satellite."

Pro favorite: Surratt recommends his Artistique Blush in Aureole, a beautiful Champagne shade that blends seamlessly on the skin.
Surratt Artistique Blush in Aureole, $32.00 Buy
Liquid Highlighter

What it does: Creates a luminous — almost wet — appearance. (This is the ideal product for "strobing.")

How to use it: Once you've smoothed on liquid foundation or tinted moisturizer, Surratt suggests tapping liquid highlighter on with a brush, sponge, or your fingertips. "If you're going to use any type of face powder, make sure you apply it last," says Surratt.

Liquid highlighters also mix well with foundation. "Squirt a little bit of liquid luminizer in with a bit of foundation, blend the two together, and then buff it all over your skin for added dazzle," says Surratt.

Pro favorite: Mellinger recommends Becca's Shimmering Skin Perfectors for shades that will suit nearly all skin tones. If you're confused about which highlighter color to choose, makeup artist Wayne Goss recommends pink or Champagne for light skin, gold for medium skin, and burnt-orange or burgundy for dark skin.
Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector, $41.00 Buy
Cream Highlighter

What it does: Enhances features and gives skin a semi-dewy finish.

How to use it: When it comes to cream highlighters, your fingers are your best friends. After applying foundation, sweep the highlighter onto your face straight from the tube and blend in small, circular motions. The warmth of your fingers helps melt the product into your skin for the most natural effect. (If you'd rather not use your fingers, a sponge works just fine, too.)

"You can use this under the brow, on the tops of the cheekbones, as an eyeshadow on the lids, or on the apples of the cheeks," says Surratt. "It creates a super luxurious, gleaming highlight."

Pro favorite: Surratt recommends Benefit's Watt's Up! highlighter, which comes with a handy sponge that's a cinch to apply in a hurry.
Benefit Watt's Up!, $30.00 Buy
Illuminating Powder

What it does: "All-over highlighters have a light-refracting quality that gives the skin a finished and lustrous glow," says Surratt. According to Mellinger, they can also be used to diffuse the appearance of fine lines.

How to use it: With a large fluffy brush, dust this product all over your face. "It can be used as a final step to set foundation, blush, or even a more light-reflective highlighter you might have used earlier," says Surratt.

But according to Mellinger, these types of highlighters aren't the best for selfies. "They can cause bright spots in photographs," she says. So, if you're planning on taking a lot of photos with a flash, reach for a cream, powder, or liquid highlighter that can be applied to specific points of the face.

Pro favorite: We love Guerlain Meteorites, which is a timeless powder that sets makeup without looking too glittery.
Guerlain Meteorites Powder For The Face, $62.00 Buy
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