The Black Girl's Guide To Highlighting Like A Pro

Photographed by Sara Kerens.
Strobing, or highlighting overload, continues to dominate the beauty space. And with its popularity has come an avalanche of highlighters — 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 wise 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 best made-for-melanin highlighters on the market, according to the pros.
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After launching a line of can't-live-without-'em Black girl-friendly nude lipsticks last year, Mented Cosmetics expanded their offerings with glosses and an eyeshadow palette. To round out the line (for now), the brand is introducing Glow for Grown Ups: a line of shimmer lotions meant to be worn on your cheeks, lids, décolletage... anywhere you can think of, really. Our favorite is Glow Up (middle), a stunning rose gold.
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You might want to wet your brush before dipping into DOC's shimmery coral pink shade. There is a lot of fallout, but once you get past that, you're left with the most gorgeous wash of color on your cheeks.
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Aside from the fact that this meteorite powder- and twilight pearl-packed product can be seen from outer space, it's made with nourishing mango butter and avocado oil which makes skin insanely supple. Don't be taken aback by the shade in its packaging, either — it goes on sheer enough to be layered to your liking.
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Fun fact: Rihanna wore Sangria Sunset to the 2017 Met Gala — and decided to launch it over a year later. Either way, we're so grateful for her new batch of duos, which have way more pigment than your regular Killawatts. The color payoff is intense... but why would you want to hide when you're wearing a #FentyFace? Exactly.
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Yes, we know this is an eyeshadow — but Sir John likes to use it as a highlight, layered on top of a little glow lotion. See him work his magic here.
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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. "Sometimes people go crazy on the brow bone, 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," Barose says.
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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.
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Bobbi Brown's 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.
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"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.
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"This is my little jam," Sir John, who works with Beyoncé, reveals. He taps this formula on top of his clients' cheekbones for the perfect glow.

Cover FX Custom Enhancer Drops in Candlelight, $42, available at Sephora.
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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.
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Victoria's Secret model Jasmine Tookes also sings the brand's praises. She says she 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.
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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.
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"It's super creamy, so you can really blend it in," celebrity makeup artist Carissa Ferreri says of this easy-to-use stick.

Jordana Glow N Go Creamy Strobe Stick in Bronze Glow, 4.99, available at Walgreens.

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