Everything You Need To Know About Highlighters

Highlighters are a magical makeup product that can make you look young, dewy and flawless. Unfortunately, it can be virtually impossible to find the right highlighter for your skin texture and tone. While finding something worthwhile is always hard work, there are several easy tips to help you find a stellar glow.

How to apply your highlighter:

Most importantly, you need to know where to place your highlighter. Highlighters should be placed on the high points of your face, as well as places that you want emphasized. Urban Decay Beauty Advisor, Ebony, says, “When you’re highlighting, I recommend highlighting the tip of your nose, just above the cheeks, on the bone and your cupid’s bow.”

Other high points of your face can include the bridge of your nose, the arch of your brow bone, your chin and your forehead. However, placing the right amount of highlight in the inner corner of your eye is key to completing any look. After all, who doesn’t want their eyes to shine?

If you want to be extra, try brushing some highlight on your collarbones, the tops of your shoulders and the high points of your ears. Applying highlighter on these areas will help give you an effortless sun kissed glow, especially during the summer months.

Traditionally, highlighter is placed on the high points of your face after you've slapped on the rest of your face makeup. However, you can switch it up the order a bit. For a subtle glow, try adding your highlighter before you put on your foundation. If you’re using a powder or a cream highlighter, make sure you set your highlighter before you start beating your face. If you’re using a liquid luminizer, you can also mix it in with your foundation and apply a healthy amount all over your face for a dewy summer glow.

Plus, you can truly shine by using more than one highlighter. That's right, you don't have to commit to just one highlighter at a time. Layer on that glow! After all, holographic highlighters are still fetch right now. You can give your highlight more depth by adding a bit of lavender or blue highlight on your checks and your cupid’s bow…and the tip of your nose. Heck, why not all over your face?

Regardless of when you put on your highlighter (and how many you use), choosing where you place glow is your preference. If you have a naturally pointy nose, you might want to steer away from adding any strobe on the tip. Then again, you could love your pointy nose and celebrate it with some extra glow. But now that you know how you apply your highlighter, it’s important to choose the best kind for your skin tone and type.

Related: People Are Losing It Over the New Anastasia Beverly Hills Glow Kit

Oily skin:

It might seem impossible to find the right highlighter when you have oily skin, especially when your T-zone is naturally glistening. Preparation is key to making your highlighter look less freak and more fleek.

Step 1:

Start with a clean slate. Make sure you wash your face to remove any unnecessary oils. And for the love of cosmetics, make sure you apply an oil-free moisturizer after you’ve cleaned your face. The Vitamin E Intense Moisture Cream ($22 at The Body Shop) is great because it keeps your skin hydrated and extremely smooth, which makes foundation look immaculate. Plus, it's vegan and cruelty-free.

Also, don’t forget to lock in that moisture barrier with a vitamin-C based serum. After all, a great skincare routine is the best way to start any makeup look.

Step 2:

Time to prime. Like your moisturizer, your primer should also be oil free. To prevent that midday wet-face look, make sure you find a matte pore minimizing primer, like the POREfessional face primer ($31 at Benefit Cosmetics) which is a favorite.

Step 3:

It’s time to actually put on your highlighter. Powder highlighters are best for oily skin because they help to soak up excess oil, preventing you from blotting later in the day. When applying your highlighter, make sure you don’t use too much. Excessive powder highlighter (or powder in general), can give you some major cake-face. If you have textured skin, it can also overemphasize your skin’s texture. Anastasia Beverly Hills' Glow Kit ($40 at Anastasia Beverly Hills) in that glow is a very versatile for nearly every warm skin tone. Don't just take our word for it, beauty bloggers everywhere are mesmerized by Anastasia's Glow Kits.

Combination skin:

If you have combination skin, your checks and chin are likely the dry portions of your face, while your T-zone is typically oily. Using a powder highlight on your cheek bones or your chin will only make the dry portions of your face look parched – and nobody wants to look thirsty. Instead, try a cream-based stick highlighter or liquid highlighter on these areas. Alex McGuire, an Iowa State University alumnus says, “I really like stick highlighters. They keep a high amount of pigment where I want it, while allowing me to blend it out easily with my fingers or a brush.” McGuire's loves using the MegaGlo Makeup Stick in ($3.99 at Wet n Wild Beauty), because it gives her glow a smooth finish.

Dry Skin:

Because powder and creamy highlighters can make your skin look cakey and emphasize its natural texture, liquid highlighters are the best way to make your glow pop. Using your fingertips to blend out a liquid product will help give your glow a smooth finish because it will help warm up the pigment. Davidson College Sophomore Claire Biggerstaff says, "One of my absolute favorites is Becca Cosmetic's Shimmering Skin Perfector Liquid Highlighter in Moonstone ($41 at Becca Cosmetics). I use it on my cheekbones, tip of the nose and cupid's bow for the kind of natural, lit-from-within glow that a lot of powder highlighters can't do!"

However, skin doesn’t just stop at being oily or dry, which is why it’s important to find a highlighter that compliments your skin tone as well as your undertones.

Related: Becca’s Amazing New Highlighter Fits Every Skin Tone

For light skin tones: 

Light pink and silvery highlighters tend to flatter lighter skin tones. However, if you have naturally red hyperpigmentation or pink undertones, then you might want to elect for a highlighter with a silver hue. That way you don’t draw attention to any red areas of your face.

1. NYX Duo Chromatic Illuminating Powder

The NYX Duo Chromatic Illuminating Powder ($8 at NYX Cosmetics) is a great powder option. Not only is it affordable, but it also comes in twilight tint, which is a silver color, and snow rose that is just as it sounds…rosy. Plus, it’s easy on the wallet.

2. Milk Holographic Stick

While advertised as a holographic highlighter, the Milk Holographic Stick ($28 at Milk Makeup) is an extraordinary creamy highlighter for pale skin tones. Plus, it works as a great lavender highlighter for medium and dark skin tones that can be layered so an iridescent glow

3. Benefit Cosmetics High Beam Liquid Face Highlighter

My personal favorite for a liquid highlighter is the Benefit Cosmetics High Beam Liquid Face Highlighter ($26 at Benefit Cosmetics). Plus, it’s get for layering powdered highlighters on top of it for some additional glow.

For medium skin tones:

Lighter golden and peach pigments work remarkably well for medium skin tones.

1. Naked Illuminated Shimmering Powder

Ebony has a powder highlight that she swears by:  “I personally love the Naked Illuminated Shimmering Powder For Face and Body.” While the Urban Decay highlighter ($32 at Urban Decay) also has a great pigment for lighter skin tones, the best shades for medium skin tones are either aura or lit.

2. Maybelline FaceStudio Master Strobing Stick Illuminating Highlighter

As for a cream-based product, the Maybelline Facestudio Master Strobing Stick Illuminating Highlighter ($9.99 at Maybelline) in medium-nude glow is an excellent option if you have any olive undertones. Also, it’s very affordable, which is always a positive.

3. NYX Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator

The Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator in gleam ($7.50 at NYX Cosmetics) provides an amazing shimmer that compliments yellow undertones. Plus, the gold champagne shape works best for yellow undertones. McGuire says, "it gives me a great bronzy finish for all over usage."

For dark skin tones:

Bronze and golden highlighters compliment your skin tone the best. However, a rose gold highlighter will also add a superb highlight to your cheekbones. While light to medium skin tones can get away with using more translucent highlighters, highlighters with lush pigmentation will help your skin shine. Literally.

1. Bobbi Brown Highlighting Powder in Bronze Glow

The Bobbi Brown Highlighting Powder in Bronze Glow ($48 at Bobbi Brown Cosmetics) is a smooth highlighter that creates an effortless sheen.

2. Cover FX Enhance Click Highlighter

For a cream-based glow, try Cover FX Enhance Click Highlighter ($18 at Cover FX) in either gilded or candlelight. The creamy highlighter, which has been featured in Spill the Beauty, is perfect for warm undertones.

3. L’Oreal True Match Lumi Liquid Glow Illuminator in Golden

L’Oreal True Match Lumi Liquid Glow Illuminator in Golden ($12.99 at L’Oreal Paris) is an excellent chose for a liquid highlighter. Not only does this specific highlighter feel practically weightless, it’s very friendly to a college student’s budget.

How to fake a highlight

Regardless of how you glow, you don’t have to use actual highlighters to light the beacons. Ebony explains that Urban Decay’s “Pink Naked Skin Color Correcting Fluid ($28 at Urban Decay) also makes a wonderful highlighter.” Another shimmery highlighter decoy is Pigment by MAC ($22 at Mac Cosmetics).
The color correcting fluid might be best for lighter skin tones, but there are alternative pseudo-highlighters. An iridescent eyeshadow can replace the highlighter in your makeup routine. Plus, most eyeshadow brands have powder, cream and liquid options available in at least a couple of dozen shades, which is perfect for those days that you want to customize your own rainbow highlighter look. If you’re a low-key makeup artist who can blend out pigment like Barry Allen, then you can also use a shimmery matte liquid lipstick. Still, if you can’t find the ideal highlighter or highlighter-wannabe, you can also make your own.

While makeup in general is a difficult skill to master, highlighters are particularly tricky (mostly because it can be challenging to restrain yourself from bathing in it). Surely, these types will help you determine the right highlighter for your skin type and skin tone. Regardless, where and how you glow and is entirely up to your discretion. If you want to practice a full-face using only highlighters, then by all means do it!