Highlighter 101: How to Highlight Like a Makeup Pro

Once you try highlighter, you’ll never look back. Discover how to choose and apply the right formula for you.

Modern beauty is all about that base: fresh, dewy, glowing skin that appears youthful and flawless. One of the easiest ways to achieve the look is to apply highlighter. It’s a product that’s been made popular by glowy celebrity glamazons whose more-is-more approach to makeup put contouring (the use of dark makeup to accentuate the shadows of the face) and highlighting (the use of lighter, often luminescent shades to accent the high planes of the face—also sometimes called “strobing”) on the map. However, highlighter isn’t only for drama queens. In fact, any celeb whose skin looks naturally dewy on the TV screen or red carpet is probably wearing some form of illuminating product. Find out how to choose a formula you’ll love and then how to apply highlighter so it looks fresh, not fake.

What types of highlighter are there?

There are three main formula categories: cream, powder and liquid highlighter. No one type is better than another, but powders typically have stay on for the longest, which makes them perfect for oily skin types. If you have dry skin, you’ll probably achieve the dewiest appearance with a cream or liquid highlighter. Any of these can be blended with liquid or cream foundation or moisturizer to give it a luminescent quality.

How hard is it to apply highlighter?

Highlighter is practically foolproof—as long as you choose a formula that’s free of chunky glitter particles. They are so easy to use, even for beginners, because the shades tend to be on the neutral side (think soft yellow golds, rose golds, bronzes and luminescent pinks), which makes them a cinch to blend. Plus, most shades flatter a wide range of skin tones, so it’s a hard look to mess up. You can apply it with your fingers or with brushes, depending on which method is most comfortable for you.

Is highlighter right for me?

Highlighter make-up is literally for everyone, whether you wear makeup daily or only on special occasions, and regardless of your preference for a full face or a few subtle flourishes. A touch of highlighter makes skin look luminous and healthy because it reflects light—a perk no matter your skin colour, texture or beauty aesthetic. Moreover, you can personalize your look depending on the formula you choose, how much you use and where you apply it. Trust us: You’ll love it.

How to apply highlighter

First, you need to decide where to apply highlighter based on your goals. If you have dry, flat-looking skin or want a quick makeup fix, an all-over glow could give you the dewy appearance you’re after in a flash.

How to highlight: all-over skin glow

Simply mix your highlighter with your moisturizer or liquid foundation and apply a thin layer to your entire face. Cream or liquid drops are the easiest to blend, but you can also crush powder.

Targeted highlighting takes an extra minute, but it gives more precise results and is a better choice for people with oily skin who want to minimize shine on their T-zone.

How to highlight: targeted highlights

If you plan on wearing foundation and/or concealer, apply highlighter afterwards only on the high planes of your face, such as the brow bones, bridge of the nose, cheekbones and Cupid’s bow. Dab a touch of cream, powder or liquid highlighter on each spot and then blend, blend and blend some more with your fingers or a fluffy brush.

Which is the best highlighter for my needs?

You can customize your glow with L’Oréal Paris’s gorgeous lineup of Lumi highlighters in lotion, liquid and powder formats. Choose the one that’s the right fit based on your wattage goals.

If you want low intensity:

This luminous lotion is perfect for all-over radiance (apply it to your entire face or mix it with foundation) or for subtle targeted highlights. It can also be used as a strobe cream for a delicate and natural glow.

If you want medium intensity:

This versatile four-pan highlighter palette (with soft gold, shimmering salmon, rose gold and bronze) offers the most shine for a look that turns heads. It’s super-easy to apply to the high planes of your face with your fingers or brushes; you can even use the salmon shade as a pop of colour on your cheeks or any of the tones on your lids as eyeshadow.

If you want high intensity:

  • L’Oréal Paris True Match Lumi Glow Amour Glow Boosting Drops

Higher in wattage than Glotion or the Glow Nude palette, this shimmering liquid highlighter uses the same application principle: Add a few drops to your moisturizer or foundation, or dab it on targeted areas such as your cheekbones.

Once you’ve found the perfect formula, make highlighter a go-to step in your beauty routine and watch the compliments pour in.

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