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How to Apply Highlighter: Master Makeup Guide

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Oct 2, 2020 • 3 min read

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Bobbi Brown Teaches Makeup and Beauty

Highlighter has become massively popular in the past few years, adding a whole new category to complexion makeup. It’s meant to give your face a dewy, fresh glow, but some highlighters veer very sparkly and can make it look like you’ve just smeared glitter on your face. The key is to look for one that has a super-fine micro-shimmer so you can build your glow—a less-is-more approach is key here.

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Bobbi Brown teaches you the tips, tricks, and techniques for applying simple, natural makeup that makes you feel beautiful in your own skin.

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Different Ways to Use Highlighter

Skin isn’t naturally matte, so highlighter can help counteract the one-dimensional quality that sometimes happens when creating full-coverage makeup looks. It’s an important step to contouring your face, providing bright spots to contrast shadow. Highlighter can be a great multi-use beauty product: Use it as eyeshadow when you don’t have your eye makeup on hand, or dab a pink highlighter on the apples of your cheeks and call it blush.

3 Types of Highlighters

Highlighters come in cream, powder, and liquid formulas.

  • Cream highlighters tend to be the most realistic-looking because you apply it with your fingers and it melts onto skin.
  • Powder and liquid highlighters tend to sit on top—that’s not a bad thing, it just means that it’s more noticeable (which might be what you’re going for, especially if you’re being photographed).
  • Shimmery bronzers work great as a highlighter, applied sparingly on the high points of the face or just on the cheekbones—not as an all-over color.

Keep in mind that products labeled highlighter are generally used for targeting a specific area, while products labeled illuminator (or luminizer) tend to be more buildable and are meant to give you glowing skin all over.

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How to Apply Highlighter

  • When applying powder highlighter, it’s best to use a fan brush to dust the powder onto the areas of your face that you want to get glowy.
  • For liquid and cream highlighter, apply dots of highlighter on your face and blend with a finger or a makeup sponge.

Where to Apply Highlighter on Your Face

Where to apply highlighter depends on your face shape and facial features. Apply highlighter to the high points of your face, or anywhere off of which light naturally reflects: the tops of your cheekbones, the brow bone, the center of your chin, the cupid’s bow, the center of your forehead, the tip of your nose, and sometimes even on the bridge of the nose. Makeup artist Bobbi Brown will sometimes dab a tiny bit in the inner corner of each eye. Experiment with applying highlighter to different areas until you find the right highlighter placement for your face.

How to Find the Best Highlighter

The best highlighter formula for you will depend on the rest of your face makeup routine, since sticking to one product texture prevents caking. Skin type will probably dictate your product choose: Liquid formulas are generally preferred by those with dry skin or mature skin, since the product won’t pile up in fine lines. Choose a highlighter shade that complements your natural skin tone and undertone for a more natural glow.

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Want to Learn More About Makeup and Beauty?

Whether you already know a blush brush from a bronzer brush or are simply looking for tips on bringing glamour into your daily routine, navigating the beauty industry takes knowledge, skill, and practical experience. No one knows their way around a makeup bag better than Bobbi Brown, the makeup artist who built a career and a multi-million dollar brand with one simple philosophy: Be who you are. In Bobbi Brown’s MasterClass on Makeup and Beauty, learn how to do the perfect smoky eye, find the best makeup routine for the workplace, and hear Bobbi’s advice for aspiring makeup artists.

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