During the warmer (aka humid, balmy, unbearably sticky and sunny) summer months many of us work hard to fight the shine when it comes to our skin. We blot, we powder and we wash our faces just to try and avoid the dreaded greasy look that can come from constant sweating. But maybe we’ve got it all wrong. Maybe a little glow is actually a really good thing, and if you do it right, embracing a little shimmer in all the most flattering places can bring your complexion to life.
Fenty Beauty Loose Fairy Bomb Shimmer
It’s time to learn how to use and love your highlighter — the must-have makeup tool and trend for summer. And as an added bonus, a highlighter can help you maintain that gorgeous glow well into the fall and winter months as well. Talk about a cosmetic gift that keeps on giving.
Once upon a time we only relied on our own natural sheen or shimmer from a good blush or bronzer to give us a dewy look. Since then highlighters have changed the game for glowing skin, giving us easy-to-apply tools that can be incorporated into your makeup routine or used solo for a natural, soft, healthy glow. But what exactly is a highlighter? No, it’s not like the neon yellow pen you used on textbooks back in school. But it does serve a similar purpose: to highlight specific features and make them pop.
Skin highlighters come in a variety of forms, from creams to powders to compacts and pens. Highlighters attract light, creating an illusion of brightness and shine as light bounces off those specific features and parts of your face or body. While contouring products create a sculpted effect where certain features appear more angular and defined, highlighting helps to lift other features and draw attention with shimmer. Think of it as having your own personal lighting team following you around so that you’re always under flattering lighting and people only notice what you want (and none of what you don’t).
Highlighter can add dimension and make you look as if you are glowing from within. “Highlighters play up light on the highest parts on the face which can be a slimming effect in pictures,” explains Daniel Martin, Dior Beauty ambassador and Creative Color Consultant for Honest Beauty, in a piece for Total Beauty. The celebrity makeup artist also suggests adding highlighter into your foundation for an all-over glow that is gorgeous but not too over-the-top.
When it’s done right, the shine looks natural and beautiful, rather than fake and tacky. Remember we’re not going for Studio 54 disco ball level shimmer. Where highlighter is concerned less is often more. From barely-there-glow to multi-colored-glitter, there’s a highlighter look that works for every skin type and every style. And you don’t have to be a seasoned makeup artist to master the highlighter look; even beauty beginners can reap the rewards of this go-to beauty secret that insiders swear by.
The Best Highlighters To Try Today
Like any cosmetic product, picking the one that is right for you is key. We all have our unique features, skin tones, and skin types. Similarly, we all have different goals where our makeup is concerned, so staying in tune with what your skin needs and how you want to look is an important step in nailing the highlighter look. As a starting point, makeup artist Jenny Patinkin suggests that you think about the color palette that usually works best with your skin. She calls it the gold versus silver jewelry test. “If you find that gold earrings flatter your complexion, look for highlighters that have a warm bronze, gold or copper tonality. If silver or platinum jewelry is best for you, find a highlighter that has flecks of silver or pale pink in it. A warm-pink is neutral and works on most people,” she explains.
Next, consider your skin type. If you have extremely oily skin, then a powder-based highlighter is probably best for you, as it won’t accentuate your natural shine, but rather complement your skin. What you want is to enhance your complexion’s glow, not make you look sweatier than you are. Martin recommends skipping a metallic highlighter if your skin is naturally shiny, and use a setting spray to help your look hold up in the humidity during warmer summer days.
As far as the best highlighter products to try, there are certainly a lot to choose from. They come in a range of forms, from sticks to powders, creams, compacts and moisturizers, each one with its own unique benefits (convenience, customization, fool-proof, multi-purpose etc.) It’s hard to pick a favorite, but if we absolutely had to, this is a pretty good place to start.
This unique highlighting stick features a dual-delivery formula: the outer halo is infused with genuine crystal extracts for all-day enlightenment, with a solid oil core of vitamin-rich moisturizers for a hydrated, dewy finish.
Bobbi Brown Extra Illuminating Moisture Balm
This luminizing moisturizing balm imparts an instant glow with pearl particles and a burst of hydration to energize tired, dull complexions.
Laura Mercier Face Illuminator Highlighting Powder
This multidimensional highlighting powder brings customizable light to your face thanks to prismatic pigments that make an impact and won’t fade or shift.
Dior’s Flash Luminizer Radiance Booster Pen
The weightless, white-light pigments in the Flash Luminizer Radiance Booster Pen fuse with the skin to capture light around the eyes and across the face for a dewy glow.
Honest Beauty’s Luminizing Glow Powder
Made with light-reflecting pigments, this weightless, luminizing face powder imparts instant radiance. Its silky baked formula is designed with subtle shimmer to give your skin a gorgeous glow and filtered finish without adding unwanted shine.
Two Faced Prismatic Highlighter Love Light
This product uses Prisma Shine® patented technology to combine the best of powder, liquid, baked, and cream formulas for unparalleled radiance.
L’Oreal Glotion Natural Glow Enhancer
This glow lotion delivers all-day hydration and an illuminating color tint to enhance your skin’s natural glow for a healthier, brighter complexion.
NARS The Multiple Highlighting Stick
It’s hard to mess up with this multi-purpose stick for eyes, cheeks, lips, and body. The unique creamy formula and sheer color create shimmering accents and a sheer, natural, dewy finish.
Proper Application is Key
Remember, just having the highlighter in your possession doesn’t get you the look you are going for. You have to also know how to use it, and use it properly. Less is definitely more where highlighters are concerned. If you just want a natural, dewy finish, start with moisturized skin, and add a drop of a liquid illuminator to your moisturizer to give your skin an overall, subtle glow. Then you can use a highlighting stick to apply a little extra shine to specific areas such as your cheekbones or brow bones.
If you want a slightly more dramatic glow, dust your face with a shimmer powder or cream-to-powder highlighter, focusing on your cheekbones, under your brow bones and the top of your forehead (think of the areas of your face that are most hit by the sun). To avoid shine where you don’t want it (your forehead and nose) use a matte powder afterwards to finish the look. If you’re going for a full-on glam look with lots of shimmer, you can use a beauty sponge to apply a cream-to-powder highlighter so you get a lasting, pigmented glow.