How to Highlight like a Makeup Artist
Highlighting or ‘strobing’ is the hottest trend right now in beauty makeup. It’s all about bring out your natural bone structure by adding light and/or shine to those areas that you want to ’pop’ out more.
I see a lot of clips on instagram demonstrating the technique; some are good but others are way, way over the top. If you overdo your highlight you’ll look oily, too shiny and overly fake. Bare in mind that on instagram with a professional camera, editing and controlled set lighting, certain makeup techniques will look amazing, whereas if you took that same face into natural lighting or flash photography it would look decidedly less amazing.
Highlighting (and contouring for that matter) should not cover your entire face; it should just subtly bring out definition and high points of the face, enhancing what bone structure you already have and giving your face a little ‘tweak’
Where do I put the Highlight?
I don’t want to get too instructional here because highlighting and contouring should be applied differently on each individual as every face shape is different, so it can never be a paint by numbers game. However, in general the areas you’ll want to look at are:
tops of the cheekbones,
cupids bow of the lip (the U shape just above the top lip),
just under the arch of the brows,
very inner corners of the eyes,
and bridge of the nose (not the tip - see below)*.
The amount that you apply in each area and how far you take it will depend on how much of an effect you’re trying to achieve, so it’s really up to you.
*Please don’t highlight the very tip of your nose unless you are one of the very rare people who’s nose bridge is too short and tilts down too far at the tip. Then a little bit is ok for you. Otherwise you just look like you’ve been sniffing glitter.
Basically when I look at a face shape (the person may have a round, square or heart shaped face, for example) I see what I want to tweak and alter about the natural shape and go from there. Remember contour pushes areas in whereas highlight brings them out. Once you start to look at your face in that way it becomes pretty easy.
don't take this too literally as every face requires a different application but it just gives you an idea of what highlight does
Is there an Age Limit to Highlighting?
Definitely not. As we age often our bone structure becomes less defined and requires a bit more help to visibly lift the eyes and cheekbones. I don’t believe shimmer and shine are limited to the younger market, however, you do want to be careful with shimmer around any fine lines and wrinkles because it will make them stand out more. Keep shimmer and shine highlight for smoother areas of the face and as an alternative you can always opt for a matte highlight instead.
What should you use to Highlight?
Different skin tones require different colours. A pale complexion will obviously want quite a light bright highlight to contrast enough with the skin (champagne or ivory are usually good tones), whereas a deeper complexion will want more of a golden bronze, peach or copper tone. Matte or shimmer is really up to you - shimmer will have a greater impact whereas matte will be more subtle. I personally like somewhere in between for most occasions, what we call ‘demi-matte’ and I get this by spritzing the highlight areas of the face with MAC Fix+ and then pressing a cream highlight on top with a beauty blender, or alternatively a pressed shimmer powder applied with a very soft fluffy brush for a light application.
Baking is setting your face makeup with a setting powder. In baking you usually use different toned powders for highlighted and contoured areas of the face. It's used to set very heavy cream based makeups that would otherwise move around on the face with wear and typically comes from theatre/drag makeup application. Literally no one needs to do this as heavily as you see people doing it on youtube unless you're going to be under hot studio lights, on the stage or in drag. It is full on.
If you're still unclear on how to highlight or want to learn more, then you might want to consider booking a professional makeup lesson. Check out the options here for more info
This is a good example of natural highlighting and contouring. The two techniques have been used together to bring out Zeisha's bone structure and eyes.