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Where To Apply Highlighter For a Gorgeous, Natural-Looking Glow

Where To Put Highlighter: 9 Tips For a Lit-From-Within Look

11 Jul 2024

Knowing where to apply highlighter is among the most useful makeup techniques you can learn—especially if you favor glowy, dewy looks. Highlighter, as you probably already know, can help brighten your face, draw attention to your favorite features, and give your skin a “just-got-back-from-vacation” luminosity. But these results hinge on a proper application. Even if you prefer an all-over thousand-watt glow (a great choice, as far as we’re concerned), it’s important to know where to put highlighter on your face to achieve the right effect—high-intensity shimmer all over might leave you looking like a disco ball. That’s where we come in. Here, we’ll teach you how to use highlighter makeup and reveal nine of the places you should apply illuminating products for a lit look.

What Is Highlighter?

Highlighter is a type of makeup product that reflects light and helps give your skin a radiant, glowy finish. It can come in powder, liquid, or cream form and may be subtly shimmery or nearly metallic in finish—the former will provide softer luminosity, while the latter is ideal for an ultra-bold glow. Highlighter makeup most commonly comes in shades like gold, bronze, and silver, though you can find more colorful options too—we’re especially fond of how shimmery pink highlighter looks when blended with blush.

Where Should You Put Highlighter?

If you ask a pro, “Where do you put highlighter?” they’re likely to respond with the advice to put it on the high points of your face. But where are the high points of the face? We’re here to clear that up. Ahead, we’re revealing exactly where to apply highlighter for a glowy makeup look. Read on to discover nine spots not to miss.

1. The tops of your cheekbones

The cheekbones are probably the most popular place to put highlighter, and for good reason: A dusting of shimmer on top of your cheekbones can help “lift” your features and make your cheekbones pop (especially when paired with contour). We recommend using contour to draw a line along the hollows of each cheek, then using highlighter to draw attention to the top of your cheekbones.

You can use our WONDER™ STICK CONTOUR AND HIGHLIGHTER STICK for both—one end of this dual-ended contour stick boasts a pigmented cream contour, while the other side has a cream highlighter for brightening and illuminating. It comes in eight color-coordinated shade pairings and blends beautifully with a sponge or brush.

Pro Tip: If you need guidance on the best way to contour, check out our article Contouring 101: How To Contour Like an Absolute Pro.

2. Down the bridge of your nose

The bridge of your nose is the highest point of your face—it’s the first place light hits when you’re in the sun (which is why freckles tend to appear there in the summer). To give your makeup a naturally glowy finish, lightly sweep pearlescent highlighter makeup along the bridge of your nose, stopping short of the tip.

3. On your cupid’s bow

You can fake a fuller pout by lining your cupid’s bow with a reflective highlighter. Use a highlighter pencil, like WONDER™ PENCIL MICRO HIGHLIGHTER PENCIL, to trace the “v” along the top of your lip. This dual-ended pencil includes two color-coordinated shades—one matte, one shimmer—and is ideal for precision detailing work. After highlighting your cupid’s bow (and blending it out for a seamless finish), coat your pout in a reflective lip gloss for added shine.

4. On the inner corners of your eyes

Skimping on sleep doesn’t have to ruin your makeup look. You can brighten up your eyes and fake a wide-awake look by placing a bit of highlighter around the inner corners of your eyes. Bonus: Applying highlighter here can also make your eyes look bigger.

Pro Tip: There’s another benefit to adding highlighter to your inner corners—it can help balance and soften a bold smokey eye look. Just pat a small amount of highlighter onto the inner corners of your eyes and blend with the rest of your shadow for a seamless finish.

5. On the center of your eyelids

When it comes to eye makeup, highlighter may not be the first product that comes to mind. However, applying a bit of shimmer to the center of your lids can help make your eyes look bigger, brighter, and more alert.

For a shimmery but not sparkly look, we suggest using our Jumbo Multi-Use Highlighter Stick for this step. This cream highlighter comes in six pearlescent shades and offers buildable coverage so you can tailor your look to your liking. Smudge a bit onto the center of your lids and blend out with your fingers for a soft, diffused glow.

6. Along your brow bones

Like your inner corners, highlighting your brow bones—that is, the skin immediately underneath your arches—can help visually lift your brows and make you look more awake. Just be careful not to overdo it: The goal is to add a hint of luminosity, not gild your brows (unless that is your goal, in which case, have at it!).

7. The center of your chin

If you have oily skin, you may be wary of putting highlighter on your T-zone—the assumption being that shimmer will make your skin look more oily. While that can be true, highlighter on your chin can help draw attention to the center of your face for a balanced look. The trick: Use a matte highlighter, rather than one with shimmer, if you want to emphasize your features sans shine (the concealing end of our WONDER™ PENCIL MICRO HIGHLIGHTER PENCIL is ideal for this).

8. Along your hairline

Adding just the smallest hint of highlighter along your hairline at the very top of your forehead can help add dimension to your face and keep your look from falling flat. Just be sure to use a light hand and blend well—a little goes a long way.

9. On your collarbones

Highlighter makeup doesn’t have to just be for your face: You can also apply highlighter to your body. If you’re wearing something that exposes your décolleté, dust a little bit of powder highlighter along the very top of your collarbones to make them pop. You can also mix a liquid highlighter into your body lotion for a subtle, all-over glow.

How To Apply Highlighter For Beginners: A Step-By-Step Breakdown

Now that you know where to apply highlighter, we can cover how to apply it. Keep in mind that this varies depending on the formula you’re using (as well as your desired effect). Here, we’re breaking down five steps for a perfect glow, every time.

Step 1: Find the right shade and formula

It kind of goes without saying, but it’s important to choose the right highlighter for your needs. If subtle luminosity is what you’re after, cream formulas are the way to go. For medium shine and shimmer, try a liquid formula—they can range in intensity from subtle to super-charged. And if you’re all about that glow, opt for a high-shine pigmented powder formula—typically, these will provide a more glam, metallic effect.

Likewise, picking the right shade is crucial. For a natural-looking glow, you want something that flatters your skin. If you have cool undertones, look for a highlighter with silvery undertones; those with warm skin will do best with golden-flecked highlighters. For anyone with neutral undertones, you’re in luck—both cool-toned and warm-toned highlighters will complement your skin.

Step 2: Prep your skin

Once you’re ready to start working on the masterpiece that is your makeup look, start by prepping your skin with a makeup primer. In addition to helping increase the wear of your makeup, the right primer can help address concerns like dry skin, large pores, and fine lines. If you’re unsure which is best for your needs, check out our article Prime Time: How To Choose The Right Makeup Primer.

Step 3: Apply your face makeup

After prepping your skin, continue with your routine by applying foundation and concealer, if desired. Then, add color back into your face with blush—this will help tie together your glowy look. After applying your foundation and blush, it’s time to apply highlighter.

If you’re using a cream highlighter, we suggest pairing it with a cream blush, such as our WONDER™ STICK BLUSH. Like the aforementioned contour stick, this pigmented formula includes two coordinating shades for a natural flush of color. You can use the colors separately for a more subtle look, or use your blush in lieu of contour (with the darker shade taking the place of your typical contour makeup) for a sculpted look. For a breakdown of the latter technique, check out our article Blush Contouring: All About This Viral Makeup Trend.

Powder highlighter, meanwhile, pairs best with powder makeup. Add a flush of color to your cheeks with our silky-smooth Buttermelt Blush, and, if desired, dust a bronzer (like our Buttermelt Bronzer) onto your temples and hairline for a super beachy bronze.

Step 4: Brighten up your look with highlighter

Next, apply your highlighter to the areas outlined above, using your preferred tool—whether that be a brush, a sponge, or your fingers (or a combination of the three). We suggest using a light hand when applying your highlighter, as you can always add more, but you can’t really take excess shimmer away without needing to touch up your base makeup.

Step 5: Add any finishing touches

Complete your makeup routine and lock your look in place by spritzing your face with setting spray. We have several different formulas you can choose from; find your ideal match in our article Why Setting Sprays Really Work.

Next Up: Matte vs. Dewy Makeup Finishes: Which Is Better?

We want to see you get your glow on. Now that you know how to apply highlighter like a pro, share a picture of your favorite highlighter looks on social media, and tag us @nyxcosmetics.


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