It’s practically magic: A few swipes of precisely placed highlighter, and your skin is left gorgeously glowy. Of course, it isn’t actually magic—it’s all credit to knowing where to put highlighter, as well as which product to use. 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. And these results hinge on 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 apply highlighter 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 and reveal nine of the places you should apply illuminating products for a lit look.
Where Do You Add Highlighter On Your Face?
With highlighter, the advice most commonly dished out is to apply it to 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 highlight your face for a glowy makeup look. Read on to discover nine spots not to miss with your highlighter brush.
1. The Top 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 for both—one end of this dual-ended contour stick boasts a pigmented cream contour, while the other side has a cream highlight for brightening and illuminating. It comes in eight color-coordinated shade pairings and blends beautifully with a sponge or brush, like our Pro Multi-Purpose Buffing Brush.
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 a pearlescent highlighter along the bridge of your nose, stopping short of the tip. You can use a powder, liquid, or cream highlighter for this purpose; choose whichever suits your vibe best.
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, 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. Applying highlighter here can also make your eyes look bigger.
Pro Tip: There’s one more 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. In The Center Of Your Eyelids
Your lids may not be the first place you’d think to apply highlighter, but it can make a huge difference in your final look—especially if you’re after a more dewy, natural look. Dot a small amount of pearlescent highlighter onto the middle of your lids and blend out with your fingers to give your eyes a little luminosity. To ensure your highlighter always complements your eye makeup, pick up a highlighter palette with multiple shades, like our Highlight and Contour Pro Palette, which contains four highlighters, plus four contour shades for sculpting and shaping.
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 of over-doing 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. In 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.
8. On The Top of Your Forehead
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. Along Your Collarbones
Highlighter doesn’t have to just be for your face: You can also apply it 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. For this, we recommend using a flat, dual-fiber brush, like our Face & Body Brush, which is gently curved to hug the contours of your face and body.
How To Apply Highlighter: A Step-By-Step Breakdown
Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge of where to apply highlighter, we can cover how to apply it. Keep in mind, 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 Formula and Shade
It kind of goes without saying, but it’s important to choose the right highlighter for your needs. At NYX Professional Makeup, we have liquid, cream, and powder highlighters, each of which boasts different benefits. 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, like Born To Glow Icy Highlighter Duo—the high-impact, metallic-finish highlighter is ideal for spotlight-stealing looks (you can even layer it on top of your cream or liquid highlighter for an extra pop).
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 shades; those with warm undertones 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 With Primer
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. At NYX Professional Makeup, we have a number of different face primers to choose from—for help determining 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 on with your routine by applying the foundation, blush, and contour of your choice. If you’re using a liquid highlighter, you can mix it into your foundation for an all-over glow, or wait until all of your base makeup is on and apply your highlight after for a more precise look.
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 redo any base makeup that was underneath.
Step 5: Add Your Finishing Touches and Set It!
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: How To Apply Blush and Flatter Your Face Shape