How To Apply Highlighter Like A Pro


You’d be hard-pressed to find a makeup artist who doesn’t have at least one highlighter in their kits at all times. It’s one of the most used makeup products backstage at the shows and for red carpet events. We’re talking about the strategically placed kind of highlighting that leaves you with that glow-from-within finish, rather than the Tin Man effect regularly spotted on social media. 

But, how do you achieve the natural-looking glow that was seen on the spring/summer 2020 catwalks of the likes of Alberta Ferretti and J.W. Anderson? Fortunately the latest highlighters, including Charlotte Tilbury’s NEW Beauty Light Wand with its soft-focus formula and cushion applicator,  make things easier for those of us who are new to the world of highlighting. We’ve also asked the experts to answer some of the most common questions. Here is the fool-proof guide to applying highlighter like a pro…


Which Highlighter Formula Should I Use?

“Choosing cream or powder is a matter of personal preference,” says makeup artist Zoe Taylor. “I almost always use a cream highlighter, my first priority when doing makeup is to keep skin looking like skin, and a cream highlighter is perfect for that truthful glow.” Makeup artist Celia Burton agrees and recommends starting with a cream highlighter: “always use cream textures on your skin and leave your powder until the last minute,” she says.


Which Highlighter Is Best For My Skin Tone?

Finding the right skin tone for your concealer and foundation is imperative for achieving a natural, flawless finish. And while highlighters are a lot more forgiving, you do need to find the right shade spectrum. “The general rule of thumb is pearly, pinky tones work on paler skin tones, while golden, bronze shades are more flattering on warmer skin tones,” says Celia. There are plenty of brands that offer different shades, including Charlotte Tilbury’s Beauty Light Wand Pillow Talk, which comes in Light/Medium and Medium/Dark. Kevyn Aucoin’s shimmery Glass Glow Liquid Illuminator also has a range of shades.

Should You Apply Highlighter With A Brush?

This is a common question as sometimes over-blending your highlighter can dull the glow. “I always pat highlighter into the skin, as I feel like the skin takes it better and holds it better,” says Zoe. “For the smaller areas, such as the inner corners of the eyes I use a brush.” 

Where Do You Apply Highlighter?

If you want the subtlest glow, Zoe recommends diluting your highlighter. “To enhance the realness of skin, I mix some gloss into a bit of moisturiser and apply it where I would apply highlighter,” says Zoe. “This gives a true shine without any shimmer.” Both Becca Backlight Priming Filter and the aforementioned Kevyn Aucoin’s Glass Glow Liquid Illuminators are perfect for this. 

For those who want a slightly stronger, but no less natural finish that works both through a camera lens and in real life, apply the highlighter directly onto skin after your base. “Apply it to the highest points on your cheeks and blend it in,” says Charlotte Tilbury’s pro-artist Alesandra Macsim. “I also like to apply highlighter in the inner corners of my eye and just below my brows to instantly brighten my eyes.” To help lift your eyes, Alesandra recommends applying above your brows and for fuller-looking lips, add a dot onto your Cupid’s bow.