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Drop the Contour: This Highlighter Hack Will Sculpt Your Face Like None Other

Zoe Weiner

Zoe WeinerDecember 21, 2019

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Photo: Stocksy/Leandro Crespi

Highlighter is one of those beauty products, like red lipstick and liquid eyeliner, that can backfire really quickly. With one accidental sweep of a brush, what started as a way to add a little radiance can easily become what looks like a glitter bomb exploded all over your face, and not quite the “natural, inside-out glow” you were going for. The best way to avoid looking like you’re heading to Coachella all year-round, according to makeup artists, is to apply product only to the parts of your face where the light would normally hit.

When you think about what highlighter is, this theory makes sense: Highlighter should highlight areas where the light shines. But if you’re anything like me, you could wind up twisting in front of a makeup mirror with your phone flashlight trying to figure out what the heck that means. A far, far easier way to think of it? Use your facial bones as a guide.

“You always want to hit [highlighter] on the bones—that’s ideally where you want the light to reflect really nicely,” says Covergirl makeup artist Brittany Whittfield. Think: your temples, cheek bones, brow bones, and nose, otherwise known as the “high points” of your face. If you want some glow on your body, too, the same method applies—look to your clavicle and breastbone, for example. For best results, Whittfield suggests pulling the skin tight, which “forces the skin to hit that bone that you want to hit,” she says. This will give you a subtle sheen of glassy skin instead of some really obvious glitter or shimmer, no matter what type of highlighter product you’re using. Blend with a fluffy domed or circular brush on your cheeks and temples, then use your ring finger on your cupid’s bow and your eyes to make sure the application pressure is Goldilocks-levels of just-right.

The result of properly executed highlighter? You’ll have luminous, lit-from-within skin that doesn’t look like it was bathed inside a vat of sequins. A few products that will help get the job done include the NYX Born to Glow Liquid Illuminator ($4) and RMS Beauty Living Luminizer ($38). Highlighter crisis, averted.

Complete your natural look with some draped blush (aka “no contour contouring”) and this oomph-inducing mascara trick, and you and your lit-from-within skin will be ready to go. 

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