Makeup Tips

4 Makeup-Artist-Approved Tips for Using Highlighter (and Nothing Else) To Look Instantly More Awake on Zoom

Zoe Weiner

Photo: Getty Images/ Peathegee Inc
A year into the pandemic, nothing sounds less appealing than slogging out of bed 20 minutes early to apply a full face of makeup for yet another day on Zoom. Thankfully, according to celebrity makeup artist Katey Denno, you don’t actually need to go full glam in order to look more awake and feel like you’ve had a full eight hours (even if, like most of Americans, you have not): All it takes is a little bit of highlighter.

Zoom makeup isn’t like regular makeup. Instead, says Denno, you’re working with more of an optical illusion. “It’s all about making whatever features you want to come forward, as if you were turning on the contrast on a photo.” This means that a few artfully placed dabs of highlighter can bounce light to all the right places (even if you opt out of applying your usual concealer and mascara). “Just like you can in real life, you can go on Zoom with absolutely nothing on your face and look gorgeous,” says Denno. “Or you can choose any one of these products we put on just to have a little va va voom. It’s all about personal preference—you’re your own canvas, so just have fun.”

Below, her Zoom makeup tips for how to use highlighter—and nothing more—to look like the “touch up my appearance” filter come to life.

1. Try a balm

Push your shimmery highlighters to the side to make way for radiance-inducing balms, which go on sheer to add a bit of dewiness to your complexion. “You can have it sitting next to your computer all day, and if you’re going into a meeting you can just pop a little onto your lips, lids, cheeks, or wherever,” says Denno. Makeup artists especially love using this type of high-gloss highlighter on the brows and cheekbones, since it will amp up your face’s natural light-reflecting abilities to make you look lit from within.

2. Add some of color

“On Zoom, the piece of resistance is a little bit of pop on your cheeks, whether that’s with a highlighter or with a color,” says Denno. To get the best of both, try a blush-highlighter hybrid, like this easy-to-use multi-stick. Its sun-kissed tint will add just the right amount of rosiness to your complexion, and its subtle shimmer just feels like that effect the golden hour has on skin. To apply properly, start at the center of your cheek and use your fingers to blend the pigment in concentric circles toward your temple.

3. Experiment with contour

While blush and bronzer tend to get the credit when it comes to contouring, highlighter is just as important in crafting the appearance of a sculpted face. If you’re experimenting with contour, makeup artist Natalia Thomas suggests finishing the look with a little luminescence. “To really make your contour make you appear less flat on zoom and FaceTime, highlight the high points of the face with your highlighter of choice,” she says. Try a two-in-one compact, like this one from Kosas, so you can contour and highlight while still technically only using a single product.

4. Highlight your lids

No matter how few hours of sleep you’re operating on, amp up your eyes by repurposing your highlighter on your lids. Denno suggests dusting a shimmery shade that’s close to your skin color on top of your eyes. This one is easy to blend thanks to its doe-foot applicator and melty, liquid texture, and you’ll want to swipe it on everywhere from your lash line to your brow bone.

For more Zoom makeup tips from Denno, check out the video below. 

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